Exclusive: The Dreamer, the Astronaut and the Nation within – Part II

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Written by Alaa (aka Lols) 

"Bondok" being recognized for the pursuit of his dreams.
“Bondok” being recognized for the pursuit of his dreams.

Welcome back everyone to this very special Exclusive with Ahmed Khaled Said (aka Bondok). Last Tuesday, we brought you the first part of his journey to Florida to compete in the Global Space Camp in the USA. Today, we’re going to see what awaited him in the Sunny Side of America and the tests and challenges Bondok had to endure.

The tests you went through in Space Camp; were they the same as the ones you went through in training in Cairo?

They were even less! In Egypt, we had the G-Force going up to 8 and 9 G’s. In Florida, we only got to 3. The air combat compared to the simulation in Egypt was nothing! There was this one test, the zero gravity flight that was cancelled because a bird went through the jet engines or something. Instead we got to do the assault course which was a killer test! I finished first in my group though.

 

How the assault course starts...
How the assault course starts…

 

And what is the Assault Course?

It’s a course consisting of 10 or 11 obstacles. It was hard I have to say. First, you climb a mountain shaped obstacle then you jump over 8 or 9 barriers. After that, you crawl under a net, jump the ropes 50 times, go through a workout where you touch the ground, stretch your leg, bend it then jump up for 15 times. At this point of the course, you start to lose a lot of energy. Then there were targets you must shoot, 3 targets to be exact but the guns were toys so the accuracy wasn’t that good. After you shoot the 3 targets, you do 40 push-ups and sit-ups, go through car tires and inside a tunnel filled with mud. After that, you carry 3 sandbags and zigzag your way around 9 poles, one bag at a time. Lastly, you go down a zip liner from one side to the other. It was a good challenge.

 

...and how it "middles" and "ends"
…and how it “middles” and “ends”

 

To hear that you finished first in your group with this course is just amazing! I remember we were talking one day when you were still in camp and you told me you flew a plane. How did it feel to do something you were dreaming of doing since you were a child? How did it happen?

Oh man that was a dream coming true to me! No matter what I tell you, I can’t express it truthfully enough. Before we took off with the plane, I told the captain that I want to fly. He told me it was okay to do it. We took off then he told me to take the stick. I was like: “you serious dude?!” He told me it was all under my control.

Then what happened?

I always dreamed about taking a dive then having a right bank with the plane so, when I started doing the maneuver, he was like “Not yet! Not yet! Just keep flying straight!” I was like “you call that flying?”

 

Fighter Bondok, ready for take off!
Fighter Bondok, ready for take off!

 

But you did do the dive and bank, right?

Till we reached a certain point, we maneuvered the plane into a loop and a 360. There wasn’t much time to do anymore maneuvers. After that, we flew in formation with another plane. It was all part of the tests after all.

I can only imagine how you must have felt at that moment! So with all these tests and obstacles that you were presented with, how did the judges score you? How did they determine who’s better than who?

Now that is a good question that no one knows the answers to!

They didn’t tell you the criteria of their judging?

The criteria was bravery, enthusiasm and team work but the rankings, no one knows how the judges did them.

Those are somewhat vague criteria to base one’s judgment on.

That was a problem, yes. That’s why it would have been better if there were some transparency in the process of judging.

Tell me what day do you remember the most out of all the days you’ve spent there?

The Kennedy Space Center tour was epic. But there was another, even better memory; a rocket was launched right before our eyes. It was a sick view!

What did you feel at that moment?

Envy toward that rocket.

 

One word: AWE!
One word: AWE!

 

I can imagine. You told me that in the Kennedy space center, you saw a moon rock?

I touched it man!

Did it feel any different?

It was so smooth but when I asked, they told me that not all rocks are the same. Some are smooth and others are rough but it was cool all in all.

Yeah I’ll bet.  So when you guys passed all the tests and the experience was near the end, how did you feel especially when they were about to announce the winners?

Well, I said to God that whatever the result may be, I am happy so I don’t really care who got to win. I was hoping for an Egyptian to be lucky enough and make it to the end. And I am honored to say that my friend Omar Samra will be the first Egyptian Astronaut inshallah. He deserves it and he is such a great guy.

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“…whoever you are, wherever and whenever, dreams never die.”

I heard Buzz Aldrin, second man to walk on the moon, was the one who announced the winners.

He handed us our certificates and congratulated the winners and had a photo session with them after that. He is such a funny person. When he knew that I am from Egypt, he told me that he went to Egypt before and he told me about the pyramids and what he saw.

This is one story that’s just amazing. To conclude our interview, what did you get out of this whole experience, even if you didn’t get to be the one to go up to space?

I found that the world is better if you are not behind a desk and that it’s not about winning all the time. Trying is an honor in itself. There are good people around the world and in spite of everything, we are all peace lovers. I learned a lot of other things that can’t be mentioned. Like now, I know why I always wanted to be a pilot.

 

A dream finally came true.
A dream finally came true.

 

Why is that?

Because flying is so much fun; I realized that I can do it till I die. I felt like that up there in the sky, is where I belong. I felt happy and excited just by thinking about flying. I just want to say that whoever you are, wherever and whenever, dreams never die. They are out there in disguise, waiting for the right time to shine back at you.

You are absolutely right, Bondok! Your spirit and determination is something that I came to admire a lot these past few months. Thank you for giving Egypt’s youth a chance to see who they can become when they follow their dreams and have a spirit of determination and strength. 

***

I can never stress enough how very proud I am of Bondok. He made me realize that anyone can achieve their dreams if you have the right mindset and will to do so. For more on Bondok within the Global Space Camp, you can check him out via these links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35yKFGpKV8Y

http://youtu.be/kCd9GUqStzI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_swp5O7RJIg&feature=share

And you could also check out a few of his interviews as well:

–          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGZgtlrQhMo&feature=share&list=UUtpL6HyBK-z16GbJguHf3JQ

–          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erkF4KUW9vs

–          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9-OA0rl178&feature=share

 

Be sure to support him in his future accomplishments and dreams via his official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/bndkofficial?ref=ts&fref=ts.

Until next time with a brand new Exclusive!

 

 

 

 

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