Comforting Words: 04/2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Land of My Birth - Part Two

A laptop that would not turn on is to be blamed for my not producing before now Part Two of the post “Land of my Birth.”

Not having a computer proved not to be such a bad thing, however, as I got to focus on a few other things that was percolating in my life and around me.

The global economic melt down has finally arrived in all its glory here in Calgary, Alberta and this city which was once proud of its oil money has had to take stock. The news is replete of stories about the numbers of people losing their jobs – last count it was about 15,000+ in this province. Housing starts and housing sales have decreased and the Alberta government recently announced new taxes to meet the deficit – something that this province has not had in 10 years.

News of gloom and doom funny enough has the potential to either scare the daylights out of you or funny enough inspire. “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”

That is what I saw in Jamaica back in February (2009). As I listened to the morning talk shows, the news and looked around me, I shook my head in amazement.

It felt as if time had stood still since I left the island back in 2002. Truthfully, it felt like the country was in a time warp since the 1990’s. The problems were the same, the politics had not changed either, except for a few changes in the players, and the conversations were the same.

The strength of the people had not changed either. Everyone was busy trying to keep things together. There were some brave ones, like our hostess, who had started new businesses on faith. Then there were those who had their hands stretched out, demanding that you put something in it – something of a significant money value.

Listening to Wilmot Perkins, one of Jamaica’s most popular radio talk show host, I thought to myself “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” – a mantra he loves to repeat. I tuned into the conversations on “The Breakfast Club,” a morning radio talk show and things were the same – almost stagnant, near dead.
The Jamaican government it seemed was in the early stage of grief – denial.

Everyone else was saying and seeing that despite the achievements in say highway construction, the infrastructure on the island is crumbling. Crime and violence was at its usual high level. A true picture of the unemployment levels is not possible as so many people are ‘hustling’ to keep afloat.

Several of my Jamaican Facebook friends have been coming up with some ideas and suggestions as to how we in the Diaspora could help our island home. Even that has not changed – after all these years and millions of dollars in remittances – Jamaicans abroad are still trying to figure how to save Paradise.

My Canadian-born husband fell in love with Jamaica soon after we landed. By the time we got to our hostess’ home in New Kingston, he was purchasing property. Ten days later, as we lounged in Negril, Robert had purchased a small hotel and opened a recording studio!

I wished it was that easy – and if it was almost 2 million (if not more) Jamaicans would not be living outside of the island all across the world.

For my part, I tried to picture myself living on the island again and honestly could not. The lawlessness was beyond anything I could tolerate and it was everywhere – the most evident one for me is the traffic laws which were almost completely ignored.

Outside of its natural beauty, which is second to none in the world, little else inspired me in Jamaica to make it my home again.

Back in cold Alberta, seeing signs of the global economic melt down right on my door steps, I am on the contrary inspired – so much so that this past week Robert and I closed a deal on a home.

I love Jamaica no less, but when the going get tough, the tough do indeed gets going. For that effort to be productive there must be an environment that engenders productivity that is guided by social order that supports the effort and leaders who inspire and lead from the front.

While Jamaica will always be the Land of my Birth, sadly that is simply what it will remain – at least for a long time to come.



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