In this episode of “Jamaicans to the World”, Jamaicans.com founder Xavier Murphy speaks with Andre Huie. He is a Jamaican living in Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in St. Kitts and Nevis? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of Jamaicans.com and today I talk to Andre Huie, who is a Jamaican living in in St. Kitts and Nevis. Hi Andre. How are you?
Andre: Hi Xavier, I’m doing fine. Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Xavier: Good, good, good. First question which paat (part) a Jamaica yuh cum (you come) from (which part of Jamaica are you from)?
Andre: Well, I am from the beautiful parish, Southern parish of Clarendon. I was actually born in Spanish Town but basically, I grew up in Clarendon. I just went to the hospital and came back. I’m from Clarendon; from a small district called Palmers Cross.
Xavier: How far from May Pen or one of the main cities is Palmers Cross?
Andre: Palmers Cross is not very far from May Pen, maybe about three or so miles from May Pen. I could take a taxi and within less than 30 minutes, I mean, I’m in May Pen. I you could basically say it’s almost part of May Pen except that yeah, you have to travel some distance but not very far.
Andre: In Palmers Cross, that’s the closest major town.
Xavier: Okay, I hope some of my family members don’t see this. They may say you should know where all parts of Clarendon are, because my mom is from Clarendon.
Xavier: But it’s a town most people may not even be familiar with. It’s a small town called Tweedside in Clarendon.
Andre: I heard about Tweedside. I’m not even sure exactly where in Clarendon Tweedside is, but I’ve heard of it before. You see, Clarendon it is a pretty big Parish too. I mean, when you compare to the other Parishes, it is the third largest in Jamaica. It’s a pretty huge Parish.
Xavier: Way up a (far up in the) bush in Clarendon. Tweedside is way up a bush ( (far up in the) bush.
Andre: Okay, up in the hills then? Okay. Yeah.
Xavier: Did you go to high school in Jamaica?
Andre: Yeah, man. My school, my Alma mater is, my beloved Clarendon College. I want to say the real CC, because there are several CC’s in Jamaica; Cornwall College and others but the real CC is Clarendon College up in the hills up Chapelton.
Xavier: Big up Clarendon College, and so you represent.
Andre: Yeah, man. All the time.
Xavier: The next question I have is your story. How did you get to St. Kitts and Nevis?
Andre: Well, actually, my story is quite interesting, because I didn’t come directly to St. Kitts and Nevis from Jamaica. I actually lived in St. Maarten, which is close by Dutch, St. Maarten for about seven years, close to seven years. I worked there and then I decided to come to St. Kitts and Nevis. Interestingly enough, while I was in St. Maarten, I had a colleague of mine from Guyana, who was living in St. Kitts, who was visiting St. Maarten back and forth, then he said to me, you know, you would well in St. Kitts as a broadcaster, because at the time, I had interest in broadcasting. I was in print medium, but I had interest to do broadcasting and he was saying, you know, with your voice you’d do very well in St. Kitts on radio.
In the back of my mind, I kind of always thought about going to St. Kitts because I’ve read about St. Kitts, I’ve seen news stories about St. Kitts, and for a little country it was intriguing to me, because they’ve always talked about how well St. Kitts was doing economically from a prosperity standpoint. As an independent Commonwealth country, I found that interesting. So, I’ve always was intrigued about St. Kitts and Nevis. In 2008, I came with a friend on a weekend, just to check out the place, see how the place look, and the moment I came, I said, wow, this place just reminded me of Jamaica in a lot of ways and it felt at home. I felt at home almost immediately. I said to my wife when I came back, I said, you know, we have to come to St. Kitts, I think this is where we need to be. After doing all my homework and grown work in St. Maarten, I made the transition in 2009 with my family and we moved to St. Kitts, and we’ve been here since 2009. So yeah, 11 years going on to 12 years now.
Xavier: Oh, so a couple of things opened up there that I have to ask about. One, is your wife from St. Maarten?
Andre: No. Actually, I always tell people I have a Caricom family because my wife is from Guyana. I met her in St. Maarten and we got married in Guyana, but she’s actually from Guyana originally. We have three children. The first one was born in St. Maarten and she’s only 13 years old, and then the other two were born here in St. Kitts and Nevis. I have Kittitians in my family, I have Guyanese and Jamaican.
Xavier: You are Caricom my friend. Why did it remind you of Jamaica? Two parts to this; why did it remind you of Jamaica and what area in Jamaica in particular or just overall Jamaica?
