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Miss Alabama loving Jamaica

Published:Monday | January 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Sheena Gayle, Gleaner Writer

Miss Alabama Teen USA, Ashlyn Alongi (right), with her mother Sandy (second left) and sisters Payton (left) and Presley, on vacation at the Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay St James. - Photo by Sheena Gayle

Western Bureau:

Captivated by the warm personality of the Jamaican people and the delicious food, the Alongi family has become an unofficial tourism ambassador for Jamaica within their home state of Huntsville, Alabama. The family has been visiting the island for the past 18 years.

"This is home," notes Sandy Alongi. "My husband and I honeymooned here and we've been coming back ever since. We have been coming here so often that even persons back home are convinced that we have family here. Whenever my husband wants to feel calm and relaxed, he thinks of coming to Jamaica to do so," she confessed.

Secrets of Jamaica

In an interview with Flair at the luxurious Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay, St James, Sandy Alongi and her 17-year-old daughter Ashlyn who was recently crowned Miss Alabama Teen USA, disclosed the secrets of Jamaica that keep them interested and fascinated by the small island of over 2.7 million people.

One of those secrets is their unwavering craving for local fruits, especially mangoes. The obvious burst of excitement in their voices during the discussion, spoke of their desire for the fruit which seemed to have ignited their taste buds to explore all the varieties.

Ashlyn concurred with her mother's passion and love for the island. "There is nowhere like here; when we vacation, it does not feel as if we have left home. We enjoy rice and peas with jerk chicken; we eat that every single day. We just love it. My mom even prepares it sometimes at home; that's how much we love it," she smiled.

Enriching experience

When asked if she would consider coming to the island with her friends instead of her family, the 4.0 GPA cheerleader, who loves playing the piano, explained that while most teenagers may find it odd to vacation with family, for her it's an enriching experience to be with family all the time.

Her mother added that the family is enthralled by the idea of philanthropy while vacationing. "I have been to schools in Negril with my daughter and read to the children, and just the look of gratitude on their faces for something that simple, really touches our hearts. We always come to Jamaica and take gifts for the less fortunate. We believe that whatever we can share with those in need, is what really matters at the end of the day."

She continued, "Jamaica is not as bad as most people think. We have been here time and time again; we have interacted with the people within the communities; we even take the local taxi service and it's just a beautiful experience, one that cannot be captured in words. You have to come here and see for yourselves," she concludes.

From left: Mother and daughter Sandy and Ashlyn Alongi.