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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Being Filthy Rich

The following article is a great one, as it offers some realistic sounding insights into what it's like to live as an internet millionaire.

After Succeeding, Young Tycoons Try, Try Again

There are many levels at which it can be read, from the superficial to the spiritual.

Of course, the common response to the problem that the Tycoons describe is "give me money that for one day, and that would be the happiest day of my life."

The question is, how much would you need to make it the happiest day? $1 million? $100 million? $1 billion? $100?

How much would it take to buy my happiness for a day?


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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Forgetting America

To be honest, I have forgotten what it is like to live in the U.S.

I know this in part by what I experience when I return -- the strange interactions I feel between myself and other people.

I also know it when I realize I have no passion for racial issues.  Earlier this year I was invited to join a panel to look at creating a course customized for minorities in the U.S., and found myself curiously uninterested.

When I read the following article from the New York Times, I knew that a lot had changed, because I could not relate to the issues after 2+ years of living in Jamaica.

The article, entitled "In Student's Eyes, Look-Alike Lawyers Don't Make the Grade" describes how students are rating law firms on the diversity of their lawyers.  It makes for interesting reading, on many level, and I recommend it highly.

However, I no longer felt emotionally tied to the problem it describes, and this is a feeling I welcome.  Not to say that everyone should have the same reaction, but just to report that my own response surprised me just a little.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Parallels Between the US and the French Revolution

The article from the New York Times describes the French Revolution in terms that are scarily reminiscent of the the "fight against terrorism."


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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Still Disturbed

For some reason, I found that video I posted yesterday on gangs in Kingston to be quite disturbing.

It made me wonder -- "what the heck am I doing here?" "This is no place to live." "Nowhere I lived in the US was anything like this."

As I explained in prior posts, these are the kinds of thoughts that come up, especially when I want to protect my skinbag (body) from harm, and for good measure I say that I want to protect my wife's own also!

The footage of those men and woman lying on the ground with blood all over is certainly not my reality, but Grant's Pen (subject of the last interview) is a mere 5 minutes away from where I live.

So, the (my) skinbag got scared.

I also mentioned that I have relied heavily on The Work of Byron Katie tp deal with stressful thoughts.  I don't know if Katie meant it for situations like this, but I can say that it works wonders for me.  As it did after seeing this documentary.

While I don't want to scare people from coming to live in Jamaica, I think it better for them to see the reality before they come, when they are far away from the action, than to come here and find that the murders they have been hearing about are happening only a few miles away, if that.

Maybe I would tell someone, "if you can make it through the video documentaries I posted this week and you still want to come, then you are ready to make the move."


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Friday, October 26, 2007

Video Documentary on Gang Warfare

This Ross Kemp documentary gives an excellent look at the warfare that exists on a daily basis on the streets of Kingston.

It is excellent, raw and disturbing.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5


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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Changing One's Support Network Over Time

This is a very simple idea -- that before coming to live in Jamaica an expat and a returnee have active networks of friends and acquaintances. 

Before coming to Jamaica, it is possible to do some kind of assessment to understand the nature of one's network.  Once it is well understood, it's not too hard to make a plan to replace that network.

The problem is that returnees and expats alike don't quite think much about their network in these terms.  Mostly, when they get the news that they are going to be living in Jamaica, they enter a honeymoon phase and start dreaming about the food, the beaches and the culture they'll be moving into.

However, they'd be well served if they were to do this kind of work, even at a rudimentary level, because the challenge of living in a new country and dealing with the cultural transition has everything to do with who on is able to depend on for emotional support.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Documentary on Jamaican Crime and Elections

This video is the first in a 3 part documentary series called "Unreported World: Jamaica: Guns Votes and Money"

Follow this link to see parts 2 and 3, on YouTube.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A License to Drive in 12 Steps

Moving Back to Jamaica means dealing with the ugly face of corruption,and one of the agencies with a poor reputation is the Examination Depot at Swallowfield Road. It is a little like the Ellis Island of Jamaica -- the place where those who are moving to live in Jamaica must pass through on their way to fully authorized,and acceptable driving.

