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A Trini in the desert: Investing in lives and livelihoods

Bevan Springer | 9/21/2012, 4 p.m.
Jamaica's Butch Stewart picks Almond in Barbados

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A Trini in the desert: Investing in lives and livelihoods

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Sept. 20)--The Caribbean can learn a lot from the Gulf states about executing a bold vision for development, as well as the benefits of greater tolerance for its citizens regardless of color, class or creed, according to a West Indian living and working in the Middle East.

Trinidadian Roger Oxley, who teaches students in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE), believes democracy, as it is understood in the West, "Ain't all it's cracked up to be," and believes there is room for a "new vision for government" in the Caribbean.

"It's amazing what can be accomplished with a firm hand in government, a benevolent autocracy, continuity of vision and a strength of purpose," asserted Oxley. "Also, we claim to be a tolerant part of the world when it comes to religious freedoms, but the UAE has actually made unparalleled interfaith investments so that Muslims and Christians, for example, can co-exist harmoniously."

Performing various stints in Dubai over his five-plus years in the Gulf--ranging from 12 weeks to six months--Oxley is a contract instructor in the Emirates National Cadet Pilot Programme, designed for young, ambitious Emirati nationals who want to become some of the world's best-trained pilots.

The National Cadet Pilot Programme trains students to become an Emirates Airlines first officer upon successful completion of the multi-tiered program and also opens doors to further opportunities within the burgeoning airline.

Oxley has always dreamed of becoming a pilot, and while life's paths have never landed him in the cockpit, he gets to live vicariously through his students, who range from ages 17 to 30, as he teaches them English, math, physics, human performance, meteorology, aerodynamics, general and radio navigation and flight instruments. In addition, he helps them build a strong foundation to supplement their piloting pursuits.

"It's a great experience, and I am proud to help a bunch of students in their own country," said the well-spoken Trinidadian. "Sadly, it's not your own nationals," he reflects, "but as a human being, it is nice to know you are helping people to pursue their dreams."

He admits the UAE's distance from his native Trinidad and Tobago--a world away--can be lonely, especially when on longer assignments, but much can be said for "the quality of life" in the desert, not to mention the strong West Indian community here.

"I love the place. People here believe in God, they respect their elders unlike other Western nations ... so the similarities between theirs and our culture (notwithstanding some contradictions) make adjusting really easy," he reports.

A graduate of the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine campus in Trinidad, Oxley was an air traffic controller with the Trinidad government before joining the then national airline BWIA as an aircraft flight dispatcher. He then moved onto the performance engineering department and became manager of schedule planning when the company ceased operating as "BWee" in 2006.