FitBit a Hit With Dimwit

For my birthday on Monday, I got a Fitbit.

It was something that I had asked for after seeing how much fun my friends were having with theirs. “Damn it!” my friend Colin said shaking his rubber-bound left wrist. “Joey has like 6,000 steps on me! He’s probably at the gym right now on a treadmill!”

“What do you mean?” I asked, confused and slightly concerned about how well Colin knew Joey’s walking habits.

Colin proceeded to explain his Fitbit war with Joey. Apparently, you can challenge your friends to see who can get the most steps in a day, week or weekend. The app updates in realtime and is in constant communication with the Fitbit around your wrist, so it’s always an ongoing race to be on the top of the step leaderboard.

I thought this sounded fun and, with my birthday around the corner, I figured it would be the perfect present for me.

In the past two years or so, I’ve become much more invested in fitness. I finally overcame my fear of looking like a moron in the weight room at my gym and have been maintaining a (mostly) consistent routine for a while now. I am a certified Zumba instructor and even have my own class every Mondays for the employees of a large grocery chain’s corporate office here in San Antonio.

It seemed to me that a Fitbit would be an interesting way to keep track of my activity and give me some kind of an idea of how active I am (or not) and how to take it to the next level, if need be. I had already read David Sedaris’ hilarious piece on his Fitbit and it seemed like something I would like.

One thing I didn’t realize about this thing, now that it’s comfortably strapped around my wrist, is how addictive it would be. I find myself constantly tapping the band and refreshing the app to see how far away I am from my step goal for the day. Having friends that I’m pitted against makes it even worse for me as I’m rather competitive by nature.

This point was proved to me when I saw just how many steps I was afforded for a Zumba class: almost 5,000! I strutted happily back to my car after my class had done, enjoying my comfortable lead.

Participating in these Fitbit challenges, I’ve realized, requires a lot of upkeep and dedication to being active. In doing so, I’ve seen how lazy I am. Yesterday, I wasn’t really up to doing much and decided to read for the majority of my day. Out of habit (it had been two days). I checked my steps and saw that Colin, of all people, had surpassed me! The bastard.

Fueled by the desire to show him up, I made my way to my garage and practiced my Zumba routines for about half an hour. When I was finished, I breathlessly tapped on the black band, leaving a salty smear of a fingerprint and finding that I had pulled past him by almost 2,000 steps! Victory was mine – for now!

In the three days that I’ve had this thing, I’m finding that my desire to accumulate as many steps as possible has me doing things that are rather illogical.

While getting ready to leave the house, I realized I had forgotten my keys upstairs. I ran back up the stairs with a smile on my face – more steps! Ha! I walked around my car once, pretending to check the tires for any deflation but really just racking up ten or so more steps for my daily goal. At a restaurant, a waitress led me aimlessly through a section before she realized that there were no open seats. “No worries!” I said cheerfully as we scooted awkwardly through chairs of people, making our way back to the front. “I need the exercise!”

“Isn’t this thing cool?” I said as my mom held my phone, watching the steps increase one-by-one as I lapped the living room. “I want you to feel when I hit my goal, I’m super close!”

When my goal was finally reached, I relished in the happy vibrations around my wrist. I pressed it to my mother’s arm and smiled stupidly. “Isn’t that awesome?!”

I felt like a pregant woman who had just felt her baby kick for the first time.

Even while writing this, I’ve tapped my Fitbit at least twice to see where I’m at in my daily quest for 10,000 steps. I haven’t moved a damn inch and yet I still feverishly check. To my dismay, Colin has usurped the lead and is now ahead by a few thousand steps.

I think it’s time to run up and down the stairs a few times.

Advertisements

Ahhhh!

Hi! I’m still alive, I swear!

So I successfully completed NaNoWriMo (51k and change) and have been busy with work and other commitments! This time of year always seems to be the busiest, right?