The law in Jamaica states that a Jamaican driver's license is needed after living on the island for more than three months. Or perhaps that's six months... and this is where the problem begins. Rumor has it that if you end up in an accident with a foreign license after this period, then the insurance company can refuse to provide coverage. But then again, this is just a rumour.

Getting a Jamaican license while having a foreign license is a tricky business, as the information is scanty, there are no clearly written procedures and everyone seems to have a different story to tell.

And, there is the matter of corruption. many traffic and driving problems in Jamaica can be whisked away with the right payment to the right person, as the three reports below attest. The estimate I heard is that 40% of our drivers have no legal drivers licenses, having received them through bribes. Again, another rumour.
I vowed to document the process of obtaining a local license once I received one, and here I am going to lay out the ideal set of steps to take, leaving out the part where we hunted down a lawyer, a JP, 2 trips to the photographer and 2 trips to the examination depot.

Step 1: Visit the Tax Office on Constant Spring Road between the 5th and 20th of the month. Stay away from the days nearest to the end of month, as that is when people rush to the depot to pay fees at the last minute. Pick up an application for a driver's license (unavailable on the internet.)

Step 1a. Pay the fee to take the test -- $1500 at the Tax Office. Carry cash, for fear of hearing that "the credit card machine not working."

Step 2: Get 3 pictures taken at PhotoExpress in Liguanea or someplace similar. Avoid going at rush hour. Time: 15 minutes to wait for development. Cost $900

Step 3: Fill out the form WITHOUT signing it.

Step 4: Find a Justice of the Peace (NOT a lawyer.) They must be willing to say that they know you for more than five minutes... Have them sign and seal the document over your signature as well as certify the pictures

Step 5: Visit the Examination Depot on Swallowfield Road (near the stadium) with your documents (the form, the pictures, the receipt of payment from the tax office) and set an appointment to take the exam

Step 6: Purchase a copy of "The Jamaican Driver's Guide" from 2007 and study the contents. If you cannot read English, then learn. If you cannot learn English, then methods of your obtaining your license are beyond the scope of this blog. Cost $359. Time to find it: most pharmacies and book stores. It is very popular here in Jamaica.

Step 7: Visit the Examination Depot on the day and time appointed. Be prepared to use your biggest foreign accent. Carry no cash. Pretend you know nothing about any "drinks money."

Step 8: Take the reading test. Answer a few questions on road signs from page 40. Be exceedingly polite, friendly, helpful and helpful. This is like Ellis Island -- you may get turned down for merely looking "like an imbecile" which in Jamaica also includes "being too damn rude."

Step 9: Take the driving test in the yard. Do a hill start. Do the reversing test.

Step 10: Sit and wait a few minutes for the examiner to tell you when you can pick up your license. Ask him to assign it to the Constant Spring Tax Office.

Step 11: Visit the tax office again on the right day, with $1500 in hand. Pay, and pick up your license.

Step 12: if you haven't already started, learn how to drive like a Jamaican.

The entire process can be completed in a matter of 2-3 weeks, if everything is lined up in advance. The longest unexplained wait is for the examination date.

All in all, the process was fairly straightforward, once we had gone through it. Consider this post to be the definitive account, as after a few hours searching I could find nothing on the internet that described the entire process. I met a few foreigners who had different accounts, depending on who they knew at the Depot.

Here, I have assumed that you know no-one, and that by now you know how to "look foreign" when you need to. If you don't know what that means, then just dress "normally."

It turns out there is an important Step 13.

Step 13: Visit the tax office with J$1500 in hand and some kind of picture ID. They should already have your paperwork there. They pull it out from the stacks of papers piled all over in manila folders (almost to the ceiling) and after filling out another form, you pay the fee (credit cards accepted) and then come back to wait for your official picture to be taken.

Once the picture is taken, you wait again for the license to be handed to you. Then you complain that the picture looks ugly.

