Thoughts On Leaving Jamaica

Left Jamaica this morning. Bittersweet Goodbye. So much of the experience of the place and people was so wonderful. And some parts were incredibly challenging.

The Caribbean Sea is exquisite. Getting in it everyday, usually two or three times a day, was such a gift. The minute I enter that water, everything in me feels so calm, happy, and perfect. It is some of the best medicine I have ever experienced. When I am in that water, I feel home.

The lush jungle in Portland Parish, where I spent most of my time, is a cornucopia of colors, sounds, flavors, and feelings. Crystal clear waterfalls, every shade of green imaginable, vines growing around trees filled with birds chirping and singing, flowers of bright yellows, oranges, and reds. Papayas, bananas, coconuts, breadfruit, and ackee—my new favorite fruit—although it is used for savory not sweet. This place is truly beautiful in so many respects—a piece of Heaven on Earth.

As for the people, in Jamaica, like everywhere, there is such a mix. It was interesting learning the culture of Jamaican people, and then getting to see the variances within those cultural dynamics. The joy, humor, and vibrancy of many of the people, even in the most challenging of situations are truly a delight to experience. Not to mention that I saw more absolutely physically beautiful people in one town than I usually do in a huge city, 10 times or more its size.

I had to be extra mindful because more than once I realized I was staring at someone, completely enthralled with their beauty. My experience was this made people either uncomfortable or they saw it as my coming on to them and then tried to “link up”—Jamaican term for actually connecting with or meeting up with someone about anything, but often used to reference sexual hook-ups.

The biggest challenge in Jamaica for me was around having huge problems with my lungs from dust, smoke, and pollution. It is ironic that I had such problems with my lungs because one of my biggest reasons for wanting to move to the tropics is that normally, my lung problems, which I experience all too frequently in my life, disappear when I am in the tropics near the sea or ocean. But this trip, my lungs got worse, not better.

Another challenge for me is the extreme religious fundamentalism that pervades every part of Jamaican society, accompanied with the usual huge hypocrisy that goes along with the rigidity of religions worldwide.

As many people know, I am not a huge fan of religions in general, although I am deeply Spiritual, and do my best to honor the Spirit that is within all the different religious traditions. My issues with most religions is that they don’t recognize that they are not “THE TRUTH,” but rather are a tradition passed down from previous generations of the “truths” of that time. This does not negate the truth that does exist in every religion I have studied or explored because, of course, there is wisdom and inspiration in them all.

It is just the belief that certain religions own the rights on what “TRUTH” must mean for everyone, everywhere, forever that makes me sick, hurt, and sometimes angry. And add to that, the fact the world’s most known and recognized religions are based on a male, patriarchal system and God (except for Hinduism and Buddhism that also have female deities—even though they too are still male deity dominated), what little interest I had in the tradition to begin with, pretty much disappears. I am interested in truth and learning from anywhere and everywhere, it just gets hard when it is always told from the male perspective and delivered by men and saying that the Higher Power is male.

As a woman, I challenge this belief system frequently, and have since I was young which was problematic considering my father is a preacher and my mother is an intense adherent to her beliefs around Christianity—regardless of how I expressed that I experienced her religious intensity as negative and even abusive. I am constantly amazed at how few women challenge the patriarchal religious systems, and how many women embrace lower status in societies directly related to religious beliefs. Somehow, many women, all over the world, have embraced a subservient standard by accepting and supporting and adhering to belief systems that link men and male energy to power and to the Divine so that a woman’s place is always as the servant to that male-dominated system.

In Jamaica, religious beliefs are fierce. And they are prevalent, and they are proselytized. And many people are homophobic to the extreme. And meanwhile, from what I could tell from my time there, most families are made up of many children, none or few who share the same father and sadly, all too frequently, no father present at all in their lives. And it is a common, accepted practice that men cheat on their girlfriends and wives with regularity. And then say, “Praise Jah” or quote scripture when it is convenient to back up some narrow-mined belief. Women are seen as something to be used for sex and producing children—and many of the women seem to feed right into this belief. The status symbol of the man’s virility is how many kids he has—even though too many do absolutely nothing for their children once they are born.

