Thursday, January 13, 2011

There's work to be done...regardless. Impressions of Trinidad

Chimixxxxxxxx bay, Trinidad--- I have been waiting for the OceansWatch boat that is making their way here across the ocean from the Canary Islands. Having just crossed the Atlantic myself, I know all the factors that can make an arrival date unknown. So I try to remain patient. But every day in a hotel room makes me more and more antsy. The hotel I book from the internet does not honor the crew discount since my boat is not here. So the price is tripled. Arriving by taxi at midnight after a very long day to find this out was too much so I checked in anyway hoping the boat arrives ahead of schedule. Dream on.

I was sent here knowing no one, yet the CEO has asked me to start on OceanWatch work. Okay: One, I've met no one in person from the organization. Two, I only have several DVDs and their website to educate myself. Three, there is no three...this is ridiculous. I am not a scientist or do I remember much from my oceanography class at Kansas State many years ago...and how CAN one study oceanography in Kansas anyway?

Never-the-less,  I meticulously study. And something has changed in me. I do know the material and have learned so much about the concerns of our ocean and how OceanWatch members can help in the future.

I did what I learned to do straight out of College: Fake it until you make it.  So I contacted the few people I am given that work here and set up meetings. I meet a wonderful professional man named Leroy who is finishing his Masters in higher education and has published a book on yachting industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Trinidad Ministry has set up several new departments/partners to deal with the fact that Trinidad will not be able to sustain itself on the oil industry past the late 2020-30’s. They are looking at other industries for their future.

I contact a man named Leroy who works for the Business Development Council as an Industry Specialist leading the Yachting Steering Committee. He would love for the outcome of OceansWatch to influence the direction that Trinidad and Tobago goes in its development.  That's I over my head?
In my interview with Leroy several idealisms come out and I am baffeled. I alway think that equality of African Americans in the USA still has a long way to go, but I am stunned by his thoughts about his own country. He tells me that outside advice is looked at very seriously by the Government in TT.

The mindset is that if someone local tells someone in TT what to do it holds no weight. But if a Foreign Advisor tells TT the exact same thing, it is taken more seriously. The challenge they feel is getting things done. Why I asked? He thinks that the history of slavery has not worn off in the current generation. They have not learned to trust each other. Pay advisors lots of money to have them tell them what insiders would have advised. It is a 3rd world mindset he said. I can see clearly he is serious.

He works closely with Gina Hatt-Carvalho, manager of Yacht Services Association of Trinidad and Tobago who I meet and seems as frustrated at getting things done as he is. As manager of YSATT (everyone calls it Why-Sat), Gina is the main go-to person in the yachting community. Her office is in the Crews Inn complex close to Customs and Immigration. She is the chairman of a national and international committee that includes the government, ministry of the environment, marine affairs, environment management authority and National Petroleum to manage and solve yachting and environment issues.

Every year, for many years, they have a massive beach cleanup project. This year they cleaned 18 beaches. They process the trash and keep data on it including categorizing a count on what is found producing a track record of what is coming up from the water.

She also periodically goes out with a volunteer Sailor to do marina water cleanup. Fred VerPlank, retired US Coast Guard Captain retired to Trinidad for winters, helped in January.  Speaking with both of them afterwards that day, they said it would take every yacht in the harbor, every day for a year to ever clean the trash out of the water! When asked where it was coming from they said it is city trash that washes down into the water during the many rains that Trinidad gets. This is not coming from yachts.

If this is just the first of many islands that will be in the project across the carribbean, then, well I have a lot more to learn and a lot of work to do.

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