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, June 16, 2007

Gone Fishing

For the first time in a very long time, I will be away from the internet for the next 9 days.

Withdrawal is hard...

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Avoiding Jamaica

In the news today, there is a report of 5 armed men on motorcycles riding into the halls of the Kingston Public Hospital, looking to attack an allegedly gay man who was a patient.

On May 29th I read an article posted in the Jamaica Observer , in which columnist Betty-Anne Blaine warns Jamaicans against the upcoming attacks she expects us to face from the homosexual lobby, who are intent on "forcing the homosexual agenda down our throats."

Her article is interesting.

She refers to the recent cancellation of a conference by a Canadian group, in which they cited the anti-homosexual environment that exists in Jamaica, and the laws against buggery (sodomy) as the reasons for the change in venue. They felt that their gay members would be discriminated against.

She takes the popular stance on the issue that we Jamaicans should have the right to do whatever we want to do without interference from abroad. Furthermore, she says, there has never been a reported incident of an attack against tourists related to their sexual preference.

She concludes:" The argument used by the Canadian group that it fears for their members' safety, is not based on facts, and is a deliberate and malicious public relations campaign designed to malign an entire country and to force us into complicity."


I have a couple of gay friends who live in the U.S. that have visited Jamaica, and refuse ever to return.

If I were to forward them the news report and her article cited above, I believe that it would confirm for them that they made the right decision.

I doubt that they are part of the "aggressive, offensive ... homosexual lobby" that is seeking to destroy Jamaica (although, I truly don't know this for sure.)

I suspect that they just want to vacation in a country in which they feel welcome.

It's hard to see why they should want to come here, given the recent news and the majority of the articles written recently, including the ones cited here.

What Betty-Anne Blaine might not realize is that my friends, and the Canadian group, are probably reading what she is writing, and thinking that if she represents a majority view, then Jamaica is indeed a country to be avoided.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Drop in Migration

Yesterday on the news I heard an astounding statistic.

A mere 13,000 Jamaican migrated last year, down from highs of 25-30,000 from only a few years ago.

I am waiting to see some final numbers, but this pretty startling.

Is it the Portia effect?

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Justice Over Drinks

As we came around the corner, my taxi-driver and I, we broke the stop sign. Standing there was a crew of policeman who promptly pulled us over. They made the appropriate sounds of disapproval before accepting only $500 from my taxi-driver.

It was a gift for them to buy "drinks," although everyone knows that the cost of a "drink" for a policeman runs half the cost of the $7000 traffic ticket. He laughed, grateful that he was let off easily and on we went. After all, he argued, I was his first fare of the morning.

"What can you do for me today?" '
"'Do you want to go right to court? Or lef' something with me? "
"Do you want to go left or right?"

These are the code-words I have learned, as a recent returnee, that policemen use when they are offering to help you to ''help yourself'' out of your predicament. You have been pulled over for a traffic violation, and it is now up to you to decide whether or not to try to get yourself out of it.

At this point, instead of being mad, I only feel a certain pity. At a pay rate that is abysmal, how much can be expected? They have dangerous jobs, in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and they can barely afford to scratch out a basic existence.

Their response is that of the underpaid civil servant the world over - desperate and pathetic.

It is no wonder that the Bob Woolmer investigation seems to have been bungled beyond belief. A Jamaican autopsy takes 20 minutes, and according to the United Nations standard it should take 2-4 hours. We are hardly the more efficient.

In defense of law-breaking motorists, their choice to break a second law is an easy one. A ticket costs them $7000, a whole day in court and 3 points on the license. A bribe (sorry... drink) costs $3000 and an opportunity to give a seemingly charitable gift to a poor, underpaid civil servant.

Here in Jamaica, this is what we do -- we take matters into our own hands. The justice system is so faulty that bypassing it remains the only way to allow life to keep running.

So, we Jamaicans buy lots of ''drinks'' for traffic cops. We block roads when citizens are shot by police. We pull together vigilante squads to hunt down and kill thieves who steal cows and harvest the crops of others. We rent guns and pay gunmen to exact revenge from others.

