10th July 2008
I was despatched. An emotional farewell.
Through the gates and ready to start my mini-adventure. My severe lack of planning meant I had managed to arrive at the departure gate without a guide book. I have one or two slight misgivings about guide books as I often find that they are written in an instructive tone of voice rather than a suggestive one.
“You must visit Plaza Real as its interior features a classic façade of neo-Barique architecture” etc. However, I had to admit to myself that I actually would need some form of guide book in Chile. So with that in mind, I pleaded to the female assistant who told me flatly that I could exit the departure lounge to buy my book, but if the gate closed (which it was due to in 5 minutes), then it was at my own risk. I decided to chance it... 10 mins later, out of breath but clutching my guidebook, I was the last but one passenger to board the plane.
The 2 hour flight to Madrid was fairly uneventful. I chatted with some teenagers who I noticed were also headed to Santiago. Turns out they were all around 16 years old and were part of a larger group going out to help an indigenous community build a disabled toilet of all things. To me, this sounded like a great project to be involved with. I wondered whether, if I had the time to prepare I might have chosen something more interactive for myself. I’d like to think so! (For reference, their project was arranged by a company called ‘World Challenge’)
Some of the things these kids were doing to raise sponsorship was incredible. One young man called James told me how he raised £3,000 by playing concerts in his village hall. Others had similar stories. These were/are mere children who were achieving and doing more than I ever did at their age. When I was 16, I spent my time reading Smash Hits, dreaming of Kylie and looking forward to the next Aston Villa game.
I was certainly not spending my spare time giving piano concertos to raise money in order to go out and help those in need. It also strikes me, that today’s kids have far greater access to opportunity than my generation either had or could afford.
James’ story would not be the last time I was confronted with people half my age doing amazing things.