RDF SYMPOSIUM - ON COMMEMORATIVE MAGAZINE
Declaration of Principles
NY Governor Pataki
Want to go home?
DEXIA - New Approach
Mo n Mo Music
Productivity and Economy
Health & the Diaspora
A Call to Action
Do You Remember When?
Technol. & Intel. Capital
Planning for Agriculture
Security & Development
Dominica State College
DSS in Partnership
Dominica & Integration
Education for Survival
Globalisation & Caribbean
Skills for Internet Age
Legacy of Rosie Douglas-1
SO YOU WANT TO GO HOME?
by Esther Christian
It’s the moment you have waited for. Your bags are packed and your expectations are high. You are finally returning home to your island. But more than simply a return home to enjoy the sharp, clean air, its warm and picturesque environment, you are returning with a stronger sense of purpose. You are returning to confidently contribute to your island’s development.
It was promise you made when you left years earlier in pursuit of your own professional development and one you had every reason to keep. You refuse to be part of the intellectual hemorrhage suffered upon the island over the past decades.
Over the years you have grown to recognize only the native child can sincerely provide to the true development of its own. Those who believe that some foreign investor will bring manna from heaven is engaged in wishful thinking.
And so with a deep sense of commitment you have done the work and you are prepared to take the next step, to begin the journey home.
You can almost smell the familiar scents-of freshly cut green grass of the savannah you played cricket on as a boy, to the tangy scent of a viande parf’me. As the small plane within which you are travelling dances over the deep blue sea, you begin to imagine the many early morning swims you can now have at your leisure- the saltiness caressing the warmness of your skin. You can’t stand your excitement. As the plane throttles across the tarmac to a stop, you can’t wait to rush out of your seat, down the stairs to feel the strength of your home island soil firmly beneath your feet. You are home. You are back.
Days later your excitement has worn thin. Your hopes and expectation still remain high but you are confused, frustrated most of the times by the seemingly cool reception you are seemingly receiving from your compatriots. What is wrong with this picture? It’s a question you ask your-self a million times, but are unable to find a ready answer. This is not right.
All you have done is to return home with the sincere desire to do and offer the best you can for your country. Yet the way you find yourself being treated it’s as if you had come in with the worst intentions. Your every action seems to be continually stonewalled by your very own.
Yet those who act so coldly towards you appear eager to roll out the red-carpet treatment to the white foreign investor. Despite the history of the similar types who came before with a flourish of promises camouflaging their often hidden destructive agendas.
In the mean time your development plans are almost shunned by the island’s powers that be and you are left languishing in the cold while the other is wined and dined. Why?
Could it be the answer lies not necessarily in the without but within you. Could it be that the frustration that you are encountering is not necessarily simply a result of a concerted effort on the part of you compatriots to reject your development intentions but a response to you.
The returnee. Call it the prodigal son syndrome. Referring to that famous biblical story of two brothers in a wealthy family, one who went off and spent his fortunes in discovering the world and the other who stayed.
Yet, much to the consternation of the brother who remained, it’s the brother who returns that is feted. And over the years it has been almost the expectation of most returnees that they too should be celebrated and feted.
Not so, to the one that stayed and felt he sacrificed while the other played and therefore got over easy. Even more what the returnee does not realize in the wider scheme of thinks is that they have changed. And often their views on how things should or should not be done have also changed. As a result returnees may feel “out of sync,” no longer connected to those around them, as reflected in this quote:
I found it harder coming back than going, just because with going, I had everything to look forward to and…when I got back everything was just the same; nothing had changed; I felt like I had changed so much and everyone else had just stayed the same.
It’s a sentiment echoed again and again by so many returnees who can readily identify. After all we all heard the stories of dealing with the phone practically ringing off the hook in local businesses before they are answered.
Or we all know of incidents when some have walked into a government office and the receptionist busily occupied with a computer game, does not bother to even to look up to greet you.
And even more common is the condescending looks one receive when you request a meeting with the government official or company manger. You know the scornful look that begins from the feet up. We all have either heard and or experienced the horror stories in some form or fashion upon our visits back home. The question then arises is how do we surmount such obstacles successfully, so that they do not otherwise thwart our development plans for our islands.
First, as returnees we must first understand that our return home, or our reentry as described by cultural experts, is a transition, and like all transitions it has potential for both pain and growth. And to allow ourselves to grow from its encounter, we need to plan for it, than approach it blindly or with a lack of awareness.
Returnees are faced with a number of choices in securing a successful reentry: (1) They can fit comfortably back into the home culture and essentially abandon their “abroad” experience and identity; (2) they can attempt to fit back into the home culture and deny their “abroad” experience and identity and remain dissatisfied; (3) they can abandon old relationship networks and find new, supportive communities that share their abroad experience or (4) they can seek out new and creative ways to use their abroad experiences in their home culture. This includes the ability to maintain significant relationships based on common experiences and the ability to maintain significant relationship with those who do not.
The latter choice obviously being the most ideal, as the returnee moves closer to the integration of their intercultural identity and seeks to blend the best of both worlds.
To succeed upon our return, our job must begin now. As Diaspora Dominicans we must engage links with our old schools and enhance their capacity a quality education. We may find a locally owned export driven company and secure markets for its goods or new technology for its plant.
We can couple a visit to Carnival or Christmas with a one or two-day seminar with the local hospital or physicians group to inform on the latest technology or processes. Or we may visit the Parent Teachers Association of our alma mater to advise on fund raising concepts, scholarships for graduates etc.
To do that we must organize the Diaspora communities in profit or non-profit corporations, as we do better together. As individual Diasporans our reach is limited. With an organized economic and networking base, we have more ability to avoid or mitigate the pitfalls of return. The recently formed Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences is a good example of such a networking base and we must thank Raglan Riviere, Dr. Thomson Fontaine, Gabriel Christian, Athenia Henry and Dr. Clayton Shillingford, among others for making start to that journey.
The choice will be ours to make as returnees, to allow our goals to be thwarted because of reverse culture shock and an inability to successful adapt to our return home, or our ability to integrate the strengths acquired from our international experience to that unique to our island.
As the Rosie Development Foundation draws the best of island’s resources together, let us take the time to consider those choices, recognizing that our island true development and advancement in this world lies in our hands.