Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Christie. Skydiving. That's all.

Guess who went skydiving today...?!

Seriously, the things I do for a blog post. Because aside from the blog post, there was little to no real motivation for me to go barrelling out of a plane. I hate heights, have never had an interest in skydiving before and... well, I hate heights! Isn't that enough??

Apparently not. Despite how much I am NOT designed for adventurous activity (what can I say? I scare easily), I was surprisingly quite calm during all the buildup to the actual skydive itself. It all started a couple of days ago, when I went a little crazy at the Information kiosk when I arrived in Cairns and just booked out like a $1,000 worth of activities for the week. Oops- so I got a little excited! So I've never really appreciated nature in the past? Not gonna stop me from exploring the rain forest here! So I can't really swim, am terrified of open waters where I can't see the bottom, and really get uneasy at the thought of what can bite me underwater? Oh well, not gonna stop me from booking snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, apparently. Aaand, so what if I hate the feeling of my stomach dropping on roller coasters and literally am terrified of heights? Clearly, the only natural thing to do is book a skydiving adventure of all things.

Oh well... I guess this is what happens when you go to the other side of the world. Lots of things change, apparently.

I was surprisingly quite calm, cool and collected from the booking through this morning. No freakout moments, no nightmares the night before, nothing. To be honest, the weather has been kind of crummy in Cairns (rainy, rainy, rainy) for the past couple of days, so I think I was subconsciously just figuring the skydive was going to be cancelled. At which point... oh darn!

This morning, when I awoke to the same gray skies and looming clouds, I can't say I was all TOO disappointed at the prospect that the skydive was likely going to be cancelled due to weather. The group picked me up and began the hour's drive out to the skydive start point... and the rain was POURING. Again, can't say I was all too disappointed (first time in my life that I wasn't too disappointed with rain).

I don't know WHAT happened though. Literally, about 20 minutes from our skydive spot, the clouds started to clear and... well, not only did it stop raining but it actually became BRILLIANTLY sunny. Well...

Well, WTF. Mother Nature and her ways... I will never understand.

In any event, I still wasn't all too nervous, despite the looming prospect that this plummet (excuse me, "jump") was actually going to be happening. I think it helped that there was like a TEN-YEAR-OLD in my group... I mean, if HE can do it, well, so can I. Right? Right.


I was introduced to my tandem teacher (or whatever they are called) right away, who turned out to be the friendliest thing ever. She put me right at ease and got me all nicely harnessed. I actually felt quite safe! I think another reason why I wasn't all too nervous about the plummet ("jump"! Sorry!!) was because if you are jumping tandem with someone, you don't really have to do anything. I mean, you don't have to jump- the tandem teacher does. You don't have to hold specific poses or anything- I mean... you SHOULD (they clearly show you the Superman pose you should be holding), but if you blank out and don't hold the pose, I don't really think it's any big deal (speaking as an expert, clearly). You don't have to pull the parachute - your tandem teacher does. And only when you're landing, you have to make sure you have your knees and feet up... and the tandem teacher does the rest.

Since I like to think I take instruction fairly well (obedience is my middle name, after all), I figured this was going to be easy peasy. Even the tiny propeller plane didn't really faze me (and normally, I think I would be terrified of tiny propeller planes... Cuba ring a bell, Jess? :))! I was quite proud of how calm I was. I mean, I was actually even taking the time to enjoy the view as we took off!

As we were well on our way, I was admiring the view and thinking "Wow! This isn't so bad at all! 14,000 feet isn't nearly as high as I was expecting!". It was literally at this moment that my tandem teacher was like "Yes, it is very pretty isn't it? We're at about 5,000 feet now... this is where we'll be when we finally end our freefall and release the parachute".

Lord. We still had another 10,000 feet to ascend before we dumped ourselves outta the plane?? And that, my friends, is when the panic started to set in. I mean, I actually have little to no fear of death (I'm kind of excited to see what it's like after this life! Haha), but STILL. You can't help but face a slight degree of panic when you look out and see... well, how much SPACE is between you and... well, LAND.

