Monday, August 25, 2008

So Close ...

Curacao's Churandy Martina behind the new 200 meter
World Record holder, Usain "Lightning" Bolt from Jamaica
Click on the photograph for a news story on the race.

The families and supporters of this years
Little League World Series team from Curacao

I think a place becomes 'home' when you really know the place - when you can 'feel' your way around its corners and creaks, and sense it's joy and it's sadness, it's excitement and it's disappointment. There is something about 'home' that speaks to us: a sound of a floorboard or door, or wind running through the attic, or footsteps down the hall that we recognize in an instant.

This past week was an eventful one for Curacao, and we could tell we are getting more and more in touch with the island because we could feel it's ups and downs. Midweek the entire island went to work but did not have work on their minds - Churandy Martina, the island's world-class sprinter had finished 4th by a nose in the 100 meter dash at the Olympic Games in Beijing. Less than 3 hundreths (.03) of a second stood between him and Curacao's first ever Olympic track and field medal. It was an odd moment for Erin and me as we tried to celebrate the Bronze medal finish of our fellow American and ex-Florida State University star, Walter Dix, but also felt the disappointment that goes with coming so close (and achieving a national record no less), and walking away without a prize.

Later in the week, but early in the school day, it became even harder to focus as the entire island celebrated Churandy's Silver medal finish in the Mens' 200 meter sprint!!! The island's first track and field medal. The star of track and field around the world was Usain "Lightning" Bolt, the tall Jamaican sprinter who was demolishing world records; but here, in Curacao, fireworks were set off in downtown Willemstad, the country's cellular provider promised to double anyone's minutes who charged their phone before midnight, and this small island nation of the Southern Caribbean felt like it had seized a place on the global stage. Jamaica is already on everyone's map for a number of reasons, including it's track and field prowess, but Curacao is an abscure location - we're not sure if it's known more as a scuba diving destination or for it's namesake liqueor.

The rest of the story then, is absolutely heart breaking for an Antillean - and strangely, for me and Erin. It turns out that the man who actually came across the line in 3rd place was the American Spearman, who had been disqualified for running outside of his lane during the race. The American's protested the disqualification, and in the process, also brought Churandy into the spotlight with claims that he was actually the one to step out of his lane. As it turned out the judges decided that Spearman AND Churandy both stepped out of their lanes and would be disqualified, leaving the American Walter Dix to claim the Bronze medal again in the 200 meter sprint.

If Curacao ever makes it onto the world stage in track field, however, it would not be their most endearing athletic accomplishment. This small, dry, lively little island already has it's claim to fame - Little League Baseball. Curacao's youngsters are perennial powerhouses and have won the International Championship a couple of times in the past several years. Unfortunately, 2008 would prove to be a different story. The 12 and 13 year olds that took the field last week against Japan did not look like the confident and well-disciplined group that the people on the island are used to watching 'play ball', and they were routed by a methodical and talented Japanese team in the International Semifinal. For an island of around 150,000 people it may seem like we ought to be pleased with these accomplishments, but we have found that this island wants the 'prize' as much as anyone else.

Perhaps inspired by the amazing ability of this Olympic's 10 meter platform divers, or maybe just in need of some adrenaline after the depressing defeats of the week, Erin and I joined some friends on Sunday afternoon for some cliff-jumping. No back triples, or forward handstands - just back-flops and big splashes - a lot of screaming and laughing and cheering each other on. I also found our first seahorse, and brought it up to the surface so everyone could see it - a pretty cool discovery and nature lesson. Despite having gotten so close to victory and losing, it was a great end to a great week - great because we are at least a little closer to being 'home' than we were before.

It's hard to believe that we have traveled so far, seen so much, and now find ourselves here - together, and more in love than ever - after only 3 months since we said our vows. We can only hope the adventure continues ...

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