I am not trying to say these beliefs and behaviors are true for everyone, of course. But they are prevalent and pervasive—enough to really stand out. And it makes my heart sad.

As for trash and waste, much of it is burned causing massive amounts of pollution—hence my lung problems. What isn’t burnt is often thrown on the ground and in the streams. Jamaica exports its trash to I am not sure where, shipping it out on barges, and meanwhile, the only thing it recycles is plastic bottles and doesn’t do a very good job of that.

And of course, there is the huge discrepancy between the haves and have-nots. Individuals and businesses in the tourism industry are making millions while workers building the hotels and resorts and working at them live in shacks. All of this is supported by a corrupt government—as many governments are wont to be (including the US government and the Obama administration. )

And, really, what much of the aforementioned challenges point to is how numerous threads of similarity run through so many places that I have been, and experiences I have had. Everywhere, there is beauty and devastation close by. Everywhere, there is profound power of the human spirit to rise above the most intense problems with laughter and love, and yet its close neighbor is the ability of the human being to be manipulative, exploitative, violent, and cruel. The dance of duality is part of the human experience. It is part of my journey in this lifetime to try to find a way to dance this dance with grace, compassion, love, and at the same time, my fierce commitment to integrity and not shying away from calling out injustice and unhealthy choices wherever I see them.

I say goodbye to Jamaica and head out on tour across the US. I am still in search of home in the Caribbean—a place within walking distance of the sea (preferably right next to the sea) where I can also grow food and have my own place with kitchen, and add to that very cheap rent or the ability to barter for rent. Where are my ruby, red slippers? If you find them, will you let me know?



Published in: on April 12, 2010 at 4:36 pm  Comments (35)  

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  1. Well said, Julia! =)

    It is ironic that religion has become the bane of most poor countries. If only more people spoke out against fundamentalism. But fundamentalism works well for the rich and powerful – it keeps the poor in their place, and puts money into the coffers of the rich. Hence, few would dare – even in an affluent and highly developed society – speak out against its evils.

    Which leads to the second irony – of how the clean air of the tropics, is now too filthy to breathe. Nothing is worse – than not being able to breathe the air around you. (I know what that feels like having had severe asthma in childhood.) I’m sorry for what you had to endure. I can’t even begin to imagine how bad it is for the people who actually have to live there, all their life.

    I’m posting a link on my FaceBook page – so that a few fundamentalists I know – get to read what you have written. I could never be so eloquent in my critisism. Or, so forgiving.

    Mathew Titus

  2. Thanks Mathew for the link and the feedback!



  3. Good luck on your US tour. Safe travels.

  4. There’s many critiques of others in your writings, but my question is, where is the female activist that for years promised to spend her days “serving” others and the environment? Sunbathing in the Caribbean and kvetching about men and Christianity between dips in the waters?

    There’s lots of work here in the states for people who are truly willing to “serve others.” We have plenty of poverty, homelessness, youth with no direction, no futures, a car culture that destroys the environment, chronic obesity problems from bad foods, and so on and on. Lots of work! Take your pick of homes, cities and roll up your sleeves.

    Or find yourself a grass shack on the beach and listen to Bob Marley with your Ruby Reds eating passion fruit on the donations people sent to a person who said she’d use the donations “to serve.”

  5. Julia, I too, used to love swimming until I started having lung and sinus trouble myself. The air isn’t the only thing that is polluted. Swimming in water that has seasonal pollen in it as well as bacteria and chemicals can be causing your troubles. Just a thought. Anyway I hope you find yourself a comfortable nest to call home and fill it with all of the things that make life beautiful. And do watch your step, corrupt governments don’t take kindly to being called corrupt. Have a most pleasant day. Brad

  6. Julia
    Is there anyway that a couple days ago, you were in Keene New Hampshire at Panera Bread? I could have sworn I saw you there

  7. ironic for me is the fact that ever since a young age i always thought christ was neutral gender. OR 1/3 OF THE “I AM” ROUNDED OUT BY FATHER AND SPIRIT, that said of late i’m noting how out of step THINKING IS. I was going to the grocery store and stopped at the trash to collect recyclables. the police stopped to tell me to stay out of my own trash after its on the curb? AND THEY WERE serious and RESPONDING TO A COMPLAINT. so much for low rent free pickup. hope air quality improves 4u my mom says the weathers nice north florida on the gulf. happy thoughts 2u….
    ruby slippers hmm were did those get packed….

