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.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gustav Deals Us a Blow

Hot on the heels of our Olympic success, and in the midst of our celebrations, Gustav has come along to deal us a good and proper "mash up."

Rainfall started at about 2:00pm on Thursday and only started to relent at around 9:00pm tonight. Not that it's stopped entirely, as it continues to come and go. My place has sprung some interesting leaks from the windows and doors, as the "sideways rain" has crept in and found all the imperfect seals facing the outside.

This one was a surprise, to say the least.

On Wednesday night it was passing us by, and on Thursday morning it had made a radical change of direction, going south for maybe 100 miles before continuing along the length of the island of Jamaica.

It's enough to give someone who wants to return to live in Jamaica pause for thought, unless they are living in Florida, Texas or Louisiana, because that's where Gustav appear to be headed next.

One thing that someone who returns must be ready to deal with is the uncertainty and chaos and makes like confusing, and yet sweet at the same time. This blog is a product of my return, and before coming home I really did very little writing of any kind.

The jarring nature of the differences that someone returning to Jamaica can lead to both good and bad, and I can imagine that others would turn to music, art, drama or dance to find a way to express the transformation they are undergoing. In my case, my writing has been my canvas.

P.S. In my professional life, the move back has led me to create a new method of developing custom time management systems -- see


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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The New Networking is Still Available

A note from Francis
I want to remind you that my e-book "The New Networking: Caribbean Professionals 2008" is still available for download for free.

Simply visit the following page and you can claim your own electronic copy within a few minutes. You'll be joining over 200 other Caribbean professionals who have requested the e-book.

Click here to claim a copy

If you have other friends who would benefit from owning this 37 page text, you can notify them of the page to visit by visiting the following page and entering their email addresses. An email will be sent to them with the link:

Send this link to 2 friends

Thanks for being a part of my network!


P.S If you act quickly, you might be able to take advantage of a free offer I am making to take my 12-week online time-management programme valued at over US$50. The offer expires at the end of September, and will be sent to you 3-4 days after you receive the e-book. I am limiting the number, so act quickly if you have an interest.


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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Attack on Father HoLung

The mackdiva, a frequent reader of the bog, made a comment on the reaction that this Father HoLung video garnered on a Catholic website.

The fellow who posted the video said "This video depicts a Caribbean-style version of the Our Father favoured by Catholic trendies. It is not a spoof. Honestly.

Hat tip to a fantastic American blog, Christus Vincit, devoted to exposing bad liturgical music. It's run by three Catholic parish musicians who don't mince their words.

Referring to the Our Father, chief blogger Brian Michael Page writes that the composer is apparently a very holy priest. "OK, so why is he writing such garbage as this?" he asks.

Good question. I don't mind if consenting adults sing this stuff privately, gathered around the Tablet Table, but there's no place for it in church."

I was amazed, until I read the comments... and then I was appalled.

When you see the video, read the comments below it.

Click to see the link tothe post, the video and the comments here.

Then come back and tell us what you thought.


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Friday, August 15, 2008

Thinking About Living in Jamaica

This is one of those times that people turn their attention to Jamaica, and thoughts come to mind about what it would like to live here and experience the weather, the beauty, the music, the culture, the sports, the people, etc. While most who come do so as tourists, there are many I hear from that would live to move here for a year or more, to experience the real Jamaica that exists beyond the beaches and all-inclusive hotels.

However, most I hear from have an idea that they also need to pay attention to the reports of crime and poverty, and before they buy the ticket that brings them to Jamaica, they need to take the whole reality of Jamaican into account.

Many come to this blog looking for assistance, and I haven't been able to help until now.

I am in the process of writing a book for those who are thinking about moving to Jamaica that's called "You're My Jamaica." It's not finished just yet, but anyone who is interested can click here for more information on the e-book.

Visit the following link for information on "You're My Jamaica."

P.S. How about Usain Bolt's run in the 100m sprint at the Beijing Olympic Games? There is talk that he might run the 4x400m relay also, and go for four golds.


