Sacrificing Our TODAY for the World's TOMORROW
FATA is "Federally Administered Tribal Area" of Pakistan; consisting of 7 Agencies and 6 F.Rs; with a 27000 Sq Km area and 4.5 m population.
MYTH: FATA is the HUB of militancy, terrorism and unrest in Afghanistan.
REALITY: FATA is the worst "VICTIM of Militancy”. Thousands of Civilians dead & injured; Hundreds of Schools destroyed; Thousands of homes raised to ground; 40% population displaced from homes.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Child at Sea: Laura Dekker's Quest for a World Sailing Record (Spiegel International, 13 May 2011)

Courtesy: "Spiegel International, Germany", 13 May 2011
A Child at Sea: Laura Dekker's Quest for a World Sailing Record
Fifteen-year-old Laura Dekker aims to become the youngest woman to sail around the world. Despite efforts by Dutch youth welfare officials to prevent the teen from making her record-breaking solo voyage, she is now underway on her yacht, the Guppy. Now her parents are plagued by remorse.
By Cathrin Gilbert
The small dinghy hisses past the wooden pylons and out into the open sea. It's shortly after midnight. The girl at the helm is wearing flip-flops and denim shorts. The lights in the harbor of Kralendijk on the Caribbean island of Bonaire have already faded into the distance when there is a loud thud and the engine suddenly falls silent.
"Nothing to worry about. It happens a lot. I'll fix it," says Laura Dekker. But first she wants to enjoy this "beautiful moment." She lies down on her back and looks up at the sky, gazing at twinkling stars as the rubber dinghy rocks back and forth. All is quiet.

Despite being far out at sea, Dekker lets the boat drift with the currents for a while. Then she jumps up, jiggles the tiller, taps the engine cover with her fist and gives the cord that starts the outboard motor a few tugs. The motor comes to life, coughing hesitantly at first before roaring into action.
Dekker maneuvers the boat along the coast and into a bay, where her yacht is docked in a harbor. The Guppy is a French mass-produced ship made by the Jeanneau shipyard, which built 500 units of the model between 1975 and 1981. It's 12 meters (39 feet) long and measures four meters at its widest point, a solid boat, not particularly fast, but a good choice for a solo voyage. Dekker has painted two orange fish sticking their tongues out at each other on the bow of the ketch, a two-masted sailing vessel.
Dekker, petite with thin arms and long blonde hair, pulls the dinghy alongside the Guppy and climbs on board. The cabin interior consists of a galley kitchen, two benches and a narrow table in the middle. On the table are Dekker's diary, a pink iBook and some schoolbooks. The walls are plastered with small photos. In the sleeping room, there is a bare mattress littered with articles of clothing, stuffed animals, shoes and books. It's the sort of chaotic scene one would expect to find in any teenager's room.
A Teen's Dream
Laura Dekker is 15. There are parents who wouldn't let their 15-year-old daughter go on a trip with friends, but Dekker is sailing around the world -- alone. After setting out from Gibraltar nine months ago, she sailed to the Cape Verde Islands, then across the Atlantic to Bonaire. In the summer Dekker, after passing through the Panama Canal, plans to sail across the Pacific, past Australia and into the Indian Ocean, then on through the Gulf of Aden and into the Red Sea and, finally, after passing through the Suez Canal, across the Mediterranean and back to Gibraltar. She doesn't know exactly when she'll arrive. It depends on the weather. But if all goes well she would like to make it before her 17th birthday in September 2012, and if she does she will have captured the world record as the youngest woman to sail around the world.
People circle the globe on sailing yachts every year, but few of these adventures are as controversial as Dekker's voyage. Her undertaking is unimaginable for most adults. Judges, educators and psychologists spent months debating whether such a thing -- a child sailing around the world on her own -- should even be allowed.
Dutch youth welfare authorities tried to stop the voyage, writing reports and calling on experts to testify. For a time, Dekker's parents were given only limited custody of their daughter. At the height of the dispute, Dekker even tried to commit suicide.
But now she is finally underway, alone on the open ocean. Her parents, who decided to allow the trip to proceed, are filled with remorse. "I have sleepless nights," says Dekker's mother Barbara.
A Bizarre Race
Bonaire, an island off the coast of Venezuela, consists largely of grasslands and is known as a diving mecca. The yacht harbor where Dekker has docked is part of a luxury hotel. The manager offered her a free room, but Dekker declined. She prefers sleeping on her boat.
Sometimes tourists stop by to take a picture of her. Dekker is famous. When she arrived in Bonaire, television crews from the United States, Australia, Japan and Europe were posted in the harbor. Fans around the world can follow Dekker's voyage on her homepage. The Dutch papers call her "the Sailor Girl."
Dekker's boat is the smallest in the harbor. Another sailor recently asked her whether she needed help fixing her radar. "I can do it myself," she said, though she was bluffing. She doesn't want help, nor does she want people to treat her like a child.
