Sunday, December 26, 2010

When youth have the breath of wisdom

We sometimes forget how wonderful the world of ideas, visions, wishes and smiles can be, and that we only need good-will to realise our innermost wishes. And that a sincere thought and intention can attract everything it needs for realisation.
Let the directness and playfulness of children reopen the door to the world of adventure, hope, manifestation and personal fulfilment. Dan carries these qualities inside. Simply. Openly. Sincerely. And more. He is aware of his joy and lives and shares it unreservedly. Even though he is 13-year old boy. His penetrating, yet slightly distant, gaze can see further and deeper.
Let us end this unique and demanding, yet rich, year on the wings of Dan's energy. Let us start the new year with the purity of children's unrestrained directness and clear thought – a new year, an age and a lifetime. This is Dan's story.

Photo: Dan Poljšak

VB: Who is Dan Poljšak?

DP: I am a rather joyful 13-year-old; a sailor and a constructor, born on Valentine's day.
I live in Škofja Loka, but have had a connection with the sea, and sailing since I was little. I was born into a family of sailors. I enjoy building model sailboats and I love to paint on canvass.

Dan Poljšak:
- Sailor in the "Optimist" class (the Optimist is a small class boat, specifically for children aged 7 to 15; the most broadly used sailboat in the world):
- runner-up at the Italian national championship in 2006;
- twice the Slovenian national champion (2007, 2008) in the category of boys under 12;
- 1st place in the "Cadets" category at the 2007 Touring Trasimeno International Cup;
- member of the Slovenian national team in 2008, 2009 and 2010; competed at the EC's on Lake Garda in 2008 and in Strunjan in 2009;
- Artist:
- individual exposition at his primary school in 2008;
- first prize in the Volvo Ocean Race international contest for his painting of a sailboat of the future (over 100 entries from children from 30 countries; absolute winner in all age categories);
- Constructor:
- design for an antique galleon, and making of models with remote control of steering and sails. The sailboat is made of wood. It is covered with a plastic layer to improve water-tightness. Its buoyancy was tested both in a lake and in the sea;
- design and making of an original pirate schooner of 4,5m in length.
VB: What are your delights, your dreams?
DP: When I was eight, my favourite film was "Bratovščina Sinjega galeba". Afterwards, I wanted to see every film featuring courageous captains and pirates. I would like to be the captain of a ship. Whenever I am at the marina, I watch other sailboats and imagine what my own boat will look like.
Photo: Dan at work

VB: What do you feel when you are creating?
DP: I am in my own world when I'm creating, and I like to have peace and, perhaps, some good music. I prefer Italian singers. When at the seaside, I like to sail with Škrga in the company of my friends, but I don't mind going out alone either. I enjoy my ability to manoeuvre the boat and control all five sails by myself.

ŠKRGA: a sailboat; Dan Poljšak's innovative project; his original pirate schooner of 4,5m in length:
- he first presented his idea at the InCo Conference in Ljubljana, in April 2009. The process of making the sailboat was documented by the national television and used as a pilot for a series entitled " Mladi inovator" (Young Innovator).
- The sailboat is intended as a training boat for children learning sailing skills. When building the boat, the young constructor benefited greatly from the knowledge shared by his father and other professionals and participated in every step of the building process.
- The sailboat has been in the water almost two years and many children have gained new experiences during their sailing adventures.

Photo: Dan's sailboat Škrga

VB: This is quite an expensive hobby. Who helps you with it?

DP: I am grateful to have the support and help of my family whenever my wishes and plans are especially demanding.
It's really great that mom can sometimes get us sponsorship. I got my first Optimist class boat from a sponsor from Italy, which is something I am very proud of. That boat was my luckiest so far. I recently also received a computer and design tools.

VB: What about knowledge?
DP: I learn a lot from my dad and from the professionals who work with us. I get even more information from the Internet and by reading and watching television programmes on sailing. I learn a lot by myself – from my mistakes and discoveries. I also like to spend time with my friends and sail and share ideas with them.
Dan's childhood: He started drawing and constructing interesting compositions of coloured wooden cubes when he was two. He was encouraged in his play and continued to develop his talent. He always wanted to participate in all home repairs and got his first real tool kit (like grown-up handy men) and a wooden workbench for testing his tools when he was four.
The first model he built was a simple copy of the Titanic; afterwards, he started building with Lego cubes.
Initially, he followed existing designs, later he developed his own. He was always including various mechanisms (wheels, hoists, springs, gears and shafts, etc.). Thus, his models came to life with functionality. He also continued drawing and exhibited great talent for spatial representation and multi-dimensionality.
During his first school years, he mainly created sketches, plans and models from Lego cubes, wood, cardboard and natural materials.
He was mainly encouraged by his family, but his kindergarten and school teachers also recognized his talents, especially in arts and technical classes.
VB: How do your schoolmates, friends and teachers feel about your work?
DP: Very differently, but most people at school already know I like sailing. At the end of last school year I invited all my schoolmates and our class teacher on a field trip to my sailing club. Everyone had the opportunity to sail with Škrga. We also visited Piran and had ice cream together. I was happy to show this part of my life to my schoolmates. People in Škofja Loka generally don't know much about sailing.

