So folks, you've had a bit about of culture, musings and descriptions of various aspects of life in Vietnam and South Korea. Now it's time to hear about some of the experiences I've had over the past 22 months, when I took the plunge and left my Trainee Financial Controller position in the UK. This will be the first installment of I don't know how many parts! However, I've done numerous stupid things over the last couple of years, so I'm hoping to make this a weekly, maybe monthly, feature on my blog. It just depends on how many more stupid things I do!!
When the decision was made
For those of you who don't know me well, drinking plays an essential part of my social life and often it entails more than the recommended dose specified by the NHS. I can't remember the exact time, but I think it was in the small wee hours on Saturday 4th October 2008, James and I felt that we hadn't achieved everything that we had wanted to in Korea. Something was missing. We had previously spoken about white water rafting and various other activities, but this would've been too difficult to organise at short notice! Then it struck us! Let's Bungee! At about 2a.m., fueled with enough beer and soju to propel a rocket into space, it seemed like a great idea! Game on, let's pen it in for Sunday afternoon.
The next morning
Having slept in an alcohol induced coma, I woke up on a much needed day off from the rigorous work schedule. This was indeed most unusual as I think it was one of the only Saturdays I hadn't worked in my entire year there! The idea of the previous night was completely forgotten. Or so I thought. I walked out in the living room, where I found James on his laptop grinning away like a Cheshire Cat. I started to get an ominous feeling....what had I agreed to last night? On his computer I saw what looked to be a tower, with a bungee cord and some man jumping off it! What's more, it was only about an hour from our house and we could make it there on the subway. 'Still on for jumping tomorrow?' my scarily active housemate asked. 'Sure' I replied trying not to portray any fear! Little did he know that I was planning on getting us so drunk in the evening that we would oversleep and feel so terrible that bungeeing wouldn't be an option the next day.....so what went wrong?
Sunday (Jump Day) Morning
Saturday night was fun! I can't remember now exactly what we did. But it was almost certainly in Hongdae, going out central in Seoul, and involved yet more Soju, Cass and Hite (awful Korean lagers for those not in the know!). I'm also guessing we went to our favourite club, the appalling named, Funky Funky or FF for short. This club is great for live music and there are usually some pretty good local and ex-pat bands performing. The atmosphere is also great and the prices are decent so it's always good for a night out! This was preconceived my plan, I stuck to it, we got drunk so where was the flaw in my plan?
Well that would be my stubborn housemate! At about midday he poked his head through the door: 'Ready to go in 10'. WHAT! And it was at this precise point that I realised I might actually have to do this. Trying not to show any weakness or lack of resolve to James so I threw some clothes on and prepared for the off. We both looked, felt and probably smelt like crap but we staggered our way to the bus stop. The bus ride entailed muted conversation due to the heavy heads and nervous anticipation. I think we were both having second and maybe even third thoughts about the whole malarkey, but I for one wasn't going to be the first to speak these thoughts! After the bus journey we had a 6 step walk to the subway station. At this juncture we were both hungry and darted into the convenience store to get a sandwich, ice cream and pepsi. Feeling a bit better we completed the subway trip and 2nd bus ride to Bundang Park where the jump was to take place. At this point we were talking excitedly about the leap and I almost convinced myself that I was actually looking forward to this folly.
Arrival at Bundang Park
We must have arrived at about 12:45. We walked through the car park, over the hill and saw this:
Hang on, look up:
Well it wasn't immediately in front of us, but this is the view from beneath the tower. 45metres may not sound high, but when you're stood on top of the platform I can assure you that it is! At this point I have to say 'I don't care' to those who have done higher! Anyways, we approached the booth - 'closed for lunch, please return at 1:30'. So that's exactly what we did.
After about 15 minutes we were standing in the lift taking us up to the top of the platform. James (in my opinion) was showing more outward nerves than I was at this point. He was also ruing the fact that I had won the right to jump first by winning Rock, Paper, Scissors on the bus earlier. We had to decide matters in this adult way as we both wanted to go first. Mainly because it would require less time standing on the platform and it would place enormous pressure on the other to jump. At the time that issue was resolved we also wrote our final requests on a napkin in case the worst should befall. Back to the point, the elevator (I'm only using an American word to show my range of vocabulary) reached the top with my housemate, 4 Koreans and I eagerly, or nauseously, waiting to jump from a perfectly safe steel structure.
The Platform - Jump Time!
This was the view from the top. Me being the gentleman that I am, offered J my privilege of jumping first. He couldn't have accepted any quicker! Whilst it was undoubtedly my kind nature that gave compelled me, I think it was more from the hope that he would bottle it, then even if I decided to pull out, I could take the piss out of him for backing out first! I also think his motive was to pile pressure on me and that I could take pictures of him jumping as proof, something that I regret not having! After waiting for the locals to jump, 1 of whom refused the count of 5 four times - kudos to her for that, it was the time of the westerners. J slowly edged his way to cusp of the platform. FIVE...FOUR...THREE...TWO - he jumped! AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!! He threw his arms open and hurtled his way towards the lake. After what seemed like an age, but was actually 3 seconds, he bounced back up, not from the water, but safely from the harness and bungee cord. Oh bugger, now it's my turn I said out loud knowing there was no one there to hear me.
The final few seconds
To cut a short story shorter, I pretty much jumped on the count of 5. I didn't want to and all of my body apart from my legs was opposing the leap, but I couldn't not jump! I would never have been able to live with the shame, embarrassment and J's gloating had he been the only one to complete the feat! I was as stiff as a pencil as I fell and braced myself for the snap. I was getting closer and closer to the ground and still no tug. Ouch! It came, and I was surprised at how much it hurt. Pain went through my backside and lower back as the cord tensed and released. I was more prepared for the second bounce, but that still hurt given the magnitude of the torque from the first bounce! On the fifth bounce, the journey was over and I was lowered to the boat which took me back to land. Trying to stand up from the boat was a mission! My legs were shaking and my whole body was trebling. Not from fear, but sheer relief! The few seconds free falling towards certain death, were without doubt, the most terrifying of my life and I can't say that I'm desperate to do it again. I think only if I were with James, and we were drunk, and nearby a much bigger jump would the possibility arise, but that's not on the cards for now!
I don't think I've ever told my ever influential former housemate exactly how close I was to not jumping, how scared I was before the leap of faith or that I never really wanted to do it. Sure, bungee jumping sounds fun but I much prefer watching other people do it, while I watch from the safety of earth. That being said, I'm glad that I can say I've done it! The adrenaline rush from jumping didn't wear off for days and I still get a bit shuddery just thinking about! But despite the things that could've gone wrong, I just have to say, I didn't bottle it, and on that occasion, J didn't get one - up on me!!