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Jamaican Sprinters

If it's one thing that we Jamaicans can be counted on, it's to enjoy the fact that we have the world's greatest sprint factory.

What many don't know is that a major factor in our success is the intense rivalry that exists among our high schools, that starts at age 11 and continues for a lifetime.

I remember vividly sitting at a lunch-table in my college dorm in the U.S. as a teenager, listening to my American friends from around the continent talk about how much they hated high school. I was amazed, for as far as I was concerned, my days at Wolmers Boys School in Kingston from 1977-1984 were the bet part of my life up to that point.

That I followed my father and grandmother in attending the school was incidental. (Grandma attended Wolmers Girls School next door.)

What was more important was the sense of pride I felt at belonging to a fine institution with a 250+ year history. Wearing a uniform meant that I represented the school on any given school day, to the Jamaican public. Wearing the badges the showed the student offices I held only upped the obligation to be the best example I could be to those who had the "misfortune" to attend other schools.

Back then, as today, that pride translates into a rivalry with all other high schools that produces world-leading performance in track and field, and the occasional angry confrontation, and even fights.

A Jamaican child who reaches the age of 11 is quite conscious of which high school they would like to attend, and the privilege of getting their choice. At that age, all students in the public school system sit an exam to enter the high school system. They make a list of their preferences in rank order and the result is quite simple -- the best performers receive their first choices while the worst performers receive no further education.

The stakes are therefore quite high. The results are made public, and the pride that one feels in getting into a good school begins the lifelong association with the high school they attend.

This all helps to make our high school athletes run faster.

The rivalry comes to a head when each high school in Jamaica competes in Boys and Girls Championships, a four day track and field-only event held in Kingston each year. The competition showcases the best of the island's talent, filling a stadium of 30,000 with people of all ages, most of whom are sporting the colours of the high school of their choice.

For a handful, a top performance at "Champs" will lead to scholarships and opportunities. For others it will mean popularity, local success, and the admiration of thousands. For all, it's a chance to do their best in a competition that is unlike anything else of its kind in the world.

Asafa, Usain, Veronica and the rest are all products of this system, which produces far more quality athletes per capita than any other comparable program in the world.

As we take the track this week, I expect people to be wondering how a small country with very limited resources can be so successful in producing quality athletes. It's not in the yam, as some would suggest, it's in our high schools.

Update: Usain, Asafa and Michael Frater just qualified for the semi-finals.

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Controversy in the Jamaican Team at the Olympic Village

A 200 kilo shipment of suspected Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) addressed to the Jamaican track team at the Olympic Village was siezed by authorites at the Wong Hung Lo docks in Beijing early this morning. Coming on the heels of the disclosure that a member of the JA team has tested positive for a banned substance, the news has rocked the JAAA and cast an even greater pall over the team's preparations for the Games.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior customs inspector told Reuters that suspicions were aroused by the bulky and lumpy shipment which was wrapped in rough, dirty burlap. Stenciled in bold letters on the bag was the address of the Jamaican team at the Village and also the words:


Upon opening the package, dozens and dozens of a dirty, tubular product was discovered and immediately sent to the WADA lab in Beijing for testing. Chinese customs are certain that they have intercepted a shipment of pure, unprocessed steroids and have put the IAAF and the JAAA on notice that severe action will be taken as soon as WADA confirms their findings.

The picture below is of one of the mystery 'products' from the shipment and was taken at the lab just before testing commenced. We will update this story as soon as there is more to report as indeed the entire world of track and field anxiously awaits WADA's report.

Jamaican Yellow Yam


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Monday, August 11, 2008

Trinidadian DoublesMan

In Trinidad, the Jamaican patty is still a rare item.

Their equivalent is a roti, but they also have a breakfast snack called "doubles," which looks something like a mini-roti without meat.

If a visitor's stomach can handle pepper and curry first thing in the morning, then this is a nice surprise for the palate, and a great way to start the day.


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Returning Home, Giving up the American Dream

The following comment was made by mackdiva, an anonymous reader of this blog.

