Archive for June, 2011

“Rich man in his castle, poor man at his gate”

Sitting at the bar in Usain Bolt’s slick new sports bar, watching four sporting events at the same time and reading the news of the world, the luxury of remaining unaware of the oppressive heat of the island afternoon is not unappreciated. Switching to the local news, however, an article I read earlier highlighting the “Rich man in his castle, poor man at his gate” nature of this island gains clarity.
This country has one of the more segregated – along economic lines – societies I have ever been a part of. One hears of the growing economic divide in the united states, but it is hardly as out in the open and dramatic as it is here. Jamaica’s coasts are dotted with opulent, all inclusive resorts, where tourists are entertained with water sports, alcohol, and a manufactured but convincing exotic world.
Outside the resorts and walled communities, however, along the crumbling roads crossing the country, most jamaicans seem to live in converted shipping containers or multi-family homes.
The roots of and possible solutions to the situation are much more than I will venture in this Sunday afternoon thought, but they are things that must be understood if so many are to have a shot at realizing the potential that is so obviously there.

Open Letter: From the Field

One in a series of introspective updates to my family and friends.


Life is strange, and it does strange things to us. It changes us (or,
more passively, we are changed by it…), even as it changes the world
around us, and the result seems to be that we are constantly preoccupied
with trying to figure out just what the hell is going on.

OK, so I exaggerate and romanticize, but only for
the innocent purpose of dramatic effect, and I couldn’t think of how
else to begin an email after failing to write for a very long time.

I am currently riding down HW 95 in one of the many Washington – New
York commuter buses, on my way to D.C. after a wonderful weekend in
that intoxicating city, eating spectacular food and catching up with
friends I have not seen for far, far too long. After about ten months
in Kingston, Jamaica I am repatriated for the first time (the
involuntary trip last December to the hospital does not count) for a
week-long visit. I hope to fly back to the Caribbean and my pet fish
Alphonso this Sunday with a surplus of sleep, a palette tingling with
flavors other than jerk chicken, many deep conversations to ponder
over, and some name brand underwear and vitamins that would cost a
fortune in Jamaica, if I could even find them.

It is difficult to pick any single story to relate after so many weeks
and months, when each day seems to offer the novel, the bizarre,
challenging, uplifting or depressing. But I can say that I am very
much enjoying myself, for the most part, finding fulfillment and
challenge in the work I do, in the relationships I nurture and
develop, in my ability to indulge in exploring the environs of the
island and the broader world. I don’t read, write, or sleep as much as
I’d like, but when have I ever really? All in all I count myself among
the lucky and privileged of the world, when it comes down to it.

Novels, poems, and memoirs have been written about the life of an
expatriate, and for good reason, because it is impossible to sum it up
in any concise way, let alone a single email. It is always the first
and most challenging question I get, “how is life overseas,” and I
never answer to my satisfaction. My book will probably be a mix of an
Anthony Bourdain travel-food book or tv show, “On The Road,” “The Ugly
American,” etc (I’m no good at citing literature, like I said I don’t
read enough…).

This email/novel is getting a bit long already, so I will have to get in the habit of writing more often. Or, better perhaps, you should encourage me to write at more frequently.