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.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Cricket World Cup's Branded Urinals, and more

At the Cricket World Cup match I went to, I happened to notice (while doing my business) that the urinals had a strange piece of tape on them, where I imagined that the name of the manufacturer would be.

Ever the curious one, I risked life and limb and peeled back the tape at the urinal I used to reveal the words... Armitage Shanks!

Apparently, the well known maker of toilets had not been officially approved as a sponsor of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

At first I thought that we in the Caribbean were just not up to "World Class Standards"... but I could not recall ever seeing this in my 20 years of living in the U.S.

I made note of it, and just read an article that confirmed that this particular piece of madness is an ICC innovation. Click to read the article here.

Also, apparently the ICC has decided that we Caribbean people should be allowed to bring in musical instruments after all, or more to the point, that they never were really banned in the first place.

They just needed to be registered and approved...

(Given that pot-covers are popular noisemakers at our region's cricket grounds, I wonder how that would have gone down...)

The whole idea stems from their belief that allowing musical instruments, and individual music-making will bring the fans into the stands.

See my comments on the article here.

Lastly, an acquaintance of mine, journalist Anil Roberts, met his match at a game in Antigua and was thrown out of the game for... cheering.

See the Trinidad Guardian of March 31st here.

Talk about a cultural gap... it really has been "Fi Dem World Cup."

Read more!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lara Upset by Low Turnout at Cricket World Cup

New stadium dominated by empty seats for high-profile clash

Andrew Miller in Antigua March 28, 2007

Brian Lara has vented his frustration at the lack of support West Indies have received over the past two days of their contest against Australia at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. In a match that ought to have been the plum draw of the Super Eights - an inaugural fixture at a brand-new venue against the reigning world champions - a pitiful crowd was in attendance. Despite local suggestions the match had been a sell-out, the 20,000-capacity ground was barely half-full for the first rain-affected day, with perhaps half that many when the sun came out for West Indies' run-chase.

"It's very disappointing," Lara said. "You'd back yourself to think that at least every single game that West Indies plays is going to be a full house. We were received very well in Jamaica, where we got a good crowd against Pakistan and Ireland, but I thought I would be able to close my eyes here, and for the rest of the tournament, and just see our people come out and support the World Cup and support West Indies."

The attendance figures don't square with local anticipation of the match. One disgruntled fan suggested that the fault lay with the local organising committee, whose marketing of the game had fallen way short of what was required for such a big occasion. "There's no culture of buying [tickets] online in the Caribbean," he told Cricinfo. "Instead there were queues around the block for the few kiosks at the ground, and everyone assumed the seats would have gone."

Stephen Price, the tournament's commercial director, told Cricinfo 11,100 tickets had been bought in advance for this game, and a further 700 on the morning of the match. He denied that the pricing or the marketing strategy had been at fault for the poor attendance, but added that plans were in place to distribute the spare tickets to local schools and tournament sponsors. They were unlikely, however, to be implemented in time for Thursday's match against New Zealand.

"Centres in each of the territories put tickets on sale at the same time as they went online," Price said. "We also utilised a global network of 50-plus agents. Tickets were easily accessible, and with a significant amount of entry-level prices, starting at US$25, which is the equivalent to a category two ticket in a regular bilateral series. But in some cases, the fans have not attended."

Price said there had been an attempt to change the Caribbean culture into one that buys early instead of leaving everything to the last minute. "Tickets went on sale ten months ago," he said. "For a normal bilateral series, they would go on sale two weeks in advance. But there have been the same number of kiosks as ever. The queues may have been long in the late evening, but in the early morning they were empty. People could have come out at lunchtime, or in their own time. To claim otherwise is just an excuse."

"The infrastructure is good, so now it's time for the manpower

The commentator Mark Nicholas was disappointed the match was not a sell-out and said the locals were frustrated by the long queues. "A lot of them gave up and said 'no, I'm not prepared to wait two hours'," he said. "It's been one of the problems confronting spectators. The huge amount of security, that's one thing, the other is the long lines for tickets and long lines for food."

