Sunday, May 31, 2015

Campaign to Protect Rural Jamaica


There is a general perception in Jamaica that money is the beginning and the end of everything, as the lack of money in Jamaica and the lack of material goods are used as the mother of all excuses to keep up the most almshouse (disgusting) behaviour. I feel however that it is the lack of class, self-respect, lack of respect for others and of one’s surrounding, coupled with the lack of morals that condemns a person to a life of poverty because money does not make the man and for some, money and material goods are like pearls before swine, they are just low class people with money.


The large part of the Jamaican society exist in rural Jamaica, out into the countryside, off the main roads, up in the hills and down in the valleys. The length and breadth of Jamaica is littered with small villages and towns and most of those villages and towns dates back hundreds of years but are now in a very dilapidated state. The rundown dilapidated state of these villages and towns are a direct reflection of the mindset of the people who occupy them. The fact is our surroundings are a direct reflections of who we are as a people and some of us are as happy as a pigs in slop.


It gets even worse if one drives through a rural country villages after sunset because the four corners of every square is littered with gigantic speakers boxes with music blaring, roadside food on sale and garbage pile up throughout the night while patrons use the walls and bushes to relieve their bodily functions and by morning the entire area looks like a disaster area and smells like a pit latrine.


Each time I drive through a small village or a town I try to imagine how that village or town might have looked back in its heyday, how vibrant it must have been. Some of our villages and town are full of centuries old architecture that have survived the test of time, no thanks to the people who show no value in them and who have been trying to destroy them for decades, to some people these buildings are like pearls before swine. If we could somehow renovate these dilapidated small villages and towns, a restoration process to recapture their beauty and vitality then we could have a countryside everyone would be proud of. A countryside that attracts people from all over the world, as it forces people to stop and engage the local community on many levels.



Also imagine the mental transformation that would take place amongst the local people living in these places, it could be magical. But the process cannot start and is not sustainable if local people do not buy into the concept, have a natural love for themselves, their history, their surroundings and environment. Such a transformation would first have to take place amongst the local population, which puts us back to square one and where leaders with vision and some class comes in.



The Best Kept Village






One of the best countryside I have had the privilege to drive through is the English Countryside which is a countryside that is world famous for a reason and that reason begins and end with the people living in those villages and towns because without them the English Countryside just would not exist in its current pristine state. Decades of legislation have gone into protecting and preserving that countryside.
Large Village Winner - Modbury South Hams

What I like about the English Countryside, its towns and villages is how they continue to exist in their historical state, places are not bulldozed and replaced but are maintained to preserve their history and culture. Entire towns and villages are frozen in time, a snapshot to the past and people are proud of that. It was while driving through the Devon Countryside that I came across a sign declaring that the village of Modbury had won Best Kept Village within the county.


A best kept village is a village that has won one of the annual county competitions in the UK for its tidiness, appropriateness and typicality. The competitions have been nationally organized by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) for nearly 40 years. The CPRE makes it clear that the competition is not about finding "the most beautiful village, nor the most ancient, nor the most picturesque, just the one that is best cared for and its aim is to involve everyone in the village, encouraging them to take greater pride in their surroundings. Villages are judged on how clean and well cared for they are, as well as their impact on the environment.


Noted benefits include decreased littering, greater community communication, communal pride in homes and public spaces, a more attractive and welcoming appearance, name recognition for the village, and increased tourism and income for local businesses. The benefits can be extended to include cash for further village development and Tourist board promotion.


So I thought to myself what a wonderful idea and immediately started to think how such a concept could work in Jamaica. Could a village competition that is not based on direct individual eat-a-food gains but instead based on benefits to the entire community and surroundings work in Jamaica? Are Jamaicans civic minded enough for such a concept? These days we seem to have lost the art of communal thinking and exist in the Just-Me-Myself-and-I, Every-man-for-himself and God for me alone realm.


Entering a Village competition depends on Community Corporation and a spirit of volunteerism, people both old and young coming together, working together with a common sense of purpose and objectives. Taking pride in their contribution and in what they have created and want to share the fruits of their labour with the world. There is a lot of things us Jamaicans can do for ourselves, if we put our minds to it but maybe all this is wishful thinking on my part, so turn up the music operator till-it-buk-and-stuck, we are a merriment loving people.

Sometimes I feel like I wasted my youth, there is a lot of things I wish I had done when I had the chance but back then my perspective on life was different. I spent a lot of time living for the next party/session failing to slow down relax and enjoy beautiful Jamaica. I traveled around Jamaica but I still do not know Jamaica.


Now that I am older and slower I can appreciate different things like the peace, tranquility and beauty of the Jamaican countryside. To tell the truth the Jamaican countryside is the undiscovered country for me because we spent a lot of time driving around it trying to get to the next popular spots, to the event without even thinking of going into it, to explore its many wonders and beauties, for the most part we took Jamaica for granted. To us country was someplace out the car window, through that bush and up that mountain, off the beaten path and we had no interest in seeing it, we laughed at it and belittled it.


