by Christine Kling
I’ve been thinking a good deal lately about how much one’s attitude determines the quality of life. We’ve been going through the process of removing the rudder from the boat by using the boat’s davit system and lifting the rudder into the dinghy — all on our own and having a good laugh while doing it. As of yesterday, the repaired rudder was returned, refitted and we have an intact steering system again!
When we first arrived here in Majuro, we went to the local telecommunications company offices to buy accounts that would permit us to get online at the local hot spots. While we were there, this American man started complaining at the top of his voice about how stupid and lazy all the Marshalese people are. He was talking to another American man he had just met and giving him all this “local knowledge.” Meanwhile, a very nice, polite, knowledgeable lady was helping us find the mac addresses for our wifi cards and getting us signed up and out of there leaving the ugly American still fuming and spewing his negative attitude. Here we are on this island that I think is wonderful, and there was this guy who hates it here. Wayne is Canadian, and when we walked out I wanted to say to him, “We Americans aren’t all like that!”
This past week, the Marshall Islands have been in the news with headlines like Man washed up on boat on Marshall Islands says he’s been adrift 16 months. The castaway was from El Salvador and he claims that his outboard quit while he was shark fishing off Mexico and he drifted all the way across the Pacific before washing up on the island of Ebon here in the Marshall group. When they were first lost, a younger man was with him, but the survivor said the younger man was unable to stomach the raw flesh of birds and drink turtle blood. The younger man died. He didn’t have the mental or physical strength to survive. The February 7th edition of the local paper, the Marshall Islands Journal, carries the front page headline, “Miracle Man.” And now there are many other articles out there on the web about this amazing story, many of which are questioning the truth of his tale. I think it’s perfectly understandable if a castaway gets things confused or if perhaps his story changes between tellings. No one can deny the man went through an amazing ordeal. The thing I find so extraordinary is the fact that he survived at all, and I can’t find a single reason reason why it would be a hoax or how he could have perpetrated such a thing. But there are always those who will see the negative side of things. In local interviews the castaway has admitted that he contemplated suicide, but he was afraid to do it. He kept thinking about his family, his parents and his daughter. When I hear this guy’s story, I hear an amazing tale of strength and survival, while others only hear a trickster and a liar.
Most of the time I think I have a pretty good attitude, and I tend to look on the bright side, but last week, I must admit, I was the doubter. We had been going about the business of getting the rudder repaired. We took a taxi out to the local business where we hoped to find a machine shop and welder, and when Wayne went to put his wallet back into his back pocket, he apparently missed the pocket and left the wallet behind in the taxi back seat. He didn’t realize it was missing until about an hour later. Credit cards, drivers’ license and green card were gone. Taxis don’t have radios in them and there was no way to contact the guy. Another yachtie who has lived here for years, told Wayne to go to the radio station and they would put it out on the local news. Days went by. I kept thinking he really should be calling and canceling his credit cards, but no, Wayne said he was going to give it time to turn up. He said that the majority of people were good and decent, and it would be better to wait than go through the hassle of canceling the cards in this remote location unnecessarily.
Four days after the wallet disappeared, my cell phone rang. I have a local sim card in my phone, and I haven’t given the number to anyone but Wayne. It turned out to be a guy who said he was on a tuna fishing boat that was tied up to a Chinese “mother ship” unloading fish. One of the Chinese guys on the mother ship had found the wallet, and they found my phone number inside. The Chinese crewman gave it to his captain who gave it to the one guy who speaks English on the tuna boat. That man told me that there was no money in it, but the Chinese crewman knew that the owner would need the cards and the ID.
We got the name of the boat and went out in our dinghy. When we came alongside the fishing boat, two crewmen lowered the big net boat with the man who spoke English. With a big smile, he handed me the wallet. Everything was there except the cash. Wayne tried to give him a reward for going to the trouble of returning the wallet, but he refused. Even the men manning the cranes that had lowered his boat shook their heads. They wouldn’t accept any money — only our thanks. I put my hand on my heart and said thank you. As we dinghied away our new friend stood on the deck smiling and waving.
We don’t really see the fishing industry guys in the local taxis. I think the next person who got into the cab found the wallet, took the money and pitched the wallet somewhere. I think the Chinese crewman who found it really did just want to return it to its owner.
It’s so often easy to think the worst of people and find only the ugly in the world around us. In this cruising life, I’m always learning. Just like we had to learn to balance the boat with the lashed rudder, I’m still fine tuning those attitude adjustments.
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