Real Live Angels
I think most people would agree that Jamaica has some of the kindest, nicest, most wonderful people in the world and, occasionally, you even encounter some who arrive like living angels just in time to relieve some stress.
My first encounter with an angel in the flesh was some years ago, when our adventure club added cycling to its activities. Bursting with ambition after having heard about the famous Kingston to Negril cycle race, we decided to take on that long ride on our own in preparation for one day, possibly even having members officially enter.
We left from Kingston 4:00 one Saturday morning, and as we were taking the south coast route, stopped in Lionel Town to have breakfast. Then just before getting to the Milk River Bath intersection, continued past the Manatee refuge at Alligator Hole and on past Alligator Pond before undertaking the real challenge - up that steep, everlasting hill to Top Hill in St Elizabeth.
By then, some of us were ready to quit, but to take shame outta mi yeye, I slogged on and by the time I got to Comma Pen, I was ready to die, so we stopped at a shop piazza to rest.
It was then that a gentleman out on a Sunday spin saw us and stopped to find out how this strange, dishevelled group of riders had managed to surface in his community.
After finding out about our crazy, near-impossible quest, he told us to wait so he could go to his field to get us some melons to help quench our thirst.
We waited quite a while and when we saw no sign of him, we 'cyclists on a mission' resumed our journey. By then, one of our support vehicles being driven by businessman Michael Chuck headed back to Kingston as he could not take the Saturday off. As we rode along, up came the gentleman, who we later learned was a businessman from Comma Pen named Billy Powell, and not only did he have melons for us, but also some vegetables.
He explained that he had taken longer than planned as when he went to his melon field, none was ready for reaping, so he had to travel over to a friend to get ripe ones for us. He then enquired what had happened to the other persons who had been with us, and when we told him they had headed back to Kingston, he jumped into his car and chased after them to give them a melon and some vegetables too! We later learnt from Chuck that he chased them all the way from Comma Pen in St Elizabeth to the top of Spur Tree hill in Manchester, refusing to give up until he caught up with them to hand over the promised watermelons! Absolutely amazing!
Ever since then, we have spoken of Billy Powell often because of his magnificent act of kindness to total strangers.
We interact with other wonderful Jamaicans weekly. Another overwhelming and spontaneous act of kindness came when we cycled to Silver Hill, Portland, some time ago.
To get there, we took the Newcastle road which goes all the way to Buff Bay, Portland, as we set out to enjoy a day at a wonderful new waterfall called Fish Dun, Avocat or Black Bridge Waterfall, near Silver Hill, which had been highly recommended by one of our riders, businessman Alrick Robinson.
To get to there, we rode through one of the lushest, most verdant areas in Jamaica where cute little houses dot the hillside and waterfalls just gush out of the mountainside. This road tends to be narrow and winding with one or two actual breakaways in parts, where we had to dismount and gingerly push our cycles on slippery terrain with huge, deep gullies below, but the natural beauty of the hills with waterfalls all around more than compensated for whatever difficulties and dangers we encountered.
CRAZY FOR COFFEE
Because this is coffee country, the tempting aroma of freshly roasted coffee was ever present, so by the time we reached our destination, I was going crazy for a cup. Unable to hold out any longer, I soon took a walk from the waterfall to the nearby district in the hope that I would find a shop, bar, anything that could supply me with a strong, hot cup of coffee. Interestingly, while I could get any amount of beer or rum at the shops that Sunday morning, coffee was just not available so, despondently, I started to return to the group.
As I passed a nice, little concrete home on the return journey, I saw a lady sweeping the verandah and playfully called out to her asking if she would not like to give me a cup of coffee. You could have hit me down with a straw as immediately, she replied "Sure, come in."
I couldn't believe not only my good fortune but also how unhesitatingly she had invited a perfect stranger into her home. As I reached the verandah, she welcomed me warmly and told me to have a seat while she went in to prepare that precious beverage.
I soon learned that my gracious hostess and angel in disguise was a housewife named Donna Roberts. She was a stay-at-home-mom with two lovely kids to whom she introduced me, who attended the nearby Catholic-run primary school. Her husband, Horace, was a truck driver with RADA, who collected produce from farmers in St Mary and Portland and transported the goods to Kingston and large supermarkets along the way.
They had lived in Kingston for a while, but had returned to their district some four years before as they thought it was far better to bring up their children in a peaceful, safe, friendly country environment.
Even now, I am still overwhelmed by Donna who so willingly and spontaneously invited a total stranger into her home for that (life-saving to an addict!) cup of coffee just like that, and Mr Powell who chased down someone he did not even know, for miles, to keep a promise.
In October each year on National Heroes Day, a large number of persons receive national recognition for their contribution to nation building. While some are deserving, amazingly, many others are rewarded for just doing the jobs they are paid to do, but if I were asked who are the really great people who make this country a paradise, I would reply the Billy Powells and Donna Robertses in our country.
For with the violence that is ever present, the poor governance and bungling bureaucracy, it would be almost impossible to be comfortable in this country had it not been for the kind, generous, warm but unrecognised Jamaicans who you encounter all over the countryside in this wonderful island of ours.
As this is the last of this series for 2014, I would like to take the opportunity to wish the Powells, Robertses and all the other kind, generous Jamaicans out there who I have not yet met an absolutely wonderful holiday season, a peaceful Christmas and a most prosperous new year; and to Mr Powell, I hope you have recovered fully by now.