Andre: I would say, well, I even had a friend who is from Jamaica who lives in St. Maarten who came to visit us shortly after we moved, like maybe a year or two after we moved and he said the same thing. You know, simple things like, well, when I came the first time, I did a tour of the island and I was looking at the place and it was naturally beautiful. That’s one thing you could say about St. Kitts and Nevis is that it’s a naturally beautiful place, you don’t have to do too much for it to exude beauty. The other thing too is that in the main town, you could easily say that Basseterre which is the capital city in in St. Kitts could easily be part of a small town in Jamaica, you know, a place like maybe Spaldings or even parts of May Pen for example. You know, just the layout of the town and how things are structured. I think also there are a lot of historic buildings here as well, especially in Basseterre, and I know there are certain parts of Jamaica when you go you still see the historic architecture, the Georgian architecture that we inherited from colonial times, and a lot of it is here in St. Kitts.
Nevis for example, when I first went to Nevis, it reminded me of Portland a lot, because Portland, you know, Port Antonio is a small sleepy town, you know, not a lot of activity going on in Port Antonio. I remember visiting there before and when I came to Nevis, it just reminded me of that because it’s small, it’s sleepy, it’s not busy, it’s not a lot of activity going on, and it’s just nice and calm. So that kind of jumped out at me and I was like, well, I felt at home. Then another thing too that kind of reminded me of home a lot, so when my friend came here, and we were giving him an island tour, we stopped somewhere in a place called Saint Peters and they had a standpipe on the side of the road and there were some children there catching water, and he looked and seh (said), look standpipe, a long time me nuh see standpipe (it’s a long time I don’t see standpipe). There are no standpipe in St. Maarten, so when he saw the standpipe, he was like, blown away. He was like, boy, me feel like me deh a Jamaica (I feel like I’m in Jamaica). So those are the little things, you know, that kind of remind you of home and that just resonates with you.
Xavier: You took me way back for a minute because when I spent my summers in Tweedside, my parents would she (say), summer, unuh going a country (you are going to country), right.
Xavier: We had to go to the standpipe probably, I feel it was like about two miles away, it may have been shorter, with those buckets to carry back water to put in the barrel. So you took me back there for a minute.
Andre: Yeah man. The pipes really reminded me of home and here it’s not like, well, people really go and catch water for basic use because most homes have running water, but a lot of people and I used to do it as well; they go to the pipe to get drinking water, because the water is so pure, it’s coming from the mountain. So generally, people would save money, and instead of buying bottled water, they will just go to the pipe and catch water. So that’s what most people tend to do at the standpipes.
Xavier: What are the people? Because there’s always this, you’re all Caribbean, you’re the same. No, we’re not all the same.
Andre: That’s true.
Xavier: You know, what would you say is kind of some of the difference or distinctions you have found with folks there versus Jamaican versus where else you have been? What would you say?
Andre: Well, I think a lot of people would say that Kittitians and Nevitians are different people to begin with, you know, especially on Nevis. When you go to Nevis, you know, people there are willing to help if you need help, here as well, but people here tend to be a little bit reserved in a lot of ways. For example, when we first came here, obviously, you know, the country is a small country. So obviously, if you’re new to the country, it’s only a matter of time before people realize that you’re not really from here, and one of the things that they tend to do a lot is they will look, they will stare. They will just look at you, I guess maybe trying to read you out and trying to observe you a little bit. They’re not the ones that will come up to you and say things do you or introduced themselves to you, that kind of thing. They’re more reserved, they tend to watch you and they may make you make the first move. You will have to make the first move and maybe approach them and whatever, but generally once they get to know you and you get to meet them and know them, they’re very friendly people and they will help you in whatever ways. So one, they’re very reserved, unlike us Jamaicans, we tend to be a lot more outspoken and everybody afi know we deh ‘bout (everybody have to know that we are around).
Andre: But Kittitians and Nevitians are very reserved. They will talk if they have to. They’re very opinionated and if you get the chance to talk to them about politics or about anything that’s on their mind, they will tell you their mind. If you solicit it, you will get it. They may not come up to you and tell you upfront, some of them do. Some of them are more outspoken, but majority of them are tend to be laid back and if you engage them, they will talk.
Xavier: Right. I don’t want to stereotype. I visited St. Kitts, also from a cruise ship, you know, visited there twice, and visited a couple of Eastern Caribbean countries. Again, I don’t want to stereotype but one thing I know they are more passionate about, and if you want to start a conversation is typically cricket.
Andre: Well, yeah, that’s true. I mean, St. Kitts and Nevis is a sports place, and they love their sports. If they’re not happy with certain things, especially cricket, they will let you have it. They will have a huge debate when it comes to cricket. Yeah man, they love their cricket. They really love their cricket.
Xavier: Yes. The impression of Jamaicans. When you say you’re Jamaican, you know, and again, I know people travel and all that. Is there a particular impression that you find people have of Jamaicans while you were living there? Have you found that?
Andre: I think it depends on who you talk to. Different people have different views of Jamaicans. Generally, I would say, and this is just my experience, I would say they have been generally accepting of Jamaicans. In fact, one of the things that encouraged me to come here as well, when I first visited, I was introduced to a couple of Jamaicans, very influential Jamaicans here, and I was taken aback and impressed with the fact that there were some Jamaicans here that were in prominent positions, and they were doing very well from a business standpoint. In other words, they were involved in business, they were well known, and they were well loved. Case in point, for example, there is a Jamaican living here who has one of the, if not the leading fine dining restaurant in St. Kitts and Nevis, world famous Marshall’s Restaurant.
