Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

And to think -- I left Jamaica for this!

Dear Reader,

I live in Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in America. It is a cosmopolitan and wealthy city and is famous for its energy resources. This is a little blog about what happens when the energy dies.

It is a few minutes before midnight on the 12th of September, 2008 and it is my birthday.

However, there has been no time for cake and other celebratory delights. My family and I have been busy readying ourselves for Hurricane Ike to come roaring into to town since the day before. We huddle close together as trees begin to snap under the force of the first round of howling winds.

This scenario is all too familiar to me as 20 years ago on September 12th, 1988 in my hometown Kingston, a similar giant named Gilbert waylaid the island with a ferocity that stays imprinted on my mind forever. I am still waiting for those birthday presents too.

It is now the morning of the 13th of September and Ike has tired of Texas and gone on to bully Kentucky. We have no light and no water. We walk around with our neighbors stepping gingerly over broken branches and other debris, all of us looking a little disoriented from very little sleep and a whole lot of fright. I hear quiet conversations revealing that some believe that Ike sounded like a plane flying way too close to the ground. I think that Ike sounded like a train pulling up way too fast in a New York subway.

Alright, so we can live without water and light for a day. The news we hear on our little portable radio is scanty. The authorities say there is a curfew until 3 pm but no news of across the board damage as of yet.

It is now the 15th of September and we are running out of food. There are 3 million people without electricity and announcements have been made that power cannot be guaranteed until October 6th.

Tensions are running high and there are 145 looting incidents with many arrests over the course of the 2 days after the hurricane. A curfew has been placed on the city demanding that all citizens be inside their homes at 8 pm. Thank goodness our water has returned so we are semi glad to bathe in cold water.

We drive up the street cautiously as not one traffic light is functioning. The streets have already begun to stink with backed up sewage. We are hoping to find a supermarket open and we are relieved to see that one is letting in customers. We join the long line where a security guard is letting in 10 people every 10 minutes or so. I stand up beside a large sign that says NO MEAT, NO ICE, NO PERISHABLES. I overhear someone say that they have no water and no way to bathe their young baby. Thousands still have no water and I count my blessings for the cold shower that I just took.

FEMA trucks are beginning to arrive with ice and food. These are no help to us as the trucks are way out on the edge of the city and we cannot risk running out of gas as most gas stations are closed or have a very short supply. Price gouging is also increasing gas prices so it is clear the city is in big trouble.

We have a blessing in the radio DJs in this city. They are the ones that have been keeping the city informed of where a fast food place is, or where a Supermarket may be open. They invite folks to call in with helpful information. A caller might tell you that a Supermarket that was just re- opened yesterday is not open today due to a generator malfunction so don’t waste your gas going there. Or someone might call in with a number where you might get an emergency supply of oxygen.

Thank the Lord that my family and I are suffering no health crisis. The ones that are sick are catching hell.

It is now the 19th of September and still no light. Schools have been shut for a week and children are going stir crazy. Many people have not been able to return to work and are wondering how they will manage.

God is always merciful and has sent us a silver lining. There has been a cold front from the North that has eased up the scorching Houston weather and has saved many of us from certain death. Saying that Texas is hot is an understatement. I sit outside and enjoy a tepid breeze stroke my already perspiring face.

I think about Gilbert and his effect on Jamaica, and the spirit of camaraderie that was present during his aftermath. The helping hands that reached out to my Mother and I as we reached out our helping hands to someone else, with no thoughts of compensation. There is an aloneness here in America that is palpable, even in a time of disaster one feels that it is every man for himself. There is a suspicion that someone will make an opportunity out of your crisis.

I say to myself that I am a tough third world mama. I can handle a little darkness…right? Yet without family, friends, and the sweetness of your fellow Jamaicans surrounding you, darkness is very hard to bear. Should ah gone ‘ome from long time.

NB: As of today October 7th, 2008 there are hundreds left without electricity and water in and around the Houston area. Over 400 people are missing from Galveston which is about an hour away from where I live in Houston.

Susan Andrea Warmington

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10 Comments:

At 10/07/2008 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous Jamaican said...

Because had you have been in Jam Down during a hurricane, things would have been much better.

smh

 
At 10/07/2008 6:15 PM, Blogger Susie said...

anonymous jamaican...I did not believe that I was being vague.

Having struggled through Gilbert in Jamaica and Ike in America qualifies me to compare where I would rather be in a disaster situation.
I choose to be surrounded by friends and family and the compassionate Jamaican heart...so a resounding YES...for me Jam Down is where I would rather be if disaster strikes.
Remember Katrina?
People keep their heads straight here if you need help...Many are suffering here in this wealthy city of Houston because of the every man for himself mentality.
Hurricanes do not discriminate but people certainly do.

Susan Andrea Warmington

 
At 10/09/2008 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, because you have no friends or family in the US to support you, the place stinks. Makes sense.