Nicholas said the remoteness of the site - "you can only park a mile away despite huge areas all around" - was a problem when comparing it to the previous venue. "The old ground was in the middle of St John's and it was very popular," he said. "There was a great party feel to the place, but it's going to be very difficult to rekindle that here."

The controversy dampened an occasion that ought to have been a proud moment for West Indies and for Antigua. "It's a very good stadium, it's beautiful and it's a tribute to the man, Sir Vivian Richards," Lara said. "It's been an awesome effort by the Antiguan people getting this ready, and it's going to be wonderful for West Indian cricket moving on. The infrastructure is good, so now it's time for the manpower."

Not everyone was impressed with the positioning of the new ground. Built on a greenfields site 20 minutes outside of St John's, many fans had to walk for several kilometres to reach the entrance, or pay for a shuttle service. An impassioned West Indian supporter told a local TV station that it was the spectator's right to expect to be able to park outside a new and purpose-built ground, while others complained that the spontaneity that had existed at the old Antigua Recreation Ground was missing from the new venue.

But Lara said there would have to be a change of attitudes all around as West Indian cricket gets used to its new era. "When you're talking about the improvement of facilities the spectators also have to adapt," he said. "It's not enough to be able to stay in the same areas or stadiums just because the atmosphere was great. We've had some wonderful times at the ARG, but now we move on to the Sir Viv stadium and it is something to be proud of over the years.

"Some of these stadiums were dilapidated. Georgetown and other grounds have been around for donkey's years. I'm sure people will adjust. I may have been disappointed with the crowd today but I thought the party stand wasn't bad here or in Jamaica. People are going to enjoy it, and I think the cricketers are very happy that we have facilities that are second-to-none. If you go to the MCG or Lord's the facilities are great. It's nice to know we are getting there."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

P.S. There are are over 400 people selling Cricket World Cup tickets on eBay and I could not find a single bid. Ouch.

Read more!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

More Criticism from the JMA Towards T'dad

Dionne Rose, Staff Reporter

The Jamaica Manufacturers? Association (JMA) has levelled harsh criticism at the actions of CARICOM partner Trinidad and Tobago who reneged on an agreement to supply Jamaica with liquefied natural gas (LNG).

President of the JMA, Doreen Frankson, yesterday described the action by the oil-rich twin-island republic as a betrayal of trust.

"Jamaica would never have given a commitment for something and then not deliver it. We have never done that," she told The Gleaner minutes after delivering greetings at a Mass held at the Stella Maris (Roman Catholic) Church in St. Andrew to mark the JMA's 60th anniversary.

Ms. Frankson argued that over the years, Jamaica has been extending itself ?beyond the call of duty? to make the partnership work, but that other CARICOM partners such as Trinidad and Tobago had not been doing so.

"Not all our CARICOM partners will extend similar courtesies to us," she said. "We have resolved not to repeat history but to change its course by ensuring that we are not shackled by these agreements."

She pointed out that the time has come for Jamaica to benefit from these agreements.

"Isn't that why wenegotiate trade agreements - to make our people better?" she asked. "Not for one-way trade."
In 2004, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the supply of 1.1 million tonnes of LNG for use by the Jamaican Aluminium Company Jamalco and the Jamaica Public Service Company power plants.

But recently, the agreement fell through after Trinidad and Tobago said they had none to spare. Just last week, the Government signed an agreement with Venezuela to establish an LNG plant to supply more than two million tonnes of LNG to Jamaica.

Reservations were raised, however, by president of the Natural Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago, Frank Look Kim, about the Venezuelans' ability to meet the 2009 date.

Minister of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, Phillip Paulwell, dismissed this, and insisted that the Venezuelans would honour the agreement in the time specified.

Yesterday, Frankson expressed confidence that the Venezuelans would also deliver as promised.
"Venezuela has always been a good friend of Jamaica and yes, they will deliver," she said with confidence.