Whenever visitors come, you ask any visitor about Marshall’s restaurant and they will tell you, it’s a lovely place. They love it. It’s in a very nice area, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. It’s a very beautiful place and the food is very good and Mr. Marshall has been living here for a long time, and he’s well respected in the community. When I first came here and I first met him, you know, I was like, wow, this is great, because I didn’t experience this when I was in St. Maarten, you know. They tend to look out for their own, and people of in the Dutch system, as opposed to someone from the Caribbean Commonwealth. When I came to St. Kitts and I saw Jamaicans doing well here, I was impressed, I was like, wow, this looks like a place I need to be. Generally they are accepting of Jamaicans and, you know, of course you talk to some who, you know, maybe they’ve had bad experiences with Jamaican, so they don’t really look too kindly to Jamaicans, but generally, I find that at least from my experience, that there are they are accepting of Jamaicans for the most part.
Xavier: Good, Good to know. Music, so what’s the dominant music there? Because I know some people seh (say) yeah, man, I get my full reggae here and I get my Soca and I get my, you know, my this, but yeah, what’s music like there?
Andre: Music is huge here in St. Kitts, in terms of you know, the entertainment side of things because of course, you have Carnival and Carnival is, you know, it’s a national festival essentially. Music will come out there, Calypso and Soca in particular, but Reggae and Dancehall is huge. One of the things found very fascinating when I first came here, and still to this day, is how influential Rastafarianism is in St. Kitts and I’ve talked to other Jamaicans who say the same thing is like, dem neva see so much rasta in such a small place before (they’ve never seen so many Rastafarians in such a small place before). Rastafarianism is very influential here, so obviously Reggae goes hand in hand with that. As you talk about music, St. Kitts has probably only few remain in music festivals in the Caribbean, the St. Kitts Music Festival, which is over 20 years old, and the music festival is every year. This is around a summer around June, late June, and we have artists from all over. They have artists from the US and there is never a music festival, or a music festival is never complete unless you have Jamaican artists. You always have to have your Beres Hammond, Chronixx, and your dancehall artists, top down dancehall artists dem (them), they come here for music festival every year. If you talk to the artists, they will tell you they love coming to St. Kitts, St. Kitts is one of the places they love coming to perform. Soca is also huge, so you have a lot of Soca artists coming. In fact, all Soca is not equal; let’s put it that way. There are different styles of Soca depending on where you go. For example, in St. Kitts, the Soca that is indigenous to St. Kitts is called, well they call it all kind of names but is popularly called Willa’s, or well Jamban I think is USVI but they call it Willa’s Soca, basically, you know, as a colloquial term, and it’s very fast. It’s much faster than Trinidad, because Trinidad sometimes tend to slow it down, but St. Kitts soca is very fast, it’s very up tempo and it has a unique sound. Almost all of it sound the same, almost, but you know, it has a little difference here and there and it’s hugely popular. Even in St. Maarten, if you go to St Maarten for example, around carnival time you will hear St. Kitts soca playing over there. You go to the BVI, you go to the USVI, any of those islands down in the Virgin Islands, you’re going to hear St. Kitts soca. St. Kitts artists, they have a growing fan base not only in St. Kitts and Nevis, but outside of the country as well. It’s a very unique sound in soca, let’s put it that way.
Xavier: Yuh (You) see you’re dropping some knowledge here on us because I never know the, you know, for us soca is soca, you know. Yes, you hear some slow, yes, you hear some fast. I know you have Wilders as you called it.
Andre: Wilders Soca.
Xavier: Wilders soca. All right. I have a friend from St. Kitts so I’m going to drop this knowledge.
Andre: All soca not equal, that’s for sure and if you perform in Trinidad, if any of these artists go to Trinidad, and it’s well received in Trinidad, you know, the Trinidad artists and fans, they kind of appreciate it as well. So when the artist go to Trinidad and perform, they appreciate the sound as well. It’s different to what they play in Trinidad, far different.
Xavier: I’m going to switch up a little bit, food. Are you lacking any of your Jamaican food there? I know some folks will say, well, it’s the Caribbean and I’ve heard folks that say, listen, I don’t get this here, this is just not cooked here, it’s not popular here. Are you lacking anything there?
