Thursday, November 07, 2013
Credit: Caleb Mcelhaney.
A small island in the Caribbean. I was the kid's age when I was dragged out of Longview, TX into a foreign country. An island with no snakes, but filled with cactus, volcanic rock, high humidity, severe sunburn potential, scorpions that like to hide in shoes. I was pushed into the local school where the kids and teacher spoke little to no English. I had to learn how to make friends starting on the outside and looking in.
But I was a kid, and I was resilient. I jumped right in and played along. It took about 6 months of complete submersion to understand what was going on around me. It took longer to be able to write in Dutch, the official language. On the playground and in the streets, I learn the local language of Papiamentu. At home, we had to sit down again and do English lessons.
But I was a kid, and I took advantage of every situation. Not really intentionally, but because at 10, 11, 12 yrs of age, given free reign to roam, that's what a kid does. Hitch hiking with a total stranger, and watching in amazement as the speedometer needle in the Trans Am climbed above 90mph.
I rode my bike all over the island, often times alone. Exploring every nook and cranny that I could find. Going places that most people on the island didn't take the time to go. I saw some really cool vistas, plants and animals.
As the years past, I got into windsurfing and plunged into an activity that would change me forever. A wind powered tool that enabled me to skim across the surface of the water, as fast as I could hang on, or I could simply drop the sail and dive down into the cool , crystal clear water.
I started dreaming of bigger things, raced a couple of times, one time making it to the semi finals. One race director told me that I had talent, I just needed modern equipment. I was racing on a 20 yr old rig.
And then at age 16, I woke up to find that I had been ripped out of paradise and dumped in the hell hole that is Charlotte. Don't get me wrong, Charlotte is a find place to live, but compared to an small paradise in the Caribbean? Yeah.
I have wanted to go back ever since, to take my wife and show my kid what life was like. I want to them to experience what I experienced. And in the middle of this thought pattern, I realize, I don't want them to experience what I experienced. That was and still is my life. I want to share some of the cool things that I learned and saw, but in the end, I want them to have their own experiences. I can take them back to the island (hopefully one day), and share with them a large piece of my past, but I need to let them have the freedom of their own experiences.
Up until recent years, I wanted to move back, to take the kid and submerse him in the language and culture. But then realized that he is having an amazing childhood without me trying to alter it and align it with mine. He is in an amazing school, had amazing teachers and friends. He is involved in the local cycling, soccer, basketball and hip hop communities. Why not leave it like it is, and experience his childhood with him. Be a part of his life, not direct his life.
And then it all made sense. My childhood was not better, just because of where I grew up. I had some amazing experiences. Not better, different.
Posted by Stephen at 6:52 AM