DUBAI // He may be a desert explorer and 11-time world record holder, but there was one thing about Max Calderan that all the pupils at a primary school wanted to know – was he ever bitten by a snake?
The answer was yes, but three days later it was the snake that died.
The Italian adventurer recently became the first person to cross the 340-kilometres Tropic of Cancer by foot from Saudi Arabia, across the UAE to Oman and has become known as the “son of the desert”. He spoke to 150 Year 6 children at Emirates International School in The Meadows, Dubai, on Sunday.
“It doesn’t matter what your dream is, we all have different dreams,” he told the children. “My dream when I was your age was to become a desert explorer. I started to train daily, suffering, training, to accomplish my goal. I had my dream and I realised it.
“The main thing is you should never stop dreaming. Whatever you do in your life, you have to do it daily and success will come.”
The 48-year-old, who survived up to 100 hours without sleep, said speaking to the children and inspiring them through tales of his sometimes perilous adventures was vital as “these [children] are our future”.
In addition to talking about the kinds of challenges and animals he has encountered, regaling with tales of desert survival, sleep deprivation and the importance of preparation, the father of three told them: “The most important thing is to be surrounded by good people, good friends, people who trust what you do … the friends and friendships you start to build here, if they’re strong, they’ll remain for all your life.”
Daniel Tupua-Siliva, Year Six co-ordinator at the school, said: “A lot of personalities are brought into Dubai but this is a person who lives here and understands the context.”
Mr Calderan’s theme of following dreams was an important one for the children, he said.
“In schools, imagination and creativity are taught out of kids. It’s the last thing we utilise, rather than the first, so that enthusiasm is there and their passion in harnessed,” said Mr Tupua-Siliva.
“Another layer that’s so important about Max’s visit is that he converted to Islam. Around 70 per cent of our kids are Muslim but nearly all of them are expats so seeing Max’s documentary showing him running in Ramadan [he fasted as he journeyed across 250 kilometres of the Sinai Peninsula in 48 hours in 2013 in temperatures of up to 45°C] and observing the call to prayer, they relate to him. Not only is he an expatriate but he’s a Muslim, too. It’s about planting the seeds for inspiration into the kids and I couldn’t think of a better person to come in.”
Laila Nicholson, 10, said Mr Calderan was “very inspirational”. Farah Taribouz, 11, agreed. “It inspired me to follow my goals and showed that we can really achieve our goals in life. He did it and I feel I can do that as well,” she said.
Teacher Ryan Vanzyl said the talk was important for the children to see that the world is wide open to them, whatever their dream.
“Not everyone has to be a doctor or a lawyer,” he said. “With all the technology available to us now, it’s much easier to explore these other kinds of callings that are out there for the children.”
(via The National)