Jamaicans everywhere need to engage in much more dialogue with each other to sort out exactly what it means to migrate to another country. There are facts, but there is a lot of fiction...

Thanks to mackdiva for sharing

Well my friend...the grass seems greener when all you see is the hype that is America. There is much muchness here. Stores galore, big shiny hospitals with art on the walls, and nightlife and museums and baseball games and the list goes on.
But you need plenty of money to buy into all the muchness...pretty much like any other country. If you lived in Australia, or Gabon, or Thailand I would imagine that you would need a lot of money to live large there too. Just as if you were not so well off or struggling in those places the grass might seem greener somewhere else. I rarely hear of wealthy people leaving JA because I imagine they feel they have enough.
Now I was fooled by the hype of America. I grew up watching Sunday matinee movies on JBC where everybody in America sang and danced and all were happy. I visited America and was dazzled by all the shiny stuff...but thats all it is... stuff.

America is not that much different to anywhere else in the world right now. Never really was. It's not particularly safe, it has it's economic struggles, food is expensive. Many jobs do not offer insurance. Public schooling is weak unless you live in a very wealthy area. And I don't mean ordinary wealthy by living in a nice brownstone in Brooklyn wealthy. I mean living on Park Avenue overlooking Central Park wealthy, to have your child in a good public school that has the calibre teaching of say Fay Simpson Prep in JA.

Here in the States you have to put up with a value system in Education, and morals, and just a bunch of other things across the board that do not match the way we Jamaicans are raised. My daughter has to put up with children constantly talking and misbehaving in the classroon because her classmates do not value Education as Jamaicans do. The Teacher's hands are tied because even daring to discipline a child here is considered a classrooms are out of control.

I had to take my child to the hospital after a child stabbed her with a pencil at school. A beautiful hospital with smiling nurses and glistening floors. My husband and I took her through Emergency and the Doctor prodded her wound as my daughter and I winced. The Doctor declared her a non medical emergency and refused to clean it or put a little salve on it....unless we had $280. My husband and I do not have insurance at our jobs as we happen to be 2 of the millions of residents and citizens of America who do not have insurance so our hands were tied. So I asked for an excuse for school...and the Doctor said sure with a lovely smile...if we had $280. So off we went to lovely shiny Walgreens...which I can assure you has no cure for being treated like a second class citizen.

Everything(emphasis on the word thing)is here in the USA. When I lived in New York City I was surrounded by Theatre(I love the theatre)...a decent seat is at least a hundred dollars so to take you and your family is at least 300dollars.How often can you do that? I can't afford that! Plus you work so much here you often don't have the time or are too exhausted to do all the entertainments they have here. Add Winter to that and you really do not want to go anywhere. Plus, what is the use of a thousand baseball games when all you want to see is a Cricket Match?

I do not blame anybody for thinking America is so glamorous. America's attractiveness is based in illusion, Hollywood, popular culture, celebrity, glitz in bulk...mesmerizing. Yet, all you have to do is look at the latest episode of some celebrity show or glossy magazine to see how unhappy people are here, and these are Americans born and grown here with a pile of money. There is something wrong with that picture.

I met a young lady recently who although born here in the States believes there is a lack of compassion and care about people here that makes her uncomfortable and unhappy. She is looking to Europe for relocation. Her parents who gave up all they had in India to live here think that she's mad. So maybe the grass will always seem greener, but I have seen first hand that it is not, and I am glad that I have discovered this while I am still fairly young and have the strength to move back home and work towards my goals and dreams, same as I would in America. So with all the material stuff that is here... jackmandora...mi nuh choose none...I'm coming home.


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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Wall Street Journal article on Jamaican Sprinters

The following article was beautifully written by Colin Channer, and author whose work I love.

He talks about the success our sprinters are having, and why we produce so very many sprinters given our limitations. Here is how the article begins:

'Cool Runnings' Are Heating Up

In Jamaica, time moves slowly, but runners move fast. Why the laid-back island may dominate Olympic sprinting
August 9, 2008; Page W4

[Usain Bolt ]
Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
Usain Bolt

Call me "licky licky." A few years ago, 26 to be precise, I thought I'd leave Jamaica and move to New York to write. Now I have a U.S. passport, two American publishers, and a writing residency at a small New England college where one of my favorite writers -- a Mr. Nabokov -- used to teach. I owe this country a lot. Some would say everything. But now that the Olympics are here, there's a good chance that my loyalties will change.

