Coming from the UK perspective, where motorcyclists are viewed as organ donors and are 55 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a road accident, it was somewhat disturbing to realise that a good proportion of every single one of my classes from aged 11 upward seems to spend their weekends out on motorbikes or quads (including one the smallest girls in the school, who is apparently faster than anyone else around a motocross track). It took a few discussions before I began to get my head around it all and it became clear from their bare-faced laughter at the idea of a 16 year old only being allowed to ride a 50cc scooter that this wasn’t even for novelty’s sake. In camp (the countryside) and also on Stanley Common, just outside Stanley itself, it is a regular site to see children driving cars and riding motorbikes from 250cc upward off road. They’re completely sensible about it for the most part, perhaps because the landscape is largely relatively flat peat land that cushions falls quite well and perhaps because the safety and subsequent independence that the children here enjoy leads them to be more responsible, but it’s made me feel a little like the juvenile in this society and got me thinking about the UK/Falklands cultural differences.
Like many who come here, I’m approaching Island life from a society with higher levels of education, higher standard of living (by most development indicators, I guess) and a more…how can I say it…cosmopolitan lifestyle. We’ve become used to so many things that aren’t the same here and I can’t say I mind it all, though some realisation helps. I think those that will thrive here will be those prepared to change their attitudes to many things, and quickly. Arriving here, it doesn’t take long to realise that life is a lot more ‘pragmatic’ in more than one way. People, particularly in camp, will speak their minds quite freely and there’s always someone that can be easily found who is proficient at pretty much anything that genuinely NEEDS doing, though the seemingly all-important GCSEs in English and Maths that the UK craves might not necessarily be present in the same numbers. Similarly, outdoor technical clothing can be worn to every bar and food establishment without batting an eyelid (I’m in heaven!) and the boiler suit (I’ll talk more about that in a later post!) is de rigueur. There are some things here that leave me feeling, occasionally, mildly inadequate, when I realise that I’ve never driven a 4×4 off-road or controlled a 500cc dirt bike on peat upland, I’ve never been on the tiny twin engine prop planes that some of the children use to get home or been ‘lamb marking’ (or held a sheep at all, in fact!) so outside of the home or classroom you end up feeling like you’re the one from the less advanced society and you question just how useful your education up to this point has been. Still, I’m determined to get stuck in to Island life and haven’t shied away from any aspects yet. One “very Falklands” event begins this Sunday with the first Motocross race of the season (including two of my 13-member tutor group competing) so I can’t not go along and watch!
I’d love to upload some pictures after it but I’m running at 93% on my internet usage for this month and going over can get costly (I could upgrade my internet package to the next plan up, but that’s £190 per month; £2,280 per year and for something as insignificant down here as the internet, I just can’t bring myself to do it). Photos next month then! Just another aspect of Falklands life that, in the UK, we’d consider stuck in the past but is easily enjoyed with that all-important change of attitude.
(Like all good puns, the title might need a little explanation: the turkey vulture is the one vulture present in the Falkland Islands and they are everywhere around Stanley – flying just above you on the streets or landing on trees as you pass by – it’s something I hope I never lose the novelty of as they are amazing!)