I’ve Got a Name: 11 Awesome People We Met in Jamaica
There is something very beautiful in simple interactions with people in passing. Whether it’s the person next to you at the bus stop, in front of you in the grocery store, or anyone you meet in any venue – the gift of a few moments to connect with a fellow soul is a good feeling.
If anyone has ever been to Jamaica, you know there are a lot of vendors everywhere there – on the beach, roadside stands, and just milling about. It seems like everyone is selling something and it can be overwhelming – unless you get yourself into a good frame of mind.
Just like in your home country, everyone is just trying their best to make a living. But in developing countries like Jamaica, many are extremely poor and selling their wares is their only life sustaining method.
Out of respect for what they do daily, and out of respect for them as human beings, my goal is to be cordial and polite. I know if it were me walking 7 miles up, and 7 miles back down a beach with heavy sacks of merchandise – on extremely hot days – I would feel grateful for interest and kindness.
During our recent trip to Negril, we met so many beautiful souls – simply by engaging in a few minutes of humankindness.
What I found most interesting, and even a bit sad, is the fact that these people were surprised that we would stop to talk, ask their names, and express genuine interest for what they do.
This is Patrick. We met him as he was selling fresh lobster on Seven Mile Beach. Oh my, it was incredibly fresh and tasty! Patrick enjoyed posing for photos, even suggesting a few poses of his own like this one. He took great pride in his profession and had an amazing attitude.
Meet Tosh. After four years of riding and walking up and down Norman Manley Blvd in Negril over the past couple years, we found Tosh’s little gem of a store/restaurant called The Swordfish Grill and Ice Cream Parlor. A little place tucked into a nook right around the corner from The German Bar in Negril. They serve many different dishes but we were all there just for the ice cream. Their ice cream is hand made in Kingston and oh my gosh it’s so creamy! Service with a smile!
Meet Samuel. From neck to knees he is covered in hand-packed bags of hand-picked herbs, teas, and spices. He is happy to explain what each one is known to help with medicinally. We scored some turmeric and a big bag of tea that is said to benefit the body in many facets.
Meet Simon. Taxis are plentiful in Jamaica. If you’re not operating a fruit stand, bar, or food shack – you probably are driving a taxi. Simon gave us a lift to the West End one afternoon. He’s been driving his taxi for 30 years. He is 57 years old and supports 7 children and 5 grandchildren.
Meet Salomea. She’s been trying to get me to have my hair braided for 4 years now and I finally went all in and got it braided. Salomea’s stand is but a chair on the beach just a few steps from Travellers Beach Resort on the beach. I sat there for an hour and a half on the beach while she worked her magic and it was bliss. Only the sound of the waves nearly touching my toes. Heaven. Plus, I didn’t have to brush my hair for like 6 days. Salomea also sells beautiful jewelry which my friend Cindy (pictured) purchased. Cindy also gave Salomea a big bag of string – dyed in Jamaican colors for her to craft some bracelets and help her make a few bucks.
Meet Norman. What a sweetheart with a beautiful smile. Norman crafts coconuts into Christmas Ornaments. Each one is hand-painted with a beach scene and can be personalized with your name. He plants himself at various resorts in Negril – usually one day a week each.
Meet Barney. He operates a little-known oasis of gorgeousness on the West End of Negril called Barneys Hummingbird Garden. Honestly, of all the tours we’ve gone on over the years, I think this one was the coolest. You can see the hummingbirds and other birds all over his beautiful gardens, including the Doctor Bird – a hummingbird with a long split tail. The birds were taking a bath in his sprinklers and literally drinking out of hummingbird feeders that we, his guests, were holding in our hands. It was quite amazing!
Meet the lovely Maureen. This spit fire is all of about 4 feet 8 inches or so. She has a lovely little stand on the Seven Mile Beach near Clive the carver and sells some really incredible hand-made jewelry, including those cute ankle bracelets that strap onto your toe.
Meet Clive. He’s dedicated many years to his craft of woodcarving and it shows in his products which are wonderful and some are even whimsical. He was surprised that we had taken an interest in the process of carving and was thrilled to have a few photos taken of him in action.
Meet Gem. Ah Gem. We first met her four years ago in front of Legends Resort on the Seven Mile in Negril. See that big giant basket of fruit? She carries it on her head. All. Day. Long. The first time we traveled to Jamaica was the first year we met Gem. I snapped a photo of her and she pretty much yelled at me to give her some money for that photo. I was taken aback. But we all learn something from others if we try to understand them, and I learned from Gem. First of all these people aren’t animals at the zoo. They’re people. They have names and lives. Their image is something they created, therefore it is worth something to them. In this case – that photo was worth a buck or two – out of respect for her as a human.
I have great respect for Gem, although sometimes her looks could still pierce me. Every year since, I make it a point to buy something from her and always wish her well. Last year when we took down a suitcase full of Blessing Bags, I made sure I reserved one for Gem. She literally was flabbergasted. She took her basket off her head, and gazed at the Blessing Bag. She thanked me and held up the bag to the other people on the beach sunning themselves and said, “Look what I was given!” She sat down, which is rare, to check out the bag of goodies. I pretty much teared up. It was a great feeling to see her happy.
Meet Little Marie. She owns a little bar on the beach off the beaten path in Little Bay, Jamaica. A beach that you will find Rastafarian boats (it’s a fishing village) and big giant cows. Yes, cows. On the beach. Across the road is a man who sells hand-made wares made of straw. Little Marie also cuts hair, which she did right after serving us some warm rum and coke’s (ice is not readily available on most of the island.) Truly a great jewel of a place and a treasure of a smile.
One final thing I know you’ll enjoy…
Most Important Lesson (A Parable)
During my second month of nursing school, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”
Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark haired and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.
Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count towards our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘hello’.”
I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.