The second event touched me very personally. The advent of good communications almost anywhere in the world means that I was in contact with so many friends through Facebook and the rest. So many I do not hear from regularly but I got a message from a distant friend, Graeme, on the island of St Kitts – only a few hundred kilometres to the east of me. It simply said “Sorry to get in touch this way, but have you heard about Edsel?”
It’s never a good message to get, and I thought of all kind of reasons why he asked. I said no. I had talked with Edsel through Skype a few days before I left the UK. He was heading to St Lucia to talk to some clients there about a sort of sat nav app he was looking at. We were saying how we had not caught up in a while and were looking at a couple of options for new work together, as we often did. I’d said I would follow up with him after I got back from Haiti and we were planning to meet up in Jamaica later on that year at a conference.
Graeme replied “I’m hearing that he has died.”
Of all the scenarios that had run through my mind this was the one I had dismissed as being the least likely. Graeme himself had no confirmation but had heard something on the old familiar Caribbean grapevine. I reached out to Eduardo who was living in St Kitts at the time. After a couple more hours he came back and confirmed it to me. Edsel had arrived in St Lucia OK but had suffered an almighty heart attack; he never recovered.
Edsel in St Vincent
My first encounter with Kingstown, St Vincent was in 1999 where I had a two day trip to try and sort out a consultancy attempting to fly aerial photography over the coral reef of the Grenadines. From that trip I went back a few times to manage that project and do some training, and I have talked elsewhere about my field work in the Grenadines, and a couple of fantastic day trips to Bequia Island and up the windward side of St Vincent itself.
After working in the Virgin Islands for a couple of years and going back in to consultancy I found myself approached by the Ministry of Planning in Kingstown to develop an idea for a national GIS. As with many of these contracts, and particularly since the funding was to come through the European Union, the bureaucracy takes many months to sort out before you can actually start out. I was the main contractor and I partnered up with two people, Edsel of course, but also another GIS expert called Eduardo.
Edsel has introduced me to Eduardo several years before on one of my trips to St Kitts. Originally from Argentina, he had worked in development in many countries before ending up as a consultant for a couple of projects in St Kitts and Nevis. There he had settled down with a local girl and become part of the Kittitian GIS scene. Although he worked a lot for St Kitts government he was keen to do more work up and down the islands. Edsel and I had met up with him at a beach bar at the far end of St Kitts. Originally the area had been called Mosquito Bay, but the beach bar owners felt the name was not inviting to tourists so it was being marketed as “Turtle Beach”. Over the usual Caribbean tourist fare of beefburger, fries and beer, we discussed our interests in work and found a lot of overlap. More so even than Edsel, Eduardo had a lot of experience with different agencies in developing countries and I could see that we could partner up t some time.
Eduardo (right) and Tony Bowman on the Bequia Ferry
So when the project in St Vincent was advertised I was keen to get the two of them on board. It was a different style of project than anything I had undertaken before, full project management for me, and having a couple of subcontractors meant I had to deal with their contracts and payments as well as my own. And the plan was to have Eduardo be the main consultant in country, with me supervising and inputting on some fronts, and Edsel pitching in with training aspects. This meant I had to get Eduardo set up to live there long term. No way could the project afford hotels for the whole time he was due to be there; and I would not inflict hotel life on anyone for that length of time anyway. Problem was that he was to be in and out of St Vincent several times over the 15 months of the project. Eduardo did some hunting round in the first week of the project and managed to find a very good deal on a two bedroom villa at the back of Kingstown, and he could take it for the whole period for less than we had budgeted for the 8 months of his time on island. So we were sorted.