Saturday, January 7, 2012

Growing Wings - Metamorphosis to Exile

The following is an extract from my essay submitted to the 2011 World Bank essay competition, which was ranked among the top 200 essays submitted.

How Rural Communities Dispossess Their Best And Brightest And How And Why It Must Be Stopped!

(1) How has migration affected you, your family, community and country?
(2) How do you perceive the benefits versus the risks of migration?
(3) What actions can you recommend for broadening opportunities for young migrants in their:
    (i) countries of destination, and
    (ii) countries of origin?

The grooming began early. As soon as they found out I was gifted – well, not really gifted, just  smart with books and good at school – they started to drop hints and make preparations for the day when they would send me away. Because bright people don’t stay in St. Mary – a rural, farming parish located on the north-east coast of Jamaica. Apparently, if they do, they never get the chance to make anything meaningful of themselves, because in St. Mary, where opportunities are perceived to be scarce-to-nonexistent, all that talent and skill goes to waste.

My schooling and upbringing was an experience in growing wings. Consciously and unconsciously, my parents, teachers, relatives and friends were preparing me for flight from my home town. They had developed a culture of preparing their best, brightest and most skilled people to leave the parish and go elsewhere, mainly to urban parishes, in pursuit of tertiary education and well-paying jobs, and this culture perpetuated a cycle of brain-drain and poverty to which they had become accustomed.

This is my documentary, examining how and why I left my rural hometown to live and work in urban Kingston. I examine methods for a transformation of the dismal view of country and community that my peers and I are often subliminally taught, and suggest methods through which the process of cross-cultural, or rural-urban migration can be better harnessed to benefit sending and receiving countries/communities.

A Caterpillar Appears
I don’t know if anyone has ever said it before, but I believe migration – the movement of people from one place in the world to another for the purpose of taking up permanent or semipermanent residence, usually across a political boundary (National Geographic, para. 1) – begins in the mind. It starts as a thought, triggered by different events or messages that a person receives, processes and stores in his/her brain as he/she grows up. People will always be drawn to the places or things that are presented as most attractive to them. Migration is no different. People see more attractive opportunities in other places, are drawn to them, visualise themselves there, and then leave to reside in these more attractive places, with the hope of acquiring whatever it is that drew them to their destination.

Millions of people migrate annually for various reasons: better financial opportunities, employment, family ties, exile, health, climate … the list is inexhaustible. Whether for love or money, the general sentiment among migrants is that the destination, once reached, will offer far more and better opportunities and longer lasting pleasure than the location being left behind. This, in a way, conforms to the law of attraction.

I know I ought to go home and help build my community
But my family expects me to stay here and become great and make money ....

My friends and I grew up feeling this way. We all knew we weren’t destined to stay in St. Mary. We all knew we would leave.

When I passed the Common Entrance exam and I just knew I was growing wings. When I was a young girl, ‘foreign’ always held special appeal for me. It was this magical place where people went to get rich - a haven, an oasis, the Jamaican Promised Land. Though noone said it, I understood that if I could just get to ‘foreign’, I would come back wealthier, prettier, and generally much better off. It was later, when I grew up, that I realised that migration is not so simple an issue as that.

To be continued ....

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