We needed to drive through and around country to get to Port Antonio for vacation or Ocho Rios for Easter weekend getaway so we went to country but we really did not go to country and now I want to get to know Real Rural Jamaica, I want to find those far out of the way places over the hill and far away. I want to meet the people living in those places, find out about their life and their history. I want to explore the Geology and Geography of inner Jamaica while taking my time to go nowhere in particular, just turn left or right and follow the road and see where it takes me. 





Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jamaica, President Obama's Visit, CARICOM Neglect and The Chinese Invasion


Like most Jamaicans I am happy that the President of the United States decided to visit Jamaica, President Obama is a US President that I support and respect on many levels, first he is a Democratic President and I support the Democratic Party as there is no way on this green earth I could support a party like the Republican party and the crazy lunatics within it. Second he is the first Black President in United States history and I respect him on this great historic achievement.


Unlike most I am not blinded by his blackness, my support for President Obama is not 100% blind support, no one on the face of this planet, alive or dead gets 100% blind, fanatic like support from me because I must remain objective. The fact is there are some things that the President does that I am in agreement with and there are others that I am not in agreement with and I could not live with myself if I did not remain true and objective. US Presidents are for the most part generic since they operate within a framework that does not allow much individuality. In my view this is a framework that does not even allow them to implement their election promises and manifesto for which they got the mandate from the people. These elected presidents operate in a system design for domestic stagnation and to fight wars. Some Jamaicans reject any attempt to be objective about President Obama as they class you bad-mind, sell-out, hater and any number of words design to control the debate.


The White House declared that President Obama’s trip to Jamaica was a working trip but I quickly realised based on the carnival like atmosphere and the mind set of most Jamaicans including the members of the Political class that there would be no real work taking place since almost the entire country went into Hero Worshiping Mode. President Obama’s visit to Jamaica was like the Boy Band One Direction visiting an all-girl high school in lily-white suburbia, this was rock stardom at its very best, Beatlemania and beliebers rolled into one, Jesus second coming and as such the members of the political class, the media and the powers that be could not be trusted to remain objective, keep their eyes on the prize and put Jamaica and the region first because they were too busy trying to get President Obama’s attention and themselves in close proximity of power, basking in his glow. During his visit everybody posted they knew someone, who knew someone who either shook his hand or was in the same vicinity of greatness, I was surprise people were not selling second hand Obama handshake on eBay, shake the hand, that shake the hand, that shook Obama's hand.

Worst among the giddy headed people was the Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who never stopped smiling, beaming, holding and hugging. When she was asked if she brought up the issue of illegal guns flooding the island from the USA to the President, she told to people of Jamaica not to worry because the USA is serious about stemming the flow of guns to Jamaica, they have our back, “Yeah When?” … simple answer for the gullible, the US have our back like how Michael Slager had the back of Walter Scott. Her reassurance however is not based on reality because the reality is that illegal guns are flooding Jamaica from the United States of America even as she spoke, turning our streets into killing fields but there was no way our starry eyed PM or other members of the Political class could break out of fan base mode to articulate our issues forcefully with tact, openly and objectively, to engage El Presidente on an intellectual level. At times like these I miss Michael Manley because I believe both Obama and Manley would not only be good friends but would be able to engage each other on a deep intellectual level with regards to the problems facing Jamaica and the third world and the rest of the world.


Then there was the Leader of the Opposition who I can only describe as shallow and egotistical, for weeks Andrew Holness and his minions have been bitching to the media that the Government have not informed them of the President’s plans and as leader of the opposition he should be involve, he should be given the opportunity to engage the President (Holness making it up as he goes along like he did with the resignation letters).


This went on for weeks as the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness acted like a little school boy who was not allowed to sit at the big people table during Sunday dinner but on the day of the President’s arrival Mr. Holness was placed front and centre grinning like a Cheshire cat and acting like a school boy unable to contain his excitement on Christmas morning, he too was star struck basking in the power rays of President Obama like Superman to the Yellow Sun.

Only the yellow sun from Planet Earth can give Superman Super Powers.
It was not until the day of the visit that Information Minister Sandrea Falconer outlined that most of the President’s schedule was defined by the White House, outside of their control and most of it was a secret, on a need-to-know basis, this coupled with the Gleaner headline on March 18, 2015 which states “Meeting with Holness not on Obama agenda for visit to Jamaica”. I wonder if President Obama let his minions sign undated resignation letters and then try to get rid of them man-a-yard-style, if they did not give him 100% blind dictatorial support to feed his fragile ego and insecurity. Note to the wise, if Mr. Holness tells you to sign a piece of toilet paper, used or not seek legal advice first.

Why Obama had no meeting with Holness Jamaica Observer Sunday, April 19, 2015 
"Interestingly, it was the Jamaican Government that wrote to the US authorities, the Sunday Observer was told, requesting that a meeting be held between Obama and Holness. That was flatly dismissed by the US, which responded in writing by citing the fact that the American president does not meet with opposition leaders or opposition candidates for national elections.

