“Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”

I think those were my Aunt M’s words.

It’s a fair question, really. One my sister S and I didn’t really think about when we agreed to do just that.

Let me tell you something about skydiving. If you talk to bunches of people–like I did–who tell you that skydiving is no big deal because you don’t even feel like you’re falling–like they told me–don’t believe them for a second.

S and I got all dressed up in our jumpsuits, and everything was fine.

We went through the basic instructions on how to bend your legs and put your arms back, and everything was fine.

We got in a plane and enjoyed a nice scenic view of the Blue Ridge, and everything was fine.

Our wrist monitors showing our altitude slowly climbed. 1,000 feet, then 2,000 feet, and on up. At around 5,500 feet (a.k.a., just over a mile), the ‘parachute tester’ in our plane jumped out. And that is when the choice words started coming out of my mouth.

He just fell. Out of a perfectly good plane.

Typical jumps are from 9,500 feet. He was testing a new parachute though, so he jumped right at 5,500 feet, which is where you are supposed to open your chute. Because of course, if the parachute doesn’t work, it’s much safer to fall from 5,500 feet than from the whole 9,500.

via Google Images

(via Google Images)

At 9,500 feet (almost two miles, just so you’re aware), it was our turn. S fell first–‘diving’ is definitely a better term than jumping for this sport–and then I was up.

We scooted over to the open door, my tandem jumper and I, and then I was just dangling in mid-air looking out over the tops of mountains and at the mini-houses and roads below me and the almost two miles of empty air between me and them.

My tandem jumper sat on the very edge, so I was on hanging out off the edge of his knees. Let me tell you, that does not feel safe or secure in any way. I am getting mini adrenaline rushes just remembering.

I tried, like so many people before me, to grab the sides of the door. Then I remembered I had to hug my chest so I didn’t lose a hand when the instructor jumped.

I screamed the whole time. I’m not even going to front like I was brave. I wasn’t worried or scared, I was just flat out freaked the you-know-what out

These last three paragraphs took only about as many seconds, mind you.

And then we weren’t in the plane anymore. And then I was SO MAD at anyone who had ever told me skydiving doesn’t feel like falling.

YES IT DOES. You fall for 4,000 feet BEFORE YOUR PARACHUTE OPENS. That’s almost a MILE. Of FALLING. Of COURSE you feel like you’re falling!

The first 1,000 feet was the worst. When I left that plane, my stomach stayed seated comfortably in the door jamb while the rest of me fell for half a mile.

Then I started to remember all the leg and arm bending I was supposed to be doing.

Then Tandem Jumper opened our parachute.

My screams had turned to laughing somewhere between 8,000 and 6,000 feet, so by that time I was just flying high.

Pun semi-intended.

The ride down was better than any carnival ride. We would yank down on the right hand steering handle to make us go into a tight tale spin. We would turn far to the right and then far to the left and then back again so we swung around and around in circles.

I might be tempted to dive again, just for the parachute part of it.

S landed perfectly…until her instructor fell on top of her. Geeze.

My landing was beauteous. Just stepped right up onto the grass.

It really was a gorgeous day for it, too. Couldn’t have asked for better weather, or a better jumping partner.

Any skydive that ends with you in once piece is just peachy keen in my book.

Falling and loving it

Falling and loving it. Thank you Blue Ridge Skydiving Adventures!

Getting ready to land!

Getting ready to land!

After the jump--gotta look fly to fly! (I'm so funny today, bahaha)

After the jump–gotta look fly to fly! (I’m so funny today, bahaha)

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

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Three cities that changed my ‘Meh’ of the Midwest

When the cheapest plane ticket I could find was $450 for one person, round trip, I decided to take the road less traveled.

More specifically, the two (yes, only twointerstates connecting Pittsburgh, PA with OKC. 70 East and 44 East and I are all best buds.

An idea! is born

I had been on several road-trips with my family growing up. We did a few circles around the country, which

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That time I spontaneously ran a half-marathon

Imagine the scene: you’re lounging on the couch, like all good Americans do, watching an awful movie and wasting away a Sunday afternoon.

In walks Boyfriend’s roommate, asking, “So does anyone want free tickets to run the half marathon next Sunday?”

You had just finished telling Boyfriend you had resolved to do one awesome thing every month.

He thinks “tortuous” is synonymous with “awesome.”

I called my own ran-a-marathon-last-year-roommate for moral support.

“Do you want to run a half-marath–“

“Nope.”

“But–but I need moral support!”

“Oh, it’s with you? That’s fine then. As long as we can be ridiculous with it.”

We had six days to get in half-marathon shape. Boy Wonder over there ran miles and miles, along with his normal weekly two soccer games and three hours of basketball.  Insane?  Mhm.

I did a few miles of jog/walk/sprint on Wednesday, which turned out to be a gloriously bad idea.

Let me break down for you my current state of physical fitness by comparing it to workout DVDs. A year ago, Level 3 of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred was no big thang. Today, I can’t handle the -push-ups on Level 1. Poor me.

No surprise then, Sunday I was still sore. Roommate and I decided that since our tickets were registered as walkers, we had to speed-walk it, but that we were allowed to dance at all the live-music spots along the way.  Dance/walking is serious stuff.

