Last year, I jumped off a plane. It was my first tandem skydiving experience.
Commercial tandem skydiving is easy and hassle-free. We went with an academy in Pattaya run by an Australian boss. We were given a short 10 minute brief on “what you should do if you want to get yourself killed” in a half-jokingly manner. He included “do not puke in mid-air” and “pee before you jump”.
My tandem buddy was an American by the name of John. He looked like he was in his late thirties.
John spoke in a thick west American accent that reminded me of sunny California beach. He also spoke fast and loud – sounded like a carefree cowboy from Texas.
There were 10 of us and the propeller-powered plane could only take two pairs of jumpers at a time; I went last so I had quite a fair bit of time to kill. John and I walked around the hanger to check out a collection of gliders.
“Hey John, what brought you to Thailand?” I knew it was common to have Farang in Pattaya anyway, but the question felt like a safe ice breaker.
“Well, life. Life brought me here. I started sky diving in my twenties and I got hooked. The jumps became part me ever since. I went around the world to dive; and at each place, I hang around a little while. Bangkok is my 20th stop. Or wait, or maybe 23rd. Well, I lost count.”
“Wow! It must be a heck of a life! Do you like Thailand better than any other countries?”, I asked. Now he got my attention.
“Son, this is a wrong question. The world doesn’t make you; you make the world. Thailand is as great as I want it to be, or as miserable as I want it to be too. It is up to you to make a lemon into lemonade…or a cocktail. I prefer it with extra shot though. ”
“How do you make the world?”, I asked.
He tapped his finger lightly on my forehead and said “Start with your head”. He pointed to the dark cloud that was forming not far away and I can vaguely see our plane in the sky.
“See that? What do you see?” Tiny figures dropped out of the plane.
“Storm’s coming and I will probably not make my turn later?” I said.
“Well, yes and no. I see a clear sky for a perfect jump after the storm moves west. Or if the storm does linger on, you just saved your own life. Either way, it is good for you!”
He went on. “Everything has no meaning until we assign them one. You see that?” He pointed to a bright yellow single seated aircraft at the far corner of the hanger.
“It is just an aircraft in our eyes, meaning beautiful mechanics part put together, at best. To him, it is a painful memory. The plane belonged to Mona”. As he spoke, he casually pointed to Alex who was busy getting ready to buddy my friend. Alex is the owner of the academy.
“Who is Mona?” I asked.
“His wife. Died.”