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Jamaica, the land we love

Recently, I had to travel to Jamaica for the funeral of my father-in-law, Victor Simms, aka “Sutton”.

Helene Mills-Stephenson gives her newest student, Linton Myrie, a trademark bear hug (Photograph supplied)

From what I could see, the country is steadily progressing with the construction of the South Coast Highway and other infrastructure projects.

Tourism is making a bounce-back with both cruise and air visitors to pre-pandemic levels. Without a doubt, the main attractions for millions of visitors per year are the island’s natural beauty, the abundance of natural fruits, tasty meals, and the friendliness of the people.

Once you are a visitor to their island, Jamaicans go out of their way to make you feel welcomed. Whether you are at an all-inclusive resort, an Airbnb or a private home, you are treated like family.

Whatever it is your heart desires, it will be there in abundance. Dishes such as curried goat, steamed fish, rice and peas, and, yes, the real authentic jerk chicken are freshly prepared while you inhale the heavenly scents.

Road trip

One day I was having a WhatsApp conversation and the other person stated “BTW I am in Jamaica.” I replied, “What a coincidence, so am I.”

Bermudians being who we are, an invitation was extended for me to come to their home for lunch. In retrospect, it may be safe to say that it was a direct order.

So, one Sunday, cousin Gregory, nephew Linton and I drove from our home in rural Port Antonio westward along the North Coast Highway towards Ocho Rios. During the two-hour drive, we made a few pitstops to collect sugar cane, pineapples, honey and coconut water.

After all, one must not show up empty-handed.

Upon arrival, we were met by what looked to be a young man outside tending to the yard. Upon second look, it was clear that this was our ever-dapper host.

We were now at the lovely home of Headley and Helene Mills-Stephenson.

A feast of ackee and saltfish, fresh vegetables, chicken and plantain had been hand-prepared for us. To top it off, we had home-made soursop juice. If ever one was ready to close their eyes and go to Heaven, that would have been the moment.

Bear hugs

During the course of the dinner conversation, we were treated to life lessons by our hosts.

Previously, I had never had the chance to sit and talk with Mr Stephenson, so for me this was a dream come true in some regards. I have always admired his work ethic and drive to be one of the best tradesmen and contractors in Bermuda.

As for Mrs Stephenson, ever the teacher, she took great interest in my nephew, Linton — asking him pertinent questions about his schoolwork, life goals and study habits. By the end of the night, they had become near inseparable.

Before we left, we were spoilt with goodies to carry home: mangoes, plantain and soursop. All grown in their backyard.

Two days later, we stopped by for a few minutes so my daughter, Danielle, could meet Mrs Stephenson.

Mrs Stephenson, from the great neighbourhood of Glebe Road/Pond Hill, was a former student of the Central School and then a teacher at Elliot School and Victor Scott Primary (formerly Central). Danielle was a deputy head girl at Victor Scott.

On both occasions, Mr. Stephenson gave us all her signature, loving bear hugs that thousands of her former students had enjoyed.

Jamaica, the land we love.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at carib_pro@yahoo.com

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Published April 14, 2022 at 7:56 am (Updated April 14, 2022 at 7:56 am)

Jamaica, the land we love

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