Population Kingston, JA: 650,000

Population Houston, TX: 2.2 million

Little harder to maintain infrastructure in a city with almost 4x the population. Get real.

I'm sure if a tree fell on you during the storm and broke your back, you'd much rather go to a JA hospital than a Houston one.

I'm sure that after a bad storm the emergency supplies roll in to JA much faster than they would Houston. Around the tourist areas maybe, otherwise forget it.

If you like it there so much better, then git gone already and quit yer bitchin. Maybe then you'll remember why you left.

D

 
At 10/09/2008 8:18 PM, Blogger etrudy said...

I am struck by the hostility of Anonymous Jamaican to what are Ms. Warmington's obviously personal, and therefore subjective, reflections on experiencing a natural disaster in the U.S. The underlying premise of the blog "Moving Back to Jamaica" as I understand it is that such an endeavor is a fondly held desire of many J'cans and so it should come as no surprise that such sentiments are expressed here. Admittedly, there are comforts to living in the U.S. that are not as easily come by in JA. However, I believe there is a sense of connectedness and belonging which cannot be experienced by a J'can anywhere else but in Jamaica! And for some of us, that is what we yearn for. Jamaica cannot compete with the supposed first world health care and emergency response of the U.S. but as someone who has experienced hurricanes Andrew and Wilma in Florida, after seeing Katrina, I am here to tell you that in the the U.S. in a disaster, "yu deh pon yu own!" No doubt I will engender some hostile response, but Ms. W, I enjoy your writing and please continue to share.

 
At 10/10/2008 1:33 PM, Blogger Susie said...

Nice to meet you etrudy...so glad that you enjoy my writing. It is always nice to share with someone who has the same dream as you do.
Don’t worry about the hostility. When a comment is that heated it is hard to even work up a mild disdain for it.
Right now I am longing for a guinep:0)

 
At 10/10/2008 1:49 PM, Blogger Ruthibelle said...

I do believe that the emotional atmosphere that surrounds an individual during any traumatic event determines, to some (probably a large) extent, how comfortable that person will be.

In that sense, I get where susie coming from. She would rather be home with her peeps... instead of in a foreign land. You cant fault her for that.

 
At 10/10/2008 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to be home with your "peeps" that's fine, but don't use that as an excuse to say that living in Jamaica is better than anywhere else. That's a different case entirely, and JA people seem to want to always make that statement. "It's so terrible here, why did I ever leave". It's not terrible, you're just homesick and lonely. Be clear about the difference. Pretty basic psychology here people.

D

 
At 10/10/2008 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No D, I think it goes beyond being homesick and lonely. I am a Jamaican national who for all purposes grew up in the US. My immediate family, with whom I am very close, live in the US. I have a strong social network here and have attended some of the best schools in the country, having lived here since I was 10 years old. I am currently in the process of getting my graduate degree. By many accounts, I am a "success" story here. I also chose to spend a part of my past summer working in Kingston and I could not have made a better choice. I learned about a way of life and culture, that, while different from what I had expected, was fascinating, interesting, and dynamic. The Jamaican people are phenomenal and the country is truly unique. Now I would never deny that Jamaica has many problems but they are certainly not insurmountable; nor are they much different from the problems one encounters in any other country. Crime, poverty, bureacracy, etc. are rampant in America.
I don't believe Ms. Warmington ever said that living in Jamaica is better than living anywhere else. She did say her personal relationships and the interpersonal relationships are different--a fact to which I, with my "American" upbringing, can attest. It is really about a personal experience. It is clear you do not share these feelings, but that is no reason for you to undermine or belittle what others have to say. There are benefits and drawbacks to living in any country. As adults, we hopefully have a choice in the type of environment in which we choose to live and we have the option to make changes. Ms. Warmington seems smart enough to understand the benefit that she derives from remaining in this country and she will leave when she is ready. It's not about complaining--it's about understanding yourself and your circumstances enough to know when it's time to return. In short, it's about a process. I suspect may of the people who you seem to hear "complaining" are in the process of making those decisions and determinations for themselves. It is a process in much the same way that the decision to settle in the US was a process requiring much thought and consideration. Making your issues known is a part of that process. Now it's fine if you don't want to hear people express this, but perhaps you should refrain from visiting a blog created for the purpose of exploring this process.
As to Ms. Warmington, all the best to you and your family. Your writings are insightful and much appreciated. Hopefully, you will be in a position to return home soon enough.

 
At 10/12/2008 1:34 PM, Anonymous cufflinks said...

well jamaica is a nice country

 
At 10/28/2008 5:05 PM, Blogger allison said...

If you are sitting in the wealthiest city in the world partaking fully of all that wealth and you are without your loved ones, you will feel miserable and bereft. Period. NOTHING takes the place of loving relationships and NO ONE is truly happy without them. (Got your back girl!)

Allison

 

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