The whole process took about an hour, and didn't feel all that long because you are going through a few different steps. Remember, the tax office is a place to avoid from the 28th of one month to the 3rd of the next. The best time to go is from the 4th - 15th, to avoid the long lines.


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Monday, October 22, 2007

US Citizenship and Its Exclusionary Force

Service greater than self - Hayles
published: Sunday | September 30, 2007

Having lived in the United States, Hayles acquired dual citizenship. He claims that he gave up his U.S. citizenship prior to nomination day, August 7, and is now awaiting ratification.

Hayles comments tha he wants to visit his children and other family members in the U.S., he has to wait, and he hopes that a December visa application is successful. But the father of three children feels that "services and sacrifice is for causes greater than one's personal self."

I could be wrong, but it seems that Ian Hayles has only applied for his citizenship to be revoked, but it has not been approved.
I am no lawyer, but it seems to make sense to me that only the US government can revoke citizenship, in much the same way that it is the only authority that can grant it.
I have been doing some searching on the internet, and cannot find any information on how long it takes to revoke US citizenship.  All I have is the evidence of a friend who says that he went through the process more than five years ago that and it took a month.
Does this mean that Hayles is a US citizen, and was also one on nomination and election days?
Is this the kind of question that we really want to be answering to determine which party should form our government?
Jamaicans abroad say that they should be given the right to participate in the government, if they so wished.  They argue that they were encouraged by the past government to seek citizenship in their respective countries, but were never dvsed that doing so would obstruct their chances of entering representational politics.
Also, remittances remain the largest earner of foreign exchange, acting as a subsidy to the Jamaican economy.
What should the government's policy be?

On a separate note, it's hard to imagine that Jamaicans abroad are happy to discover that the US citizenship that the government urged them to acquire prohibits them from running for political office.

I think this article sums up the sentiment well (click on the headline for the link):

... Jamaican Diaspora wants changes to Constitution
published: Sunday | September 30, 2007

Dionne Rose, Staff Reporter

Diaspora mini-conference workshop groups in Florida, earlier this year. - Contributed

 Members of the Jamaican Diaspora want the Jamaican Constitution to be amended to allow persons with dual citizenship to participate in political representation.


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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Trinidad's Progress

Once again, I am travelling here in Trinidad and am struck by their progress as a nation.
We Jamaicans are quick to point out that their progress is due to their oil, and little else.
Be that as it may, it is interesting to see a Caribbean country make the kind of progress that they have made, and that we Jamaicans would love to have.
When I first started travelling to Trinidad in the mid 1990's my impression was that Jamaica was more developed, with better infrastructure and more sophisiticated, cosmopolitan professionals.
Now, I can hardly say so as it is obvious that Trinidad has leap-frogged our development.
The number of cars on the road has visibly increased.  Even small errands attract the most horrendous traffic, slowing progress to a crawl.  It is clear that more people are on the roads, and driving is increasingly precarious as there is just no relaxing on clear roads within commuting hours.
A client of mine takes 3 hours each morning to get from her home down south to work.  Another recently left work at 3:45, to reach home at Trincity at 9:15.  This pon a 20 minute drive without traffic.
Everywhere one looks in the downtown region there is construction as builders add four buildings of ove 20 stories, all at once.
The 3 daily newspapers together comprise 200 pages on the typical day.
It looks to me that the majority of these pages are advertisements, and many of them are for jobs.
The prevailing story here in Trinidad is that everyone who wants a job can find one.  Programmes like CPEP have mopped up whatever unemployment existed at the lowest end, with Trinidadians leaving job as workers at KFC, Burger King, and as helpers and gardeners to join these programmes which ostensibly provide the same wages for much less work.
Finding casual workers is extremely hard to do.
The kindof crimes that Trinidad experiences seem to be more about greed than need.  There are very few despaerately poor Trinidadians, stealing because they are hungry, or just plain scared into taking what is not theirs.  Instead, the rise in kindappings is driven by get-rich-quick thinking more than anything else.
The quick impression is of a country on a rapid growth path, doing the kinds of things that we Jamaicans can only dream of doing at the moment.  It is inspiring, and instructive.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Large Forces