One member of the United States mission in Jamaica questioned the approach taken by Holness and the Jamaica Labour Party spokesman for foreign affairs and foreign trade Edmund Bartlett in raising the point of Obama's visit in "political tones".
"


Like I said I am happy that President Obama decided to visit Jamaica because it gave Jamaica and the region a rare opportunity to sit down one on one with the President of the United States and discuss our problems and outline mutual beneficial solutions to these problems however it was an opportunity that I am afraid was not fully taken advantage of. I for one was happy when it was announced that this was a working visit as oppose to a ceremonial state visit because it implies less carnival like atmosphere and more time for problem/solutions, creating a path to the way forward. Also I feared that all this welcoming would cost us money we do not have in this of hard economic times under IMF austerity. We simply cannot afford the over the top Pomp and Ceremony, for such things we have The Queen of Jamaica, Elizabeth II. Us Jamaicans are known historically to whitewash the entire country when important visitors are coming, even the trees use to get a double coat of whitewash.


It is fair to say that the Obama Administration Neglected this Region from day one and the only thing we got from this administration are Borg like orders and demands, as they force us to comply with their various demands over the years and as we all know when it comes to our Great Colonial Masters Up North resistance is futile, it is not an option, we must comply. It amazes me that it took so long for him to try and engage this region, almost at the end of his term as President, when he is all but a lame duck in office and I wonder why. We must also be careful of US Presidents who come to our shores with promises and more demands, the time for that is long gone we demand mutual beneficial actions not words. Not to mention whatever promises President Obama made, whatever agreement we may have signed, we had better wait to see if those small minded Republicans send us a signed letter telling us that when he is gone from office they will not Honour it, like they did with the Iranians. How I see it, this Emperor has no cloths and suffers from diminishing power. What the republicans did that day will set a precedence that the American Government’s word is not their bond and any agreement with one administration is not worth the paper it was signed on, ...Cuba watch out.


So what was the purpose of President Obama’s visit and what did we achieve? What we know is that the first Black US President visited Jamaica, that in itself is Honourable and Historic and filled me with pride but we have achieved nothing substantial from that visit, except we were lectured to, like a school boy in Economics class. When President Ronald Reagan visited Jamaica it set in motion a framework to creating a mutual economic regional partnership, The Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) was a unilateral and temporary United States program aimed to provide several tariff and trade benefits to many Central American and Caribbean countries. This then followed in 1990 with the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Expansion Act which made CBI permanent and then in 2002 we had the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act before the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) wiped it all away. I am not judging the effectiveness of CBI at this time just that something was done on a regional level with the intention to allow us to export more.

What I expected from President Obama’s visit was some big economic regional pack aimed at hemispherical development but all we got was some lyrics and Jamaicans love a good DJ like lyrics. They were in awe of the town hall meeting as various people questioned if our local members of the Political class could master a town hall meeting like Obama, as if the ability to speak in a town hall meeting is all we need to solve our problems. Jamaicans do not demand actions, Jamaicans demand words, pretty flowing lyrical words.  Amazingly most of what was said by Obama have been said over the many decades by our local Home Grown Colonial Masters but like most things Jamaicans prefer the imported version. Obama saying we need to grow the economy is very different from members of our political class saying we need to grow the economy. Saying we need to grow the economy, stating the obvious means nothing and Obama saying the word Growth is not magic, we cannot say growth and clip our heels 3 times and it happens like magic. Growth is something we have been trying to get and sustain for decades and a lot of the reason why we fail at it, is because of the USA and its International Financial institution’s policy towards Jamaica as well as Jamaica’s policy towards ourselves, we can be self-destructive as we live our over the top lifestyle, a mean US$300 for a carnival G-String costume and an additional US$50.00 if you want the one feather cheaply made carnival head wear.... Kaka-Fart!!!.


Jamaica is in the middle of its second International Monetary Fund (IMF) Austerity Program after failing the first IMF program in 2010, lets face it we borrow that money and nyam it. The current IMF agreement requires the government to run an annual primary budget surpluses of 7.5%. Which when compared to a country like Greece who is only required to run a budget surpluses of 3 to 4 percent is disgusting. Jamaica currently pays more than 8 percent of GDP in interest alone -- about twice the level of the most indebted countries in Europe, and one of the worst interest burdens in the world. The IMF is currently pulling out more money from little Jamaica than it is lending.

Obama waving Goodbye to Jamaica
Please Read: President Obama Visits Jamaica, But What Is His Government Doing to Jamaica's Economy?

Faced with this Economic difficulties and burden one would then think that a visit by the President of the United States would include some form of mutually beneficial economic program to help ease the burden of not only Jamaica but the region, assuming off course that the President understands the reality of the situation and the problems we face as a country and a region. Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) William Mahfood was also hoping that the visit of United States President Barack Obama would results in some tangible economic benefits in the form of a sustainable economic stimulus package, some sort of debt forgiveness or investments in climate, anything to give us some breathing room in terms of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) austerity measures we are currently under but no such luck, President Obama left us same way he found us at the mercy of the IMF and the International Financial Agencies that are for the most part controlled by the United States.

