x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Teen life: Fund-raising for an expedition is an adventure in itself

A trip to Nepal demanded a fund-raising effort. But Dubai teenagers are not accustomed to washing cars or flipping burgers to get what they want.

There is nothing teenagers like more than a dash of adventure in their lives. Hollywood is overflowing with flicks featuring swashbuckling people who go around having fabulous escapades over raging rivers and treacherous mountains without so much as disturbing their eyeliner. A coming trip is set to jet us off to Nepal, where we'll be trekking through wilderness, sleeping rough and channelling some team spirit around bonfires.

It sounds romantic, but previous trekking and camping expeditions in the UAE desert have left us rather wiser about what to expect. We lived off snack bars because the water for our "instant" noodles took half an hour to boil on the tiny stoves. When, after a long day of lugging backpacks over dunes under a merciless sun, we reached the campsite, our tents blew away in the wind because we forgot to weigh them down with rocks.

Nevertheless, Nepal promises to be memorable, even though we're being encouraged to raise a part of the rather high cost of the trip ourselves. The idea is that if we do some fund-raising to pay our way, it will increase our sense of accomplishment and independence.

Our idea of honest work is to walk all the way from the parking of Mall of the Emirates to the Fashion Dome for some retail therapy. The Dubai teenager does not wash cars, do newspaper rounds or flip burgers to get what he or she wants. We like it delivered on a silver platter, although we may graciously tip the bearer of said platter from finances provided by our parents.

The point, though, was: no fund-raising, no expedition to a mystical country of cloud-ringed monasteries and burbling brooks gushing down hills, no visiting the birthplace of Buddha and no excuse to miss school for a couple of days. So there we were - it was time to line the cookie tray and take the traditional Girl Scout approach to minting some riches. Baking not being anyone's forte in particular, the group capitalised on their various skills. A few of us have taken to busking at assorted school fairs and festivals, a picture of doleful talent strumming away behind hopefully open instrument cases.

A garage sale, we decided, should do the trick. A teenager's room is crawling with clutter. Lift up the shoes and chocolate wrappers strewn around and you unearth a treasure chest of long-forgotten, predominantly useless objects. A Whoopee cushion, a harmonica with an engraving of Mozart I'd once bought in a Salzburg souvenir shop and some mouldy, shrivelled apple cores (so that was the funny smell hanging around for a month), among other things, were the result of a fairly fruitful rummage through.

All we needed to do was stick up some posters around the compound, drag out a table in one of our garages, blu-tack a "Garage sale" sign, plonk ourselves down and wait. We ended up doing quite a lot of that - the waiting part, I mean. Few residents like to venture out of the confines of their homes if it isn't to drive away somewhere, so it was a while before the first customer trotted along.

It was a little boy on his bicycle on the way to the park nearby. "How much is this for?" he asked, pointing to a deflated football I'd received years ago from the Manchester United Soccer Schools, when I was going through the overenthusiastic sportsperson phase. It was Dh20. He snorted, contempt etched in every line of his face. "I'll give you five dirhams." "Fifteen?" I ventured, resigning myself to haggling. The kid refused to budge, seeming for all the world a remarkably astute businessman on the verge of an important deal. "Rooney used to own this ball!" Dana told him desperately, taking the good marketing strategy a tad to the extreme. "Fifteen's a rip-off," he decided firmly, grabbing the ball and strutting away. "Oi! You haven't paid!" The kid whipped his head around, swung a leg around his bicycle and sped away, football tucked in the crook of his arm.

We would have chased him if we'd had any other use for a football. So much for fund-raising. We did finally sell some bits and bobs over the next hour, making perhaps a hundredth of the total cost of the expedition. In the end, I paid Dana Dh10 for a couple of her bracelets and we split our "earnings" between us. I think it's back to the old Girl Scout standby - going from house to house with a goody bag - even if everything does turn out burnt. There's hope someone will pay us just to go away.


Lavanya Malhotra is a 16-year-old student in Dubai



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