Read more!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Muna on The Apprentice

I haven't watched The Apprentice in ages, but I was flipping around the channels one night with my wife and realized that one of the contestants was Jamaican.

Not even a kinda-sorta-Jamaican, who has become so American that the Jamaican picee of her is lost.

No sah... Muna is the real article, with an accent and attitude that is ALL Yardie.

I am now watching the ninth episode online, in which she was fired and I recommend it to anyone who has ever come from the Caribbean to work in corporate America (less so Canada.) (Luckily for us, the entire episode in available online at this link -- thank you NBC!)

I'll admit, it is a bit difficult to watch, and that is just from my personal experience as a Jamaican who kept most of his accent even after spending 20 years working in the U.S.

Why so?

Basically, Muna was fired by Trump... because of her accent.

Was it her fault that she spoke so differently that she could not be understood clearly? She happened to be the only person on the show who spoke with even a mild accent, which says a lot about what it is like to work in the U.S. as a foreigner, where studies have shown that people with regional and foreign accents are thought to be less intelligent.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the very difficult choices that Jamaicans living in the U.S. have to make... to become, essentially, white American or Black American or ultra-ethnic Jamaican/Fringe?

When I arrived at Cornell as a freshman, I saw all three groups and limed with Jamaicans who had chosen to be in all three groups... although rarely at the same time. Their choices had a lot to do with when they came to the US, and whether or not they came to the U.S. in high school.

From what I could tell, those of us who came straight from Jamaica as freshmen were very different than those who came from Jamaica just a year earlier. Many of those who came earlier were under a threat- they either adapted or got beaten up, called "coconuts" or "bananas" or were mercilessly teased, harassed or assaulted by other students. They deliberately lost their accents to avoid being hurt -- and this was something that very few of them could explain to their parents, who themselves undergoing a major own culture shock.

Muna clearly chose the option of being "ultra-ethnic," and it showed on the show. She just did not fit in, much in the way that those friends of mine in U.S. high schools didn't fit in.

In the episode, she had a major acting role in a short video-taped advertisement put together by her team. It was a mistake, judging by the fact that her own team-mates could not follow her accent.

They let it slide, and they lost the challenge, only to be sent to the boardroom where she was fired.

Unfortunately, Muna was at a disadvantage -- she could not listen with U.S. ears. When she thought that something was amiss she asked her team point-blank if they could understand, and they (probably trying to be politically correct and not piss her off) did not answer...

The answer finally did come from the judges, who said that they could not understand her accent. They also told Trump that the responsibility to decide what to include in the video lay with the director, and not the actor.

In the end, however, Muna was fired when Trump put it to her team-mates and asked who they would like to keep in their team going forward. He pushed, and pushed, until they relented and chose the Project Manager, Christine, instead of her.

Did it matter that Muna was a sharp, Black, young, pretty, heavily-accented Jamaican?

And that her teammates were all (what seemed to me) to be older white women?

I suspect that most Jamaicans who have been there, and played of Muna in their U.S. companies would say "Yes" while others might disagree.

I read a book once that described how Black managers, directors and above learned to adopt the most agreeable personalities, to smile and accept all sorts of nonsense in order to further their careers. They tended to have superior social skills, much better than those of their white counterparts. They knew how to fit in, and be inoffensive to the point that they were often accused of being Oreos or roast breadfruits -- black on the outside, but white on the inside.

I thought this was theoretically interesting until I, as a young Black employee, did a quick mental inventory and realized that ALL the Black executives I knew at AT&T fit the description precisely and exactly.

Muna, to her credit, wasn't playing that game, and that was what got her fired.

At first, it seemed as if Trump was taking the judges recommendation to look at who should have been directing the video, and who had the final say about who would play which part in the taping. That decision was clearly Christine's -- the Project Manager.

That is, until a word slipped into the conversation in the boardroom that many Black professionals have heard before -- a word that often signifies trouble in white corporate America: "difficult."

It was interesting to watch -- all of a sudden, Muna was being "difficult."