Please Read: PSOJ Closure of businesses for Obama will be a small price if...


As far as I am concern we are not asking for a hand out, we have been getting drips of Aid and Grants for decades now and still we suffer under unsustainable harsh economic conditions imposed on us by the world financial organizations run by first world countries and unsustainable economic conditions imposed on ourselves by our own irresponsible and corrupt behaviour plus our Over The Top lifestyle, Yes we are also to blame and must take the lion share of that blame. Handout, begging’s and Aid causes more harm than good in my book as the population gets too use to being taken care of, further more Aid and Grants are not really beneficial because it comes with a rope tied around our neck, terms that only benefit the country giving Aid and Grant. Think about it, what if I said to you, I will give you 500 dollars now if you give me a copy of your house keys or your ATM password and allow me full access, well that is how we lost our dairy and citrus industry. What we need are favourable terms and conditions to allow for sustainable increased economic actives to take place. I remember the details of one such grant that states that we can only use the grant money to buy Microwaves, I can only assume that the microwave lobbyist had a hand in that one.

Jamaica/USA Balance of Trade 2014:
  • Jamaica’s total IMPORT from the United States of America was valued at: US$2.1742 Billion
  • Jamaica’s total EXPORT to the United States of America was valued at: US$285.1 Million
  • Jamaica’s Balance of Trade with the United States of America was valued at: US$-1.8891 Billion
"No country can live beyond its means indefinitely, borrowing may obscure or even conceal a deeper problem concerning foreign exchange for a period of time. But sooner or later the reality of the situation will demand attention if a country is consistently seeking to spend more foreign exchange then it has the capacity to earn. There is only one way out of a foreign exchange crisis and that is to earn more foreign exchange. If increase spending power is not accompanied by an increase in production, and in particular production for exports then inflationary pressures will translate into an ever spiralling demand for imports." ...MM

This negative Balance of Trade is almost the same for every year and is only favourable to the United States of America, now imagine if most of the countries in the region are running the same Negative Balance of trade, pumping US dollar into the American Economy at alarming rates. So why should they try to help balance the scale, Jamaica pump US$2.1742 Billion a year into the US Economy. This imbalance represents the destruction of our local industries and it is not sustainable because we do not earn enough foreign exchange to pay for it but the USA would gladly give us a loan with high interest rates or a grant/aid with terms that says something like, you need to remove more import duties and/or you can only spend the loan/grant/aid money on more US Imports, it is a classic win/win situation and Resistance is Futile, you will comply, you must comply.

Room For Rent, Apply Within, When the USA Run Out Then China Run In!

In Jamaica we use to play a skipping rope game where we sing the song “Room for rent, Apply within. When I run out, then you run in” at which time the person currently skipping would jump out and another person would jump in and continue to skip and sing.

Chinese built Highway
The United States of America is fast becoming irrelevant to the Region and that irrelevancy was caused by the USA. There is a new sheriff in town and at some point I will start to refer to People's Republic of China as Our new Colonial Masters of the Far East? Jamaica and the Region have had our British Colonial Masters but they vacated the position and was replaced by our Colonial Masters up North the Americans during the cold war but now that the cold war is long over, they vacated the region, we were “Mujahideened” by them and now the Chinese are setting up shop and rightly so, one man's garbage is another man's treasure.

Chinese built Highway

The Obama Administration have neglected and ignored this region thus allowing the Chinese to run in and capitalize on their stupidity. Chinese investments, Chinese gifts, Chinese loans and grants are at an all-time high in the region and has been for some time now as the Obama Administration did what the British did, pretended as if we did not exist and is no longer relevant in the scheme of things. The Chinese have advanced on the region like the Thailand Tsunami of 2004, leaving in their wake investments after investments:

Chinese Upgraded Sugar Plantations
Chinese built Stadiums
Chinese built Schools
Chinese built Hospitals
Chinese built Power Plants
Chinese built Hotels
Chinese built Shipping Ports and upgrade airports


Hey Merka, What have you done for me lately?

China’s economic might has rolled up to America’s backyard in the Caribbean, with a flurry of loans from state banks, investments by companies and outright gifts from the government in the form of new stadiums, roads, official buildings, ports and resorts in a region where the United States has long been a prime benefactor. In Jamaica, where a Chinese company has invested heavily in sugar estates and where the Chinese government has loaned Jamaica several hundred million dollars in loans for infrastructure, we have new highway system thanks to the Chinese and who can forget the Chinese plans to Invest up to US$1.5 Billion in Jamaica’s Transhipment Port.

Let me see, Jamaica’s choice is between USA gum beating, promises and cheap chat, pure talk versus Hard core Chinese Investment on the ground, pumping billion into the Jamaican economy and upgrading our dilapidated infrastructure. We cannot argue that the difference between the USA and the Chinese is that the Chinese is making a difference in the lives of Jamaicans, it is visible and tangible having a real impact on people’s lives while the USA demand blind dedication void of substance.   