VB: What sort of a schedule do you keep?
DP: I stay in Škofja Loka during the week, while every weekend, my family goes to the seaside.
Mom says we are leading a slightly nomadic lifestyle. Sometimes we sleep on the boat, and sometimes in Trieste at my nana's.
We spend our days training at the club or competing in regattas in various places. On weekdays, i spend my mornings at school and most of my afternoons building models. Lately, I've also been enjoying painting oil paintings on canvas. My dad and I also go to ki-aikido training.
Through his family's lifestyle, Dan has had a close bond with nature since birth, which has taught him a lot. Every year, he spends months close to the sea and sailboats. This enabled him to learn to observe nature, from the weather to sea water. His view of the world gained a new dimension when he saw what was inside a drop of sea water; he saw crystals that contain energy. In his 1st grade he challenged the traditional division between the animate and inanimate worlds, for he saw water as a living element with a memory of its own. His bond with nature is also driven by this love of the saltern where Dan spends his summer holidays as a child of nature, separated from his computer and TV.
VB: What do you find most difficult? What brings you the greatest joy?
DP: I don't know yet what I find the most difficult. I can't think of a single thing. I am happiest when I receive new materials to create with. The models I would like to build are very expensive, so I often have to wait for several months before I get them. I also enjoy holidays and spending time at the saltern. Especially, when my friends join me on my boat and we go exploring together. This year, my dad allowed me to sail our 13-meter sailboat Sandokan. I greatly enjoyed taking it to the wharf and mooring it by myself.


Photo: Dan is painting

VB: What do you think your life will be like when you grow up?
DP: I am currently living a day at a time and don't make any big plans. Perhaps I will be a ship captain sailing around the world. What I'd like even more, would be to own a 15-meter wooden sailboat. I'm not sure whether I will build my two-mast schooner myself, or not. I will probably buy it second-hand and fix it. I would also like to have a family.

Photo: Dan Poljšak

VB: A question for Dan's mother ... How is your family experiencing Dan's development? What do you usually do?

DP: Our family's bond with the sea and sailing is a way of life. Whenever we have an interesting idea we try to realise it. For example, after several years of effort we finally succeeded to enrich sea water with natural energy using a method unique in Slovenia and in the world. In one of the salt funds at the Sečovlje saltern we are producing special energy salt. We also wrote a book about it, entitled "Energy Captured in a Salt Crystal". In this project, we completed the circle SEA = LIFE = LOVE... Lately, we have been developing shading solutions and technology using "sun sails". Our experience with sailing is very helpful in implementing our idea of "tricking" the sun with the help of the wind. Dan was encouraged to develop his ideas in a similar way since he was little.


VB: How do you manage your finances?
DP: We are usually capable of overcoming obstacles; however, such activities are very demanding financially.
All the materials for creating, the models, all the precious materials and paints …, and especially all the trips to the coast, training, sailing equipment and all trips to distant regattas – are all very expensive. Both children are promising young sportsmen, members of Slovenian national teams, and this is often too much to handle financially. Initially, only Dan was winning trophies; later, he helped with the development of his sister Lara who has already surpassed him with her achievements in sport. Nevertheless, we are happy their efforts and work have been confirmed with results.

Photo: Family portrait

VB: What poses the greatest challenge to your family? What is your greatest satisfaction?
DP: The greatest challenges for our family are maintaining a close bond with each other and nature, yet realising our projects and ideas. We also wish our efforts and activities would provide us with financial independence.
To conclude, here is a holiday greeting from DAN and his family. The words were borrowed from a Slovenian poet, Lili Novy.
"Everyone of us, as if on a boat,
Is sailing an uncharted course;
This moment you should try to hold,
And love whatever else you keep afloat,
as long as the daylight lights your oars."
We wish you a happy and delightful 2011. Vibacom Team. p.s.: We donated our funds for greeting cards and gifts to Dan to help him realise his dreams; thank you for being with us.

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