I'm wondering to what extent we Jamaicans are mere subjects to large historical and geographic forces that are well beyond our control.
Force 1
We are ideally located between Colombia and the Golf of Mexico US states of  Florida/ Alabama/ Mississipi/ Louisiana/ Texas.
The US is perhaps the greatest consumer of illegal drugs and Colombia is one of the greatest suppliers.  As long as the North American appetite for illegal drugs remains, there will be armed thugs around the world attempting to supply that demand.
It is ironic that when US politicians talk about "reducing the flow of drugs across the border" they seem to be arguing that if only the flood were to stop, then their citizens would no longer pay a premium to get themselves high by incresingly strong narcotics.
The fact that today, over 90% of marijuana is grown in the US makes it obvious that cutting a source of supply only creates new sources, drives up prices or increases criminal behaviour when the demand has not been reduced.  This is how capitalism works, and it doesn't stop working because a country decides that the product is an immoral one.
Geographically, we are stuck between a voracious  North American appetite for narcotics, and the capitalist market forces that will forever seek to supply that demand.  In other words, we will always be a transshipment point, always fighting smugglers, and always be two steps behind an effort that we ultimately cannot win.
Force 2: A Slave Society
The Caribbean is the only place in the world where ex-slaves form a near-majority in countries they were forced to live in at the end of a gun.  
We didn't choose to be here. We didn't choose to work here after were brought.  We didn't choose to stay.  Many didn't choose to be alive as a result.
The predominant force in our socety was the most warped and twisted form of workplace relationship -- slavery.  Unfortunately, hundreds of years of slave-master relationships did not evaporate when the chains were removed.
Whatever force, for example, that kept almost a million slaves in Jamaica from rising up to kill less than 100 thousand whites during the days of slaves did not magically go away on emancipation day.
It had to remain in the minds of those who experienced it, and it had to continue in the workplace to some degree -- there being no other model of work that tied together employee and employer.
This historical force is continuing to inform our workplace relationships -- we have no choice -- it must.
These forces are but two of those that together shape our current Jamaican reality.  They are tremendous, and cannot be removed easily.  They may not be permanent, but they will both take tremendous effort to weaken.

P.S. This post was influenced by an article I read in the Jamaica Gleaner -- see below for an exceprt, and click on the headline to be taken to the entire article:

US role and the failing drug war
published: Sunday | September 30, 2007

Robert Buddan

 The United States has maintained that Jamaica must be kept on a watch list of major transit and illicit producer countries of narcotics because it has more than 5,000 hectares of land in ganja production. Jamaican authorities are angry because the report fails to reflect improved anti-narcotics activities and hurts Jamaica's reputation by placing it in the bad company of 20 countries around the world. The greater problem with the report is that it fails to recognise that the U.S.'s role in the drug war is a cause of failure, and the nature of the world system causes all countries to be losing this war.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Waking Up the SkinBag