To President Obama and the United States I say action speaks louder than words, Jamaica is in an Economic crisis and your words, your beautiful flowing lyrics and your charismatic “Wha Gwan Jamiaca” nature is not hard currency and cannot be used for the purchase of oil on the world market, as we say in Jamaica “Afta dat cyah Nyam” it cannot be eaten. President Obama came to Jamaica and all we got was a series of lectures, for the most part he talked down to us and to us but our people are so in love with President Obama and his achievements that they are honoured to be lectured to by him.

China plans to Invest up to US$1.5 Billion in Jamaican Transshipment Port

Jamaica need investment in infrastructure, Jamaica needs investment in Logistic centres, Jamaica needs investments in every area and if the United States, Great Britain or the European Union no longer sees any value in Jamaica and the region then I welcome the Chinese because your words cannot “nyam”. The United States want Jamaica and the region to reject Chinese investments but at the same time are not offering any alternatives other that speeches, lectures and token loans and grants while at the same time like pigs at the trough are inviting the Chinese to invest in their own country.

Total Chinese Investment between 2005 and 2014 To: 

United States was $71.9 Billion
Great Britain was $23.6 Billion
Canada was $39.4 Billion
Jamaica was only $1.2 Billion


The China Global Investment Tracker created by the American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation

Trust And the Chinese
I know what you are thinking, you are thinking that we would be idiots to trust the Chinese, that they are only using us as a means to an end, that we are just pawns in the scheme of things. But I am here to tell you that I do NOT trust the Chinese nor do I trust the United States of America and I sure as hell do not trust the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the European Union and at what point in our history were we not used by ALL of the above and discarded like an old tire at Riverton Dump?

You are all not to be trusted and being a poor third world country I have historical experience on my side. Jamaica was created by the British to be used, brutally and when they were finished using us we were dropped high and dry, discarded. Then the cold war came and the United States, Europe and Mother Russia used us some more and when that was over we were dropped high and dry.

Now the United States and Europe is using us through their controlled international financial institutions to pump money into their economy at our economy’s expense, to service them, forcing us to sign one destructive agreements after another and we still have nothing to show for that. Now the Chinese are using us but the difference is we have something to show for it, they are using us through hard investments, we are not naïve, we know none of you can be trusted, we know the nature of the first world is to use and discard and we know all of you want to use us to your end but it cannot continue to be for nothing. Yes the Chinese have only pumped US$1.2 Billion into our economy in the form of hard investments but that is US$1.2 Billion more than what we are getting from you.

And on that basis maybe we should start importing directly from the Chinese, maybe we should start pumping the US$2.1742 Billion we are currently pumping into the USA economy directly into the Chinese Economy because they are the ones with boots on the ground building the roads, fixing the sugar estate and building the shipping Ports.


Obama declared that legalizing marijuana is not a Silver Bullet but we never said it was a silver bullet. What we do know is that USA Tax Revenues from marijuana tops US$3 Billion per year and we understand the concept of one, one cocoa fill basket. It is not the solution in and off itself but it can represent an additional revenue stream.

Weed Vending Machine



Obama lectured Jamaica on Human rights for lesbians and gays and rightly so but what about the human rights of unarmed Black People in America murdered by the Police?


Monday, March 23, 2015

[Resident][Alien] - An introspective on the isolation of the expat

By Torsdag ©

From Merriam-Webster:
Res-i-dent: adjective
                   : living in a particular place usually for a long period of time.
Alien: adjective
          : not familiar or like things you have known : different from what you are used to
          : from another country
          : belonging or relating to another person, place, or thing : strange

Resident alien is an oxymoron.

If you resided in a neighbourhood ‘for a long period of time’, would you consider yourself an unfamiliar? Would you not consider yourself ‘belonging to that area’?

The birth of the expat.


He or she come a foreign bright eyed and bushy tailed. Some to join family already here, some to go to college, some to join the workforce in various career stages. Some come as a result of legit marriages; some, arranged.  Some come young, middle aged, and even old - responding to the call of children who now live abroad. No matter what the reason, we all come looking for the ‘better life’ that exists here.  For that is what we are told to look for and what is reinforced by our homeland.   

“Jamaica is too small for me.”
“There are no opportunities there”
“Go a foreign and mek something of yourself.”
“Go to foreign for a better life. Nuttn nah gwaan here.”
“When I left Jamaica I was 16 years old.  When the plane was in the sky I prayed for the plane to drop out of the sky if for any reason it had to turn back.”

Generation after generation is fed this tripe.  The young are groomed to go a foreign.  Unschooled youth are groomed to become farmworkers. Those who flunk out of high school are trained to become hotel workers to go a foreign. The end goal is just foreign, foreign, foreign.


Shell dung logic
Read the full article, from loopjamaica.com, here: http://loopjamaica.com/2015/01/20/latest-jamaica-news-crawford-encourages-jamaicans-to-seek-better-opportunities-overseas/

So forgive the sense of achievement felt when yardie finally reach foreign and turn expat.  Away from the bogeymen: hard-life, diminished-opportunity and nuttn-nah-gwaan.