Andre: Well, let me start with the restaurant side. If your person who go out and eat, you can get Jamaican food because there are enough Jamaican restaurants here to satisfy your desire. I just talked about Mr. Marshall at Marshall’s restaurant, so he cooks Ackee and Saltfish and you can get your curry, and your oxtail and ting’ (thing) there. There’s also another prominent Jamaican restaurant, Jam Rock restaurant, in a place called Frigate Bay and he’s also been here for a while and he’s also established his name. Jam Rock restaurant is one of the established Jamaican restaurants here. You can go Jam Rock and anything Jamaican you can get there, authentic Jamaican cuisine you can get there. If you are looking something more closer to town or in the Basseterre area, there are several others there too. In fact, I have a friend, colleague who is from St. Kitts, she eats a lot of Jamaican food, and there’s a particular restaurant in town that she goes and buy her food and when you smell it, Xavier, it smells authentically Jamaican. It’s like nothing missing. It smells like Jamaican food and there’s another one too in a place called Fourth Street on the main street in Basseterre, where when you walk in there it’s a bar and a restaurant. When you walk inside, you feel like you’re in Jamaica because dancehall music a play and you’re hearing it from out the road. You know that’s a Jamaica restaurant and when you walk in there you have a bar, di man dem a play dem dancehall, dem a do dem ting (the men playing dancehall and doing their thing), a few Jamaicans congregate there from time to time with some locals, and you just go to the back and you order your food. You can get your fried chicken, your stew chicken, your curry goat, your oxtail. Yeah.
Xavier: Let me ask you this then because there is some food that we eat that typically now, you know, yuh (your) mannish water, yuh (your) run down, yuh (your) cow foot soup, you know? Again, maybe you don’t fool around dem (those) things, right?
Andre: I don’t really love cow foot soup but me used to eat it, because my mother used to cook it and pressure pot the cow foot in the pressure pot. I don’t see much of cow foot soup, me nuh see much a dat (I don’t see much of that) A minute, it’s mostly like oxtail, and fried chicken and those kind of things. I’m almost probably sure maybe Jam Rock does that too. If I ask the owner he probably does it, but I don’t see a lot of it but you talked about mannish water. That’s actually a local cuisine here, but they don’t call it mannish wata (water), they call it goat water.
Andre: Goat water is their specialty here in St. Kitts and it’s a popular thing. Anytime when they have a function or you go to a party, you can’t have a party without goat water or a concert. You have to have goat water. It’s similar to mannish water, but they have different name for it.
Xavier: Yes, and we’re kind of like that, you know, some events you’re going to have a mannish wata (water) before you eat your main meal, you know, you get your cup of mannish wata (water)
Andre: Yeah, man.
Xavier: You’re not lacking anything there. It doesn’t sound like you’re lacking.
Andre: I think if your person who home cook, because I mostly home cook, we would want things like Ackee and saltfish which you don’t really get. There are a few Ackee trees, well not a lot, a couple Ackee trees here. There was one person, a friend of ours, who we used to go there and buy Ackee from her. She said since passed on, and then you might find one or two Ackee trees around the place but you don’t really get Ackee a lot and I don’t really buy canned Ackee.
Xavier: I see.
Andre: That kind of rule it out for me. Easter time, you can get your Easter bun. Yuh get yuh HTB buns dem (you get your HTB buns), they import them. You have some people who will sell them and use them as fundraisers so you can get your HTB bun and ting (thing)
Xavier: And yuh cheese and everyt’ing (and your cheese and everything)
Andre: And your cheese and everything and, you know and stuff that you normally get a Jamaica. Some things you will get in the supermarkets.
Andre: Some you don’t get; you just have to do wid wah yuh ‘ave (with what you have).
Xavier: Wait it out.
Xavier: Let me ask you this in terms that you talked about Ackee and there’s not a lot of Ackee trees there. In terms of the fruits itself, you know, you getting mainly the same fruits or there’s one thing that you’d say man, I was talking about this and I call it, you know. I know some places Ackee is not Ackee, okay, or we call it an East Indian mango, dem (they) just look at it like a regular mango or whatever. Tell me one of the incidents, not incidents, but a time when something like that happen when you’re like, well, we call this this in Jamaica, and this is named something different here.
Andre: A good example of that has to be June plum. I guess maybe we’re the only ones in the world that call June plum, June plum because everywhere else has a different name for it. Here they call it golden apple. They sell it here too, so you can get it here if you go to market and stuff. When I go in the market and say, well, give me two June plum, they lost, they don’t have a clue because they don’t call it June plum, they call it golden apple. You get a lot of mangoes here too, different style of mangoes. I should point this out. I think we call it full belly mango in Jamaica, the big fat mangoes dem (them). Nevis is actually known for what you call, well, I don’t know if we have Poly Mangoes, we have one called poly mangoes in Jamaica.
Xavier: I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of Poly Mangoes.
Andre: Well, Poly mango, I think it’s similar to the full belly one, we call it full belly in Jamaica. We have Poly Mangoes and it’s mostly on Nevis. i don’t think I’ve ever seen any on St. Kitts. Around summertime, people would send to Nevis for Poly Mangoes because it’s grown in abundance in Nevis. You could just take a boat trip over to Nevis if you’re craving Poly Mango and you go over and you get your poly mango, but I think we call a different name here in Jamaica.