The title of "the youngest woman to sail around the world" is no longer an officially recognized world record, because sailing groups hope to put an end to the bizarre race. Last year Abigail Sunderland, an American girl who was 16 at the time, had an accident during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe and had to be rescued in the Indian Ocean. In May 2010 Jessica Watson, an Australian girl aged 16 years and 362 days, arrived in Sydney Harbor with her sailboat, "Ella's Pink Lady." Her nonstop solo voyage had taken 210 days. Since then, Watson has remained the youngest woman to sail around the world alone.
After her arrival, Watson, accompanied by her parents, walked across a 100-meter (325-foot) pink carpet. Then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, standing at the other end, greeted her with the words: "Jess, welcome back to dry land, welcome back home to Australia. You may feel a little wobbly on your feet just now, but in the eyes of all Australians, you now stand tall as our newest Australian hero."
Perhaps Dekker will break Watson's record. It all depends on how she handles the tough demands of the voyage. Even though her boat is equipped with an autopilot system, she can never sleep for more than 20 to 40 minutes at a time, so that she can still react to hazards. Dekker has chosen a route that doesn't pass through the world's major storm zones. She is avoiding Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. Still, anything can happen. A mast could break, the radar could fail, or the boat could spring a leak, capsize, run aground or, in foggy conditions, collide with a whale, another ship or a container.
Any of this could happen out on the high seas.
Accused of Bad Parenting
Dick Dekker lives on a houseboat in the harbor of Den Osse, a town on the west coast of the Netherlands. Horses graze in the meadows behind the dike. Laura Dekker's father has tears in his eyes as he sits in an armchair watching a video his daughter sent. In it Laura is dancing on her boat. She seems to lose her balance for a moment, but then she catches herself, says "oops," and grimaces.
Dekker expanded the houseboat, a wooden cutter sailboat, for himself and his daughter. The two lived together on the boat for six years. Now Dekker is alone, and suddenly his life is out of balance.
He receives emails berating him as a bad father, and he is often accosted on the street by people who accuse him of having false ambitions, of having driven his daughter into this insane project and of being obsessed with the world record.
Dick Dekker looks pale and exhausted. "My daughter doesn't want to set a record," he says. "I would gladly have done without all the public attention. It's horrible to have everyone staring at you. It was Laura's decision to go on this voyage."
He could have forbidden it. He is, after all, her father.
Dekker shakes his head and says: "Maybe that's what they do in your world, but not in ours."
A boat builder who never completed formal training or education, Dekker met Barbara, a German woman, 20 years ago, and the couple realized their dream of sailing around the world. Laura was born off the coast of New Zealand in 1995, and her sister Kim was born two years later. The girls grew up on the boat. The parents only returned to the Netherlands when it was time for Laura to go to school. They separated soon afterwards. The younger daughter Kim, who works as trapeze artist today, lives with her mother, who has remarried. Laura stayed with her father.
'I Know She Can Do It'
While her friends drew horses in school, Laura painted sailboats. At six she built a raft out of cardboard boxes. Her father gave her a dinghy for her eighth birthday. At 10 she told him that she wanted to sail around the world alone one day. The two began seriously planning the project two years ago, when Dick Dekker bought the "Guppy" for €30,000 ($42,600). They found sponsors. A Dutch TV station secured the exclusive rights to the adventure. A telephone company donated a satellite phone.
The voyage was originally set to begin in the late summer of 2009. Dick Dekker took his daughter out of school, which prompted the principal to notify the youth welfare office. Then her parents had their custody rights restricted. A trial ensued over the question of whether a teenager should be allowed to sail around the world alone. Laura's mother was called to testify. She was against the trip and said: "I would rather have a daughter who never wants to see me again than a dead daughter." A former deep-sea sailor and a psychologist prepared expert opinions. The sailor concluded that Laura could sail as well as an adult. The court-appointed psychologist said that the girl was not being controlled by her father, and that she could cope with the loneliness at sea. "Laura is self-sufficient and demonstrates that she is very happy with herself," the psychologist said.
Nevertheless, the judges ruled that the girl was to be placed under the supervision of the youth welfare office. Then a catastrophe occurred. Dick Dekker found his daughter in the cabin of the houseboat, covered with blood. She had slit her wrists. In the hospital, doctors diagnosed Laura Dekker with a borderline personality disorder.
Then her grandparents became involved. They insisted that preventing her from sailing would destroy the girl, and that the authorities should finally allow Laura to set sail. Then her mother Barbara stepped in and asked the judge to let her take the voyage after all. "I know she can do it. She's a strong girl," she said.
On July 27, 2010, a court revoked the youth welfare officer's custody. "With this decision, the responsibility for Laura lies in her parents' hands," the judge proclaimed. Dekker embarked on her voyage a week later.