Also, I’ve run into a bit of a problem: I don’t really know what to write about. Obviously my experiences in Japan and applying to the JET Program are the main things I’ve written about here. But I’m wondering if I need to branch out and write about different things. Any suggestions?

I still have a ton of stories I want to write about. Not just about Japan, but my other travels in Asia, Australia and even here in the U.S.. I have stories from my childhood that I think are interesting. I have lots of things I could write about but I think I’m just stuck in a weird place where I don’t know what to write about. Anyone who writes might know this feeling.

So yeah, bear with me while I sift through my brain. Eventually, I’ll snag something, clean it off and sit down to write about it! Hope everyone has a great holiday season!

“Roy”

I was in a kickboxing class at my gym a while ago when I noticed something interesting. Between following the punch-kick-squat-jump-kick-kick-punch-uppercut combo that my insane instructor was blasting through, my eyes fell on a woman in front of me.

She was older than me – maybe late thirties – and was in good enough shape that it gave her a younger appearance. Her brown hair was tied into a ponytail and she was powering through the combo making small ‘tsch! tsch! tsch!’ noises every time she punched and kicked the air.

On her shoulder, however, was a tattoo that read ‘男’. I was excited to be able to understand the kanji and after class, I strode up to her and made conversation.

“I like your tattoo!” I said as cheerfully as I could after a 50-minute intense cardio class. “Do you have a son?”

“Huh?” she responded with a voice reminiscent of a Kardashian. “A star?”

“No, a son.”

“Sun? What?”

“A son. Do you have a male child?”

“Oh,” she said, obviously confused. “No, why?”

This was not going how I expected it would. I was in too deep now.

“Ah, well I like your tattoo.” I repeated. “I lived in Japan for three years so I was happy that I recognized it. It means boy, right?”

I knew what it meant.

“Ohhhh thanks,” she said with that fake laugh that people do when they’re nervous or caught off guard. “Umm, the tattoo artist told me that it was my husband’s name.”

“Ohhhh,” I said. This was indeed awkward.

“His name is Roy.” she continued.

“Well…it means….’boy’?” I offered lamely. “So that’s kind of close? I mean…the same sound?”

Where was the ABORT CONVERSATION button?

“Well, whenever I’m mad at him, I just tell people that it means something else,” the woman told me with a devilish smirk. “That’s why you get a tattoo in a different language, right?”

Wrong. Completely wrong. 

“Yeah…haha,” I gave a small, cordial laugh. “I guess it is.”

I disengaged as quickly as I could and left the gym out of a different exit.  My mind was boggled. How, I thought, could someone just have a kanji  tattoo on their body without knowing what it meant?

I had made this point in Japan to my students by showing them pictures of incorrect kanji tattoos and nonsensical Japanese on T-shirts. They thought it was hilarious until I pointed out that the Japanese do the same thing with their clothing etc.

IMG_1402

In which you can see a fifth grade girl’s pencil case with inappropriate lyrics.

“English is cool,” I told them. “But if you’re going to wear it, you need to make sure that what you understand what you’re wearing.”

I think this also relates to people anywhere – do your research about things. Especially if you’re going to get a tattoo!

‘Boy Roy’ woman obviously just chose hers off of a wall and believed whatever the tattoo artist told her. I’m sure there are tattoo artists out there who have a functional knowledge of Japanese and Chinese characters. I would still do my own research before deciding on inking a word or phrase in a different language on my body.

Recently, I saw a woman in my Zumba class with the character ‘勇’ on her shoulder. Instead of saying anything to her, I simply kept my mouth shut and shook my butt with her and the rest of the class. It worked best for everyone that way.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Futon

Right there, on the wall of my bedroom, was a cockroach.

I stared, frozen in disgust as it sat calmly on my wall – slightly camoflauged by the wooden perimeter that ran around the small room. Its spindly antennae moved back and forth inquisitively and I knew that it sensed my terror.

 

 

 

ゴキブリが大嫌い!!!

 

“Oh god oh god oh god oh god,” I repeated manically as if I had just found a dead body.

