Updated: Aug 25, 2022
Finding a new home away from home I am flying the Jamaican flag very high as my aim is to promote Brand Jamaica. I forever proud of the black, the green and gold.
Ever since I graduated university in 2007 several close friends, work colleagues, community members as well as random persons I met, kept trying to persuade me to emigrate. Their recommended destination was usually one of either the United States or Canada. The majority were in favour of Canada as they saw it as an ideal location. The reasons posited was that I was both young and talented and opportunities abounded in Canada for young people unlike the limited opportunities that existed in Jamaica.
“Though I reminisce I very much appreciate the experience, exposure, opportunities, quietness, privacy and personal space I am afforded here. It is a fantastic feeling to live in an orderly society where personal space is precious and customer service is prioritized.”
The truth be told, while their advice was sound and accurate I had no intention of emigrating from Jamaica. Indeed I had quite an elaborate traveling bucket list. However, my intensions for traveling were only for vacation or studying purposes. What is more, neither Canada, The UK nor the US were listed among my first choice destinations. I often said if and when I should emigrate from Jamaica, my destination of choice would be one of either Spain or Japan. Why I opted for a non-English speaking destination is two-fold. Firstly, I considered it a more exhilarating and exciting prospect knowing that not many Jamaicans ever consider going to either of those two countries. Secondly, I was charmed by the Spanish language and had developed a sense of intrigue about the Japanese culture.
Fast forward to December of 2017 and I found myself an expat in a foreign land. My route to Japan was pretty straightforward; I transited through the US. My first flight was a three hour trip into Florida. From there I took a six hour connecting flight into Atlanta. I overnighted in Atlanta and then flew for twelve hours across the Pacific Ocean before I was finally able to make my landing in “The land of the rising sun”.
My experiences here are dissimilar to anything I’ve ever experienced before in my entire life. It was not a fairy tale journey to begin with. It was one that was filled with myriad challenges that I had to overcome. Those troubles began within two weeks of me setting on Japanese soil. Still despite those early struggles I had, I held firm the belief that I had made a wise decision in coming here.
The Japanese for the most part are courteous, well-mannered, disciplined and helpful individuals. In terms of transportation, Japan operates an efficient, reliable and first rate train service. Living here also affords one the opportunity to enjoy the many conveniences of living such as automated doors at most business places, elevators and escalators inside high rise buildings, automated toilets, an efficient train service, a first class postal service where parcels are delivered to you at home even on public holidays etc.
Additionally, there are many convenience stores, open 24 hours daily. These are usually within walking distances to living accommodations. You can purchase pre-packaged meals, some grocery items and a variety of other goods inclusive of pharmaceutical supplies, household goods, toiletries, etc. What is more you can pay your bills, use the ATM, print documents, charge your rail pass and purchase clothes items at some stores.
Likewise, there are also many parks, restaurants and cafes available where you can go to relax, read a book, have a meal while also getting a chance to meet interesting people.
Despite the many conveniences available here, I find myself frequently reminiscing on scenes and activities from home. On these occasions I have flashbacks about my many trips to Clarendon, Manchester, Portland, St. Ann, St. Mary, St. James, and St. Thomas. I miss the scenic view of those majestic hillsides, painted a lush green as I travelled along the junction road in St. Mary making my way to Port Antonio. I long to see the waters of the Wag Water River meandering along in the valley below. I can vividly see those huge boulders jutting out along the river bed in Toms River, Castleton, Devon Pen, Broad Gate and Georgia.
I also miss that refreshing feeling of the ocean breeze blowing gently across my face as I cruised along the sea side. I would often peer through the window looking at its inviting waters. I can still feel the excitement of diving into the warm tranquil waters of the Caribbean Sea.
On other occasions my thoughts are arrested with the memories of those long drives along the banks of the Rio Cobre River through the Bog Walk Gorge either heading to or coming from Spanish Town. I remember being quiet with fear the first time I was crossing over the Flat Bridge. Perhaps what I miss most of all is seeing those fruit stalls along the Bog Walk bypass.
I miss seeing the variety of tropical fruits on display such as ackee, apples, avocados, bananas, breadfruit, coconuts, guineps, jackfruits, june plums, mangoes, naseberries, oranges, papayas, pineapples, star apples, sour sops, sugar cane, tangerine etc. What I would give for some jackfruit and soursop right now.
Other times find me reminiscing about waking up on a Sunday morning to the rich gospel melodies streaming from the airwaves. On many Sundays mornings I would hear the lively chatter of children at play. Then in the afternoon the air was fragranced with the smell of rice and peas flavoured in rich coconut milk. Combined with this was the scent of curried goat, steamed fish, escoveitched fish, stewed beef, and fried chicken being prepared to accompany it. It was added thrill to hear the steady beat of the Reggae hits playing from a sound system in the distance. From the sounds of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaac, Buju Banton, Freddie McGregor, Luciano, Jimmy Cliff, John Holt, Beres Hammond, Taurus Riley etc. the effect was always the same. Such are the things that have me reminiscing.
Though I reminisce I very much appreciate the experience, exposure, opportunities, quietness, privacy and personal space I am afforded here. It is a fantastic feeling to live in an orderly society where personal space is precious and customer service is prioritized.
However, the stark contrast between the two cultures leave me conflicted at times. That pulse of spontaneity that exists in Jamaica, seems to be absent within the society and the general way of life seems a bit mundane.
This is evident when you interact with some of the natives who seem to have set phrases that they use in their daily conversations. What is more, in many cases each person you meet has the same string of questions to ask you that a hundred other persons would have asked you before. Sometimes I wonder if they drilled into asking these questions to expats. Whenever I have these experiences I contemplate about how long I will stay here.
As the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life so I create my own variety. I am constantly reading and researching as I try to learn as much as I can as fast as I can. I try to apply the best practices I see to my own life as replicating these are quite advantageous. Little by little I am understanding more of the culture and I am steadily building my own community network.
This I believe is the blue print for success while living here. Finding a new home away from home I am flying the Jamaican flag very high as my aim is to promote Brand Jamaica. I am forever proud of the black, green and gold.
“As the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life so I create my own variety.”