In a prior post, I talked about how being in Jamaica can bring one face-to-face with one's mortality, and humanity.
It's a little like waking up from a nightmare.
Sometimes when you are in the middle of a very bad dream, you can wake up to the fact that it is just a dream.  The dream can continue along, and the crazy things that happen are understood as a kind of mental joke that can either be stopped or continued at will.
Most of the time, however, I forget completely that I am dreaming.  The nightmare continues unabated and I have forgotten that I am in a dream.
Then, when I awaken, I realize with a sudden sense of relief that this was indeed just a dream.  It was stopped forever when I woke up, and I cannot return to it. When I am awake, I am back in full possession of my awareness, and am no longer constrained by my imagination.
In my prior post on this topic, I wrote about the skinbag as a "playing piece" in a game that involves our awareness, and its movement between our small mind and our big mind.  
Most of the time, however, I am really not aware of the skinbag, my awareness, my small mind and my big mind.  Instead, I am usually just having a bunch of thoughts that I believe are true.
Moving to Jamaica has lead to a preponderance of thoughts like:
"something bad is coming"
"this place is dangerous"
"I need to protext myself"
Together, these thoughts (when believed) create a particular experience that feels very, very real.
And then, now and again, I realize that I am having a nightmare.
In this particular "living nightmare," I have forgotten that I have a skinbag, awareness, small mind, and big mind.
I don't realize that I have thoughts that I need not believe, and instead I believe them all, which usually results in feelings of stress.
In other words, it is very close to being in a bad dream -- in which I have forgotten that the skinbag is sleeping, and just having a "sleeping nightmare."
The big difference is one of duration.  Usually, a "sleeping nightmare" lasts a matter of minutes.  Then, it is over and I am restored to being fully awake.
However, a "living nightmare" lasts a lifetime.
A friend of mine had a near-death experience, and it sounded a lot like during the moments when he was suspended over his body, watching the doctors working on his skinbag, he remembered that his like was a "living nightmare" and he woke up out of it.  When life was returned to his skinbag, and his awareness came down off the ceiling, he went on living, but was never the same.
It might not be very different from what happens when we realise that we are having a "sleeping nightmare," in some ways.  He was still alive, but he had learned in a flash who he really was, and that he had been having a "living nightmare."

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Almost the Last Day to Vote for My Proposal

In a prior post on Sep 20th, I mentioned that I had entered my proposal to write a new, hopefully revolutionary, manifesto on the skill of time management.

What I have neglected to mention is that since my last update on Sep 23rd, the proposal has garnered 435 votes. So far, it's the most popular proposal of the 11 being offered up this month.

I have no idea what the threshold is to be asked to take the next step and "write a manifesto" but... if you haven't voted, please do so.

The final date is Friday Oct 19th.

The title is "On Time Management: Toss Away the Tips, Focus on the Fundamentals"

Click here to be taken to the proposal.


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What Happens to Politicians

A recent article in the New York Times by David Brooks has brilliantly put into words what many of us have wondered:  why is it that people seem to lose their minds once they enter politics?
Common sense flies out the window.  Their views mysteriously align themselves wihtout exception with the party-line.  The truth seems to go out the window, replaced by a more convenient loyalty.
As I mentioned in a prior post, politics becomes a scary proposition when one looks at the crop of politicans and wonders "will I really become like them?"

Click here to be taken to the article.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Jamaican Plus

I was recently speaking with a Trinidadian returnee who has been away from Trinidad ever since he was a teenager.

I tried to explain -- "You are no longer Trinidadian."

I didn't mean that they had lost the essence of who they were. Instead, I tried to describe the fact that the time spent away had made them more than Trinidadian, and more like a "Trini plus."

The same goes for a Jamaican who has lived abroad, and returns home.

The Jamaican who denies that they are different, ends up suffering by not taking care of the part of them that is very, very different. To make the mistake of not nurturing that part of them is to make a mistake.

While they are back home, I think it is essential that they:
-- always know when they are returning to the country they left before coming home.
-- find the channels to receive some of their creature comforts -- clothes, food, news, books, movies, etc.
-- "recharge their cylinders" while they are away -- a vacation from Jamaica is usually taken in a place that is more reliable, structures and has less crime
-- look for outside, spiritual and mental boosters
-- re-connect with friends
-- link with returnees who can understand what they left behind, and what it is like to be a returnee

It is important that a returnee be responsible for who they have become, and these ways represent a start. They are very different from their friends


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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bad News for Men and Women

82:18 -- that is the percentage split between men and women in the new freshman class at UWI.

It is a sobering statistic, not because of the gains that women have made, but because of the losses that men have incurred.

Click here to be taken to the article.

On a larger scale it explains the number of men we see standing on street corners, doing nothing but waiting to get into some trouble.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Excellent Article

This article is raising some eyebrows, and I think it is spot on.