I took several deep breaths and tried to calm myself down. My revulsion at this intruder had rendered me nearly useless. I was revolted and hysterical but for some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes off the six-legged offender.

Composing myself slightly, I slowly made my way to the door of my bedroom. My bare feet pressed into the slippery surface of my tatami as I made my way out of my room. I hurriedly clomped down the stairs, causing a symphony of creaks and groans to fill the downstairs of my apartment.

I yanked the thin string of my ceiling light and it blinked slowly to life. A terrifying image came to my mind of a dozen cockroaches scattering across my floor, trying to escape the light. My friend Hermán’s words echoed in my head – “You know, I hear that if you see one cockroach in your house, it means there are about fifty more living there as well.”  How innocently he had relayed his little factoid – as if it were a piece of trivia we would hear and then file away for years.

Now, however, that was all I could think about. As I quickly made my way to the kitchen, I pictured an enormous family of cockroaches living in my walls. Zigzagging erratically across my floor when I wasn’t home. Having little cockroach pool parties in my mountain of unwashed dishes. Enjoying the cold air as they explored the inside of my wall-mounted air conditioning unit.

I held back a gag as I yanked open the cabinet under the sink. I kept a various array of cleaning supplies in here, along with my poison spray. I stared into the dark space with more than a bit of trepidation. If any place in my apartment was perfect for a huge family of cockroaches, I thought, it was most definitely this dark, cool space underneath my sink.

I snatched the can of poison spray and shut the door as quickly as I could. The design on the can was formidable looking and showed a red upside-down cockroach with a large X through it. The nozzle was apparently designed for heavy spraying which meant I would not have to be close to the offending insect.

When I got back to my room, I saw with a mixture of relief and dread that the bastard was still chilling on my wall, antennae swiveling back and forth on its gross, crispy head. I crept to the other end of the room and tugged my futon out of the way. I didn’t want to sleep in poison spray residue, after all.

Gripping the can in my shaking hand, I took a few more deep breaths. Your fear of bugs should not be this crippling, I chastised myself. It’s like four hundred times smaller than you are. And plus, you have poison. POISON.

As I psyched myself up, I began to feel an odd sort of remorse for killing the little guy. He’s only being himself, my emotional side chimed in. He’s probably cold. Maybe hungry or thirsty. And he just wandered in because he was trying to survive. Is that so wrong?

I stared at the cockroach again for a brief moment. Its black teardrop of a body was fairly large by cockroach standards. Its legs were jagged and almost hairy-looking. All the while, its incredibly long antennae wouldn’t stop moving.

I took a deep breath. It had to die. I wasn’t about to scoop it up nicely in a cup or with a piece of paper and kindly escort it out of my apartment. And I surely wasn’t going to let it roam free in the crevices of my place with the rest of its disgusting family. No, I decided firmly, this son of a bitch was going to have to be dealt with.

Readying myself, I tightened my grip on the can. My finger grazed the trigger and I steadied my aim. The cockroach’s antennae waved back and forth, paused for a bit and then continued to move alternately. I’m sure it sensed something was about to happen.

photo 1

Actual handrawn depiction of the events that transpired that evening

“Sorry, little dude,” I said, trying to sound simultaneously brave and apologetic. “You came into my house. I don’t wanna do this but you gave me no choice…”

I squeezed the trigger and a forceful spray shot out of the can. In the exact same instant, the cockroach leapt off the wall and flew toward my face. FLEW TOWARD MY FACE. Its wings made a sickening thump thump thump sound as they beat frantically against the air.

I let out a horrific shriek as I dove out of the way – something that must have sounded akin to a baby goat being attacked by a pterodactyl.

photo 4

Yes, my mouth really is that enormous

The newly-revealed flying cockroach made a sharp turn and crashed into the far wall of my bedroom. It fell on the wood perimeter of the room, safely off the tatami. Its spiky legs twitched, its body spasmed and, its (now obvious) wings flapped uselessly.

