Settling In Or Moving On?
I’m not going to lie. Settling into life in Jamaica been without some bumps and bruises.
As I write, the little bar across the street has been blasting the same song over and over and over for the last hour. Intermittently, someone is blasting an air horn, honking a car horn and blowing a loud whistle. I wish I could capture an audio recording of it for you. It’s a Monday night, no special event, no holiday…just a random gathering of people drinking and living it up.
Yeah, I could go over and cause a stir. I could call the cops. Instead, I chose to close my door and do my own thing until it stops. Such is my life in Jamaica. I either learn to roll with it, or I have to leave. Besides, I’m making a lot of friends here and, who knows? Next week, it might be ME blasting the music and blowing the horn (but it won’t be me playing the same song over and over and over again. I promise!)
Meanwhile, I’m learning the ropes.
I’ve now spent close to six months in Jamaica so far in 2017 and it’s been mostly good. The house deal I thought we had nailed down suddenly hit a wall. It wasn’t just a small collision either. It was more like running a freight train into a huge rock cliff side, nearly causing me a mental collapse.
I have an elderly Jamaican friend, Angus, who watched the entire incident unfold. At 80 years of age, nearly deaf and partially blind, Angus is a man of few words. So, when he speaks, I’ve learned to really listen. His favorite saying is “Nuh-ting madders ‘cept duh black an white!” (Nothing matters except getting it in writing.) Too bad he didn’t speak up early on! Ha ha.
Nope, I didn’t get it in writing. Classic mistake. I believed what I was told, which was “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure it all works out for you.” The problem was, my idea of “things working out” was different from the other parties idea. We were worlds apart in our realities.
This is why you haven’t heard from me in a while.
I’ve been ruminating, doing a lot of research, making a lot of contacts and carefully contemplating what my next move will be. I’m finally finding my footing again, and a lot of it came in the form of letting it all go. I decided that if this “project” wasn’t going to be a good fit, then there must be something better down the road.
I decided to return to Jamaica, figuring that I’d be packing up my mountain of personal belongings and moving on. Where? I didn’t know. When? I wasn’t sure. I just figured the door was closed on this project so I had to start over. If only it was that easy.
I flew back down in late Sept and started reconnecting with my friends and acquaintances. I knew that I was going to need help and “the grapevine” to figure out a new situation. This isn’t the kind of place where you pick up a newspaper or call a rental office and see “apartment for rent.” Well, you DO, but those are high-priced vacation rentals, not long-term gigs.
No, figuring this out was going to be all about “who you know and who knows you,” the stock in trade of Jamaican life.
To make just about anything happen here, you have to KNOW people and they have to like you. It’s all about recommendations, word of mouth and relationships. That’s not a foundation that one builds overnight. It takes time and effort.
Luckily for me, people are, by and large, quite friendly here. If you are friendly back, relationships are built. Your new friends introduce you to their old friends, and before you know it, you’ve developed an intricate web of contacts…all of whom know even MORE people. This is how you find a plumber, start a business, buy a car, find a property and so much more. This is where these impromptu parties, like the one currently raging across the street, often come into play.
For example, let’s say you run into your friend, Josh, while walking down the street in the afternoon and you invite him to come over in the evening. Josh doesn’t have a car, so he asks Ralph to drive him over. While driving Josh to your house, Ralph sees Joe along the side of the road, so he offers Joe a ride. And so it goes. By the time Josh arrives at your gate, he’s got four or five people in tow, and a party is born.
Eventually, Joe calls his brother to come pick him up and the brother stays for a drink. Ralph’s girlfriend gets out of work and joins in. Then a random guitar player that somebody knows passes by, is invited in and starts jamming, joined by a few singers. By the end of the evening, what started out as a chance to chat with Josh has turned into an event that connected you with 10 new people. It’s actually pretty cool.
Through these connections, I’ve found several different “possible” options.
A number of times, I’ve started gathering my belongings, looking for boxes to transport them in and talking to friends with cars about helping me move. But each time, I’ve returned to where I’ve been, still feeling the desire to make it work right here where I started out. Can I say that I still feel “called” to this house?
Interestingly, each time I spoke to friends about calling the hardware store to see about returning the piles of building supplies still sitting in the house garage, supplies I purchased to rehab the little shop out back so it could house my business, I’ve been told, “Just wait. It’s all going to work out. I feel it in my gut.” When I first heard those words, I sort of laughed and told them that it just wasn’t meant to be, and yet I never seemed to get around to actually making that call.
Last week, knowing I was scheduled to head back to the States this week, I finally bit the bullet and took the taxi ride up to the hardware store to have that chat. The owners know me by name, having spent so much time up there during my “building” days earlier this year. They had no idea that my “deal” had fallen apart so I had to fill them in and ask if I could return the rest of my building supplies. Again, I got the reply, “Well, sure you can, but these things have a way of working themselves out, so maybe you should just hold out a bit longer.”
So, six weeks after I came down to move out and move on, I still sit here in limbo.
A few new developments have come about that seem to have cracked the door back open towards us being able to stay in this house and eventually move forward with our original plans, but it’s still a long shot. I know that my friends here are pulling for me. They have the faith it will all work out for my good, even when I don’t.
Honestly, I’m open to whatever happens with this property. Whether I settle in or move on, I know that I’ve now got a huge support system in this town and it’s where I’m supposed to be. I can’t go anywhere around here without somebody calling out my name, making a place for me at their table or giving me hug.
They say that home is where the heart is. I don’t have to think for even a second as to where that is for me.
This place is my home and that’s all that really matters. Where I lay my head at night and where is build my business are just pesky details. My Jamaican family will help me sort it all out in the days to come. I have no doubts.