Andre: But definitely June plum.
Andre: June plum is one of those things. We don’t see eye to eye wid dat (with that).
Xavier: Folks if you head to St. Kitts and Nevis mek (make) sure you seh (say) golden plum.
Andre: Golden apple.
Xavier: Golden apple.
Andre: If you seh (say) June plum, yuh (you’re) lost people.
Xavier: They gone. On another note, on a more serious note, in terms of getting and living and you may can point people in this direction, how difficult it is to, you know, as a Jamaican if I move in, live in, getting residents, and so on there in St. Kitts? Is it a long process? And again, I don’t expect you to know the forms and the details, but is it a long process? Is it a tedious, long process? How difficult is it if someone wanted to say I want to move here and work and live here?
Andre: Well, I could share from my experience. My experience wasn’t difficult, and it was primarily because I applied through the Caricom Single Market and Economy, CSME. That is a provision that’s put forth by Caricom that allows Caricom nationals to move and work in all the Caricom countries without the need of a work permit. That process, but it’s right now, and I know for a few years has been that way, it’s only limited to certain professions. In my case, I’m a journalist, and journalists are included in that process. The journalists can apply and their families can also be included in the application process. My process was very seamless, I brought the documents that they asked for, which are usually birth certificate, marriage certificate, if you’re married, and you know, something to show your qualification that you are a journalist, I think it also extends to teachers, and nurses and some other professions. Once you fall in those categories, you can apply, you just bring the documents, you submit them and it doesn’t take very long within a month, two months, sometimes depending on the backlog of applications they have and it doesn’t seem to me that they have a lot of applications. You can get your skill certificate approved and once you have that, you take that to immigration, you get your immigration stamp in your passport, and that’s it, you can live permanently in the country without having to apply anymore.
Andre: Essentially, there are other processes though, because if you’re not included in those categories, and you want to come and work, then you will apply for work permit. I mean, I don’t know, but generally, it seems as it’s the process is pretty seamless too just not as easy as the CSME process.
Xavier: Okay. Folks, for those of you who, you know, just hold one passport or migrated somewhere from Jamaica or whatever, it’s encouragement to know that if you have your Jamaican passport also…
Xavier: It makes that process easier.
Andre: Yes, it really helps.
Xavier: In terms of cost of living, what’s cost of living like there? Is it medium, low, high, how would you talk about cost of living? What is it like?
Andre: I think most people would consider the cost of living high, primarily, when it comes to things like food, and clothes. In fact, we tend to compare it with St. Maarten, because St. Maarten was the last place we were living before coming here. When we do comparisons, we realize well, food, yes is more expensive. In fact, people around Christmas time because St. Maarten is so close and St. Maarten unlike most of the Caribbean is duty free. People would leave from Antigua and they would leave from other parts of the North Eastern Caribbean and they would go to St Maarten to shop in bulk because they would get the stuff a bit cheaper, and because the fact that it’s duty free. When it comes to like things like food and clothes, it’s a bit on the high end here. Although, you can also get a bargain and a deal depending on where you’re go.
When it comes to other things, like, well my experience, when it comes to utilities, and I’ll give you a case in point. Everywhere around the world, we pay for water we pay, we get water bills, and we pay water rate, et cetera, et cetera, and sometimes water can be higher depending on your usage, but here in St. Kitts you pay one flat rate for water which is $20 EC dollars, which is about $7 US dollars roughly every month, for residential Of course, providing that you don’t consume over a certain amount. So once you consume within a certain amount, you only pay about $20 EC dollars every month for water and that for the most part is affordable for people who are not going over the amount the usage. Electricity can be on the high end depending on your usage, but my experience has been, you know, we stay within a certain frame and so we could we could manage, but cost of living can be high depending on where you live, because also you look at rent.
Rent in certain places can be high and one of the reasons to why rent here is considered high is that there are about three overseas universities based here, where American students and students from all over the world come and so the landlords are catering to those students when they want accommodation. They’re looking to rent apartments and stuff of that nature. They’re giving them US prices, quoting US prices. It kind of make it a bit high for some locals when they want to rent places then they’re more or less competing with the American students.
Xavier: I see.
Andre: Yeah, but generally though, I mean, if you want affordable housing, the further away you go from Basseterre, the cheaper the housing.
Xavier: Right. Okay.
Andre: You could find a two bedroom house or maybe even $800 EC, which is like $300 US.
Andre: Way in the countryside. If you have your own drive and you can find your way to town, no problem, but for most people it might be an inconvenient.
Xavier: I believe I saw that unit, an American type University…
Andre: Yes. University.