“YOU SON OF A BITCH!” I was now yelling. My finger was tight on the trigger, emptying far more of it onto the poor thing than was likely necessary.

It didn’t matter that it was now past midnight on a Tuesday. Or that the walls of my apartment allowed for every footstep, sneeze and snore of my elderly neighbors to be heard. Nor did it matter that said elderly neighbors and I had a fairly good relationship.

The only thing that mattered now was exacting revenge on this evolutionary freak of an insect that had taken me by surprise not once, but twice in the span of an hour.

After a few more seconds of adrenaline-fueled spraying and hysterical curse words, I released the trigger. The cockroach now lay glistening in a small lake of poison. Noxious fumes filled the area and I moved to crack open my window before I passed out.

Dramatically, I collapsed onto my tatami and covered my mouth and nose with my blanket. Nobody had told me cockroaches in Japan flew. I thought flying cockroaches were only a weird Floridian thing. What in the ever-loving christ was going on?

Before too long, I had a wad of far too many paper towels in my hand and I was standing over the insect again. Its angular legs kicked slowly against the air and my stomach turned in response.

Eventually, my heart rate slowed and my bedroom no longer reeked of insecticide. I had taken the cockroach in its massive tomb of paper towels and thrown it in the bag of perishable trash I kept in my freezer. I warily gave my apartment a final once-over before climbing the stairs to my bedroom again.

I don’t know what I would have done had I found another cockroach. Probably spend the night at a friend’s.

I verified that the walls, tatami and wooden perimeter of my bedroom were all bug-free before repositioning my futon. Shaking out the blankets diligently, I settled cautiously in to my futon, turned off the lights and tried not to think about where the cockroach had been before I found it.

 

*This is part of a larger story on my encounters with bugs in Japan. I hope to post more here sometime. Feedback is appreciated, as always! 😀 Do you hate bugs like I do? What’s your least favorite insect? Ugh.*

Super Moon in the Bus Graveyard

 

Powerlines

I had been sitting inside all day and was tired of it. I took the phone I had been spinning lazily in my hand and texted my friend Juan.

‘Hey, what are you up to?’

I had suddenly had a a crazy idea.

‘Wanna go watch the Super Moon tonight in a field with me?’

Juan’s response came quickly – he was down. He too had not been up to much this afternoon.

‘What kind of field are we talking about…?’

‘Hahaha. Don’t worry,’ I typed back, sensing that the ellipses were meant to convey a slight hesitance. ‘I’m not going to murder you, I promise.’

Soon we were off in my tiny car – two lawn chairs thrown in the back. The bottles of beer clinked softly in their small red vinyl lunchbox as my car bumped down the road.

We arrived not long after. Parking at a nearby business, we collected the beer and folding chairs and made our way across the busy road.

“So yeah, I don’t know if we’re technically allowed to go in here but…” I trailed off innocently.

“Yeah, it definitely seems like we’re NOT supposed to.” Juan laughed, gesturing to the locked metal gate.

“Technicalities,” I shrugged and handed him my folding chair.

I bent down and swung my body through the space between the wood of the fence.

“Plus, you’re a law student,” I said, bringing my other leg to the ground. “If we get into trouble, I know you’ve got our backs.”

The field I had promised was actually more of a dirt lot. It was a huge open area that sat between a housing development and a stretch of wild brush growth. Every so often, the lot would be filled with hundreds of cars for the area’s local gun show.

Now, however, it was occupied by a huge row of yellow school buses. There must have been at least eighty, lined up side by side. As we walked by them, we saw handwritten paper signs in the windows: NISD, CCISD, AUSTIN ISD, SAISD. In less than two weeks, they would be no doubt be driven out of here and dispersed across South Texas to transport returning students to school.

Although it was still light out, walking along the monolithic row of buses was still a bit eerie.

BusGraveyard

 

A small brown hare jumped out in front of us and dashed off into the brush to our left. Our eyes followed it and we saw that beyond the once-green vegetation, partially hidden, sat a creepy-looking ranch of sorts.