To add to the madness, if you didn’t make it to the Birmingham Bridge by the 3 hour mark, you would get collected by THE SWEEPER. And if you fought back from getting peeled off the road you had likely collapsed on, they’d drive you the rest of the way downtown in a personal police escort.

We toyed with the idea of causing a ruckus with the marathon cops and getting on the news .  But we wanted to finish more than we wanted to be infamous.  We therefore spent most of the race looking behind us to make sure we weren’t about to get swept.

Rules of marathoning and how we broke them

1) Train.

Whoops.

2) Don’t run in anything on race-day you didn’t train in.

See #1.

“Let’s wear skirts!” “OK!”  Skirts are perfect for dancing, and there were different live bands all along the route.  We got lots of cheers for the “Skirt Girls,” and our favorite was a teenage girl with a bullhorn shouting, “Oh, yeah I see you!  I like your skirts.  You run that marathon!  I see you run that marathon!”

Moustache! And what you can see of our awesome outfits.

3) Don’t eat or drink anything before or during the race you didn’t train with.

Again, no training = eat whatever you want!  Someone handed out 5-hour energies. We drank those (bad idea).  We ate some power bars for breakfast (bad idea), drank the Gatorade they handed out during the race (good idea), and I even snagged a pretzel towards the end (bad idea).

Don’t do this before a half-marathon ^

4) Get plenty of sleep.

We did not sleep.  Not that Friday night, nor that Saturday night.  I think we got about 5 hours the night before the race?  Which is why we drank those 5-hour-energies, duh!

5) Stay hydrated the week before the race.

Um. Boy Wonder and I thought we were being smart, and declined a beer with dinner on Saturday.  But followed up dinner with ice cream.  And then thought about it.  Oops.

Roommate had a few Woodchucks.  Meh, I’m sure they have electrolytes in them..or something.

6) Eat a good breakfast

We ate a power bar.  The ones they give you in your little bag-o’-goodies along with your “hey look everyone I ran a half-marathon” t-shirt.

7) Protect your legs from chafing.

Roommate was smart, and wore biker shorts under her skirt.  I did not think that far ahead.  Luckily, just when I started to realize the next 8 miles were going to be miserable for my inner thighs, we passed a station of people handing out vaseline-on-a-stick.

I love those people.

8) Warm-up/stretch before the race.

We had about an hour and a half to kill.  I was cold, so decided to keep my self warm by, well, basically doing lots of glute squeezes and bouncing up and down on my feet.

For an hour.

Everything hurt before we even walked the half-mile to cross the official start-line.

So I was sore when it started, sore halfway through, sore towards the end, and I couldn’t walk properly until Wednesday.

The dancing parts were hard, but so much fun I forgot how much I hurt. We’d dance our hearts out, then when the music faded realize dancing really takes a lot of physical fitness to keep up for 13.1 miles. Then we’d walk it out to the next band.

My only real regret is I didn’t take pictures of the beautiful city.  The weather was absolutely perfect.

And then we crossed the finish line.

And got a medal.

And ate a bagel and a banana, and grabbed a few more bagels and bags of chips for the road.

Boyfriend finished in a totally respectable time, and now has dreams of actually training and dominating future half- and full-marathons.

Roommate and I finished 16th and 750th in our classes, respectively.

We were registered as a 69-year-old woman and her 40-year-old daughter.

I’ll train for the next one.

Promise.

“Teacher, go-go-ssing!”

This has nothing to do with someone finding my blog by searching for “grannysgettingiton.”

But I thought I’d throw that one out there.

It’s sunny today.  I’m happy(er).  May/June/July officially dumptruckloads better than December/January/February, mood- and energy-wise.   Even when I’m all alone in my apartment, and I should feel lonely and unsettled, I just don’t.

“Go-go-ssing” apparently means “hurry up,” “get moving,” “go go go.”  A cheeky little student said this to me one day as I left the office after the bell rang (which is normal, if you’ll remember from this post).  Um, ‘scuse me li’l miss–are you in class?  No?  Pot and kettle, lady, pot and kettle.

You may be thinking, “Oh, Rachel’s had lovely adventures in Korea.  But everyone has to settle down at some point, so in a few weeks it’ll be back to the ‘real world’.”

Psshhhh.  I will never never ever “settle down.”  Wait, is that a double negative?   Add another “never,” then.

Oooh, hot-off-the-presses: apparently there will be a fire drill today at 1?  But don’t most students leave at 12:30 because even though it’s summer vacation the principal has required they come for morning classes for two weeks on account of their low test scores?  Mehhhhhhh

I’ve started training for my triathlon.  You read that right.  “Triathlon.”  By training, I mean using Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred to countdown the days until I hop on a plane, which is officially less than 30 days.  So it’s really a 27 Day Shred, but I don’t think that would have sold as well.

Every time I see a plane I get adrenaline rushes to my heart and feel like jumping up and down.

Oh, right.  Triathlon.  I’ve wanted to do one since four years ago, and I’m finally moving forward with it!  You know me, takes me time to settle into an idea (different from “settling down,” which, again, I will never do).  Two years to get to Korea, two years for my college decision to stick, three years to move to Pittsburgh…yeah that’s how it goes!

