Aleppo - The place time has forgotten
RICH AGRICULTURAL offerings and peacefulness aside, there is very little reason it would seem for anyone to venture into the farming district of Aleppo, St Mary.
Poor road conditions are an immediate turnoff and businessman Vincent Jahalal is quick to admit that the competition from new wholesale outlets has meant a serious downturn in business. Things are nowhere near as vibrant as when his parents operated the combination grocery shop and bar, catering to all the residents need.
"When they were alive we didn't have supermarket like in Richmond and Highgate. They didn't have competition so they used to do good business but since they passed off now everything has changed," he told Rural Express. "The Chinese are in Highgate, but people still supports us. It could be better, yes, but still I am not complaining really."
A native of Aleppo, born into a family of 12 children, Jahalal is one of three brothers still resident in Jamaica. His other siblings have long migrated in search of better fortunes.
With the last of his children on the brink of completing tertiary education the businessman has options in terms of relocating but is hooked on the tranquility, peace of mind and good experiences which adorned his childhood.
"It's a nice district. It's crime free; people doesn't even fling stone to hurt anybody. You will hear a man curse a 'badwud' but nothing more; and you can leave your door open, round here," Jahalal said in explain his decision to carry on the family business.
For the past 18 years he has hosted children's treat on Christmas Day, where the youngsters enjoy music, bounce-about and ice cream, as well as back-to school supplies.
"They support me and I give back to the community," is the guiding philosophy of this community philanthropist.
An old telephone booth with hand set still intact, though not functional, stands in mute testimony to better days in Aleppo. The structure houses a garbage receptacle which is put to good use since there is no litter scattered anywhere.
The poor road infrastructure is, however, the single greatest indication that the South East St Mary district is one that time and successive administrations have forgotten.
"We need road badly!" Jahalal said, voicing the number one concern for residents of the area. As he speaks, motorists heading from Richmond to Cromwell Land abandon the left lane of the roadway, hugging the right lane, in defiance of the road code. But the surface is so bad they have no choice. The businessman related having to pay to have the immediate area in front of his shop resurfaced, as well as for bushing of nearby areas on a regular basis.
Sipping on a drink as he tends shop, Jahalal makes a mere $100 sale during the 15 minutes he chatted with Rural Express. Still, he seems to be at peace with himself and definitely at home in Aleppo -the place time has forgotten.