Smiling at Fear
Now she is sitting on her boat in Bonaire. The Netherlands is more than 4,000 nautical miles away, but for Dekker even that isn't far enough. "That uptight country tried to mess me up, which is why I will never go back there again," she says.
Dekker has refilled her water canisters and bought stacks of canned ravioli, her provisions for the next leg. The radar set is still broken. It doesn't emit a warning signal when an obstacle appears. This isn't the way to sail around the world. Her father will have to come to Bonaire to fix the problem.
For the trip, the Guppy was equipped with four GPS devices, a life raft, a flare gun, a backup tiller and special storm sails. The EPIRB safety system, a buoy that emits emergency signals in the event of an accident, is also on board.
So far, says Dekker, she has only experienced two "really intense days" at sea. During force 9 winds on the Atlantic, the waves were up to five meters high. She clung to a bench below deck until the storm had subsided. "Books, canned goods and stuffed animals were flying all over the place," she says.
"What's really annoying are the days when it's dead calm," says Dekker. On those days she hardly makes any progress as the boat rocks back and forth. "I always get sick on days like that, and it's incredibly boring," she says.
Dekker has brought along her guitar. Sometimes she reads a book, or does schoolwork. She has enrolled in the Netherlands-based Wereldschool (World School). At the end of each leg of her voyage, she emails homework to her teachers.
Calm days, says Dekker, are more dangerous than stormy days. She has to be careful not to run out of drinking water, and sometimes the heat is unbearable. Is she afraid? The question makes her smile. This is a girl who loves the ocean -- the "Sailor Girl." She says that she has never felt fear on the ocean, "just happiness."
No Pippi Longstocking
Rainer Silbereisen, a developmental psychologist at the University of Jena in eastern Germany, has studied the child psyche for the last 30 years. Laura Dekker is an interesting case, says Silbereisen. "She shouldn't have been allowed to go on this trip. A child's development must be embedded in normality. Step by step, she feels her way into life with all of its challenges. But we are constantly taking on more than we should, always wanting to stand for something more than others. The obsession with uniqueness drives us to jump over cars with stilts or set a world record as the youngest female solo sailor. Laura Dekker isn't Pippi Longstocking." If an "extraordinary situation" occurs, he adds, the girl would likely "break out in a panic.Dekker's voyage is hotly debated in sailing circles. Peter Förthmann is a manufacturer of windvane gears. Two years ago, Dick Dekker and his daughter walked into his office in the Wandsbek neighborhood of Hamburg and asked for his help. "The girl's story inspired me," says Förthmann. She had seemed so grown up. He gave Dekker one of his devices as a gift. But today Förthmann is no longer quite so sure that her voyage will be a success. Some of the technology on board the Guppy, he says, is "ancient." Her boat already sustained damage to its rudder off the coast of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands. "I don't believe that Laura will finish this thing," says Förthmann.
Back on his houseboat in the Netherlands, Dick Dekker is kneeling in front of a large map of the world. He has outlined his daughter's route with a felt-tipped pen and placed a little flag onto each stop along the way. Once his daughter has passed Australia, which is supposed to happen in about three months, she'll sail around Indonesia and head for the Horn of Africa.
The waters off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden are not a good place for sailors. The entire world is terrified of the Somali pirates, who are constantly attacking ships in the region. In February, a yacht carrying a Danish family of five was captured and the family taken hostage. The pirates arrived with speedboats and demanded ransom money. A girl in a small boat would be an easy target.
"The weather conditions are best along that route," says Dick Dekker.
And the pirates?
"They'll hardly hijack a boat carrying a single girl," says Dekker.
He glances at the route on his map of the world. This is precisely the scenario he and Laura had discussed. Then he raises his head and says: "But maybe Laura is also an attractive target, because she's so well-known?"
Yes, maybe.
Sleepless Nights to Come
Everything is so much more complicated than he had envisioned. His daughter is out there somewhere, fighting waves, storms and pirates. As her father, he bears responsibility, and it's his job to protect her. But instead he is sitting helpless on his houseboat on the Dutch coast.
Dekker thinks for a moment. Then he says: "One of Laura's friends was run over and killed on her way to school. Accidents can happen anywhere."
Shortly before Laura Dekker left Bonaire, she had a close call with disaster. She was returning from a kayak outing when a truck crashed into the car she was sitting in, forcing it into a curve. She fractured a bone in her head. The doctors told her to rest, but she decided to set sail anyway. Perhaps she feels safer at sea than on land.
She will soon be sailing across the Pacific toward Australia -- 4,000 nautical miles of open water. Her father will spend many a sleepless night on his houseboat. But when his daughter ends up capturing the record and becomes the youngest woman to sail alone around the world, a new life will begin, and he'll be the father of a celebrity.
One day after Dekker's return, a book will be published about her voyage -- in several different languages.

--Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Note: The viewpoint expressed in this article is solely that of the writer / news outlet. "FATA Awareness Initiative" Team may not agree with the opinion presented.

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