Here is an excerpt:

Ior consider the political consequences of pursuing the judicial challenges. If, for example the PNP were to succeed in unseating Shahine Robinson, Daryl Vaz or Gregory Mair then the people of St. Ann north-eastern, Portland western and St. Catherine north-eastern would have been disenfranchised by a legalistic manoeuvre. How would these 23,533 persons who voted JLP and the entire JLP mass base react? They must take to the streets and vigorously too. There will be counter-mobilisations on the PNP side. Very severe social and political instability could ensue.

It has brilliantly described what I think is happening in the PNP.  The masses have taken control of the party, and put those who are experienced, educated and trained on  the back foot.  Instead, the party leaders are catering to those who give their supporters the best lunches, the nicest t-shirts and the bigger phone credit cards.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Political Nonsense Talk

While I intend to enter politics at some point, I am in fear of becoming a politician.  I don't know what it is, but it seems that common sense and everday communication skills seem to desert the average pol.

This, from a news service, on Hilary Clinton.

In that last debate, the candidates were asked if they thought it was appropriate for a teacher to read young children a story about a handsome prince who marries a — handsome prince. Clinton started off by taking an all-purpose stand against divisiveness and ended with a plug for hate crimes legislation. In between, she said this: “With respect to your individual children, that is such a matter of parental discretion. I think that, obviously, it is better to try to work with your children, to help your children understand the many differences that are in the world and to really respect other people and the choices that other people make, and that goes far beyond sexual orientation.”

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Still no phone

it is a miracle that I have internet access... as our home phone has not worked since Hurricane Dean on Aug 19th.

I wonder if there is any chance that C&W will give me my money back for the lack of service?

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nice Patois Samples -- translated

We Jamaicans like to think that we all speak English.

However, to someone from the outside, what they hear does not seem decipherable, and therefore could not stand up to the test of standard, universally understood English.

Here are some samples of Jamaican patois, which I think even some Jamaicans living abroad might want get accustomed to. Ceratinly, anyome moving to Jamaica should get to the point where they can at least understand patois when it is spoken.

Click here for the site.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

High School Reunion

It is a sign of the times.  
I ran into a friend of mine heading to her Immaculate High School reunion. She was at the airport, headed to New York.
There are only 2-3 classmates left in Jamaica, and there are more living in New York City than anywhere else, hence the location.  

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Trinis and Public Names

One interesting cultural quirk that I have noticed that is a real point of different between Trinidadians and Jamaicans is that Trinis like to name all sorts of famous places after living heroes.
There is the Hasely Crawford Stadium, the Brian Lara Promenade, The Brian Lara Stadium, the Wendy Fitz-William Highway and others.
I think this shows a tremendous faith in people.  It shows that you trust them not the screw their lives up royally after their named has been used as a label.  It shows that you believe that they have arrived, and are unliekly to depart from some high pedestal on which they sit.
In Jamaica, it seems that we don't trust them until they are good and dead.  At least, then, you can limit the embarrassment that might occur.

It just seems to be a safer bet to use dead people rather than live ones. Some people argue that Lara was never the same after he broke the world record the first time, and they named half of downtown in his honour.he as only in his twenties, and he had already arrived.

What if he runs for prime minister and does an excellent job, saving the country from ruin?  Would they rename Port of Spain to "Brian Lara City?"

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Hardship and Enlightenment

Wrinke MeatSome would say that staying in the US, Canada and UK -- anywhere but Jamaica -- is the only logical thing to do.

After all, there are hardships here - as the design of our flag indicates... ("Hardships there are, but the grass is green and the sun shineth.") What it really should say is that the natural surroundings are very, very pretty, but the people dem make things too damn difficult!

The recent flurry of disruptive activity still has not caused the environment to settle down (speaking here of the hurricane, elections and the attendant rise in crime.) The everyday murder reports have a way of working on one's psyche, especially when one realizes that the deaths are happening only a few miles away, and that people that you see each day are the ones being killed.

It surely gives one pause for thought.

