Chris Hadfield responding to Arouna's questions
A magical connection for the talibé children
In April 2013 astronaut Chris Hadfield was commander of the International Space Station. As Chris Hadfield was tweeting his amazing “postcards from space”, photos of our planet taken from his vantage point on the ISS, volunteer Sonia LeRoy was showing them to the talibé children, who were amazed. They particularly loved the photos of Dakar at night and the Sahara, taken from space. When Chris Hadfield learned of the talibés and their interest in his photos, he was excited to meet the kids.
Chris Hadfield is a great proponent of advance preparation and contingency planning. It is in that spirit that there was not only a plan for the call, but also a back up plan, and a back up for the back-up plan. As it turned out, all that planning was needed.
After viewing Youtube videos of Chris Hadfield’s December 2012 Soyuz launch, footage of his spacewalks and more photos from space, the talibés considered questions that they wanted to ask him. He received the written list of these questions in advance via email.
The day of the call, the internet at Maison de la Gare’s centre was not working. Half an hour before the planned Skype connection, fourteen talibés eager to connect with Chris Hadfield packed into taxis for the trip to a local hotel that had a WiFi connection.
The children gathered round the computer in anticipation. They viewed the space ship launch one more time, and reviewed their questions. At the designated time, the Skype call from Chris Hadfield began. Rowan Hughes, a Canadian volunteer who had done much to organize the call, asked the first question to encourage the talibés to follow suit.
Talibé Arouna Kandé, clearly nervous and excited, asked his question (in French): “What made you think you could do something that so few people have ever done?” Chris Hadfield addressed Arouna directly by name as he replied that, as a nine year old boy, he knew his dream of going to space was likely impossible. Yet, he nevertheless kept hold of that dream by focusing on the things in his life he could control that would bring him closer to his goal, and not the impossible. He said “Shape your daily decisions toward your dream. Turn yourself into your dream one small decision at a time. And, celebrate the progress of every small change within yourself.”
After Arouna’s question was answered, Skype failed several times. Fortunately, thanks to advance preparations and Chris Hadfield’s patience and familiarity with unreliable communications when making calls from the International Space Station, the call continued via Skype chat.
Chris Hadfield answered each of the talibé’s questions, emailed earlier, in sequence. The manner in which he responded to the questions was amazingly relevant to the talibé’s own lives. One child asked: “When you are afraid, how do you get over it?” Chris Hadfield replied: “I look to the very core of what I fear. Not the general fear, but the real root of it. And then I work to understand that root fear, the real basis of what I fear. And, I practice how to avoid that fear, and how to best react if I do encounter that fear. I practice it over and over. Then, when it really happens, I am not so scared and I respond better.”
The children soaked up Chris Hadfield’s advice, recognizing its significance for them. His parting advice is excellent for us all: “Practice and learn to make good decisions in your life. After all, we are the result of our decisions.”
Talibes mesmerized by photos from space in 2013
Rowan and talibes head to a hotel for the call
Watching Hadfield's launch, waiting for the call
Rowan makes the Skype call to Chris Hadfield
Chris Hadfield on Skype