Wednesday, August 31, 2016

438 Days

438 Days by Jonathan Franklin
Yes, it sounds like a copycat story of 72 Hours that was made into a movie starring James Franco. Who read 72 Hours? Not as many as those who watched the movie, right? Well, I watched 72 Hours. I didn’t read the book. However, because of my love of reading from actual books (and not digital methods) and the fact that my choices at the bookstores in Rome are limited, I actually chose a book I normally wouldn’t have spent the money or time to read. This book is a survival story about a fisherman, Salvador Alvarenga, who manages to survive in the Pacific Ocean for 438 days. He gets stuck in a storm off the southern coast of Mexico and is swept out to sea. At first he’s got company, his crewmate, but he dies. Alvarenga washes up 438 days later on Ebon Atoll, a part of the Marshall Islands, miraculously alive. Optimism, humor, knowledge of life on the sea, and dreams of seeing his daughter again all were instrumental in his survival.
I was deeply struck by the role optimism played in his survival and I realize as a parent that this is one quality I want to foster in my children before they leave my nest. I have two particularly negative children and thinking of what their future may be like scares me. Salvador Alvarenga may not be as optimistic and humorous as he is portrayed in the book but if he possesses a quarter of that humor or optimism, he’s fascinating. He’s the kind of person people naturally want to be around. I wish him the best in his life and I recommend this book to young people and to people who think they have it hard in life.
Thanks to Alvarenga’s example, I was able to make it through a potentially disastrous situation on a ferryboat from Palermo to Rome with four of my kids. Of course I wasn’t stranded, starving or in danger, but I did have passage on a large boat full of Italians but no seats for my kids or myself. We were just supposed to find a spot somewhere on the boat to plop ourselves for the 14 hour trip. Very strange procedure. Why anyone would travel this way is beyond me. Anyway, I just thought of Alvarenga and realized that we didn’t have it half bad. It was warm, dry and my kids actually listen to me 75% of the time. The lights were bright all night, the floor was hard, but my kids slept well. I even whipped out our Peppa Pig inflatable raft and Helen’s inner tube to use as sleeping cushions. 

 Those who evidently knew what they were doing brought their king size inflatable mattresses and blankets and pillows. The whole shebang! Everyone else got the nooks and crannies of the boat first so we were stuck out in the open at first. Sherman went and scavenged stray chairs to bring back to our spot to create a semicircle of safety for the night. We survived all thanks to my optimism, my kids’ help and willingness to cooperate and Sherman’s innovation.  
Everyone was happy in the morning! 

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