“What if someone is watching this place and shoots us?” Juan said with a nervous laugh.

“Oh man, that would be the most boring job ever!” I replied. “Can you imagine watching a dirt field like this all day? In the heat?”

Mild concerns slightly assuaged, we continued walking along. I stopped every so oten to snap pictures while Juan told me about the recent goings-on of his life.

Eventually, we found a spot right next to two gigantic electricity power towers.

We unpacked our chairs, cracked open our beer and sat there talking about our lives.

Behind us, a row of school buses bound for Corpus Christi sat watching in silence. Twenty or so feet in front of us was a long fence that protected a row of backyards. At one point, I caught a glimpse of a pair of sunglasses peering over one of the fences at us.  Apparently they didn’t think that we were much of a threat.

Our beer eventually ran out and we went to examine the buses behind us. To our surprise, they were open! We cracked open the sliding door and slowly made our way inside. We climbed the steps and instantly the smell of New Car hit us. These buses were brand new! We quickly exited, not wanting to disturb a brand new vehicle.

Powerlines

By this point, it was almost time for the Super Moon. We sat and watched the sky change as the sun made its journey on to the other side of the world. Wispy clouds burned in the sky and the massive power lines above us hummed with energy.

Soon, the Super Moon emerged on the horizon. It was massive and orange and we watched it ascend into the dark sky. It illuminated everything – I was able to see Juan clearly in the pale light it exuded. I took more than a dozen pictures on my phone, hoping foolishly that one of them would result in something other than a fuzzy ball of light. None of them did.

As we were sat watching the moon, mosquitos feasted on our legs and arms. When a large moth flew into my hair, prompting a flurry of shrill curse words, I knew it was time to head out. We packed up our chairs and began our trek back to my car. The moonlight gave the row of school buses an even creepier feel and we might have walked faster past them than we had on our way in. The brown hare bolted across our path again, bouncing effortlessly across the dirt.

We had most definitely trespassed but we did it responsibly. We took our trash with us, leaving nothing but our footprints in the dirt. I’ve always liked the traveler’s adage: “Take nothing  but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, waste nothing but time.”

And that’s just what we did.

 

Schadenfreude: D’y’all wanna go again?!

When I first moved to San Antonio, my little brother Vaughn and I went to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. We were super excited to have an amusement park in such close proximity to us.

The morning sun beat down on us as we entered the gates to the park. My hair was not yet used to the wet heat of Texas and responded by turning itself into a massive ball of frizz. I was already sweating and my orange shirt was starting to cling to my body.

Within minutes of entering the park, we were stopped by an employee with a camera and asked to pose. I did so happily while Vaughn stared awkwardly at the cameraman from behind his Harry Potter glasses. To this day, I still receive emails from Six Flags trying to sell me this picture. One day, I’m going to buy it and send it to my little brother – it’s possibly one of the worst photos of us ever taken.

We rode all kinds of rides, bought overpriced food and zoinked ghosts on the cute Scooby Doo ride. All in all, it was a great day.

One of the strongest memories of it, though, was when we were standing in line for a ride. It was in the boardwalk area of the park; the wood released the heat of the sun in a massive, smothering wave.

After some research, I’ve discovered that it’s called ‘The Frisbee’.  It looked super intimidating. It was a large circular disc that had seats lining the outside. Sticking out of the middle of the ride was a large pole of sorts that all of the seats were facing. It looked a bit like an old toy top.

When the ride started, the outer rim would begin to spin. After a minute or so, the pole would move the entire thing back and forth and swing it like a pendulum. All the while, the seats would continue spinning.

The Frisbee

My brother and I watched with a mixture of excitement and hesitance. This ride looked fun…but also pretty intense. Judging from the laughs and screams of the other riders, it couldn’t have been THAT bad.

As the ride came spinning to a stop, we were able to see the faces of the riders more clearly. Most of them were laughing and smiling, some looked a bit sick. Immediately, my eyes were drawn to one woman in particular.

