“Just when everyone is saying how great you are is when you are most vulnerable.” — Page 5: Inside the Magic Kingdom by Tom Connellan.
The friendly NE trade winds propelled the full Sunday afternoon Jet Blue 662 flight out of Grantley Adams International Airport to Kennedy in New York, half an hour early and consequently passengers were bussed to the customs area. Within 20 minutes I had cleared customs and was at the customs exit, awaiting transportation.
“Welcome to New York, do you need help or have any questions?” shouted a member of a multicultural uniformed group who stood beneath a welcome arch.
For me, this was a new and interesting development and I wondered if New York was fully being marketed as a tourist destination. It was an extension of the Times Square mindset of simply providing opportunities to take money out of a visitor’s pocket.
Immediately, I recalled this comment that was made by another returning passenger:
“I enjoyed myself in Barbados, but I didn’t feel welcome.”
I had no problem with the efficiency and effectiveness of any of the airport staff but clearly there was no in-your-face hospitality. Staff checked information, searched for bags and verified compliance, but I don’t recall anyone asking if I had a good time!
Thankfully, at least one person remembered me.
I clearly remembered his face and occupation but not his name. He was still as energetic as 20 years ago, standing at the Gertz complex corner in Collymore rock and pedaling mangoes. I got the same verve, smile, and chat as way back then when he was selling ackees and nuts, as a teenager. As I left with two “pawee” mangoes, an onlooker asked him, if he knew me. He laughed and loudly said:
“How yuh mean, if I know ‘e eva since. He lives up the road.”
The next Saturday morning, he was in the yard of JB’s supermarket, with full pushcart of bottles. I said hello and asked him what he was going to do with the two breadfruits and three mangoes. Listen.
“I like to thank people who give me bottles. Besides, yuh never know when people hungry.”
On Saturday, after a meeting, I stopped in Palmetto Square. At a vendor I asked for pudding ‘n souse.
“Mista it done already. You can get ground food, split peas and rice with ox tail or fricassee salt fish,” said a vendor with a large smile.
“Excellent,” I said.
“It is not the first time I hear dat. Eva body from New York does say so,” she said.
The dumplings were truly Bajan — light, soft, oblong and with a little meal. Certainly different from the Jamaican styled dumplings — round, hard and flat — that I got from the supermarket. For me, eating a piece of freshly dug red sweet potatoes, freshly picked breadfruit, cassava with fricassee salt fish was heaven.
So why do Barbadians appear to see little value in their lifestyle as the sample below shows:
At a supermarket, I saw six to eight choices of goat cheese and fresh goat’s milk and a superb range of product choices. Near the said supermarket is an excellent gas station 24 hour mini mart, with the latest in ATM’s and top up telephone machines. A quarter mile West you can reach the sea, a top class fast food restaurant and other restaurants, sports and entertainment bars, malls and financial institutions; turn east and add more of the same and night clubs.
Now here is a treasured moment. It was late evening. The Father’s Day lunch had long passed, and we were enjoying the evening’s chit and the chat by the poolside when the island-wide blackout occurred. Without any prompting, the jokes and stories started, just like yesteryear on moonlight night.
So how can we make visitors feel welcome? Maybe we can offer tourist bottle of sunshine and plant Pride of Barbados fences along the corridor of the unsightly open space as one leaves the airport.
BUS RIDE FOOT NOTE:
Some 52 members of the Barbados Ex-Police Association of Toronto visited Elizabeth New Jersey for their annual bus ride. Last Saturday they were entertained by their Brooklyn counterparts, at their club house 705 Crown street.