So call me licky licky -- "flaky" in Jamaican English. But it's hard not to get caught up in the island's Olympic dreams. In Beijing, where 28 sports will be contested, Jamaica stands a serious chance of winning the bulk of the men's and women's sprints -- the 100 meters, the 200 meters and the 4x100-meter relays.

Follow the link by clicking here.


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Friday, August 08, 2008

Skin Bleaching

Every single Jamaican who is thinking about returning should be perplexed.

What does the current rage -- skin bleaching -- tell us about our identity?

There are parts of Africa, South America and the Pacific in which men and women apply scars, tattoos and piercings to their faces in an attempt to increase their beauty. These are not accidental or individual incidents, but entire societies where the norms are simply very different from that of the rest of the world.

Apparently, in Jamaica, we have some that firmly believe that bleached skin is also a sign of beauty.

It's not too hard to pick out someone who has applied these chemicals to their skin. The colour of the epidermis takes on a reddish, purplish tinge and often it has a different tone from skin on the neck, hands and chest. The process must be continued to keep the true colour from coming back.

Meanwhile, there are millions of tourists coming to Jamaica each year in order to obtain a darker skin tone -- one they proudly show as proof that they had a great time in Jamaica - "see."

Both groups suffer from the threat of skin cancer, as it turns out, all in order to achieve a certain ideal of beauty.

As someone who recently returned to live in Jamaica, I find the contrast baffling.

Here is an interesting video on the bleaching industry in the U.K., including some of the negative side effects.


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Link to the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911 - "Negroes"

I don't think I need to add too much to this one.

The link is:



The negro has a religious nature. His docile, cheerful, and emotional disposition is much influenced by his immediate environment, whether those surroundings be good or evil. Catholic faith and discipline are known to have a wholesome effect on the race. Observing men and judges of courts have remarked on the law-abiding spirit existing in Catholic coloured communities. Some elements of the white man's civilization do not always tend to elevate the morality of the negro. The negro is naturally gregarious, and the dissipations and conditions of city life in many instances corrupt the native simplicity of the younger generation to the sorrow of their more conservative elders. (For a view of religion in these later times among the blacks in the native African home of the race, see AFRICA.) Contrary to a prevalent opinion, the negro, when well grounded in the Catholic faith, is tenacious of it.

In the United States the negroes and their descendants naturally adopted more or less the religion of their masters or former owners. Thus it comes that, outside of Maryland and the Gulf Coast, in a large section of the South comprising former slave states and colonized by English Protestants, the negroes who claim affiliation to any Church are for the most part Baptists and Methodists.
This link is from the 1911 Encyclopedia, regarding the inhabitants of Jamaica.,_West_Indies

The population of the island was estimated in 1905 at 806,690. Jamaica is rich in traces of its former Arawak inhabitants. Aboriginal petaloid celts and other implements, flattened skulls and vessels are common, and images are sometimes found in the large limestone caverns of the island. The present inhabitants, of whom only 2% are white, include Maroons, the descendants of the slaves of the Spaniards who fled into the interior when the island was captured by the British; descendants of imported African slaves; mixed race of British and African blood; coolies from India; a few Chinese, and the British officials and white settlers. The Maroons live by themselves and are few in number, while the half-castes enter into trade and sometimes into the professions. The number of white inhabitants other than British is very small. A negro peasant population is encouraged, with a view to its being a support to the industries of the island; but, in many cases a field negro will not work for his employer more than four days a week. He may till his own plot of ground on one of the other days or not, as the spirit moves him, but four days' work a week will keep him easily. He has little or no care for the future. He has probably squatted on someone's land, and has no rent to pay. Clothes he need hardly buy, fuel he needs only for cooking, and food is ready to his hand for the picking. Unfortunately a widespread indulgence in predial larceny is a great hindrance to agriculture as well as to moral progress. But that habits of thrift are being inculcated is shown by the steady increase in the accounts in the government savings banks. That gross superstition is still preva] ent is shown by the cases of obeah or witchcraft that come before the courts from time to time. Another indication of the status of the negro may be found in the fact that more than 60% of the births are illegitimate, a percentage that shows an unfortunate tendency to increase rather than diminish.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Connecting with My Roots

I am writing this from my late grandfather's place in Oracabessa, in the parish of St. Mary.

