PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 August, 2012, 3:13am

One man's island, another man's dream


Bonny Schoonakker has worked as a journalist in South Africa, Europe and, now, Asia, reporting on war and peace, and everything in between, for more than 30 years. Despite being in newspapers for an uncomfortable length of time, he feels he still has a lot to learn and cannot shake off the suspicion that you are only as good as your next story, no matter how good your last one. However, he does know that truth is a lie’s best cover, and remains constantly on the alert.

You might know them as the Diaoyu or the Senkaku islands, but my people call them the Bezotteneijlanden, which once sheltered our ancestor Jakobus de Pechvogel, when he lived there as a castaway 500 years ago.

In fact, as confirmed by a search of the online databases of the Dutch East India Company, the Ming empire and the Tokugawa shogunate, Pechvogel is the first human to have survived more than 24 hours on the Bezottens, a fact of which we are in awe.

Pechvogel landed up on the Bezottens after he was set adrift from his ship, the Vrolijke Vrijbuiter, which needed to lose ballast to compensate for a heavy cargo of spices, silks and computer components. It seems that his disputatious and stubborn nature had added to the crew's burden of living within the small confines of a wooden ship far from home. We, the descendants of Pechvogel, bear no ill feeling towards the crew, not least because Pechvogel survived his 12 seasons in exile, thriving on molluscs, rainwater, seaweed and furious arguments with the seagulls about the true nature of the human condition. Honestly, who needs more than that? And how did he make it back to the Cape? Well, let's just say it was on board the Vliegende Hollander, the vessel which you call the Flying Dutchman, under a captain called Vanderdecken.

We are grateful for Pechvogel's sojourn on the Bezottens because it means that, today, indisputably, they belong to us, his descendants, no matter what you may read elsewhere. In fact, when Japan and China started the argument a few years ago about who owns the Bezottens, both sides offered us 10 tonnes of silver and a year's supply of cloves and nutmeg to give up the Pechvogel claim. Needless to say, we refused, and, even as I write, plans are being made to raise an expedition to reassert our rights, just as soon as we can work out who the hell do we think we are.

Alex Lo is on leave



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