The story changed -- she was "difficult" when she supposedly insisted that she play a lead role in front of the camera. She was "difficult" in other projects prior to the one at hand. She was also "less experienced," and the combination of the two meant the end of Muna as her two friends professed a newfound preference for firing her.

In a way, she was less experienced -- she obviously did not know what it takes to be a successful sharp, Black, young, pretty, heavily-accented Jamaican in white corporate America. They knew it, and she didn't.

My experience has been that when Blacks in the U.S. don't play the soothing, non-confrontational role they are expected to play in the corporate world, words like "difficult" and "inexperienced" are among the specific phrases that start to be used to describe them.

(Another phrase used is "not a team player" which is code language for "not like us." I can't recall hearing the phrase in this episode, but someone else can go back and listen to the other episodes ;-) )

While this may not be a case of racism (in the sense of racial bias,) it definitely is a case of cultural difference, and the dramatic firing might have been a shock to Muna, but it seemed to follow a well-worn sequence of events in which Blacks as smart as she is, end up on the outside looking in, wonder what the hell just happened.

My advice to Muna (meant to be heard with Jamaican ears:) "Mih luv... mek haste com bak home. We need people like you bad bad."

Read more!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Calabash 7

In a prior post in 2006, I mentioned the fine literary festival held in Treasure Beach-- Calabash.

The launch for this year's festival just took place.

Read more!

Jamaican Students Underperforming in the UK

I thought this was an interesting article in the Gleaner of 3/20/07, reporting on Jamaican students not doing well in the UK.

Read more!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cricket, Lovely Cricket

Cricket fever is all over us.

Starting with the match between West Indies and Pakistan on Tuesday, which was amazing, the place is buzzing.

I imagine that anyone living in North America is hardly seeing any of the effects, but this tournament is not only uniting the region, but breathing life back into the game of choice in my youth.

Pride is the word that is on the street, and the feeling that is in the air.

I have a feeling that pride was one of the unspoken reasons that Jamaica decided to be a host -- after all if St. Kitts, Antigua, Guyana et. al. can be hosts, obviously we can, can't we?

Pride brought us here, and is now fueled as we are, thus far, almost flawlessly executing this huge endeavor.

Now, if only those hoped for tourists would start showing up, along with those cricket fans who are also supposed to be multi-million dollar investors.

Read more!

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Sweet Opening Ceremony

Boy, dat show last night to open up the Cricket World Cup was sweet!

Among the many great things about it that struck me, was the fact that it was the first time I was seeing our region pull together in a single event (other than on the cricket field.) Seeing the flags paraded on the field side by side was something else, hearing the music from different artistes (where was Sparrow?) was inspiring, and seeing the ways in which we have influenced each other, and benefited from having each other... touching.

I am still a bit wary of not being able to wear my Puma shirt to the opening match tomorrow, and unsure of whether or not it applies to my Asics track shoes... will I be violating some new law, I wonder?

But, that aside, I felt good last night about the world cup coming and it seemed like a flawless presentation to the world, unabashed and unashamed of what we are all about and what makes us different, and what makes our people great.

Now, on to get those tickets for tomorrow -- there is nothing like a last minute ting, eh?

Read more!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Glass Coffin on Heroes Circle

As I was cycling around Heroes Circle warming up for a bike race, I couldn't help but notice a glass coffin, inside a glass hearse, with a dead woman in it being pulled behind a car on a trailer.

The body, which was dressed in a white dress, was plainly visible to the public. I watched as it took a big bounce upwards when the trailer hit a deep pothole just before the corner at Wolmer's Girls, before venturing further up Marescaux Road.

All I could do was keep on riding.

Sometimes, just as the Move Back to Jamaica seems to be making sense, something nonsensical happens.

Read more!

Response to a Bajan

My recent post in response to the blog on Barbados Free Press elicited a response, to which I posted the following response.
Sometimes a post works, and sometimes it doesn't... (this in reference to my original entry)

My friend, I didn't mean to bash Bajans! In fact, I had no issue with your original post.