You don't move to Jamaica without, at some point, confronting your own mortality. Whether you believe that your place is assured in heaven, or that there is no heaven, or that there some other other alternative, thoughts of death are constantly playing in a Jamaican's mind, recent returnee or not.

When I lived in the U.S. I gave it only a passing thought -- particularly after the Rodney King killing. The few times I was pulled over by a cop, I grabbed the wheel hoping that this wasn't my turn to become a statistic.

This happened maybe only once or twice, however.

Here in Kingston, things are tougher. My wife has the honour of being within earshot of a couple of shootouts -- the second occurred while riding her bicycle through a volatile area a few weeks ago. (I was about a half-mile behind.)

I have been thinking about all this, and when bolstered by my readings of A Course in Miracles, have started to take what it says quite seriously. After all, it is way more applicable here than it was in Pembroke Pines, Florida or New Brunswick, New Jersey!

Rather than quote from the Course, I'll put my conclusions into my own words.

In a prior post, I talked about how I have begun to see "the body" as something like a playing piece from a game of monoply. I talked about how sometimes we forget that the piece is a part of a game, and we start to think that we are the piece and that the game is more than just a game.

However, there is always an end to the game, and at the end we give back our money, piece, hotels, houses -- in fact everything that matters during the game is useless after.

Well, life is the same. At the end of the game, we give everything back, and take nothing with us past that point.

I remember my cousin's funeral, getting the distinct impression that it was a joke. Obviously, Stevie was gone. He left something behind, that much I could see from glancing in his coffin. But the important part of him was gone: that much I was sure about. His essence had taken a one way trip, leaving behind something like a shell.

I have begun calling my own shell "the skin-bag." In the same prior post, I shared how I started relating to "my body" as a separate entity. Now, it has undergone a but of name change.

When I shared all these thoughts with my wife, she added in the following: "Yeah, and it has a mind of its own."

Hmm..... a skin-bag with a mind of its own.

So, here I am with my skin-bag sitting at the computer, typing. It has a mind of its own, and that mind is a fearful one that is always looking out for its own survival, concerned about how to keep the skin-bag alive no matter what. it scans the horizon looking for threats, and believes that the physical world is the only one that exists. I'll call the mind that is connected to the skin-bag the "Small Mind."

It doesn't matter that one day the entire game is going to be folded up (probably in the next 50 years for me, at most.) It still believes that its job is to prolong its life upon the earth, even though it cannot ultimately win that particular game.

It relies on deception -- while now and again it cannot hide the fact that its goal is nonsensical and futile, it nevertheless thrives by being able to trick my .... Big Mind... into forgetting.

OK, so what is my "Big Mind?"

Well, to be able to recognize the Small Mind, there must be a Big Mind perspective that is different. Earlier I mentioned the word "essence" which I think is that part of us that is, well, bigger.

It's obvious to me that sometimes I can see things from the perspective of the Big Mind, and other times I see things from the perspective of the Small Mind.

That means there must be something else involved -- whatever it is that's moving from the Big Mind to the Small Mind. I'll call that "the Awareness."

OK, most of the time:
The Awareness is stuck in the Small Mind. It has forgotten that the Big Mind exists entirely. It is concerned with protecting the skin-bag from harm. It makes sure it avoids bullets, eats well, exercises, rests, dresses well, has fun, stays away from thieves, dodges the idiots on the road and runs faster than stray dogs when needed.

Now and then:
The Awareness pops into the Big Mind. It can observe the Small Mind working hard to keep things alive, but it realizes that its work is limited. The Big Mind sees the much bigger picture, and knows that the basic building block of existence is not a molecule, but spirit. It is quite amused by "threats," and laughs when the skin-bag runs away from stray dogs.

It understands why the Small Mind likes to collect paper money and metal coins, and tries to get the approval of other Small Minds. At times, it finds that the skin-bag feels a little heavy, and like a bit of a burden that is keeping the Awareness anchored to the earth to some degree.

But most of the time, the Awareness is lost someplace in the Small Mind.