  8. No. Wasn’t me. julia

  9. hi scratch, i was volunteering the whole time i was there, but you wouldn’t care about that because all you care about is judging me and feeling like you have some right to tell me what to do with my life. Luckily, i do not need nor care about your approval or judgment. julia

  10. Dear Julia,

    You, your thoughts and your words, are truly beautiful and inspiring. I honor your being and look forward to being in your physical presence one day. Any plans for visiting San Francisco anytime soon?


  11. Not for publication:

    You’re right. It’s easier to write you off as a bad investment in interest and in caring about your direction after a decade of following your various causes. But remember you, like other public figures and media celebrities, have soliticed the attention-getting. You didn’t mind soliciting funds and support from me for years – but you want perfect feedback and ideal mirroring.

    That isn’t realistic. It’s childish.

    Not everything you write or stand for or put out there as a public figure is agreeable to the rest of us. The public deserves the right to comment and disagree with your views of life.

    Or you can withdraw yourself as a public figure, be private, don’t go on the lecture circuit or make a living from it or solicit donations to support it. There are plenty of us who “serve,” don’t need media and public adulation to do so!! Then you can kvetch about men and Christianity all you want and nobody will care, except those around you that have to listen to it.


    ~~~ Scratch

  12. go girl go! scratch don’t like it then stop reading.take it from a former burnout all work leads to problems, in my own ministry i tell em don’t want me to use it my way keep it. had several complaints that i resold “donations” well if your out on the street helping you can’t lug around 50/60 washer dryers that were replaced new and wrote off on their taxes for way more than you will ever get. by the way good advice to watch your step w/ the governments. =)happy thoughts spring has sprung so work 2b done

  13. Hi Todd,

    Not sure when i will be doing public event in SF again.

    Thank you for your kind words of support.


  14. Scratch,

    i never said i wanted perfect feedback. Nor did i ever say or pretend that everyone has to agree with me. Hence the reason i posted your feedback! There is a difference between differing opinions and people who are mean-spirited and judgmental. Your response was judgmental to the point of being mean-spirited. But i posted it anyway. i don’t call people names when i talk about my thoughts and feelings. You, however, do. But i post you anyway. You sign off with peace, but your words and the way you choose to talk about your differences are anything but peaceful. It is very possible to have differences of opinions and be peaceful in the communication. Feel free to write me off as a bad investment. That is your choice. i will continue to be in service (in Jamaica and everywhere i go, including wherever i find to be my home base) wether you support it or not.

    All the best in finding people to support that more fit what you want, need, and demand,


  15. and people wonder why it’s called a mountain top. easy target after long arduous travel by someone who see’s you but isn’t there yet themselves. peace is accepted better when we start with our-self first. happy thoughts. prayers for a base camp.

  16. There’s those who thinks that strong powers, wether political, religious or of other nature, can’t be good.
    Sometimes i think that too.

  17. Sorry”Sratch”,You Can’t Infiltrate- downpress(Rastarian very apt word smithing for oppress)The Golden Soul Shine Blazing With The PotencyLove Of A Thousand Suns Of This ButterFly Woumans Heart!!!
    I say your time on this page iz completely Up!

  18. Watcheay Julia

    I truly appreciate that you are doing your part for the earth. At least you are doing something. If we could all somehow do our part by supporting those who are standing up for the environment and for humankind then we may make a difference before the forest and mining companies do more damage to our ecosystems. It takes commitment, strength, and sacrifice do make an effort and make an impact on anything. If we could all band together, as numbers speak louder, and for long periods of time, then we may make a difference. We may not advocate in the way others may want us too, but then maybe it’s time for them to step out.

    My people have been struggling with the forestry and mining companies and the government for years.
    Here are a couple of links you may want check out regarding our issues.

