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Watergaw - DAY UMPTEEN - Saturday 17/12/11 - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

A bit later than planned, we come to write the conclusion to this part of the odyssey, before moving on to the next. The internet connection on the island is somewhat idiosyncratic, which has made email and web input difficult. It is easy to forget that the things we now take for granted in the western world ? like broadband ? are only a dream for a large proportion of the planet as yet. Anyway, here we are?.


A Surprise


Against my better judgement (I wanted a quiet meal out before returning home tomorrow), the crew felt that we should go to the award ceremony this evening to support those who had done well. Thus we ended up in taxis (minibuses really, many of which have seen better days) en route to a hotel a couple of miles away, where the finale of the ARC was to take place.


It was good to see many of the crews with whom we had spent time in the Canaries, or seen since we arrived, enjoying themselves and letting their hair down ? or polishing their pates!

There was lots of applause for class winners, runners up and boats who had overcome difficulties, along with ? interesting? Caribbean food ( we are still arguing as to whether it was chicken or pork!).


The oddity was that we were given the award for the best fleet blog (bad word, but that is what it is called apparently). Seems that we cannot sail very fast, but we can write a bit?..maybe we are in the wrong competition! What is sure is that those who have signed in to the site have contributed to the vote (numbers always count!), so thanks?


'Twas Ever Thus, But Shouldn't Be


We arrived in the dark last Sunday night, and had little idea as to the nature of the place to which we had come. Up till that point, it had mostly been about the journey and not the destination. When we left the volcanic Gran Canaria, the predominant image we had was of beautiful but fairly stark landscapes, pastels, hard angles and black hills. Waking up to St Lucia we found greenery and lush colours, folding hills before grand peaks. We found contrasts, however, that sharpened the senses in more than one sense.


The marina is in a pleasant space, with security guards and a variety of restaurants and shops that cater for the well-heeled tourists that yacht owners are, at least in relative terms. We went into the main city on the island, Castres, finding a couple of cruise liners docked and disgorging tourists into the tax free shopping mall that abuts the dock they lie against. In the city we saw plush glass multi story buildings ? government offices, banks and other financial businesses from which power-dressed women and men emerged carrying the status symbols of the western world in their laptops and smart phones, and lunching in decent restaurants. Suited and booted guys drove their BMW?s at speed, bullying their way past old pick-up trucks and vans.


Which vehicles were driven by poor souls trying to make a dollar, delivering fruit and veg to a thousand tiny stalls in the market. Kids without shoes who should have been in school implored you to buy a small bag of spice for 5 cents. Young men and women trawled the streets with a desperate look in their eyes, begging or selling things that nobody would want. The shanty shacks we passed on the way into the metropolis comprised a couple of sides of clapboard and a couple of sheets of corrugated iron, which must be appalling in the heat that prevails on the island. The contrast between relative affluence and abject poverty is a real hard swallow.


There is plenty poverty in the western world, and we know that our eyes are often shielded from the sink housing estates in the UK, and dark realities of life for those without jobs, education and opportunity. Without in any way denigrating the challenges that people close to home face, the extreme in-your-face contrast here between the posh yachts, the gated compounds and extravagant villas, and the paper and tin hovels where the smell of human excrement percolates the atmosphere, is really hard to bear.


ARC does a lot of good, raises money for local charities as well as bringing trade to the island in the shape of 1500 people who spend money before moving on, but it still seems a miniscule drop in the ocean of need that we see here. Whilst listening to the sounds of joy and contentment from hundreds of sailors in the restaurants and bars around the secure marina, it is difficult to feel we have gotten our priorities right as a society ?.beads and trinkets just won't do.


Till the next time?.





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