Moving to Jamaica has been useful, because the Small Mind has been working overtime to keep the skin-bag safe! All of a sudden, it is finding that it just cannot keep up with all the possible threats. It is complaining, but it can't be merely fired because it is a bit of a parasite -- it uses the fact that it can't do the "security" job as well as justification for why it needs to be given more prominence. In short, it is using its failure to secure the skin-bag to further justify its existence. "i know I am doing a bad job, but that is why I am essential..."

Thankfully, the Course (and many other spiritual paths) offer a better way.

The "better way" is just to leave the skin-bag alone. Or in other words, to unlock the Awareness from the Small Mind, and practice moving and keeping it in the Big Mind.

Not that the Small Mind is OK with that -- it thinks that all this spiritual talk is crap, anyway. It wants to get more money, better friends and a good retirement plan (with a portion invested in Olint.) It wants the Awareness locked inside its cell in the Small Mind.

It also doesn't like all this light shining on its business. As I am typing this, it is thinking of other things the skin-bag should be doing to "take care of business" instead of typing this blog. It can feel the threat of "all of this Big Mind nonsense"... because it knows that once the Awareness shifts away, it might never come back to its rightful place in the Small Mind's cell-block.

So, I have been practicing, using the Course (and also The Work of Byron Katie) to remember who I really am -- a Big Mind surrounding a "Small Mind attached to a skin-bag." But, first and foremost, a Big Mind.

The hardships of Jamaican life, and the associated increased activity by the Small Mind have helped me to become much more aware, and given me a chance to put what I have been studying in the Course since 1993 into practice. Now when I read it... more of it makes _perfect_ sense.

If anyone can relate (to any of this) let me know. I like being a bit "out there'... but the Small Mind doesn't like being out there all alone! ;-)

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Deep into FaceBook

This FaceBook thing is getting out of hand.

Networking here in the caribbean is an intense business, as the group of people that you know is just not that big, but it is terribly influential.

The world of those who belong to Facebook is amazing -- an entire new dimension of interaction that cannot be explained, it can only be experienced.

It consumes all sorts of spare time, as I sink deeper and deeper into my friends' lives.

Who is doing what? Why? Since when? Do I know her well enough to risk trying to add her as a friend? Ddi he ignore my message out of spite? Should I add that application just because someone interesting recommended it? Why is THAT person in their network? I can't imagine them even saying hello!

On and on it goes. useful? Who knows. Compelling? Certainly.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

I Love Me Some Yendi

Yendi Phillips, the new Miss Jamaica, is irresistible.

I don't think she was the prettiest contestant in the recent competition, but in the interviews and the talent competition, she sounded like someone who loves her life, was enjoying every minute of the competition, and felt freed up to speak her mind without caring too much about what people thought.

I love that quality about her. It is usually found in older Jamaican women who have gone through the "young girl" stage, and have developed a confidence and independence in who they are. Yendi seems to have developed these qualities at a young age -- I hope that she can continue in the same vein through the actual competition itself.

Heck, it would be great to meet her to see if she really is as I have described her!

Here is an article covering an interview with her -- the high point has to be the "wedgy."

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dengue Fever

Here it is on Saturday ngiht, and my wife is suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean -- dengue fever.

She has all the symptoms, even the delerium, as she threatens every moquito that flies by.  She is feverish, has no appetite, has a rash, her eyes hurt, headaches -- straight from the WebMD website.

And there is nothing that can be done about it except wait it out, and drink lots of fluids.

Poor thing...!

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Beautiful blog entry

I thought that this blog entry was just beautifully done.

It comes from the Instigator's Blog, and demonstrates a powerful combo of words and graphics.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Great Quote

Apparently, enlightenment comes from Moving Back to Jamaica!

Here is a great quote from A Course in Miracles, Chapter 21, II.2.3-5

I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings iIexperience, and  I decide
  upon the goals I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me
  I ask for, and receive as I have asked.

Food for thought, as moving back to Jamaica continues to raise the temptation of merely blaming everything outside, inside of looking inside.

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