Xavier: Yeah, when I was there, but my interest is this one; you said water is about on average $7, right? You pay like a flat rate. There are some huge houses I saw, and again, I’m talking about… There’s this place I remember where we traveled to, and again, it was one day, right? You’re doing this cruise thing, you get off, and you tour, but we went down like a hill, and there are these massive houses and then you go back up at the top of the hill to see this view. I don’t know if you know where I’m talking about.
Andre: I know where you’re talking about. You’re talking about Timothy Hill. Is that the hill where you can see the Atlantic and the Caribbean side?
Andre: It’s Timothy Hill.
Xavier: Yes, maybe I’ve gone ahead of where you’re going to tell people to go because I always ask that question, but my question is, I can’t see dem (those) houses…
Andre: In $7.
Xavier: Dem (those) huge houses that I saw there, $7?
Andre: No, I think some of those houses, and you may have apartment complexes, too, so I’m sure they would be more because I don’t think they’re going pay just $7.
Andre: Generally, though, even some houses that you rent, most houses that you rent, they will include water in the bill, in your rent money because it’s so cheap. So you don’t pay water. Most people don’t have to go to the water service department to pay water because it’s included in your rent and the landlord pays it because it’s so low.
Andre: And part of the reason why it’s so low too is that, St. Kitts has what you call aquifers, underground water storage. So when the rain falls, the water seeps underground and there’s a particular area called a, which is part of the Basseterre Valley aquifer, the Basseterre Valley Park, where construction is not allowed on that area because that is the area that is deemed to house our water supply. That is one of the reasons why water is so cheap, because we have this underground water storage where we can draw water from, which they have been drawing water from, even though they said of late that because of the drought conditions, we have to watch what the usage of that because it’s getting low.
Xavier: I see. I’m going back to this now, and maybe you’re going to give us something different, but you know, the view was nice upon that hill. Again, I don’t remember the name you just called, you just called the name of the hill.
Andre: Timothy Hill.
Xavier: But if there was a place or an experience, it don’t have to be a place it could be an experience, you could say, listen, this eating experience or this sunset experience or this Carnival experience or this view. What would that one experience you would say that if you come to St. Kitts and Nevis, do this experience? And it may even be on Nevis, it maybe there, what would be the experience you would say? And since it’s a twin Island, you can give me one of each.
Andre: There are so many of them actually. As small as St. Kitts and Nevis is, they are so many things you can do that’s enriching. If you love culture and heritage, I would say you have to go to Brimstone Hill. Brimstone Hill is a World Heritage cultural site. What it is, is a fort that was built hundreds of years ago by the British with African slave labor, and it was built by the British to protect the island against the French because at one point St. Kitts and Nevis was colonized by the French. They built brimstone Hill to protect themselves from French invasion, and it is considered one of the most well-built fortresses in the entire world; which is one of the reasons why it’s on the World Heritage Site of UNESCO.
It’s actually a tourist attraction, and so if you want to go back and delve into history of colonial times and slavery and British colonization, this is a great place to go because it’s well laid out. You can go to the top of the fort, it’s very beautiful up there. When you go to the top of the fort you can see neighboring islands like St. Eustatius and Saba, Nevis. You can see Nevis from up there as well, it’s really, really nice and cool and even if you just want to go there for a nice little picnic and just relax, the breeze up there is great. If you’re looking for fun and leisure, there’s that too. You can do Jet Skiing, snorkeling, you can explore different aspects of the marine environment because that is something that’s big here as well, and zip line and all that.
Xavier: Nevis, don’t forget Nevis now.
Andre: On Nevis now, there is no way you can go to Nevis and not visit the hot bath, the hot springs bath. Just like you have St. Thomas and Clarendon, in Milk River, there’s a hot springs bath in Nevis and the beautiful part of it, it’s free. You don’t have to pay to enter or to use it. So you when you go there, sometimes you will actually see locals there bathing and just sapping up the warm and hot water of the bath. It’s located in Bath springs in an area called Bath in Nevis. You can go there and we go there. Once we go to Nevis, we always go there we just put our feet in the water and just soak up the hot water. It’s therapeutic too, so it’s also good for you in terms of that sense. If you’re going Nevis, you really have to go by Hot springs bath. You cannot not go to Nevis and nuh go (not go) Bath springs. I must add this too; Nevis, and I know my Kittitians friends might not like this, but I think Nevis have the nicer beaches. If you really want to have some nice, white sand beach experience, you have to head over to Nevis. It’s really nice.
Xavier: How long is the ferry and how often is the ferry from Nevis to St. Kitts and back and forth?
Andre: Back and forth? Everyday. You can get a ferry every day. Well, they’ve recently been employing some speedboats now. You can get over there within 30 minutes now from Basseterre, but generally takes about 45 minutes, 45 minutes to an hour depending on the board you’re on. If you’re going to the older ferries, they will take a longer time if you can’t deal with the speed of the speedboat, but you can go on that and there’s also what we call the sea bridge. There’s actually two ports that you can leave to go to Nevis from St. Kitts and back.
