Sunday, March 10, 2013

Trouble in Paradise...

I actually started this post a few months ago and have been debating on whether or not to post it. But what the heck, this is my blog  so here it is...

Why it bothers me anytime someone casually says "So how is paradise?" I know you loving Paradise? How you going to leave Paradise? I'd much rather be in Paradise than here!"... Is that so? Disclaimer, this is not directed towards any one person. It is honestly a response to months and months of tongue biting whenever this word has been thrown my way. Please note, this is only MY opinion from my personal experiences. There are other volunteers as well as Vincentians that do consider this Paradise, I speak for myself only .

 I guess we need a working definition of  the term Paradise : Paradise is a religious term for a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the supposed miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and idleness. Paradise is often described as a "higher place", the holiest place, in contrast to Hell (Wikipedia)

or how about par·a·dise (
3. A place of ideal beauty or loveliness.
4. A state of delight  

Prior to my service here I had no idea that Peace Corps served in the Eastern Caribbean. I was aware that island life was not all sunshine and pleasantries behind the scenes but I did not know the extent to which many of the smaller islands still struggle.

This excerpt was in my Peace Corps invitation packet :  "The Caribbean is often referred to as paradise and is a tourist destination for many. This may lead you to wonder why the Peace Corps has a program here. Looking beyond the lens of a tourist you will see that the islands of Eastern Caribbean are working in earnest to diversify their economies, develop necessary infrastructure and attend to pressing educational, health and social needs. "

The film Life and Debt by Stephanie Black also highlights some of these issues.  It examines the economic and social situation in Jamaica, and specifically the impact thereon of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank's globalization policies. Its starting point is the essay A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid. (Wikipedia)

Now don't get me wrong, there are many positives about island life in the Eastern Caribbean... rich in culture (music, food, language, art...), chill pace, powerful and resilient history, immense lush geographical beauty and amazing people full of life, laughter and potential. But to just throw a blanket over the other things and call it paradise because of  what  enchants  your eye...that is what gets to me.

It goes both ways, many of the islands sell  "Paradise" to others and profit off this image to a certain degree.

This post is NOT to take away from the inherent beauty of this land or the radiant lovingness that exudes from some of its people. Or from some of the very successful people doing big things here that choose to stay or from those just living life with no desire or want for anything other than their homeland. This place is a gem in many ways, Yes. I just feel we should be mindful of slapping pretty little labels such as "Paradise" over an entire region  in effort to avoid silencing the very real cries and very important issues that exist underneath what is appealing to the eye. Placing all the focus on the beautiful land while not acknowledging the conditions of the people seems counter intuitive to me.

I am sure my response also has something to do with the nature of my life here, being a volunteer, as if I am chilling on the beach everyday sipping pina coladas taking naps in hammocks. That is not the case. But I do see how I might have contributed to reinforcing that generalization, most of the pictures I take are of beautiful views stamped with a big ole cheesy grin. I get it. I guess I just choose not to post the pictures of the less desirable moments and sights for various reasons.

...again this is just my opinion which is merely a perception from my compact yet concentrated experience as a volunteer in the Eastern Caribbean. This post just skims this topic, I have had a few lengthy discussions  over the last few months related to this topic which have all resulted in some great points being raised on both sides.

 I am  open to hearing what others have to say on this so please feel free to share, especially if you your coming from a different perspective.

If you look closely at a tree you'll notice it's knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.- Matthew Fox


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think this is great so that people both on the inside and the outside can have a broader perspective on what life is like in this region. It hints at the many layers that are present that so many people don't pay attention to and only are aware of the shiny, glossed over, non-diversed one. Good ting.

  2. Thanks Ticky, I know we have talked about this a bit also, and the conversation can go so many directions. Hard to funnel it down into a blog post. As always, I appreciate your offering to the pot :)

  3. Jess, I think you could apply this same conversation to most of the subjects in which people have found themselves (sometimes myself) unaware, misinformed, or disinterested. I.e, "Food," box store consumer goods, politics, and on and on. I appreciate you lighting the candle where you can. And further appreciate that there is a diversity of audience, I suppose, listening to your stories. Often, speakers are preaching to the choir, so to speak. You have knowledge. Share. I stay proud of you. Keep your mind open.
    Cant wait to see ya again.