    The Ring of Fire threatens an environmental disaster that could be compared to a mini-Tar-Sands.–natives-lift-ring-of-fire-blockade

    My First Nation will be protesting the “Ring of Fire” some time ibn June up in North Bay, Ontario.


  19. All of the causes that were mentioned need immediate attention, however, one person can’t do everything, and we are entitled to enjoy life and to relax. We need to destress when we can, or we will become depressed and sick. Nature is here for us to be one with, to enjoy the beauty of her, and to treat with the respect.

    The causes and worries of the world will always be here, and we do what is necessary to change what we can, and serve where we can.

    We still need to take care of ourselves, or we won’t be much good to do anything.

    Have you ever heard of the 1/3 rule?

    Thanks Julia

  20. Hi Glad! Have not heard of the 1/3 rule, but i do definitely believe it is important that we take care of ourselves as we also care for the Earth and our world!


  21. Hi Glad,

    Thank you for sharing both your care and commitment and the challenges you and your people are facing and standing against. i am holding you and all in my prayers. May more people join in the movement for healing our relationship with the Earth and with one another!


  22. Scratch,

    I donated to Julia, and afterward berated myself for not including a note requesting she use the money personally, to acquire a soul-transportive tea and dreamy vegan salad in some cute, hidden cafe somewhere. Why would I do that?

    Because she’s already given one thousand times more of herself than most people will in their lifetime, toward a better world. Because she’s smart. Because she’s been the charismatic embodiment of inspiration to those desperately needing it. Because her heart’s entirely, unequivocally in the right place. Because she’s stayed sensitive in a cold world. Because she is human and despite her gorgeous imperfections, needing love and support back like anyone.

    It’s easy to cast stones at public figures, and our ego loves it. And it’s easy to find fault anywhere in this world. But when you address another soul, words are powerful; they lift, stab, heal or hurt.

    Julia owes us, who wrongly feel she ‘owes’ in the first place, nothing more. If she chooses to cast herself to an island in Fiji, I will applaud her. I will send her organic beach towels to support her sea-salted limbs. I will mail her exotic teas from places that still today, are enjoying the ripples of affect from the thousands of speeches she has generated with love, understanding, peace and beauty.

  23. Hi Ken!

    Thanks for your kind and supportive words. Thank you for honoring the fact that i am a human being doing my best and still at the end of the day, a human being. i do have imperfections–comes with being human. : ) And i am committed to finding a home base where my physical well-being can thrive. And i can promise you that as it is my nature to serve, i will serve wherever i end up and wherever i go. i am currently on tour in Pennsylvania. It is grey and overcast here. Your words feel like sunshine to me, and i can not thank you enough for the generosity of your words and sharing. i do my best to not get upset when people are being so mean, but as i am human, it sometimes hurts. Thank you for allowing me the grace of being human– even if i am somewhat of a “celebrity” (which isn’t actually how i see myself, but more how some others see me.) May someone show up for you with such generosity when you need it!

    Love and Deep Gratitude,


  24. You’re doing a GREAT job, Julia – and don’t let anyone bring you down for speaking your MIND and being HUMAN! That’s what sets you apart from the BIG corporate entities that absorb more than 50 percent of their donations for administrative fees and other operational costs. In spite of this, their success rate is nearly always, negligible. Often, they have done more harm, than good – in my opinion.

    You touch LIVES. And you make things HAPPEN. And you do that on a GLOBAL SCALE! (Although at times you may feel that no one is watching, and no one cares – nothing could be further from the truth!)

    You have made a BIG difference, Julia. There isn’t enough money in the World – that can buy the unconditional love that you have given to the world. I only wish there were more of you, to go around!

    Our world is priceless and irreplaceable – and so are YOU!

    Stay healthy, stay happy – and let the critics say what they please. Your record speaks for itself! =)

    Mathew Titus

    PS. I wish I had spoken up earlier – but I thought that “Scratch”s remarks were so obviously mean spirited, they didn’t deserve any sort of response.

  25. Hi Julia

    As predicted, I knew you would see the ‘light’ and reality of Jamaica. A Truly beautiful land, full of great potential, and lots of paradoxes.

