A smiling Amy Gittens has come to call Barbados her home. (Pictures by Lennox Devonish)
As part of the Nation Publishing Company’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations, the WEEKEND NATION team – through this series – This Is My Story – will be speaking to people who migrated to the island and visitors who have come and fallen in love with our shores. We invite you to share with us or point us in the direction of an interesting person we can feature each week.
FROM HER HOME in the United States, Amy Gittens eagerly looked forward to attending the Crop Over Festival in Barbados every year.
For the past 11 years, however, that trip has become a whole lot shorter.
Instead of having to catch a plane and travel thousands of miles over the Atlantic Ocean, Amy simply has to get in her car and in mere minutes she can be at any party location.
The one-time big city girl is now a fully converted island woman.
Having grown up in Maine, United States, Amy knew very little about Barbados.
She had grown accustomed to the fast-paced lifestyle in the US and after having travelled quite a bit around the country, had decided to settle in Washington DC.
That all changed however when she ran into Wesley Gittens, a Barbadian working in the US.
“I met Wesley 17 years ago when I was living in Washington DC. When we met we were just friends at first and when we started dating I did not even know he was from Barbados.
“But after I found out, we would come down to Barbados usually for Crop Over and then we eventually started coming back for Christmas holidays and even Easter and I really liked it,” she told the WEEKEND NATION during an interview.
“Then one day he asked me if I would like to live here and I said I wouldn’t mind because if I didn’t like it I could always move back.”
Amy said Wesley had never originally planned to move back to his homeland so soon.
She pointed out that at the time they both were employed in the food and beverage industry, as he was working for Hyatt while she worked with Marriot.
By the time they decided to tie the knot in 2002, they still had not made the move back to Barbados.
Amy Gittens has welcomed the newest addition to the family, Flash.
But after relocating here in 2005, Amy said everything just fell into place and it didn’t take long before she felt like “she was at home”.
“Even though I grew up in Maine I’m definitely not a cold weather person,” a beaming Amy quickly admitted.
“I was never that downhill skier or anything like that. I was the swimmer and the water skier, so I really enjoy doing that here.
“I really fell in love with the people and the culture. I love my soca, I could listen to it 24/7.”
Using their experience in the hospitality industry, they opened a small bar in Browne’s Gap, Rockley, Christ Church – a stone’s throw away from their home – which they called Shakers.
More than a decade later, it has grown into one of Barbados’ most-talked- about restaurants, and has received rave reviews from the highly acclaimed travel website TripAdvisor.
“We took baby steps, we definitely didn’t jump into it. We started very slow. When we first started we only had two items on the menu and that was shrimp and fish,” Amy said.
“But once we started to get a little bit busier, we started to think that maybe we could do more. So we slowly added different dishes to the menu and now while we have a small and simple menu, everything works well.”
The restaurant is exceptionally popular with tourists, who flock to the rum shop-styled eatery nightly to sample its tasty offerings.
Amy disclosed that even after giving birth to daughter Asha in the US, she always believed Barbados was the perfect place to raise her.
She said the fact that Barbados’ education system is “one of the best” in the world was a major factor.
“I always say “thank God we’re here,” because I honestly didn’t know where I was going to put her in school in the US.
“Schooling is one of the best perks of Barbados. I think primary school is excellent. Even the nursery and the daycare systems are extremely good,” she noted.
“She’s 14-years-old now and all she tells me is how glad she is that we decided to live in Barbados and not the United States. She doesn’t mind going there to shop and stuff, but she is always saying how much she loves Barbados. (RB)