Away from family
Away from friends
Away from the known and familiar
Away from a support structure.
Away from being a first class citizen
Away from easily accessed outlets of relaxation
Away from the beach and warm weather
Away from familiar foods
Away from being known.
Away from belonging.

But it takes awhile to realise this. The first few years are exhilarating as well as stressful, but filled with hope as we sally forth to pursue the dream of making it big then going home to retire even bigger.  Big house, big car, big cheque from foreign.  Or, to make it big in industry here in 10-15 years, then go home to set ourselves up in some whiz bang self-starter endeavor, complete with photo and Gleaner/Observer op.  Or, to get degreed here and go home and ease into a corner office, bypassing the UWI/UTech/NCU graduate solely because of our foreign degree. As time passes on and we are subsumed by the foreign culture, the mind bends more and more toward home. You have a clarifying moment while stuck on the train or in traffic and realise that after all these years you’re not really fitting into your alien state.  You begin to assess the validity of the ‘go a foreign for a better life’ that you have been fed. Is it true? Is this really a ’better life’?  Am I to thank God that we are the lucky ones…the ones who live a foreign; and not the ones back home who we pack barrel and send down mobile phone for?

Did someone sell us a bill of goods?

Are all of us expats as prosperous as we were promised we would be? Or are many of us just ordinary working stiffs in capitalist foreign, fighting for a seat at the table?  Would some of us been better off staying home? Will some of us be better off returning home?

                "Uh-uh! Come back to what?!  It hard out here enuh!”
                “Boy, it rough out here…”

So lamented, as they simultaneously conclude a multi $000 home renovation, or buy an old house in a tony neighbourhood, knock it down flat and build a palace behind a motorised gate.  Yes, life is indeed rough.  To hear some speak, you’d think they put the ‘H’ in “hard life”.  Who’s buying the plethora of U$D million houses listed on cbjamaica.com, remaxjamaica.com, century21heave-ho.com?

Over in foreign we work hard day in, day out despite having a ‘good’ job, yet we’re oftentimes barely ahead of the game.  Some of us emigrate as professionals and end up here with menial jobs.  Slinging a mop with a teaching degree and a DipEd from UWI. Not everybody is a big shot a foreign. Compound this with the fact that as racially the vast majority of us from home are in the minority in foreign: second class citizens with fewer opportunities and not yet equal—worse if you’re a black man: the lowest rung of foreign society. Maybe we have been here for years and still haven’t afforded a house. We lease into perpetuity and/or bounce the dimly lit, musty, basement apartment for that’s all we can afford. (What is more alien than living sub terra?)

The Great Recession circa  2007-2011 was our very own FINSAC a foreign.  Whilst the homeland was worried about tourist arrivals and remittances, expats lost homes, livelihoods, college savings, retirement savings, relationships even.  We lost our rung on the ladder of success.  Knocked right down like a player in a game of snakes and ladders.  At the bottom of the ladder, many of us found ourselves --15-20 years into a 40-year career-- having to start over in a brute of an economy, only to be told that we were obsolete.  After bouts of long-term unemployment (> 6 months) and settling for lesser paying jobs (the lucky ones) we start scrambling to play catch-up, little realising how very difficult a thing it is to do.  Scrambling to take care of family, scrambling to juggle the bills, scrambling to claw back some college savings, scrambling to secure a now unsure retirement.

And scrambling to pack the barrel.

For if it was hard over here during the Recession, it was harder in Jamaica. Lawd Whoii! It is ALWAYS harder in Jamaica, it seems. That’s the default position, espoused by even the well off and rich.


video


Yet,

We are agog when we visit home.  We walk around with heads shaking from side to side taking in the ubiquitous Audis, the Christian Louboutins, the Gucci, BMW X6’s, M.A.C. counters, aforementioned U$D million homes, Hennessey drinking, Fashion Night Out-ing, flash-mob pop-up Dîner en Blanc soiree-ing, iPad, iPhone, Samsung Galaxy everything flashing lifestyle belie the suffering-hard-life-send-a-money-nuh lament that we expats know by heart.  Mek me ask you supn? Where exactly is ‘foreign’?  Over here or back home?? 

Some get busted:

From the Jamaica Gleaner

After working for a year to save up and enjoy 7 – 10 day vacation back home, we return to slog away at our 1,2,3(?) jobs, tracking through snow and ice (what is more alien than snow?!)  so we can afford to vacation at home again…next year. 

And start packing the barrel from now.

All while those ‘left behind’ in hard life not-foreign party and Hennessey their way to prosperity.

Someone sold us a bill of goods.

The feeling of isolation rears its ugly head as soon as we step off the plane in foreign.  It’s often accompanied with ambivalence as you’re also relieved that nobody’s greeting you with a smile and a stretched out hand anymore. And you’ll miss the shoes idle cousin Jerry begged off your feet when you saw him knocking about aunt Ida’s shop. Wutliss lout. 50-yo and refuse to work.