Her brown hair was styled in a way that made me think she was a mother with two kids in junior high that were on the soccer team. She wore sunglasses over her eyes and a sunburn on her face. I imagined that she smelled like sunscreen mixed with a bit of BO and that she carried a massive floral tote bag. She seemed to be the type of mom who could produce anything from antiseptic spray to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to frozen water bottles wrapped in paper towels.

I watched the riders as the spinning slowed – laughing face, laughing face, laughing face, Sickly Woman, laughing face, laughing face, laughing face, Sickly Woman. Eventually, it came to a stop and I could see her in plain sight.

Her body was slumped in the seat and she was shaking her head back and forth. She looked as if she had seen better days.

Suddenly, I heard an excited female voice ring out through the speaker. It was the ride attendant.

“D’y’all wanna go agaiiiiiin?”

A cheer rose up from the riders. Laughter and whooping from all sides. All sides except one.

“Wha? What? No! No!” I saw the woman’s mouth form words as she slowly realized what was going on.

“I saidddddd,” the ride attendant said, louder and more excited this time.

“D’y’all wanna go agaiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnn?!?!”

Again, cheers and laughter sounded from the pit of seats below her.

“Noooo!!!” the woman was yelling now. She waved her arms clumsily, impeded by the bright yellow harness. Her clunky jewelry danced up and down her wrists and sparkled in the sun. I watched her sunburnt face turn a darker shade of red as she used all her strength to project her clear disapproval at this turn of events. “NO NO NO!”

“Alriiiight!” the ride attendant squealed. “Let’s go again!!!!”

The sounds of pistons and gears clicking in to place filled the air as the circular row of seats lurched into motion and began to spin slowly.

My eyes were locked on the protesting woman. Even through sunglasses, I could see her face morph in to one of horror and defeat. Over the din of the ride and the crowd cheering and laughing, I could just barely make out what she was saying.

“NOOOO” she was screaming as she spun out of my vision.

I saw her again on her way back around: “-OOOOOOO”.

On the third trek, I saw that she was still raging:  “AHHHH! GOD DAMMIT NOOO”

and so she went again…

I eventually lost sight of her as the rotating disc picked up speed began to rock back and forth. My brother and I devolved into laughter at what we had witnessed. It was schadenfreude at its best: There was nothing good about being trapped on a ride that you had no desire to ride again…but watching it happen to this poor woman was just so funny.

After a short time, the ride slowed once again and we watched to see how the woman had fared. I caught sight of her and saw that she was slumped even more in her seat and looked absolutely miserable.

When the gates opened for us, my brother and I rushed forward to experience the ride for ourselves. As our harnesses locked in place, I looked out and saw that the sunburnt woman had apparently composed herself enough and was now yelling at the ride attendant. She clutched her huge tote bag angrily with one hand as she waved her other finger in the girl’s face.

Perhaps the attendant deserved it, perhaps she didn’t. After my brother and I got off the ride, we both felt like were going to throw up. I can’t imagine having ridden on it twice.

Reflecting on it now, I think that this could be a nice analogy for life. Sometimes you’re stuck somewhere and, although you desperately want to get off, you find that you don’t really have much control over the situation. Even though it makes you feel sick or less-than-pleasant, you don’t have much of a choice other than to just go around again. During or after, you can yell at the ride operator or take it out on other people, but it won’t really do much good.

The most important thing is how you handle it. If anything, you’ll have a funny story to tell at the end of it all.

And thus ends this babbling, introspective story. Thanks for reading!

Throwback Thursday: Jumping off a Perfectly Good Bridge

 

IMG_6588

Nestled in the mountains of Eastern Kumamoto lies a small village that is undoubtedly ‘inaka’. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains and not a conbini for miles around, Itsuki Village is effectively cut off from much of Kumamoto.

“Oh my god guys, it’s hitting me now,” one of my friends, Kay, says as we zoom up the mountain roads, higher and higher into the depths of nature. We all murmur our agreement and continue to chatter excitedly as the winding uphill road leads us closer and closer to our destination.

