jueves, 4 de abril de 2013

Sailor Back from the Phillipines, Seeks Work:

Part 2:  Local Man Still Hopes to Bring his Family Home

Carter ‘Hop’ Cowan sits in a coffeeshop in Berkeley, taking a scant few minutes off from his day-long search for work and still wishing that he could have brought his family back to the States when he arrived a few days ago.  But the sea captain’s course back to his homeland was in some ways a rougher ride than crossing the Pacific Ocean from Cebu, Philippines, where he lived for years with his wife and 14 year-old son.

“I’ve come this far, really struggling to get back to the States so I can work and send money home for them – and now the work really starts.  I feel better though, since I’ve managed to overcome all the obstacles to get here, so I’m hopeful that I can do what’s needed to manage our lives here,” Carter says, looking very determined as he jots down ideas and possible leads for work.

Vivian & Carter in happier times
Carter is a tough and salty old hand, who spent many years in shipboard living, crossing the oceans, and bearing the crucial responsibilities of a ship’s captain (providing for and taking care of crews, passengers and vessels at sea).  And it seems that the pain of not being able to care for his family far outweighs the pain he still feels from wounds sustained when a boom slammed into his neck and head during a mid-Pacific storm that sunk the Empress, a yacht he was captaining.  He rubs his neck and groans, then turns quickly back to his list of prospects.

But his eyes soften when he speaks about Vivian, his 49 year-old wife who currently suffers the devastating effects of late-stage cancer.  “I hated leaving Vivian there, but it seemed the only way to get her family involved.  And my life wasn’t safe if I couldn’t pay our bills.  Some old injuries really kept me from some of the jobs I used to do, and I couldn’t keep a work visa in Australia.  It was humiliating to leave like that, but as soon as I can send money back, I’ll begin to feel better about the whole situation.” 

Broke from the medical bills, Carter faced a practically non-existent job market in the Philippines during the world-wide crash of 2008-2009.  Watching his wife suffer became too much for him, and friends worked overtime to get him back stateside by a lengthy campaign with the US State Department and the US Embassy in Manila. 

Impoverished by medical bills, Carter couldn’t even leave the Philippines til someone helped out with the money to fly 355 miles from Cebu to Manila, where the US State Department indicated that it might lend him the money for a ticket home.  His circumstances deteriorating daily, Carter was able to get several American friends to push through for him.  “Now I’m here in the Bay Area, and I’m aiming to find a job – and I don’t care that it’s a declining market.  There’s a job for me and I’m going to find it!”

Asked about his earlier claim that he’d “find a way to sail us back to the US if [his] boat were seaworthy,” Carter shows that tough and salty side.  “I’d never abandon a boat that could safely sail.  And taking a sick person across the ocean isn’t optimum – but I’ll tell you, I was desperate enough to try anything.  Yes.  Yes, I would have set out with nothing but water and plain rice, if we had enough medicine to make the trip.  I know the Pacific well enough.  But it’s a different course now – now I have to earn and send, earn and send.  I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it now.”

While it seems a long way off, Carter still is determined to get his wife here, along with their son Hopkins, who is a top middle-school student.  “Hopkins has seen what a catastrophe medical bills can be, and he’s studying hard to build himself a career that will allow him to care for the family he hopes to have one day.  So perhaps this whole incident has had a good effect somehow.”

Unable to raise enough money to help bring the family back, Carter’s friends turned to the US State Department and even contacted the Red Cross on his behalf.   They recently found some money held by the state of Virginia in Carter’s name, but that’s only a few hundred dollarsthat may take months to recover.  

Carter’s years at sea are evident under a gunmetal Berkeley sky – strength, tenacity and indomitability.  Determined to get his wife to the States for treatment of the cancer threatening her life, he’s tired but unwilling to give up for the day. 

“Got to get back to it,” he says, and heads out into the wind to walk to the marina to look for a job, any job – leaving an observer to wonder whether Carter still has the strength to keep going at his quest.

Readers can send advice, encouragement, or prayers to:  Captainswife44@hotmail.com.

Donations may be sent via PayPal to:  Captainswife44@hotmail.com.  

To read Part 1, go to March 13th.

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David Hakim is an internationally-published journalist and award-winning author who has run several newspapers – and recently received a commendation for his short story That Man in the London Aesthetica Competition.  He can be reached at 415.378.6170 or dhakim@earthlink.net