    I stayed there back in the 70’s – the height of the rastafarian movement – you know – Bob Marley was just coming on the scene then etc. But I found a lot of contradictions and hypocrisy with most rastas. Professing and chanting “Jah-Rastafari”, then turning around and getting blazed on weed, and chasing women from one side of the island to the other. But the experience was enriching.

    Hey, if you want to check out a beautiful ‘tropical’ place Julia, visit the Seychelle Islands. I guarantee you that you just may find your ruby slippers there 😉

    The locals, in some sense are, well, culturally biased as in most places around the world, and have their myopic views – especially towards women, gays, etc. but the Islands themselves are stunning!

    Finally, in my years on this beautiful piece of cosmic dust that we live on, I have come to learn one thing in my travels, that being; people are primarily the same everywhere. And that happiness will not come from someone else-although people are important. Happiness,’TRUE’ happiness can only come from within.

    Much Love to ya JB


  26. Scratch: I send you love so that you can heal the anger in your heart and light to find people and projects to support that are aligned with your world views.

    Ken: Thank you so much for your beautiful words, I couldn’t have said it any better.

    Julia: Of course, thanks for your work in this planet 🙂

  27. Thanks Ingrid for your loving responses to everyone!


  28. Hi Rich,

    Actually, i expected and knew about most of the things i talked about Jamaica before ever getting there except for the trash burning. i never expected it to be perfect in Jamaica. As i mentioned in my writings, i experience similar problems almost everywhere i go. If it weren’t for the trash burning, i would be moving to Jamaica in May. In many ways, the challenges i experienced in Jamaica is exactly why i would be great living there, because i could make a real difference there. Unfortunately, i wasn’t able to be physically healthy there, and that is what i am not willing to compromise anymore. My biggest reason for looking for a home in the tropics is because that is normally where my health challenges get better. So, although i LOVE Jamaica–including it’s challenges– the only reason i am not moving there is because of my health and not because of the challenges with the culture.
    i greatly appreciate that support. : )


  29. Thank You Mathew for your kind and supportive words and reflections!

    Sometimes, i do feel like i wonder if i am making a difference at all, and i question and doubt. Although, i feel it is healthy for me to check in on myself and be open to critique from others and myself, i am deeply grateful for reflections like yours that do let me know i am having some positive impact as well because that is truly my heart’s desire, prayer, and commitment!

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to reflect this to me!



  30. Julia-
    Thank you for the validation 🙂

  31. I’m sure you already know about this, being all awesome as you are, but it sounds like you belong at Punta Mona!

    Cheap or free on the Carribean, with a beautiful, veggie/vegan diet, yoga in the morning, sunsets and jungles….I’d be there but my Babylonian ties are strong right now. :-\

    Blessed be, beautiful sister!

    ~Kaya K~

  32. Dear Julia;

    I honor your commitment to find a health-supportive place to live and saw your note about being open to new ideas and strangely (to me) feel drawn to respond. I spent over a year traveling through the Caribbean west indies many years ago, on a similar search at the time for a place to settle. the spot that really impressed me the most was Carriacou, the largest of the Grenadines and technically part of Grenada. I’m sure it’s changed since I was there, but back in the late 1980’s it was obviously ecologically and culturally more vibrant and intact than almost all other islands/places I visited in the Caribbean. I didn’t do any online research per se but here’s one link to more info. if you’re curious:

    good luck to you and may all beings find support from a special place on earth that nourishes body, mind and soul.

    Honoring All Life – Evan (Ashland, OR)

  33. Thanks Evan, for your encouragement and supportive words and also for the great link and recommendation of where to look!


  34. It’s muggier in St. Louis than Jamaica, but the streets are a little safer these days. Try the dark beer at Schlafly’s, it’s good, but it gives me a headache. I think I’m allergic to something in it. The pale ale is good too.

    Do you like biking?

    I think it’s a real growth area in environmentalism. There’s jobs to be created there and it has a solid broad appeal. If you’d like to go bike riding, let me know. I’ll show you some of the trails in the area.

    Or you and all your friends can go on being angry liberals claiming “love in action.”

    ~~ Scratch

  35. Hey Scratch,

    So i can either go on a bike ride with you or else i am an angry liberal. That is an interesting leap.


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