Elsewhere in my own blog I have written about how we Jamaicans are really in world of our own, and have nothing against Bajans per se.

Unfortunately, we know way too little about the life and goings on not just in Barbados, but in each of the other Caribbean territories. We Jamaicans don't care... but we really should start (especially with CSME coming.) When I encourage Jamaican friends to visit Barbados and Trinidad (the Caribbean islands I have visited the most) I get the blankest of looks (outside of Carnival-related motives.) Talk about Miami or New York... and its a different story.

There are many reasons for this, not the last of which is that we have as many Jamaicans living outside the island, as in.

And trust me, we have plenty problems here on the 'rock... this place is not easy! To me, Barbados represents a civilized version of who we could be, if only... we could stop the fussing and fighting and killing each other. Barbados reminds me of a Jamaica I remember as a child in many ways... before things got so very dangerous.

However, that is not to say that I wish I were born or grew up in Barbados... or Trinidad, or Grenada, or Guyana, etc. We Jamaicans (even with one of the highest murder rates in the world) are proud to the point of arrogance -- and that includes me too!

If I had my druthers, we would have more integration, not less.

So.... I don't know that I disagree with anything in your original post, which was to the point. The added reader's comments about the dregs being dropped off in Jamaica on the other hand... whoa! I never heard this kind of thing until I started visiting Trinidad and Barbados a few years ago. It's enough to make this Jamaican's blood boil.

So, regarding the beer and flying fish -- if you send me an email, I will arrange! I can't bring the Red Stripe with me, but I often grab a bite at the grill opposite the Accra Beach Hotel. Let me know


PS: Of course I caught the reference to my blog in the prior post! I smiled "fuh days" at the reference... and felt even more embarrassed at we Jamaicans. (Although there is more to the story that has now come out in the press.)

Read more!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Opening Match Not Sold Out

The word far and wide is that the match on Tuesday between the West Indies and Pakistan has been sold out for some time.

Here it is, Saturday... and I just bought tickets for my family of four online.

Oops. Trouble.

I wonder if I could get the word out somehow?

Read more!

Fi Dem World Cup

The opening ceremony of the Cricket World Cup is tomorrow, and there is a bit of a storm brewing.

Its effects are varied, and strange: no food, drink (even water), radios, flags, coolers, musical instruments allowed in the stadium.

US$1.50 for a cup of water. Patties, chicken and soup all going for more than twice the price.

This is the price we have to pay for hosting the world cup, and all the talk here in the Caribbean is about the obstacles that the average cricket fan has to face in order to enjoy a day of the world cup.

The argument is as follows: essentially, the country has leased the facilities to the cricket world cup organization, including the immediate areas surrounding each stadium. This is not Caribbean cricket as usual at all -- instead, it is feared that this is "white man cricket."

"De white man dem bring dem world cup come try take over tings, tek over the area and tek over people."

Barbara Gloudon, columnist for the Jamaica Observer, has hinted as much:

IT'S TOO LATE to list and track all the annoying details which have occupied national attention since the whole process of getting the Cricket World Cup into the Caribbean began. One or two of the annoyances have stuck in my craw though, and I don't see why I shouldn't let them annoy you too. Primarily, it is the range of petty restrictions about what and what patrons can take to the matches despite having to pay steep entrance fees.

Under the guise of fear of terrorists or whomever, West Indians are being denied the right to enjoy their cricket in the company of the traditional hamper stocked with the home-cooked rice and peas, 'scoveitch fish, chicken in all its manifestations (and God alone knows how we manage to work chicken in so many different ways), the jerk, the curry, the pudden, the bake (fried dumpling to those outside the Eastern Caribbean).

All these delights are necessary and mandatory to guarantee an enjoyable day at any cricket ground, whether high-priced stadium or country village green. Didn't somebody tell the ICC?

I think this tension is a good one for us to sit with for a while as it brings to mind all sorts of questions. The word I hear from South Africa is that their Cricket World Cup in 2003 was quite foreign in look and feel, and they felt that it had been hijacked by outsiders.