For some reason, once panic starts setting in, the activities started to quickly propel forward. First of all, these tandem teachers have these damn video cameras to document this whole sordid experience. At the start, I was ALL about it... you know me and that camera! I LOVE IT!! You better believe I was flashing that smile right and LEFT at the start of this experience and during the flight up. But once we started cresting higher and higher (thus elevating my panic levels higher and higher), I swear that camera became such a nuisance. My darn tandem teacher kept shoving it in my face, asking me how I was doing, how much I was loving the view, etc. etc. I swear, there was one point when I wanted to shove that camera outta my teacher's hand... I mean, who wants their moments of full-fledged panic to be fully and completely documented for all the world to see??

I guess this is the problem with being a people pleaser. Despite the panic, despite the newly realized dread of plummeting outta the plane... well, anytime my tandem teacher asked me how I was doing (and trust me, she asked quite a few times), what would I respond with? "Oh, just fine! This is going to be fun!" *Flash smile for the camera*

Trust me. As much as I love that camera, I am a big fat fail as an actress. This will CLEARLY come across in the video as my responses are more along the lines of *Big gulp* "Oh, just fine! This is going to be fun!" *Flash smile (if smile=grimace) for the camera*.

Well, what was I supposed to do?? Sigh. This is all so very ridiculous, superficial, etc. etc. But oh well. Apparently, that's me.

In any event, before I knew it, they'd shoveled that plane door on open so that people could start barrelling out of the plane. GOD! I don't know how people do this!! I couldn't even LOOK as the other people ahead of me started dumping their bodies out the plane door. I mean, seriously- I think I was more terrified for them than I was for my OWN jump at this point. I mean... there was a whole family on-board!! WHAT were they thinking?? I mean, that ten-year-old boy...

But I digress. At the end of it all, I just COULDN'T watch as the people were shovelling themselves out of the plane. It physically pained me. But before I knew it, my tandem teacher was nudging me along to the edge of the plane. And that, my friends, is when the terror reached new heights. I mean, I knew I'd have to sit at the plane door (with my legs hanging down) for a second, as my tandem teacher and I got all prepared (really, I say this like it was a team effort... it was all her, let's be real here).

But, holy mother of all things good and pure. "Sitting at the plane door" was, quite frankly, one of the more terrifying moments of my life. I honestly could NOT look down. And that's when legitimate thoughts of puking/fainting/dying did actually start entering my head.

But oh well. Before I could start dwelling on THAT for much longer, my tandem teacher... well, I'm not gonna lie. She just kind of shovelled us on outta that plane.

And oh my lord. I couldn't even look for the first 2-3 seconds. I just couldn't face the thought of plummeting to my death. I just couldn't. Surprisingly enough, however, my stomach stopped dropping after those first 2-3 seconds... and then it was just freefalling for a whole minute (and for those who don't think that sounds like a long time... in skydiving land, it so is). And man, I really did feel superhuman.

It. Was. Incredible.

The views, the feeling of the air/clouds surrounding you, the freefalling feeling itself... the fact that I was able to remember and maintain the pose they instructed us to use... trust me, as they were giving us these instructions, I just tucked those in the back of my mind, resting under the assumption that I would blank out anyway and just continue to fully rely on my tandem teacher to force my arms up into the Superman look. But no! I was able to actually think clearly and do it on my own! Imagine that!!

Anyway, after the minute plummet (I mean... freefall), my tandem teacher released the parachute so we could just float along our merry way back to the surface of the earth. The views from that high up were IN-CREDIBLE! I really didn't want the adventure to end.

And you better believe she was recording every minute of it. I swear, once my panic subsided after those first 2-3 seconds of jumping out of the plane, you better believe I was back to hamming it up for the camera. Smile was flashing right and LEFT. Also, since she kept on prompting me for how I was feeling, I actually DID start trying to think of really strong adjectives to use to describe the awesomeness I was feeling as I was floating through the sky. But, sadly, at the end of the day, it is me and the best I could come up with was my old tried and true "Christie-ism":

"O. M. G."

God, I swear. i really need to diversify my Christie-isms. Sigh. Oh well. All in all, I have to say this was one of the most INCREDIBLE experiences of my life to-date. After floating lackadaisically for a good 5-6 minutes, we ended up landing safe and sound (kind of with a hard THUMP, but whatever). And that was that! Can you believe it? I certainly couldn't. I just wanted to fly and fly and fly...

Till next time, I guess!

PS- I'm at the mercy of Internet cafes right now, so pictures and/or the video will simply have to wait to be posted. I know you are all on the edge of your seat. But all in good time, my friends :)

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