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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A New Discussion Forum for Returnees to Jamaica

After lots of requests, I am happy to announce that I am creating a discussion forum for every Jamaican with an interest in Moving Back to Jamaica.

I continue to receive lots of email from readers with specific questions, and I enjoy getting them. At the same time, I know that some questions have easy answers, and the forum would be the place to ask for help from the community of readers of this blog.

The forum is divided into four sections:

1) Jamaicans Moving Back to Jamaica

2) Anyone interested in moving to Jamaica to live

3) Expats who are in the process of moving to Jamaica to live permanently

4) Those who recently moved to Jamaica and would like to share experiences and information

I welcome your participation -- it's free -- and I plan to place information in the forums that I don't really want to put in my blog, such as some of my more personal observations that are really intended for those who are truly interested in Jamaican living from many different perspectives.

Logging in easy -- if you have any trouble, just ask by leaving me a comment here. You can login as a Guest, but won't be able to actually make any posts.

Click here to be taken to the Transition Jamaica Forum. Or type in

Here is what the screen looks like -- clicking on the images below will also take you to the forums.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Letter from a Jamaican Thinking About Returning

I have spent the last 17 years of my life working towards the American dream. By society's standards, both here and there, many would say that my husband and I have achieved it. The high profile careers with six figures coming in, the large single-family house, the cars, all tied in a bow for the family of 5 (3 children). Having now slumbered my way into dreamland, I find that I have awoken to the American nightmare many of us who took the same path that I did have come to know. I left Jamaica shortly after graduating high school. Not "in search" of anything, but because my father is American and I was moving on to higher educational opportunities which at the time (1991) were more abundant off island. I didn't know enough about "trying to make it" in Jamaica to dream of anything that would better facilitate that.

It was quite easy being lulled into the sweet sleep of corporate American culture and the daily frantic gyrations of American life. But what started out as climbing the corporate ladder soon became no time with the kids and even less with my husband. There may be those who say that American life does not have to be like that, but with expensive childcare, no helpers or limited access to anything of that nature, long commutes to and from work as well as family and friends… soon, routine takes over and quality of life goes down the drain… that is of course, if you ever had any.
Although I have the conveniences of a 24-hour Wal-Mart, the ever current Target. The massive malls with endless shopping opportunities and the wide highways with no potholes – a grand quality of life is still wishful thinking.

On my visit to Jamaica last year, as I eagerly debated living in Jamaica vs. living in US with some friends, one of them commented that Jamaica was "on the cusp of greatness". I'll never forget those words, because I strongly agreed with them then and still do now. The individual who made the comment was later shot by a thief who was attempting to rob his sister. Thankfully, he was not killed, however it brings me to my next point, which is the paralyzing effect that crime is having on the Jamaican dream. In effect, crime is the demon that has invaded the sweet sleep that was once Jamaica. And those who are feeling the poverty that hard life on this island inflicts find other outlets to meet their thirsty lips, hands, pockets… dream deprived sleep.

Despite the madness lurking on all corners, hillsides and gullies, I still believe that my Jamaican dream is yet to be realized. Maybe it's just the naivety of having not lived here for 17 years. Many Jamaicans who I have shared with that I am considering a move home have asked… "are you crazy?", "why now?"; the most positive reviews I have received seem to come from those who either have wealth enough to enjoy the higher points of life in Jamaica, or those who have placed their security in a higher power other than King Alarm.

And what is my Jamaican dream… well all the things that you spoke of in your article - better quality of life for my family, a challenging career, my own business, house in town and one on the coast… and much more. But to put it even more simply… give me a cool breeze rolling off a waterfall, a lush garden, sunrise on a beach and a nice water jelly from the man on the corner. I'll take that over a 24 hour Wal-Mart any day! I am a Jamaican at heart and that's where most great dreams begin. So let's start dreaming!

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Jamaican Greetings

In spite of the aggressiveness and sometimes harsh nature of life in Jamaica, one of the sweet contradictions lies in how Jamaicans greet each other.

"Blessed" has become a popular greeting that I have never heard in another country. I suspect that its origin lies in the Rastafarian faith.

"Respect" is another greeting that has been around for longer, and is just a typically Jamaican way of sending a clear affirmative signal to another person.

"Yes" or "Yes, Yes" accompanied with a nod of the head are also popular ways of merely affirming that you are recognizing another. Older similar forms include "Easy" and "Cool nuh."

These are warm greetings of well-wishes passed between strangers who are sending positive signals or vibes between each other. They are uttered over the unspoken and unquestioned assumption that we are in each other's lives forever.


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Friday, July 25, 2008

Where to take "Moving Back to Jamaica"

I have been giving some thought to the future of this blog, Moving Back to Jamaica, after the positive response I received to the idea of turning some of what I have written here into a book.

It makes me think that I should have some kind of "strategy."