It's early in the morning, and my wife and I just spent the night of Good Friday. I am wondering why we didn't see Bow Bow last night.

"Bow Bow" is a local madman who happens to have taken up residence in the backyard, just beyond the point where the bushes start. He doesn't always allow himself to be seen, but we know he's been around from what he leaves behind (remnants of meals, discarded bottles and human faeces.)

We recently had to grill-in the porch, because he was taking a joke too far and sleeping in the small alcove at nights, leaving the above mess behind.

The question on everyone's mind is --- what do we do about Bow Bow?

Do we call the police? To do what? Do we speak with him in a sane moment? These are apparently few and far between.

Should a local ruffian be employed to threaten him, as some do?

Is there someone else to call?

Apparently he is quite harmless, apart from the time when he kept disconnecting the water supply to the house… but that should be more accurate described as annoying than anything else.

My sense is that the Jamaican response is to "suck it up" at times like this, and not try to change anything, working instead to accept the situation as a given.


On yesterday's trip to Oracabessa, my wife and I decided to travel away from the coast for the first time into the Jack's River area.

We took a road I have never taken before, back towards the Sun Plantation, where we drove in and met the owners. They show us around the property a bit, and told us much of the history and story behind Jamaican fruits – they were not just knowledgeable, but passionate about their farm.

As I usually do, I shared that my grandfather (who passed away when I was 20) used to live in Oracabessa, and of course they knew him well, and had actually been to his funeral and seen my family there. A call to my mother revealed that she and Lorna grew up together in town.

Further down the road, we stopped to buy pan chicken from a lady barbecuing from a converted gas cylinder. We had a pleasant conversation while waiting for the last piece of chicken to cook, watched carefully by her dog, cat and 2 sons.

Once again, I shared my grandfather's connection, and she proclaimed that he made the best patties she ever had, and that she used to work across the road from his store, in the garment factory near to the bank.

She also insisted that she was not just saying it because we were there, and that it was true.

While there is better tasting pan chicken to be had in Kingston (due to more competition I suppose) there is not sweeter conversation.

Part of why I moved back home was for these reasons – to give up the rootless and drifting feeling of not belonging that I always felt in America. I discovered that getting a "safe" job and buying a home in New Jersey didn't cure it… not when I barely knew my neighbours names.

I disliked that big-country feeling of not knowing people, and people not knowing you, and no-one caring one way or another.

Here in Oracabessa I am able to piece together parts of my grandfather's memory from others. It connects me to him, and to them, in a way that I find edifying – as if this is the way that things are supposed to be, rather than rarely are.

Certainly, when a Jamaican migrates, all this if forsaken even when the parents are also taken along permanently.

I know in my mind that one reason that I wanted to return to live in Jamaica was to be with, and take care of my parents as the years advance. I didn't realize that I also wanted to take care of my grandfather's memory, and his connection to me through the house, land and personal memories that he left behind.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My 'Fascinating Evolution"

I stumbled across this reference to my blog that was a little startling in some ways.

It's entitled "The Fascinating Evolution of a Formerly Homophobic Jamaican"


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Monday, August 04, 2008

Jamaicans are Happier

Another poll shows that Jamaicans are happier now than they were 2 years ago...

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Fewer Jamaicans Want to Migrate?

This was an interesting result of a poll published in the Jamaica Gleaner back in February.  Apparently, the number of Jamaicans wanting to migrate has dropped by 6 percent in the last 2 years.

Perhaps a "President Obama" might cause this to change?

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