You return to the everyday struggle of earning an income, putting food on the table, minding family.  Some of us are working hard at the ‘under the table’ jobs because, despite amnesty after amnesty, papers still ‘not straight’.  “But one day I will make it and go home to retire,” they lie awake thinking in their basement rental, having bought into the lie that we must return in a blaze of glory.  Large and largesse: big house (with pool), big car, big monthly cheque from foreign. “But I can’t go home until I have made it or ‘set up myself’. I’ll be a laughing stock.” A circumstance that becomes more and more daunting as he or she hasn’t seen home since arriving illegally some 20-30 years ago.

In our isolation, we try to create a home away from home, the results being as authentic as the world in The Truman Show.  Some of us live in communities where other expats reside, yet we slowly realise that adapting to life in foreign means not having time for anyone. We go to the farmer’s market to buy ox-tail and boxes of frozen, green meat, square crusted patty and frowzy smelling tin ackee to try assuage the homesickness. We host stage shows billing obscure singjays and artistes.  All of it remains alien and rings not quite true.

Red Lyte?? Ras Kokay??  Who now??
             
After living abroad for many years and rarely, if ever feeling a sense of belonging, you nurture the idea that home is where you belong. But many are often surprised and dismayed by realizing that they may also be aliens as well when they’re back home. Many think the clock stops once they walk across the tarmac to board the plane and starts again when they go back for a visit. It doesn’t. Time passes at home same as it does everywhere else. People change, society changes, the country changes. The change is more evident the longer one stays away. The uncanny feeling of living an anaphasic existence settles in.  Like a movie playing with the voice track on a 7-second time lag.

Alien in the homeland where one is not quite resident.  Expat finds he or she is just someone who ‘live a foreign’ and send home barrel. You become a non-person.  No longer ‘Jamaican’, you’re ‘Jamaican-born’.  You are a source from which to obtain money and cell phone and tablet.  Heck, you might not be able to stand the hot climate there anymore. You feel less of a connection to the crass, bling, self-centered, flossy-flossy emergent culture.  And even more isolated as the society of which you were once a part no longer exists. What you imagine it would be like is incongruent to what it actually is like. Keep your opinion die-as-poorer…you don’t live here.  Just send the remittances.

A fixed aberrant lens is used to view both sides. On one side, expats exercise their ‘Jamaicanness’ and read the online papers/listen to online radio/watch tv, etc online religiously in an effort to maintain some connectedness. Expats can recite the news and current affairs at home more than anybody who lives there. Looking through the lens from that vantage point, we see images of success.  We read write-ups of ‘successful’ people,,,even if all they have done is register a business, draft a business plan, set up a shell website, printed  off some cards and look good on camera.   We see all this as we slave away at our jobs, wondering why we don’t have a full page feature in the WSJ for making ‘brand manager’.  Conversely, looking through the front of the same aberrant lens, Homeland sees us living wealthy, carefree, money on trees, yellow brick road, Lexus driving foreign lives. Neither side gets an in-focus view of the real picture.

Long term feelings of isolation and alienness often leave expats with feelings that they don’t quite understand and wrongfully attribute to dissatisfaction with home life, work life, dissatisfaction with self: what am I doing? Why haven’t I achieved my goals? Why am I a loser?  For those of us whose families emigrated along with us, the sense of isolation is not so bad. But, for others who came over solo, or with a few family members who are now scattered, the absence of a society with a support structure to help with kids, watch your house when you’re away, help celebrate life achievements, honour and celebrate your holidays and kick back on the weekend increases overall stress and a sense of aloneness. Even in the midst of your own family under your own roof of your hermetically sealed house, you feel alone. Spouses, who may or may not be expats themselves, may not share your sentiment. Our outlook on life and our values seem strange to children and spouses. They can’t relate. Especially children born here and thus ‘assimilated’ into foreign society.  Twice as feisty and half as resilient as their back-a-yard counterpart, you beat your head against the wall to get through to them, to no avail. Exhausted, you shake your head and walk off…to work, to do the laundry, get groceries, whatever.  Compartmentalise and find a way to live with the disconnect.  Keep thoughts to yourself and find a way to cope.  Get back to the business of juggling the vicissitudes of this odd, anaphasic life.  Smile, while your insides macerate.

Depression and anxiety, hypertension and other stress-related maladies manifest themselves.  We skype home for a pick me up and hear family and friends sprinting up the career ladder (oh so there IS opportunity in Jamaica!), buying homes, paying off mortgages, growing lucrative businesses…they cut the convo short as they are just about to head over to the annual peas soup get-together at Christmastime or the annual New Year’s Day mannish water drink-up.  You take all this in as you eat your greek yoghurt at your desk on Boxing Day where you are working-working-working (as it’s not a public holiday here), all the while feeling left out and wishing you were back home to partake. 

One day we look in the mirror and scarce recognise the old person staring back at us.

Under the best of circumstances, if there were ever a demographic in society prone to isolation, it’s the elderly. The words “elderly” and “shut-in” go hand-in-hand like “escallion” and “thyme”. What is life like for an elderly expat?