Not that I got to this point with any kind of strategy in mind -- it was much more a case of buck-up than anything else. I started writing, and just have not been able to stop in the past three years about this major life-changing event I undertook without really knowing what I was doing.

One fact that I have to consider is that my wife (with my encouragement) has started a transition business to help expats make the move to Jamaica successfully. While this blog is mostly read by Jamaicans (I believe,) from a slightly different angle it can also be useful to expats who are moving here. As far as I can tell, it is the only blog of its kind in the region.

However, I did run across an Indian fellow who chronicled his return to Bombay, and I am looking forward to listening to his book!

But what purpose will this blog serve once I have completed my own transition? I imagine that I could have a post that simply states "move back completed" and some kind of "gone fishing" sign hanging up on the last post.

From now until then, I am loving the idea of getting the book done, and making it available in every little West Indian store in the US, Canada and the U.K. It would help to fulfill my original purpose, which was to provide for others the kind of help I looked for when I was planning my move in 2003 but could not find.

I also imagine using it a resource for expats moving to Jamaica, which leads me to the reason for planning to put up my first advertisement. It might be a sidebar ad that links to my wife's blog for expats who are looking for assistance in moving to Jamaica.

It won't actually be what I would call "monetizing" the site, but it might be a first step in that direction.

Also, I plan a long overdue move from blogspot to Wordpress, hosted on my own hosted service, complete with a domain name -- maybe "" or something of the sort. It's becoming easier to move a blog from blogger to Wordpress, so I will definitely be making the transition.

I also have toyed with the idea of proposing a column in the Jamaica Overseas Gleaner. When I lived in the U.S., I would have LOVED to be able to read anything about moving back to Jamaica, if I could only have found it. I have a feeling that there are many who don't have computer access, but feel the way I used to feel.

What I can't imagine doing at the moment is a full range of information products -- including podcasts, e-learning and the like. I might be wrong, but I don't think there is an interest in these kinds of things, as they might be too "techie" for my average reader -- a Jamaican professional living abroad.

This is what consitutes my "strategy" at the moment and we'll see if this changes much anytime soon.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Missing Home and Living in the US

The following comment was made by an anonymous poster and I thought it was interesting enough to be posted on its own.

I was born in America of Jamaican parents but I also feel that there is the other side to Jamaicans living in the U.S. - "living the American Nightmare".

My grandmother came to the U.S. from Jamaica leaving her children behind > came to clean homes - promise of an American dream > left a good life in Jamaica > now in her late 80s with early Alzheimers and phasing in and out of memories of wanting to go back or at least regretting not having a home back in Jamaica that she could have returned to...and so instead sits in a horrible NY nursing home with no home/island foods to satisfy her appetite(she starves refusing the canned foods they prepare), etc - nothing but fading memories of what she could have done.

How many Jamaicans actually come to the U.S. and obtain college educations and beyond or even save enough to be able to return to their homeland?

There is not much in the U.S. for those who feel they need to emigrate from the islands to chase the so called American dream - unless done with success like those who have gotten Masters degrees, business degrees, etc and have create self sustaining businesses to be able to return. Heck there is not much here for the average African-American.
I cannot say that I understand what is going on in Jamaica hands-on, but the number of complaints I see from even those who are here from Liberia and other African countries is enough to make me wonder where the better life truly is.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Being Connected

Mark Twain said: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many people need it solely on those accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

As I type this words on a plane back to Kingston, I am struck by how true these words are, and how easily they are forgotten.

This is my first trip outside of the Caribbean in a year, which makes this the longest span of time I have spent outside North America since I was 18 years old.

It wasn't planned -- elections, a hurricane and generally poor business conditions in Jamaica have conspired to keep me grounded for some time.

So, coming back to America for the past three days has been an eye-opener.

What struck me most of all coming off the plane into Miami airport was how a reminder of why the thought of living permanently in the U.S. only once crossed my mind in 20 years of living there.

As I walked from Terminal E up to the post office and Bank of America branch on the 4th floor, I was amazed at the people I walked past, and how dis-connected they were from each other. It brought back vivid memories of my first few months in America, as a college student, when I quickly learned that this was not what I was used to.

The difference in culture is difficult to explain in words, but there is something that happens when a few million people live on an island separated from other countries by an expensive airfare. There is an unspoken and very powerful assumption that exists between people in Jamaica -- that we belong in each other's lives.
Also, we take this belonging very seriously.

My wife complains that she cannot go anywhere in Jamaica wearing anything that she want without being noticed, recognized and silently and deliberately scrutinized. Also, it is now impossible for her to run for an hour without seeing people she knows, or who know her. Strangers have commented on the fact that they haven't seen her in a while... while she cannot recall ever seeing their faces.

I have mentioned the silent eye-contact and survey that takes place at a Jamaican traffic-light... the quick search for who I know, who else is here, how everyone is doing.