You have the main port, Basseterre Ferry Terminal in Basseterre that goes to Charlestown in Nevis, which is at the Charlestown port, or you can go to the peninsula. If you look at the map of St Kitts, there’s this long stretch of land that goes down to the end, that stretch of land is called the south east peninsula. At the end of south east peninsula there is another port in Majors Bay and you can take what you call the sea bridge, so you can actually drive your car onto the boat. It leaves Majors Bay, goes over to Nevis in Cades Bay and then you drive your car off the boat. So if you want to go with your vehicle, you can also do that and have a car to move around in Nevis. You drive on the boat, you drive off the boat.
Xavier: That’s nice. All right. Andre, one of the things I saw when I visited St. Kitts a couple of times is monkeys. Let’s dive into this monkey business. I mean, I saw them in trees, you know, you’re driving in the bus and whatever the case is, was that something you had to get used to? Tell me about the monkeys is on the island because I think it’s one of the popular things there in St. Kitts.
Andre: Yes, it is. Well, I was always told and apparently science supports this information as well that they are more monkeys here than people. In other words, the monkey population is larger than the actual people population.
Xavier: Oh, really?
Andre: Yeah. I personally haven’t seen evidence of it. In other words, not like if you go anywhere, you’re going to see monkeys all over the place, like if you go Basseterre wherever, but you do see a lot of monkeys depending on where you go. So for example, if you go to the south east Peninsula, which again is that long strip of land on the map of St. Kitts, you are going to see some monkeys. They’re going to run across the road, they’re going to be in the bushes. Sometimes you go to the beach, there’s a beach here called Shipwreck beach, you go there and you see monkeys just congregate while you’re walking towards the beach, you’re seeing them in the bushes running around, so they are there. They tend to be more though in the interior part of the islands ,if you go like in the rain forest area or in old road and those places where it’s forestry, so to speak, you’re going to see monkeys, because that’s where they congregate, that’s where they live.
The problem that we have mostly monkeys here are for the farmers. The monkeys are a huge pest. Every farmer you talk to whether it be St. Kitts or Nevis, they will tell you monkeys are their number one problems, because the monkeys would raid their farms, eat their crops, eat their fruits, and no matter what they try, they can’t seem to get rid of them. The monkeys populate very quickly too, they breed very quickly. So the moment you get rid of some of them, then the population grows explosively. You hear stories like farmers saying, well, you know, they will put… Scarecrows don’t work because the monkeys know that that’s not a human, so the monkeys are very smart. They know that’s not a human being. I’ve heard farmers tell stories where they’ve bought dogs, and put on their farms to scare the monkeys, and after maybe about a week or so, the monkeys befriend the dogs, and the dogs no longer chase them away.
Xavier: Is the government doing or any agencies or whatever doing anything to kind of say, how do we control the population of monkeys? You know, because part of it too, I know it’s an attraction. The times I’ve visited there, you know, you’re taking pictures with monkeys.
Andre: Yeah, yeah. It’s an attraction. Yes, the government has tried over the years, have tried several things. They have implemented measures trapping is one measure in which you set traps, and when they’re trapped then they’re sold, or they’re not really sold, but they’re utilized for other means. For example, well, I was told because I did several stories on this in the past. I will actually told by the Agriculture Department then that in the 90s monkeys were caught, they were trapped, and they were exported, they were shipped off the island, but the animal rights groups, apparently they fought against that and so they can’t do that anymore, as like before they were there. There’s also a time when times when, you know, police officers would be brought in to shoot monkeys essentially to try to reduce the population. That is used sometimes, but not again, because of the whole animal rights situation.
Andre: And of course, our tourism economy that has to be balanced, so to speak. They’ve tried several methods. Some have worked up to a point, but then the problem continues and it persists. Mostly what they’re doing now is trapping and that has its effectiveness up to a point.
Xavier: I see. Well, the monkey business continues. Tell me now a little bit about what you do. You are a journalist. Do you do live broadcast? Tell us a little bit about what you do there.
Andre: Okay. So yes, I’m a broadcast journalist here since I’ve arrived on St. Kitts. I initially started working at a radio station here, a popular news station, Winn FM and after about six years, I branched out and did my own thing. I started my own company. With that company, I have two platforms; an online radio station called Voice of the Caribbean radio and digital news service called SKN Newsline. On SKN Newsline we do primarily video-based news content. We do our news, but instead of it being on regular TV, we’re on online on Facebook, YouTube, and our website, sknnewsline.com. Aside from that, in addition to some of the things; I do media consultancy. I do stuff to do with, you know, if there’s an entity or an establishment that wants to do a public relations campaign, my company provides that service. We do from press releases to video press releases to, you know, radio reports, actual print press releases, that kind of stuff, and I primarily do that service right now for the St. Kitts and Nevis Football Association. I’m hired as their media consultant where that is concern. We do video streaming as well, so that’s one of the things that we’re doing now for the football association. We do like the broadcast of their premier league games. We are the official broadcasters for their premier league games. I’m dabbling in a lot of things when it comes to media. I also host a talk show on one of the radio stations here twice a week. Yeah. I keep myself busy. I’m somewhat of a celebrity.