After years and years of hard work they often find they can hardly afford healthcare.  Medicare is not enough.  Medicaid is for the poor and to access it means getting rid of your assets. All you’ve worked to achieve for the past 50 years. The still illegal expats --and there are more than a few – are at best, only afforded indigent care. Reduce oneself to nothing to get Medicaid (sell house, empty bank account, etc), or have something to show for a life lived, but not be able to afford a homecare nurse to help bathe you and fix you a meal. Catch 22. 

Well, what about your children?

Foreign is huge. People move to other states.  Children move away, far away sometimes, and are in no position to help. Even children who are nearby may find it difficult, juggling their own lives and livelihoods – work children, their own illnesses perhaps? Day after day you remain in your home alone and lonely.  Crying to God to take you home. 

The not uncommon end result is the nursing home. Assisted living/nursing home/rehab is not cheap in foreign. The average facility that the average expat ends up in is a dreary, warehouse-y, cold, pissy-smelling, glum place filled with sad, disconnected, joyless old faces attached to old, weary bodies parked aimlessly about the place. Enhoused in spaces that poorly mimic home, the plug in fireplaces, plastic flowers and beat up furniture just don’t quite convince.  For in Capitalist foreign, the dirty little secret is that one is of value only so long as he/she can produce, produce, produce. Beyond that you are a burden to the state. And don’t fool yourself, in this golden stage of life, living off fixed-income (ie, retirement money) ‘loved ones’ from back home are still stretching forth their hands for barrel.

“Fifty years now dem a stretch out them hand…when dem a go stop beg and start mind themselves?”

Beginning to see who the ‘go a foreign for a better life’ argument actually benefits?  Remittances top U$D2.06 billion per anum…to a country that produces little.

                
Man-a-yard logic
from the Jamaica Gleaner
"Audley Shaw, the opposition spokesman on finance,...said the economy could benefit from greater remittance inflow if the measure was successfully implemented." Read the full article here:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20150318/audley-shaw-wants-government-find-work-overseas-jamaicans

The long years of working 2-3 jobs are behind. Thoughts of returning home have long taken on the texture of a faded cloth.  Memories of life there in one’s youth no longer seems more imagined than real.  Years of working hard and chasing a dream that perhaps never existed yield the reward of an uneventful death and a cobbled up service in a two-bit funeral home—maybe at a cut rate since Aunty and the owner are good friends so she can get the family a discount.  After all the years working, you can’t afford to bury yourself.  More plastic flowers, dreadful keyboard organ music on a loop and affected condolences from the stranger-owners of the funeral home who are "sorry for your loss" (and no, the brass plate easel with the tatty poster sized picture of the owners cannot be removed from the reception hall to accommodate an extra table for the post service repast).

While family and friends (?) celebrate your life (for no one grieves for the dead anymore), your remains are ushered to the crematory where you will be physically reduced to ashes and spaded into an affordable urn.  Your corporeal body no longer transitioning is now set to reside in a permanent state of resident alienness.

Someone sold us a bill of goods.

If someone wanted to sell you the notion that life at home may be hard, but that you would be able to buy a house, just not one as big as the rich man’s on the hill, and not as soon as you’d like to; that you could have a fruitful career wherein you’d probably see the direct effects of your role in nation-building, just maybe not get paid in 6-figure USD, but you’d have twice as much vacation days as in foreign; that you’d have help raising your children and they would  go to good schools and not have to pass through metal detectors and thugs to get to class; that you would be a member of a real community, a neighbourhood in the true sense of the word. Where you know who lives across from you, beside you and down the road from you; that you’d be able to afford to destress and relax via a weekend in the country; that you’d eat fresher, non-GMO foods that would greatly benefit your long-term health.

If someone told you that you could live a fuller, more robust life versus one of merely existing, maybe you wouldn’t live as long:  3-5-7 years fewer perhaps, but that would also mean 3-5-7 years of not being drugged up and listlessly warehoused in a pissy nursing home until you expire.  Instead, you would age in place at home in familiar surroundings with affordable round-the-clock attendants and family. And that when you die, you’d get a big turnout of family and friends ushering you on ‘to your reward’ and drinking a whites and killing a goat as they mourn your passing and give thanks for your life. If someone told you you could achieve that, versus going to foreign to join an uncertain rat – race as 1 of an obscure 300 million participants with no guaranteed outcome of success and prosperity, versus being one of < 3 million with a medium- longshot…;  If someone tried to sell you that notion,

Would you buy it?

 -Torsdag


Post Script:  Much has been said of the brain drain experienced by Jamaica, especially in the late 70’s.  Many brilliant minds left to ‘go a foreign’, never to return. Their contributions enrich their adopted societies, while ours back home flounder.  Back home seems to be satisfied with the mediocre accomplishments of satraps.  Peruse the leading papers and (God forbid) Twitter and you’ll see the only intelligent thought seems to emanate from the older generation. The younger is caught up in the washover gold and rhinestone world of Western Union/MoneyGram/barrel and bling/Twitter/Instagram/Facebook lifestyle.  It seems sufficient accompaniment to the 1% growth and slow underdevelopment Jamaica has experienced for decades now.