Part of it all has to do with sheer size. A place like Miami airport has thousands of people passing through it each day. It's simply impossible to try to make eye-contact with more than a few people in the typical day with so many people coming and going.

I remember learning not to try to hold on to people after moving to the U.S. After all, the chances were good that I would never see them again.

In Jamaica, the opposite is true. Even a casual encounter has the very opposite assumption. Behind every meeting there is a very different assumption: "This is just the beginning."

And that's part of why living in America felt so "foreign" to me.

I never ever intended to stay more than 5 years, and left Jamaica knowing I'd be back. Apart from one very short period of time, I never contemplated staying and living in that country permanently.

I always knew there was someplace better, but not in terms that people typically measure, such as the absence of crime, or the presence of material wealth.

Instead, I knew there was somewhere I belonged, and around me all I could see were people who didn't belong to each other, and that this was a fundamental way of being.

In the news this past week there was the story of a Jamaican woman living in New York died after lying on the floor unattended for over an hour. People walked by, and in true New York style, they kept to themselves, allowing her to pass away quietly in the corner of a waiting room.

Those of us who have lived in the U.S. can understand how this could happen, and even empathize with the need to follow on of the early lessons that everyone learns upon migrating... to "stay out of trouble."

There is a reasons we Jamaicans call America "farrin" and it's not in terms of day-to-day danger from criminals. It's just that our background tells us that there is a very different way to relate
to people that is so rich, warm and expansive that tourists and expats who fall in love with Jamaica talk about it all the time... "the people...!"

I simply found that even after 20 years I could not make the necessary transition to "become Yankee" the way others from Jamaica were able to. I kept my accent, with some adjustments in order to be understood, kept on thinking about moving home and kept telling anyone who would listen that I was moving home to live
at some point.

Jamaica remained the focus of my attention, and I just could not lose myself in American culture the way a good immigrant should.

The other day a Jamaican living in the U.S. asked me why I came home after 20 years away, and all I could tell them was "I never really left."

P.S. On a side note, some say that our high crime rate comes from our tendency to be connected to each other, and from our propensity to take everything personally and seriously... interesting.


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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Just an Average Day in a Casket in Jamaica

On the way to the airport the other day, I happened to be driving in a taxi that was a time, riding behind a glass casket.

The dearly departed could be clearly seen bouncing her way to the eastern side of the island, and to a rather ostentatious end.

Perhaps this is something that every Jamaican who lives abroad should aspire to return home to accomplish... a fashionable and public exit.

P.S. Yes, that dark patch is the hair on a corpse being hauled through our city's streets. Given how bumpy our streets are, the overall effect can be quite dramatic.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Store is Re-opening for "My Move to Jamaica" Part I

I haven't been online to update my blog in a while, mostly because I have been spending a great deal of time in airports.

But my wife and I have been thinking that we should offer the MyMovetoJamaica Part I product again in time for those who are moving to Jamaica in August, just time to send their kids to school in September.

Over at her blog ( she has been getting a great deal of interest from those who are about to move to Jamaica.

When her store was open a few months ago we had a great response, especially given how new hew blog was at the time. It's still new, but the information remains the most up-to-date source of specific information for those who have already decided to come to Jamaica.

One of the key things we learned is that the same information that we developed in the products included in Part I are not just useful to expats -- we found Jamaicans buying them also. I felt a bit of regret -- and a feeling that we should have addressed more of the concerns and questions that returning Jamaicans have.

Nevertheless, I believe that average Jamaicans who have lived abroad for more than 10 years, or who left Jamaica before they were 25 will find that the information is quite valuable, and will answer some questions that they probably aren't asking.

Stay tuned, the store will re-open on August 1st -- Emancipation Day.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Jamaica All Over

This past week or two was an interesting one in the New York Times.

There were three separate stories about Jamaica that highlighted completely different aspects of the island. The prominent placement of the stories, showed how this small island of 2.6 millions people exerts an influence on the world that is vastly out of proportion to its size.

The first story was about multi-million dollar real estate that is currently on sale in an exclusive community on the north coast. Apparently, the crime rate is not stopping big investors from moving to Jamaica.

Click here for the real estate article.

The second had to do with the Jamaican Olympic trials, pitting the two fastest men in the world (and of all time), and many of the fastest women. It got second billing in American reports to the US trials, but the underlying sub-text was that Jamaica has faster runners in all the sprint events. These are the events that happen to get the lion's-share of attention in the entire Olympic Games.

Click here for the Olympic trials report.

The third was a report of Jamaicans and other Jamaica-philes cooking jerk chicken on the streets of New York.

Click here for the article on Jerk.

Jamaica, even with all its challenges, remains a country of great interest to the world at large, and brings smiles to people worldwide when they think of the "brand."

I remember my Turkish dorm-mate (back in 1985) singing Bob Marley songs to me, and the fact that some of them were in his own language made me smile, and first made me realize that Jamaica's image around the world is multi-faceted, distinct and powerful.


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