venerdì 27 maggio 2011

When imagination exceeds reality

Lester B. Pearson college United World College of the pacific
May 23th, 2011

What you are about to read will seem like a fairytale rather than a true account of a day which I will hold in my heart for a long time to come. Pearson College is situated in a forest which seems like a fantasy of Charles Perrault, with majestic trees, magical pathways, populated by squirrels, deer and marvellous birds and plants and flowers I had never seen before. The college building also seems to be from a storybook. It is next to a little bridge which crosses a brook where, as happened most mornings, including the morning of the crossing, when I came out to go to the landing stage to embark for the journey to Fleming Beach, a deer was sniffing something on the doorstep and totally unconcerned by my presence, continued to do so. For a moment I thought (was I dreaming?) that it was a troll come to wish me good luck and then a short distance further on, a few centimetres away, on the door mat I found a sheet of paper folded with a bird feather. I took it and opened it. It was a moving letter in French, wishing me “bonne chance”.
On the landing stage I met Chris Blondeau, the director of operations, David Hawley, the rector with his wife Leisa and the students, Augusta (Gugu because her college friends find it hard to pronounce her name) Matthia, Raed, Mark and Sahar. After all the advice on the crossing and the team photographs, we left for Victoria towards Fleming Beach, the starting point.
The weather wasn’t much good. Cloudy and grey with a cold wind. The sea didn’t promise anything good as I found out during the swim.
Once we reached Fleming Beach, I started to get ready with Gugu who helped me to spread lanolin and whale grease over my body. It took longer than usual as the temperature of the water was 8° Celsius whilst outside it wasn’t more than 14°.
The team, captained by Chris, were troubled throughout the crossing by the cold and soaked by the rough seas.
We set off at 08.40. For the first few minutes, I couldn’t put my face in the water it was so cold, but as with all the crossings, I isolated myself from the world, seeing nothing but the zodiac driven by Chris and Mattia who filmed the swim, faultlessly escorting me despite the difficult conditions.
I think this was the most difficult challenge I have ever faced. This time I really didn’t think I could make it due to the cold, the head wind and the rough sea. Even Chris (as he admitted at the end whilst I was dressing) revealed that he thought that I wouldn’t make it.
As in all the best fairy tales, I feel I can use the word “Miracle” when we finally reached the bay that led to the landing stage we left from in the morning. At that point, there were only 3km to go, the water was still icy, but a faint ray of sun shone and the sea became a mirror which encouraged me a great deal. Whilst I headed for the finish line I was brought back to reality by the cries of encouragement from the students who came by my side in their boats. I recognized David, happy that he was filming everything with his ultra modern telephone. I was incredibly moved and thought how much I loved these kids. Feelings, values, the joy of living helped me to finish what was, let me say it, an epic undertaking!
20 km in 4 hours and 50 minutes).
I was finally able to dock to greet all the college that gave me very warm welcome and joyful!

All the best
Salvatore Cimmino

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