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, September 25, 2008

More on Skin Bleaching

No comment needed -- the video speaks volumes for itself on the topic of skin bleaching here in Jamaica. In this case the entire family bleaches.


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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Taxi 1 vs Taxi 2

I just read an excellent article about 2 taxi-drivers in Uganda that applies perfectly to us here in Jamaica.

Here is a link to original article: which actually has to do with "free-economics" or freeconomics, the act of giving away something for free in order to built trust and gain future business.

In essence he says that a poor business-man gives nothing away for free now because he believes that he will gain nothing for himself in the future. It truly applies to the Jamaican situation.

An excerpt from the article: Can Freeconomics Work in African Markets?[Part 1] by Jonathan Gosier

A Tale of Two Taxis

Many businesses chase immediate cash instead of things like customer loyalty and dependancy. they seem to operate to operate under the impression that their actions won’t catch up to them, and they probably won’t…until there’s a competitor.

I’ve heard a number of stories about how one mobile phone provider here in Uganda (they recently changed their name) would abuse their customers to no end. Then one day they realized their users were leaving in mass numbers for a few newer competitors that were cheaper, more reliable and more attentive to their needs. Now the first company has rebranded itself in an effort to improve it’s reputation with the public and win back that business.

The important thing here is not what’s going on but why. Companies here are often ‘reactive’ instead of proactive, waiting until they’ve chased people away before they attempt to improve. All too common among the entrepreneurs here is the eagerness to chase a few quick dollars instead of looking at the ‘bigger picture’. I’ll give you a simple example…

    I don’t have a car so I have two main special hire taxi guys on call that I use for all my trips around town. Taxi 1 and Taxi 2.

    Taxi 1 is young and ambitious. I can tell he wants to make money. He’s punctual, he’s a safe driver and somewhere along the line and he gets me to where I need to go quickly. His english is great, his car is reliable and he knows the city well.

    Taxi 2 is a little bit older buts also ambitious. His stage is farther away so I know it will always take him longer than Taxi 1 who’s staged just down the street from my house. He’s also relatively punctual and a safe driver. He’s not the best with his english, which often leads to misunderstandings, but he’s polite and offers great service.

    Now, initially I used Taxi 1 a lot for the apparent advantages he had over the other guy but I began to notice that his pricing was irregular. Sometimes the same trip would be 10,000UGX to get to a place but 15,000UGX to get back. He’d quote me high on trips that I took everyday with other drivers, so I knew the going rate was cheaper. Even after weeks of hiring him to drive us, he still pulls the same tricks to get more money. If I protest he’ll come down a bit but he still makes the first offer high, something usually reserved for the taxis you haven’t built a relationship with. He seems to forget the fact that he’s not the only game in town.

    Taxi 2 has his disadvantages but he never over quotes me anything. In fact, he seems to price by an internal meter or rule book. He simply goes for what’s fair instead of what will get him the most money in the moment. There’s no foreigner-tax, it’s just good business.

    Taxi 1 may not know it but he’s doing himself a huge disservice. If he didn’t go ‘high’ with is prices, I wouldn’t feel like he’s ripping me of and he’d get much more of my business. Instead, he’s reacting for the moment because he knows I probably have more cash than his normal clientele. But I can’t trust him. Instead of doing the smart thing in order to keep my business, he tends to just go for the quick pay off. It’s short sighted.

    Needless to say Taxi 2 has won all of my business as a result and Taxi 1 will never get a call from me again. It’s simple economics. I will spend my money where I feel I’m being respected and I’ll look out for a business that looks out for me. I think that understanding generally transcends cultural barriers.

That story illustrates the mentality that undermines ‘Free’ as a business model in Africa. Delayed gratification seems to be a foreign concept to Taxi 1. Taxi 2, however, understands that although he could continue to fend for himself by attempting to get the most out of every single passenger, it might also be in his best interest to keep the clients who do pay well coming back for more. Taxi 1 wants as many customers as he can possibly get to pay as much as he can possibly get out of them. Taxi 2 charges everyone the same, does a good job and people like me latch on. Now he’s building up loyal clients. In the long run he’s probably making more than the other guy, too.

At the same time, to be fair to Taxi 1, bidding is generally part of the culture here. And it’s that part of the culture that can work against simple business practices. When given the choice between money now or more money later, smany people here are blinded by the short term. But it’s important for me to point out that this comes out of the necessity to meet basic needs. To eliminate this mentality, the overall economic conditions of these markets must improve.


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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Should a gone 'ome from long time

As I continue to mentally prepare myself to go home to Jamaica, my thoughts are bombarded with all the reasons why I stayed in the United States for so long.

Apart from the real and very serious problems of crime and economic struggles that Jamaica faces, these were not the true reasons why I overstayed my time in America. I may have convinced myself that they were, but they really were not.

One rationale as to why I made myself stay here was because other people told me that that was the right thing to do. I fed off of their fears and motivations and they would feed off of mine. So in collective moments of insecurity we would persuade each other that not going home was best. As Immigrants, we constantly exchange a communal panic with our fellow Jamaicans in the foreign places that we live in and with the Jamaicans back home. That dread of the happenings in the old country keeps us striving in our new one.

As Immigrants we are always busily striving for something. We strive for a house, a bigger house, a car, a more expensive car. We strive for acceptance, belonging, college loans. I think all this working for and towards prevented me from pondering what I could have achieved at home if I had applied the same creative force there.

