Unspoken stories of migrants: Grieving for home while flourishing on new lands....
Updated: 6 days ago
“Today is not for the writing, today is for the living,” was the caption of Jamaican Poet and Feminist Staceyann Chin’s pic on Instagram, as she sprawled out on a yacht enjoying the Caribbean waters.
Well, I have been all about the living for the last two months.
Happy New Year, I am back! Painfully re-learning writing is a skill which requires constant deliberate practice.
As I ease into 2023, memories of my trip home to Dominica keeps warming my spirit. I landed in the nature isle 5 years, 3 weeks and 5 days to the day I left in 2017. Never imagined so much time would elapse before going back, but alas, life, and a Global pandemic had other plans.
Truth be told, I started crying the second I saw those mountain peaks and the vast span of greenery my home has become acclaimed for. I wept like I was the prodigal daughter finally mustering the courage to return to her land. Sunrays nestled themselves deeply within me during my stay. Being home, with friends and family some of whom I had not seen for the entire 5 years I’ve lived away; conversing in our unfiltered dialect, mixing in the creole words like messieh and Zakway Tonne’ for emphasis was a spiritual experience.
This trip put into perspective the unspoken stories and internal dilemma migrants face daily. Every adult who has left the comfort of their homeland, to forge a life over the seas has remarkable guts as this is no noble feat. The small re-inventions we do constantly to fit in, adapt to new cultures, make friends, try new foods; are hardly spoken about. It’s a mild repression of our individuality, the pieces that makes us who we are.
Every single time I heard someone blurt out ‘Papa Borjaiii’, or said ‘Yes wi’, or ‘Ki sah’, in the fullness of our Dominican accent another part of me sprang to life. I hadn’t used or heard those phrases in 5 years, like the famous creole song recites, ‘C’est petite bitten ki ka faire aimee` Dominique’ which translates to these are the little things that make you love Dominica’ I am sharply reminded of the small repressions. I /we /most migrants make to fit into a new world.
As I spent time with friends and family, I earnestly tried to be filled in all parts of the puzzle I missed, that’s the thing, no matter how many times you call, face time, have zoom parties, the reality is you’re not here and so many moments will miss you. You will miss births and deaths, new homes, family gatherings, weddings. You will miss so much of the living, jokes and memes will fly over your head. While I grapple with this reality, I tried to be fully immersed in the present, ever so often stopping to ask things like, “why we call the MP Pam Palam?”
Even in my current home, after 5 years I am still adjusting and learning the culture. Although I’ve come a long way in understanding the Patois and society, there’s still a lot I have left to learn, to understand. To be lost in conversation with a group of friends because you don’t know the backstory of the Finsac crisis. It’s a constant weaving to be malleable to adapt to the situations you’re in, to long for your native dialect and conversations, but at the same time be enamored with all this newness.
There are so many things we take for granted when we migrate. We don’t discuss the challenges of maintaining our closest friendships, while simultaneously trying to establish new friendships as an adult, with adults who already have their own circle of friends. It’s a dichotomy really, to long for your home, the things and people who form part of your cultural identity while flourishing in other areas in another land.
After 3.5 delicious weeks in Dominica, while sitting at the airport, a gentleman, blurted out, ‘everytime I leave Dominica I have a serious gwopwell.’ (Gwopwell means love sick). Many others chimed in with similar sentiments. Some acknowledging the unasked question, no they didn’t want to return home permanently, but absolutely miss the island when they leave.
My friend Schy, challenged me to name my feelings when I expressed I felt sad and I didn’t know why after I returned. Call it by its name, you’re grieving for home. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your life here (in Jca), you’re in love with somewhere else too and that’s ok. That is life.
About ½ of you, my readers are migrants, I would love to hear your unspoken stories in the comments below, let’s continue to build community together here.