Come Tuesday, when the first game is played in Kingston, I wonder what is going to happen when they start to "confiscate" water, t-shirts, food and radios, or when they stop people from visiting their sick grandparents a block away because they have not been accredited. It might fly in other parts of the region, but here in Jamaica it might very well be a problem.

Altogether, I hope not.

Read more!

Moving to Barbados?

I came across a post in the Barbados Free press blog in which the author says that he said a prayer that he was happy to be born in Barbados, after reading about a recent shooting in Jamaica in Torrington Bridge.

The response from his/her readers was full agreement, with someone throwing in the old wive's tale about the "best" slaves being kept in Barbados, while the "dregs" were sent to Jamaica. Of course, the Trini version of the same story is slightly different, with the best slaves being kept Trinidad, the subservient ones going to Barbados, etc.

Another implied that there are Jamaicans who are trying to find their way to live in Barbados.

I am fairly sure that the post won't elicit many comments from Jamaicans because, for better or worse, I have yet to meet a Jamaican who wanted to migrate to Barbados (including the few who live there) and also because we don't care too much about what Bajans think about us.

Given the advent of CSME, this is probably not a good thing for us on this side of the Caribbean sea. With our focus on North America, we know more about what is happening in Miami than we do in Bridgetown (with the exception of cricket.)

But, I think Bajans are safe from us! The gap between our cultures just seems to me to be w-i-d-e. There really is hardly a trace of Barbadian culture here in Jamaica (but our music, food and even accents are all over Barbados.)

It's a good place to visit for those who are thinking of Moving Back to Jamaica -- it is Caribbean, but missing many of the things that we love about Jamaica.

Recently, Barbadian policemen were searched before they could enter the cricket world cup grounds by volunteers working on "security." In the news, there were pictures of some big, big policemen being searched by "who knows who?"...

In Jamaica, "nutten coulda go so." (Nothing like that could happen.)

I remember when Trinidad had their coup in 1990, and being amazed -- it just could not happen here in Jamaica. The various limes and fetes that were held during the coup still have me amazed.

Once again, Jamaicans know that "nutten coulda go so" here in Jamaica.

A friend of mine this morning said: "You really learn to appreciate Jamaica when you travel away from it."

Being in Barbados, Trinidad and other Caribbean islands reminds me that our assertiveness, aggression and willingness to fight against injustice are just one of the many strengths that we take for granted. That it often leads to violence, confrontation and murders is true.

But it also has a much brighter side -- we are a people who care, and care deeply -- even when we act badly, and even when it costs us too much.

Read more!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Food for Thought

I don't like protectionist thinking at all, but this gave me food for thought:

Jamaican, John Doe started the day early having set his alarm clock ( MADE IN JAPAN) for 6 a.m.

He put on a dress shirt (MADE IN USA ), designer pants ( MADE IN SINGAPORE), his tie (MADE IN CHINA), his belt (MADE IN BRAZIL) and shoes (MADE IN SPAIN ).

After having cornflakes & pancakes (MADE IN THE U.S.A.) and tea (MADE IN INDIA ) he sat down with his calculator ( MADE IN MEXICO ) to see how much he could afford to spend today.

He got in his car (IMPORTED FROM THE U.S.A.) and continued his search for a good paying JAMAICAN JOB

At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day, John decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals (MADE IN BRAZIL) , his t-shirt (MADE IN USA) , poured himself a glass of wine ( MADE IN FRANCE!) had some banana chips ( MADE IN SOUTH AMERICA) then he stretched out on his lounge chair (MADE IN ENGLAND) as he wondered why he was unable to find a good paying job in JAMAICA.

Read more!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What She Say? -- Video clip

A funny "Miss Jamaica" interview at "Miss Universe"

Read more!

Friday, March 02, 2007

#2 Ranking

If you can somehow make out the tiny print, the new is that this blog was rated #2 by

What that means... I have no idea.

Read more!