Alongside some more of the oddities of Falklands teaching, this week was a major wake-up to three key things:
1 – You may well have heard that, as of the early hours on Wednesday morning, a cruise ship fire and subsequent evacuation led to a minor emergency here in the Falkland Islands. 5 miles off of the coast of East Falklands a cruise ship heading for South Georgia (lucky buggers, I’ve been told it’s annoyingly impossible to get there from here) ran into trouble and required evacuation of all passengers. According to the Telegraph, this was an MoD operation and all was taken care of by them. The reality was that a substantial community operation was mounted with many being asked to donate clothing, house stranded passengers and generally care for those involved (https://www.facebook.com/Falkland-Islands-Government-639300059417658/?fref=nf). One telling statement on where we live is that a community of 2500 was asked to house 347 passengers and people offered their spare bedrooms up without question. Many, many stories of grateful passengers are floating about Stanley and my students coming to school with comments like “we have 4 chinese people staying with us”, “we’ve got 2 Dutch people, Mum gave them money to go to the shop as they didn’t have anything” and so on and so on catch me finding this place utterly remarkable. It made me wonder how many communities would have such a high percentage of people offer up help for strangers in the UK. Worth a thought!
2- A further epiphany occurred this week when I was asked, over the course of conversation by a Dutch friend, if “I missed my country”. It seems a simple question but it flagged up that, at no point of my being here, have I ever felt that I wasn’t in ‘my country’. I have not, since arriving, felt at all that I was in South America and have never felt that this place was anything but a British town. 8000 miles isn’t so noticeable after all, it seems.
3- I suspect that life here will bring a number of continuous revelations but this week this was brought home a little when a colleague suffered an injury whilst out on his motorbike (as mentioned before, most Falkland Islanders can ride them well off-road, including the children). This wouldn’t be that big a deal except that he did his knee in and has had to be flown back to the UK on an urgent flight for an unspecified amount of time for an MRI and potential operation. Things like that are a bit of a reminder that we are living in one of the most remote communities in the world. If something goes wrong, we’re facing a medi-evac to Chile or UK on not-so-regular flights. Another colleague informed me that, due to pregnancy complications, she had to take the 18 hour ‘airbridge’ flight to UK with a doctor and nurse and the plane had to fly low-level the entire way to minimise the pressure difference and avoid birth complications. That kind of isolation is a scary thought for someone as irresponsible and thrill-seeking as me.
Still, it could be worse; I could live in Milton Keynes.