We do it because it is the only way to get justice in a timely way, as the backlog in the courts makes a mockery of the citizen's attempts to use official channels.

After all, why wait years for the court to do their work, when there are countless guns for hire who are willing to "take care of things" in a matter of days.

Fortunately, a change may be afoot. At the moment, there is a new Chief Justice who has been nominated, due to take office in July. That she is a woman is a good thing, as just about anything that works in Jamaica is run by a woman.

As with Portia, we shall see.

P.S. Not that the problem of police corruption is unique to Jamaica. My sister has encountered much greater corruption in African countries that she has lived in.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Great blog

This is just a fun and inspiring site, something great to read for those either thinking of returning, or already returned.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dell Comes Through

In earlier entires, I spoke about the trouble I had with my Dell 5150 laptop:

In a nutshell, I complained that the computer died, and that it turned out to be a manufacturer's fault. I also reported that a year later, Dell decided to extend the warranty, a fact that I found out by accident.

Well, the story comes to a close (I hope) with my receiving my Dell, apparently completely repaired.

It seems to be working well enough, and is now sitting idle while I decide what to do with it exactly.

I am grateful to Dell for reversing their policy, but will under no circumstances buy anything else from them, unless I receive continuous positive proof that they have amended their customer service standards.

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Dying on the Corner

On the corner of Roseberry and Shortwood roads there is a teenage boy, who begs money on most days and looks as if he is dying.

As I drove up recently I saw him again. He was skinnier, and even more emaciated than before. His eyes were more bulging, and as bloodshot as they were before.

He moved slowly from car to car, looking as if it is taking every ounce of strength for him to simply beg for what looks to me like the money he will spend on food to eat that day.

In my bones I felt a terminal and deep, numb sense of futility as my mind raced through thoughts and feelings too numerous to remember. Guilt... Fear... Anger... Compassion...

Things were easier living in Fort Lauderdale, when I didn't have to confront these things. They just went on happening without my being involved in them. I could just go on with my life, worrying about what fertilizer to use on the lawn, and whether or not to buy it at KMart or Home Depot. After all, I could find the answer to that just by doing a Google search.

Now I have forgotten about the lawn, and am thinking about this boy slowly wasting away in front of my eyes. And the fact that I can't find a ready answer on the internet... or anywhere else.

P.S. This isn't him. But it looks just like him.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Giving is Hard to Do

One of the disappointments I have had in moving back to Jamaica is discovering how difficult it is to give... as in donate.

While we have tremendous problems in the country with thieves, we seem to spend so much of our time beating a system that when something is offered at no cost, we have no idea what to do with it.

On the one side, there is the suspicion that people experience when something that is too good to be true is offered to them, and the reaction is one of suspicion. The recipient is often overly wary of the possible ramifications of accepting the gift.

Will the giver try to take advantage? Will they think the recipients are needy or less than them?

On the other side, however, there is sheer incompetence, and that is the usual culprit.

In the times that I have tried to donate time and even money, I have found that the receiving organization was just not set up to receive the gift.

In one case, I had the hardest time trying to donate some camera equipment recently. I contacted three organizations, and received wrong information from one, no call from another and a third that eventually stopped returning my calls altogether. I eventually dropped the equipment off myself at the first organization, afte several miscues.

In another case, I asked a charitable organization to withdraw US$100 from my account each month. One month they decided to bill me for 5 months -- 4 prior months that they missed and the current month. That created a problem, so I amended the instruction to ask them to withdraw a maximum of US$100 each month, and if they skipped a month -- tough luck.

That worked for a few months, until the withdrawals mysteriously stopped altogether. Phone calls and emails have gone unreturned.

I gave up.

Others (especially expats) report the same kind of experience. Many wives of expats are unable to hold jobs because they lack a work permit.

They try to volunteer in their area of specialty with no luck -- one therapist I know was stood up three times by people at the church she attended when she tried to donate some of her expertise.

We in Jamaica make it so hard for ourselves. While there is a lot of in your face begging, even from the able bodied, our organizations are so poorly run that they cannot accomplish even the simple task of receiving gifts of time and money.

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