Kareem’s Quest: Meeting Nippy at Quashie Gap
While on my journey to Blue Ridge Restaurant and Cottage, I got a bit fatigued driving on the serpentine road to get there. As I approached a community square, I saw a shop on the right. With the midday sun beaming through the window of the vehicle, I looked for a shaded area under a guava tree. As I neatly parked the vehicle, a route taxi stopped in the middle of the road. The driver, clad in a merino, with a spliff to the side of his mouth, came out of the vehicle and headed towards the shop. The occupants seemed unbothered as he hailed his friends, while purchasing an orange juice and bun and cheese.
About 10 minutes later, with his car door still open, he looked around for any potential passengers then jumped into the car and drove off with one of his hands outside the window. It was obvious it was lunchtime, as most of the shop seemed crammed with people, so I waited a while before entering. To the right of me were two men doing some construction work and another, who was assisting, and seemed oddly out of place. Curious to know what he was doing, I introduced myself by saying, “Hi, I am Kareem, what are you doing here?”
He responded with a strong British accent, “I’m building a bus stop for the community. It’s dangerous at nights when people just stand in the road.”
Outfitted in an army hat and clenching an Arizona drink, he diligently placed the final touches on his contribution to the community. With his prominent incisors and wide-grinned smile, he looked at me and asked, “Do you like it?”
To which I responded in the affirmative, and followed up with a question.
“What’s your name? Judging from your accent, are you from England?”
Squinting his eyes, due to the glaring sun, he said, “Everyone calls me Nippy, and I would say I am from Europe.”
I asked Nippy what brought him to Jamaica.
“My best friend introduced me to the island in 1991. He has a lovely family with a mother that would cook all day and ensure everyone was happy. I fell in love with that energy, so I always kept coming back.”
About six years ago, he decided to move to Jamaica permanently, as it has helped him to practise his Buddhist faith better. “I had a good job back home, but I didn’t feel fully at peace, being here is much more calming for me. I feel comfortable and easy.”
As my conversation with Nippy ended, the shop was empty, so I decided to seize the moment to have a word with the shopkeeper, Miss Ann. She is a pleasant woman with a face that doesn’t look older than 35 years old. My first question to her was, “Miss Ann, how old are your kids?”
To which she replied, “I have three kids, dem range from 27 to 33.”
Shocked, I looked at her in disbelief and said, “Really?”
With a comforting smile, rosy cheeks and braided hair, she smiled and said, “Yes, I am older than I look.”
It was clear that her shop was the venue of choice for community socials, which are held on most weekends. With a wide inventory and perched in the middle of the hills, I asked her how she went about stocking up on goods. “I have to plan out my days, as you know bus don’t run up here. So I make my relevant arrangements and then I head to the Bigga Plaza in Papine.”
As we chatted about various things happening in the community, I ordered a drink and a pack of peanuts. At the end of our conversation, I felt rejuvenated and I told Miss Ann I hope to see her again real soon.
Location: Quashie Gap in the hills of St Andrew
Who is it for: Persons who want to take a drive out and breath the fresh air of the mountains.
Tip: Travel with cash to support the local farmers, who usually have their goods on display.
What stands out: The road was recently paved and the community is really clean.
What to carry: Wear a coat or layered clothing as the temperature is usually cold.
Must try activity: Stop by Miss Ann’s Shop, buy a beer and have a conversation.
Vehicle needed to access property: A sedan with a strong engine should do the trick.