Most Immigrants fuel their incentive to stay here with the acquirement of material things. I am no exception. In America there is a ton of niceties to be bought. And you can buy them at all hours. I can get new bar stools at 3 AM in the morning. I had to assure myself recently that although that is convenient it is really not necessary. My family in Jamaica does not have such conveniences and survive just fine. They also have the time and social life to use their bar stools. Mine look nice, but remain empty props. Everybody is too busy striving here to come over for a visit.

One of my favorite reasons that I hear Jamaicans say they must achieve before leaving America is winning Lotto. Do you know how hard it is to win the bloody Lottery? Yet some of us believe that is a legitimate reason to hang on. I am glad to say I did not get caught up in that particular one although I do on occasion take a gamble. After all, if you don’t buy a ticket you don’t have a chance…or something like that. Chances are however that while you wait unhappily for that to happen you could have been eating a nice fried Festival at Hellshire.

This desperate need for something big to happen is a genuine threat to a Jamaican’s return home. Perhaps it comes from the need to justify why we left in the first place. We came here to achieve something great, and look, here it is…in your face! We have convinced ourselves that if we have not achieved astounding wealth or celebrity status then you cannot possibly face the folks back on the Island. Lucky for me I am a household name…in my own household.

This frantic desire for attractive attainments, which may even be a reflection of others wants and not necessarily your own, is where the bigging up of oneself starts. As an Immigrant you may not have as much as people back home automatically assume that you have, so you struggle on to prove to yourself and others that you are indeed living the glamorous life, or so at least the place can look stush when your relatives come to visit. The relatives then can go home and brag about how well you are doing in Foreign. And the myth perpetuates itself. Never mind that you ran up some serious credit card debt, or returned half the things after they left.

For me personally, bigging up myself is futile. As a working Artist, I have resigned myself to having money sometimes and just getting by at other times. I will share with anyone in a heartbeat that the Immigrant life is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Yet, I remained here so long. Why?

I realized after sorting through the multitude of incentives of why I stayed way past happiness and wasted 24 hour shopping, that one cause stood out glaringly from the rest.

I was waiting on people to tell me it was OK to come home!

Wait! …not me!…Susan Warmington who has always been strong enough to do exactly what she wants…waiting for family approval, friend approval… something in the news approval, …somebody’s approval for me to go back to my own country?…no way!

But there was the grounds in all its dirty glory.

As this new awareness has hit me squarely in the face, I am determined to remain stalwart and not be unduly or subconsciously influenced by what others are saying or not saying about my plans to return home.

And when I start to feel a little nervous about living in Jamaica again, I sit down on my bar stool and drink a Red Stripe.

Susan Andrea Warmington

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Musings on Getting Ready to Go Home to Jamaica

Please give a very warm welcome a new guest author on Moving Back to Jamaica: Susan Andrea Warmington.


I have lived as an Immigrant in the United States for close to two decades, and my heart yearns for my native Jamaica.

Very recently I made a concrete decision to return home despite fears for my future, and the future of my little island. This is not my first attempt to return home. In the past I made a feeble effort to go back, and was swayed by the discouragement of those who felt that Jamaica was too difficult a place to live in. The daily struggle of life in America quickly swept aside my hopes of relocating home, and it seemed easier at the time to just continue chasing the American dream. After all, I was already living here in the States.

In hindsight, I now realize that my first attempt to go home began imperfectly. Back then, I had jumped into job searching and apartment hunting without firmly wrapping my brain around why I personally needed to return home. I did not have as yet the answers in my own heart that could combat the unrelenting negative media about Jamaica, or continual warnings made by well meaning family and friends.

However, this time around I decided to analyze my life in America solely on my own terms. I asked myself why I wanted to go home apart from the obvious reason of missing Jamaica. When one is deluged by the insistent material hopes of America, simply missing home does not seem enough to warrant going back.

I looked closely at my achievements in America which are quite plentiful and look good on paper. I had graduated college and made a family here. I had successfully performed in regional theatre in Atlanta, taught theatrical arts in New York City, sang for the Mayor of Chicago along with a bunch of other diverse achievements. I have even been cited in a book or two for my musical accomplishments.

Yet, I did not have to probe too deeply within myself to get in touch with the feelings of loneliness, isolation, and sadness that is so commonplace in the life of an Immigrant. The separation from my family and culture is something that affects me deeply, and the accomplishments that I have achieved here are not enough to keep me from feeling that I am very much a foreigner in a foreign land.

Whenever I move house here, I always find myself taking a long time to unpack boxes, or put pictures on the walls, as if I am not staying. There is always a feeling of being unsettled. I would jump at the chance to relocate to new cities or States thinking that that might quell the peculiar feeling that something was lacking. But it has never helped. This uncomfortable transient feeling is more than enough reason for me to make my way home.

Yet, there is something weightier that pushes me forward than this consistent transitory sensation that shadows my life.

The clincher that has convinced me that there is no turning back on my decision is simply that I do not wish to get old in America.

And as my middle years hasten me to join them with the promise of experience, wisdom, and strength of character; I am depending on them to guide me home.

My cause now is to continue mentally preparing myself and my family before we start the actual physical activities of the move. I find myself becoming more cognitive all the time of reasons why I need to go home, and I find myself becoming more comfortable with my decision every day.

Now when someone questions my choice to leave The United States, I simply answer, “Because I miss home.”

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