Xavier: Okay. People recognize you and recognize your voice there.
Andre: Easily. Actually, Xavier, I cannot go anywhere and not speak and no one… Because I’m not necessarily on mainstream TV, but some people know me now visually, because they now see me online. A lot of people don’t know who how I look, they know how I sound. I used to say and I still say that my voice is my ID. I would just show up to a supermarket and I would ask the price for this, and then the cashier would say, wait I know that voice, what your name is? And when I say my name is Oh, you read news. I mean, just up to yesterday, I was at a car place to get a vehicle assessment, and I didn’t say my name. I didn’t say anything to the man. He asked me a question and I said something, he turned to me and say you don’t read news, and I said yes. That’s when he discovered who I was. I can’t hide, I can’t hide really.
Xavier: Do they sense the little Jamaican accent even though, you know, I know, as a broadcaster, you have to kind of be a little more generic, I guess.
Xavier: And do they sense that tinge of, you know, the pronunciation, the Jamaican, you know, do they sense it or not really?
Andre: No, they don’t and I find it very funny, that’s why I started laughing when you asked that question, because when I first started here, when I first started on the radio, I remember one time one of my colleagues said to me, he’s from England. When I read my first newscasts, my first news item on the radio, first day I started working on the radio and I read my first news item, somebody said to him, how the BBC come on so early because normally BBC tend to come on late down in the evening. He thought BBC was starting at six o’clock, and they said no, no, no, it’s not the BBC, it’s a new reporter we have from Jamaica. So generally, they don’t detect the accent right away because I always tell people look, I said, speaking Jamaican is a language by itself.
Andre: I have to speak Jamaican to you. I have to take pains to translate everything I say. It’s easy for me to just speak to you in English and then if I see my Jamaican peeps, I talk to them in Jamaican because they understand it. I just find it much easier to do it that way, but they don’t really detect it and most of the times when I would tell people I’m from Jamaica, they were like, well, you don’t sound Jamaican. You sound like you’re come from somewhere else. I said, well, because of what I do. I have to sound a certain way, because I can’t go on the radio and say, bwoy di Prime Minister lock dun the place (boy, the Prime Minister lock down the place).
Xavier: Yeah, yeah, and what a gwan (what is going on)?
Andre: What a gwan (what is going on)? That kind of thing.
Xavier: In an informal setting, I’ll probably do that. Well, Andre, listen, I appreciate you taking the time to give our viewers you know, people who are listening and insight on what it means to be a Jamaican in St. Kitts and Nevis. Great information, any final thoughts? on your end? And then I have one last thing I will do at the very end, no problem.
Andre: Well, yeah, I would just say, well, first of all, thank you for the opportunity. I love what you’re doing. I really, actually been following you for quite some time. But when you first had Jamaicans.com, what, two or three years or a year, I saw, I saw on the site 99, we’ve been over 25 years.
I discovered jamaica.com, somewhere in the mid 2000s. And when I saw you were doing this, I was like, well, this is good. This is good stuff. Because I’ve learned a lot just listening to other Jamaicans from other parts of the world. Thank you for the opportunity. And yeah, I would also use this opportunity to thank even the conditions and divisions who may be watching this, because I’m sure some of them would be watching this, surely thanking them for welcoming me and my family into their home. I feel at home here in St. Kitts & Nevis, without a doubt. I, you know, I guess it also, it’s partly because of what I do as well that people appreciate the work that I do. And by extension, they appreciate me, but I feel at home here and I’m really appreciative of the fact that I had the opportunity to come here, and to try to make something of my life here. I’m grateful for that.
Xavier: Great, great, now you actually kind a (of) touch on what I end with. And if you have seen this before, you know how I end with. Do the people in St. Kitts and Nevis have an informal way, you know, in Jamaica, wi sey (we say), lickkle more (see little more or goodbye) or, later or whatever, how do they literally depart in the informal way? not bye-bye. Maybe they don’t, but if they don’t, it’s just bye or bye-bye, or goodbye, but do they have an informal way?
Andre: Oh, I’m trying to think of now. Cuz (because) I thought about this when I watched it, too. I was like, okay, I know Xavier is gonna ask me this. I think two of them have a different way of how they say goodbye, they were like laters, or see you tomorrow. They have this way though … I know some of them when I talk to some people they have a slang that they normally add “the boss” Right. Like, you know, because the way you said the, “boss”, you know, that kind of thing. So I guess some people say, “later the boss” or something like that.
Xavier: All right. Well
Andre: Something like that they will say
Xavier: Again, thank you. Thank you, thank you and “later the boss”, lickkle more
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