REMEMBER when I interviewed an Irishwoman living in St. Lucia? Dee Lundy-Charles spoke to me about the pros and cons of leaving her native Ireland and coming to live in Saint Lucia as a white woman in a predominantly black island.
Well today we have the reverse…a St. Lucian living in the USA.
Merlissa James who hails from La Croix Maingot speaks about life in the land of milk and honey.
With hordes of locals believing that life must be better across the pond and that allure of the bright lights, big currencies and opportunities calling their names, the pull is sometimes far too strong and many fall into the trap only to discover hardship and heartache.
Many also realise that you indeed never miss the water (your home) till the well runs dry.
The married mother of one explains how life is not what it may seem on the big screen and has some eye opening advice for anyone wishing to be in her place.
The VOICE: How long ago did you leave Saint Lucia and why?
Merlissa: I left five years ago. Me and my boyfriend left. We left home because my boyfriend (now husband) at the time was getting into a lot of trouble and home did not offer jobs for the young guys. There’s no work but you still have to eat and so you find yourself doing things that are against the law. Even for some people who went to school like myself with seven CXC’s and went to A Level but you cannot get jobs unless you know someone. So we decided to speak to his mom who is a U.S citizen and she filed for him. We then both went up on his green card.
The VOICE: You live in Texas…what is life like there?
Merlissa: It is very racist. That was a culture shock for me. The African Americans there are very racially sensitive and they’re very much into the “black lives matter” movement but I always say that where I’m from we don’t have that…we don’t have that form of racism because we (blacks) are the majority. There’s no way that a police officer will stop you there because you are black, he will stop you for some other reason. There’s also that gun law where people have the right to bear arms whereas where I’m from, it’s not a right to own guns…you can’t just go online and order guns and ammo and it arrives in the mail. That worries me especially as I have a young daughter. Before moving to Texas I used to live in New York and these places are completely different. The big city is very multi cultural and there’s a lot going on whereas Texas is very residential and I don’t even think there are skyscrapers. It’s also cheaper in terms of living as opposed to New York
The VOICE: What are some of the biggest perks to living abroad?
Merlissa: Opportunity and it’s true what they say. It doesn’t matter where you are from and who you know, if you really want it, it’s attainable. This is as opposed to St. Lucia where if you really want it, you can be great at it but the opportunities are not there and the government does not provide for you. When you leave secondary school, even though you’re smart and you want to go to school, if your parents have no money, then you don’t go to university unless you’re super lucky and get a scholarship.
The VOICE: What about the cons?
Merlissa: The weather. Saint Lucia is just rain or shine. There’s no autumn or winter where you have to switch clothes and shoes according to the time of year.
The VOICE: How would you compare Saint Lucia to your new home?
Merlissa: It never stops in the U.S…it’s just work and that’s all. Even though you have the fancy things, you need to be working, pay bills etc. In Saint Lucia, it’s laid back. Yes, people work but we have a good time and the people are happy with much less…it’s just happier. Up here in U.S.there are loads of opportunities and the government helps you.
The VOICE: Do you ever get treated like an outsider?
Merlissa: I couldn’t really say that because I guess my personality does not allow me to feel that way. I’m not trying to be American. I’m very proud of my heritage and I’m always flying my Lucian flag. I get very offended when people assume I’m from Nigeria you know.
The VOICE: Do you miss your homeland and would you consider moving back?
Merlissa: I miss so much like the beach and fresh fruits and yes, we are definitely moving back.
The VOICE: What are some of your biggest concerns about living in a land that’s not your own?
Merlissa: It doesn’t bother me because I have a plan and that is to come here, accomplish a couple of things and go back. Sometimes I try to be careful to not get caught up in the American lifestyle so that I will be able to adjust when I go back home.
The VOICE: When you log on to social media, you see photos of Saint Lucians living it up abroad but what is the reality of that life?
Merlissa: I’m not living it up. People see you posting pics and just want to ask and ask and ask…I’m famous for saying no. I offer but even my mom and sisters, I tell them no, I can’t send barrels because I’m trying to have a life up here. This is not Saint Lucia where if you don’t pay your water bill, you can get water from a neighbour or a river. Here, when they cut you off especially when it’s cold, it’s life or death.
The VOICE: What would you say to your fellow Saint Lucians wishing to leave Saint Lucia with dreams of thriving in the land of milk and honey?
Merlissa: I would tell anyone who has a job and a place to live, even if you’re paying rent and even a car, do not leave Saint Lucia…stay home. The American dream is not all what it’s cut out to be.