A small community has taught me a lot

October 14, 2012 | By | Filed Under Features / Columnists, My Column 

 

It has been almost one week since I came home after a week in the Falklands, but I am still to properly adjust to both the temperature and to the Guyana situation. For starters, I knew that the Falklands were coming out of their winter, being so far south of the equator.
I know that Australia is so far south that it is known as the land down under. The Falklands are farther south than Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. This was hard to believe until I got out a map and looked at it.
Getting there was not easy. I am in South America and the Falklands are a few hundred miles off the coast of South America. But to get there I had to go to Miami then come back down to Santiago, Chile, then to Punta Arenas at the tip of Chile and next door to Argentina before flying to a place I have come to like—East Falklands.
It was extremely windy, more wind every day than I had ever imagined. The wind was so strong that one had to brace against it. Last week I looked at some of the things such as the end result of the conflict thirty years ago and the various monuments, but there was so much more.
I did say that there is oil to be brought to the surface in a few years.  Well 3,000 people must decide what they are going to do with the extra money. They don’t have to worry about thieves. The people are still talking about the bicycle that was believed stolen. And that had happened some five or six months before I got there.
They found the bike and the people believe that the owner simply went for a good drink and could not remember where he had left his bike. The governor, Nigel Haywood, said that no one loses his car keys. They people simply leave the keys in the vehicle. Like me, he said that the issue is to cope with a multi-million-dollar economy.
The Falklanders are not British colonists and as for being Argentines, they are so far removed from South American culture that any Spanish-speaking South American would be at odds to believe that he is not in England or some other country that has an accent not too dissimilar from the British.
Wildlife abound. I saw colonies of penguins for the first time. During the visit to Gypsy Cove where there are the Magellanic Penguins called the Jackass penguins because they do sound like braying donkeys, there were two young men who wanted to get very close. Then I saw a middle-aged woman running. She was my bus driver but she also worked as a tourist guide. She got him away from the penguins.
I also saw sea lions for the first time. As cool as anybody’s business they sat on a ramp minding their own business even as the boat approached as close as possible. I heard that they allow people to go close to them, but they bite.
Yet it was the crime situation that left me amazed. I could not see a prison, so I asked whether there was one and indeed there was. It had four inmates, one of whom was doing fourteen years for child molestation. The other three were also sex offenders, but they were doing smaller sentences.
The location of the prison? Below the police station. If one did not ask, one would not have known. These prisoners would be allowed out to clear the police cars. I saw no police patrols, but I did meet the police commissioner who was recruited from England.
In a very small society one would see strange things. About one hour after meeting the governor I was to meet him again—jogging. He said that he was training for the marathon. I went to what they call a pub quiz. This is a once monthly event. Twelve dollars per team. The night I was there ten teams entered. The Caribbean team placed eighth. The money went to the three top teams to buy beer or to pay for whatever meal they had that night. The police commissioner was there as ordinary as you please. His team placed second.
For a community with about 2,500 people there are many pubs and each do brisk business serving food and alcohol. I visited a few.
There is no prostitution. I asked about that and the police commissioner said that it never factored into the equation. Indeed if people want to solicit some fun they know how to do it, but certainly in the community where everybody knows everybody, one would not try in the town. There is just too much space outside the town.
Everyone is comfortably wealthy. There is too much money to go around. No unemployment, no need for sick leave and certainly, no need to sit around an office all day.
There is a lot to be learnt on management. In Guyana, where corruption is rampant, people like me find it strange to go to a country where no one is interested in stealing. And the Falklanders cannot understand people stealing public money.

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