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Expat/ immigrant/ local #1: Pamela Chow


This is a new series of interviews with people who live in Barbados. The terms local, expat and immigrant are frequently used worldwide to describe social status, economic status and signal the strength and depth of a person's connection to the country they are living in. The country that they may or may not call home.

Pamela Chow, 24, immigrated to Barbados from Guyana at the age of eight when her mum died. She works six days a week as a nanny and housekeeper.

'I wouldn't say I was from the Caribbean. No, I wouldn't say that. I'd call myself Guyanese. That's my home. The place where I really feel I belong. And have the most happy memories from.

'I was brought up by my aunty because my mum was really young when she had me. She had no money and couldn't afford to look after me. So she gave me up.

'I grew up in a busy house near the capital, Georgetown. There were six children - me and my five cousins. It was a good life.

'Sometimes we'd walk to the docks and sit on the wall, dangling our legs into the sea. At the weekends we'd take the bus out of the city to visit our relatives in the countryside, the windows wide open to let in the fresh hill-top air.

'We had a garden with a fruit tree and I remember climbing to the top, my hands smelling of mangoes, looking up at the bright blue sky throught the pattern of thin green leaves.

'Everything changed when I was eight. A woman I'd never met before came to our house and said she was my grandmother. She had grey hair tied in a bun at the back of her head and told me that my mother had died suddenly, and she was going to take care of me from now on.

'That's when I found out that I was moving to Barbados.

'I'd never heard of Barbados. I didn't know where it was or what it would be like there. I was frightened and I didn't want to leave my aunty. But I was told that I had to go. And that was that.

'On the airplane my ears felt like they were going to burst. I remember looking at Guyana from above, a blanket of brighly coloured roofs and green fields.

'When we arrived, we took a bus to my granny's apartment. On the way we passed the sea which was bright turquoise and sparkling in the sun - nothing like the murky grey water I was used to.

'The first few weeks were hard. I missed Guyana, my grandmother's apartment was small and I didn't like my new school. "The other children teased me about my accent, my food (Guyanese curry and rice packed by my grandmother) and the way I looked.

'My hair was long and straight, not hard and curly like theirs - so I made friends by letting the girls brush it and braid it during break time.

'Even though I've lived in Barbados most of my life, I'll always be seen as an outsider. When I got on the bus yesterday, a guy called out to me,

"Hey you Guyana girl, go back! We don't want you,"

'But I just pretended not to hear. That's why I wear these headphones when I'm out and about. They block things out.

'I didn't want to come to Barbados but I live here now. I have friends here. My grandmother took me out of school when I was 16 and I've worked since then in restaurant kitchens, and doing cleaning.

'I've never found it hard to get work but every year I need to find the $2,000 fee to cover my immigranmt work permit.

'For now, I feel lucky. I have an income. I can save money. I can plan. And one day I'd like to get married and have kids of my own. Who knows what the future holds?'

#Expatimmigrantlocal #livinginBarbados #homesickness

© 2015 Yvonne Gavan & Three Kinds of Sunshine, All rights reserved.

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