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AS BAJAN AS FLYING FISH – A family called Barbados


B.C. Pires

AS BAJAN AS FLYING FISH – A family called Barbados

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My name is Katrina Ali, and I manage a chain of coffee houses.  
I ended up with the name “Ali” because my father’s family has a Trinidadian background. They moved here about 60 years ago. My grandfather runs the Globe Drive-In.  
I’m always up St Philip because my best friend and boyfriend live up there but I am from Christ Church. Bajans are very connected to their parish. 
I stayed down in fourth form at St Winifred’s. All I was concentrating on was volleyball.  I [eventually] went to university at New Haven, Connecticut, on a volleyball scholarship.  
Ali is a Muslim name and I grew up in a Bajan Anglican house, but I wouldn’t take to any religion. I’m “spiritual”.  
I did Spanish & Italian for business and tourism at BCC (Barbados Community College). But I’ve forgotten them. I can understand if someone speaks to me. But I can’t really respond. 
I played volleyball for the junior national team and had the opportunity to play for the seniors but went away to university. 
I’m the youngest of three girls, but my dad is one of nine and my mum is one of four. You have no idea how many cousins I have; and then my sister had twin girls last week. It’s just me left at home.  
I don’t have any kids myself; no ring on the finger yet. There are a lot of people who get married at 25 and divorced at 30. I’m in no rush. 
I’m open to travelling and to living elsewhere. But my dream is to raise a family here. 
I have loads of family in Trinidad but I haven’t been there since I went for my aunt’s funeral when I was ten or 11. Every year I say I’m going to Trinidad for Carnival but I never do. So next year is my year. 
I’m a Kadooment baby. My birthday is July 31 and Kadooment always falls on the Monday after so I have a long Kadooment weekend every birthday. The Kadooment I know is bikini & beads. I was probably 16 when I was first jumped. I’ve missed jumping twice in the last nine to ten years.  
Playing volleyball on the college circuit in the US is very demanding. You have to attend every practice and every class. You have two weeks’ pre-season training, eight- to ten-hour days of training, weight-lifting, playing volleyball.  
I lost about ten, 15 pounds of muscle when I stopped playing volleyball about two years ago. I do the boardwalk in the morning and free weights at home but, apart from that, I’ve been terrible for 2011. 
If something happens to me, I shake it off and move on. I had an intense coach. She and I didn’t see eye-to-eye all the time but she taught me that. 
Sweet Child O’ Mine reminds me of college days. 
Beyond a certain social level, everyone hangs out with each other in Barbados; everyone’s parents know everyone else’s; everyone’s friends with everyone. Any other small place, it would be the same. 
It’s terrible to say, but with women in an establishment everybody will not get along.  
Customer service is terrible in Barbados and it’s a tourist-driven economy. We need to do something about it now rather than ten years down the line when our tourists are gone and we don’t know why. 
I’m terrible about West Indies cricket. I’ve never seen a cricket match live. I have no idea what’s happening in the World Cup now. None! 
Stupidly, I began smoking socially after leaving university. But I’ve never smoked more than a pack a day. I really want to quit, with my nieces and nephew around. 
The coffee house does cappuccinos, lattes, espressos. And I do a bit of everything. I train staff in how we make the different coffees. I see what we need for the day, order stock, do interviews for new staff. I’m building certain teams across the branches. 
I divide my week between the four branches. It’s a lot of calling around, a lot of interaction between managers and staff. 
There’s definitely a challenge in managing people you’re younger than. But I did everything when I came here, swept floors, washed cups. I don’t believe in a manager who can’t do what everyone can do. 
The best thing about the job is customer satisfaction – when I see someone enjoying their coffee the way they should. 
The bad thing about the job is you have some customers who have a terrible day and want to take it out on you or your staff. That’s why I’m usually on cash. Staff might take it personally. I try to smile, joke with them, try to ease them into peace-going good vibes. 
As bad a mood as a customer might be in, we want them to come back. It’s about customer service. Better to have a foul-tempered customer come in every day than a good-tempered one once a month. 
Everyone says there’s nothing to do in Barbados, but I find so much to do every weekend. There’s so much opportunity, so much to explore. It’s just for people to exploit it. 
To me, a Bajan is a hard-working, loving person. You don’t have to be born here. You could come down here and be Bajanized. 
To me, Barbados is family.

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