Tag Archives: expat

First world habits, third world country

In ten days I will be moving back to Trinidad for at least three months, and probably quite a lot longer.

I am totally unprepared.

First, the basics. I won’t have an apartment of my own (and will be living with one parent or another, which is a regression on all sorts of levels). I won’t have have a car (and since I never quite mastered the art of Trinidadian public transportation, this is a scene). I won’t have reliable access to a high-speed internet connection (which I need for work to survive).

If I were moving to London, to New York, even to Hong Kong – I would know what to do. I’d be able to find an apartment with just a bit of legwork, a couple of phone calls and the good old interweb. I wouldn’t need – or want – a car, because I could avail myself of trains, trams, buses, ferries or taxis. Broadband would be a fact of life, not an expensive and hard-to-find luxury.

I would know how things worked – bills, taxes, banking. And if I didn’t know, I could find out – with a bit of legwork, a couple of phone calls and the good old interweb. I wouldn’t need to “know someone on the inside”. I wouldn’t need to slip a crisp bill or two to a surly public servant in order to get my driver’s license renewed without enduring three days of lining up.

Eventually, of course, I will figure all of this out. And learn to live with it. The problem, at this point, is that I wish I didn’t have to.

Yes, I am spoilt. I am one of those people. But there is no economic reason for Trinidad’s infrastructure to be in such total disrepair. For public services to be so inefficient. For the private sector to be so reluctant to embrace the fundamentals of customer service.

For us to be stuck in a third world way of doing things even as we adopt all the first world trappings – flashy cars, expensive restaurants, wine bars, and soaring, soul-less skyscrapers.

We need to forget Vision 2020. We need vision right now.

Expat Guilt

I’ve been grappling with the reality of moving back to Trinidad, and of giving up everything I’ve built up over the past six years.

My employers are unimpressed, and are making me offers no sane career minded individuals ought to refuse. And at the other end, the Trinidadian end, the powers that be seem to be hell bent on making me regret this decision.

So this quote from Adam Andrews, blogging over at D Blue Pill, seems particularly relevant:

It becomes difficult to find the balance between caring about a nation and preserving the self. I question my motivation, should I be concerned with what my country should do for me, or should I be concerned with what I can do for my country? [From “Split Me In Two“]

Exactly. I’m going back because I care about my country, and what I can do to contribute. So why are [certain unnamed and deeply hostile bureaucrats] making this so damned difficult?

I’ve been preparing myself for this, and I can’t say that I haven’t experienced this kind of small-minded ineptitude before.

But the reality is still bitter. And disenchanting.