I just need a bike.  And a pool.  That’ll be one adventure for the coming year.

Other adventures!

My first two weeks in the States will include six cities, a road trip with my sister, and two weddings.  Chicago, Charleston S.C., Charlottesville, Fairfax/NoVa, some beach in Deleware, and, of course, Pittsburgh.  I’ve never been to Chicago.  Or Deleware.  Yay new!  Wait, I have been to Chicago…I vaguely remember going to the American Girl store.  Or is that one of those created-memories?  Yo Mom, have I been to Chicago?

Sometime in either September or October, I’ll visit Cleveland because even though it’s the arch-nemesis of Pittsburgh in all things and habitually pops up on “worst cities to live in the U.S.” lists, it contains one of the loves of my life and my first-choice grad school.  *sigh*  Not much can be done about that.  My undergrad school didn’t have the hottest location either. Heh heh no pun intended.  I crack myself up.   (For you people I’ve met since then: the entire month of February of my freshman year was a steady 0°F, with a wind-chill that set it around -15°F to -20°F.)

Oh, right.  Cleveland.  Saving grace: Melt Bar & Grilled.  I’m close with the family of the owner’s brother–which unfortunately won’t help me avoid the long wait that there always is–and have dreamed of gourmet grilled cheeses and their amazing beer selection since, I don’t know, FOREVER.  As the aforementioned-love-of-my-life put it, “You gain weight just walking inside, but it’s DELICIOUS.”  Sold.

For the rest of September, I’ll be adventuring around the West Coast.  Have I mentioned I love road trips?  They’re glorious.  Wind-in-your-hair.  Another life-love took all of five minutes to convince me to join her.  I’ve always wanted to visit Portland and Seattle, and we will!  We’ll start in Vegas, and work our way up via Highway 1–which I love and have longed to go back to–redwood forests, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco.  I’m excited to see more of San Francisco than just their airport.

A friend of hers will also join us, and this is my favorite so far of what I’m sure will be many memorable moments: “His car’s kind of junky and unreliable which is why we’re not taking it the whole way, but i have AAA so we’ll be fine.”

See why we’re friends?  Same haphazard, oh-everything-will-work-out approach to life.

In October I’ll start looking for some sort of “normal” employment.  But since I’ve got friends and family out my ear in Pittsburgh, I’m not too worried.  Worst case scenario–sell my car.  Which I may do anyway.

Living in Korea has made me hate cars.  I wish the U.S. had more trains and fewer planes and automobiles.  Wait, does that contradict my love of roadtrips?  Whoops.

*sigh* I’m entirely inconsistent.

In Korea, I averaged about one “big” or out-of-the-ordinary adventure a month.  I don’t see why that has to change.  I may take October to rest…but then again, I probably won’t.

I know repatriation can be a struggle, but I have a plan: keep living life the way I have been.  Chatting with a friend the other day, I said I planned on approaching Pittsburgh the same way I did Korea.  It’s a new city (mostly), and a new place (in some ways), with new people (aside from everyone I know).  I want to get out, explore, go to events and places and just, you know, live.

So that’s my plan.  So far.

Anyone wanna train for a triathlon with me?

Ajumma dance partaaaaay

Mk, last weekend we did a little wine-train action.  Not what I was expecting exactly, was a little let down, but at the end of the day, there was lots of wine, so can’t really complain, yeah?

Anywhos, if I don’t throw this up here as-is, I never will. Too much to do!

So, here is the email I’ve sent out to a few friends, and the picture I now have to go with it. Enjoy!

(For more info on the ajosshi, click on these words to go to a post written by a friend.)

So in korea old women are called “ajumma” and old men are “ajoshi,” and by-and-large they are a very cranky sort that scold people on subways, push people out of the way, and generally assume they should be shown king-levels of respect at every turn—which honestly, most of them had to suffer through Japan’s military rule and rape/torture of Korea, so they’ve seen a lot of pain, plus having grown up in abject poverty and watched the country change so much in the last 50 years.

ANYWAYS

So now, they’re old and have lots of time and like to go on bus rides to sight-see around the country and there’s another thing in Korea called a “norebang” which means “song room” and they’re karaoke places that are super popular. So popular that buses often have microphones & speakers so you can turn it into a “norebus.” So ajummas like to take those and dance and have parties even tho it’s technically illegal to be standing on a bus.

So for the wine thing, we had an entire car of a train to hang out in and do our shindig, and the car next to us was full of ajummas and ajosshis, and on the way back, when everybody is super happy, the door between our cars opened for a sec and we saw them going crazy, so we joined their dance party for the last song and it was HILARIOUS

There was an old ajumma in overalls standing on top of the bar in the middle of the car, with one leg up on a higher part of the bar, and she had to duck a little  to keep from hitting the ceiling, and she had toilet paper tied around her head, and she was just dancing her little heart out!

Funniest thing of my life. So then I danced with some crazy old ajummas and it was amazing. The end.

I love old people. Foreals. And I love that I'll get to be one one day.