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Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle

1/18/2006

Living the Good Life


When I'm in Barbados, I'm reminded how lucky I am to be working here in the Caribbean.

I woke this morning at about 6am and went for a swim in the sea just as the sun rose. That by itself is not so unusual, and the fact is that most hotels here in Barbados are right on the water.

As I was swimming I was thinking about the news I heard that a major snow-storm is heading towards the north-east. Memories of a project I once worked on in Toledo, Ohio came to mind...

I also know that many people coming here to the Accra Beach Hotel, have saved for years and months for the opportunity to come to the Caribbean on a vacation. I come here every other week or so, and barely blink an eye.

It made me think of how good life is here in the Caribbean, and how easy it is to convince oneself that the grass is greener on the other side -- over there in the US, Canada and England, where most migrating West Indians end up. The tragedy is that most are able to fulfill only the first part of the dream -- to leave.

Part 2 of the dream almost always includes some kind of return, and this is where the challenge lies. It's relatively easy to leave the Caribbean to live outside the region, but quite hard to return.

The reasons aren't legal, either.

They have more to do with the psyche that develops in the minds of those of us who have left. The result is that a return remains nothing but a dream, which ends up drifting into a permanent stage of being "neither here nor there." Eventually, the kids become American, Canadian or British, and then they get married and have children who have just about no connection to the homeland. Then the only practical thing to do is to live close to them. And, thus, the dream dies.

If only this were understood before making the decision to leave.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to evaluate the pros and cons of migration. Even worse, I've never seen any kind of service, website or book that offers any help for those are thinking about migrating. They inevitably end up making the decision on only partial information.

When they reach the U.S. unfortunately, many fall into the "justify my being here" frame of mind in which they complain about their home country in the most exaggerated way. To hear them talk is to to think that nothing good could ever come from such a place. The irony is, they also have no idea that they are also talking about themselves.

The law of unintended consequences seems to be at play here.

For example, most West Indians moving to the US have no interest in raising their children as African Americans. Being West Indian is different. However, for Black Caribbeans, there is really no choice . The forces they confront at school, the workplace and in the larger society are just too big to resist, and they inevitably leave the accent, the food, the music and the vibe behind.

Yet, it seems that these kinds of questions are not openly asked and answered, and most who do migrate end up saving for months for a one week opportunity to return home to enjoy the beaches that they, and I, took for granted. The sad thing is that this all just an unintended consequence.

I'm trying hard to not take it all for granted.

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