We’re jumping off a bridge today.

Outside the car window, the scene is beautiful. The early afternoon sun washes over the huge, stoic mountains that surround us. The rays of light illuminate the light pink patches of ‘yamazakura’ – mountain cherry blossoms that dot the landscape. The yamazakura turn the normally green mountains into a multicolored spectacle; as if someone has draped a patchwork quilt over them.

IMG_9165

“Is that it?” I ask excitedly. “I see a bridge!” I point down through a ravine where a large red steel bridge extends across two peaks.

“No, that doesn’t look high enough,” our friend Ren answers matter-of-factly.

I nod in agreement and my heart beats a bit faster. In less than two hours, we’re going to be jumping off of Japan’s highest bungy jump site. The little red bridge I have just seen is nothing compared to the one we are preparing to dive from.

Aside from a halted governmental dam project, Itsuki Village is not known for much, it seems. However when Bungy Japan, a New Zealand based company, set up camp at the top of its tallest bridge (77 meters/252 feet!), it quickly became a destination for thrill-seekers from all over Japan. Add in a promotional video of Kumamoto’s beloved vacant-eyed bear mascot Kumamon swan diving off the bridge and it’s no wonder Itsuki Village has experienced a recent boom in tourism.

Yeah, this really happened!

 

We see the jump site before we see the sign for Bungy Japan. It’s a massive, sleek stone bridge stretching high over a calm, babbling river. Surrounded by pine trees and beautiful scenery whichever way you look, it’s obvious why this site was chosen out of more than two hundred potential jump sites across Japan.

As we get out of the car and take in the scenery around us, excitement and terror hit me all at once. I gaze down into the gorge below and my heart jumps into double time. We hurry excitedly to the site and check in.

As we’re going through the motions – signing our lives away, being weighed, paying the 10,000 yen that it costs – the crew starts sending people over the edge.

The two employees start a countdown before the person jumps and the crowd of excited spectators eagerly joins in. I rush over and squeeze myself between two ojiichans and watch as the first person of the day (a woman who looks to be in her early twenties) prepares to jump. I see her do a kind of clumsy hop off of the ledge and it looks more like she is ‘falling’ rather than ‘diving’.

Nervously, I follow her figure down and soon the bungy rope snaps taut and her body is jerked like a rag doll. As she rebounds through the air, her arms extend outward by her sides and she is waving happily as she falls back down again. It’s hard to make out, but she is smiling. I think.

Breathing a sigh of relief that she was okay, I push myself back from the railing of the bridge. I wonder if it hurts when the bungy rope snaps you back up? From the angle I was watching from, it looked like a pretty violent jerk. People wouldn’t do it if it hurt, right?

We watch others take the dive and I note that some are braver than others. One man in particular keeps balking. We count down three times for him before he finally falls off of the platform unconfidently. Others are more gung-ho and leap off the platform willingly. I watch a fellow foreigner that I had just met from Boston jump off expertly. As he’s falling, his arms begin flapping like a bird in flight. I begin to notice how interesting it is to see the different styles of falling that people do.

Soon, I’m watching my friend Kay get strapped in on the platform and my heart is beating fast for her. She has decided to jump off backwards which seems insane to me. I watch her inch out on the platform in her trademark purple silk pants and bedecked with a flashy masquerade ball mask covering her eyes and nose. She is ready.

The countdown starts and right on cue she springs gracefully into an elegant backwards dive. Her back arches spectacularly and within seconds she disappears from my vision. My remaining friends and I applaud.

Not long after, I’m being told how to put on the harness that I’ll wear on my jump. I end up putting it on wrong and look rather foolish as it hangs loosely around my buttocks and crotch. After embarrassingly fixing it and tightening it more than I probably had to, I find myself being led onto the jump platform.

I’m sat in a small chair in the corner of the platform while the two workers get me ready. To be honest, I’m not really paying much attention to what they are doing as I am busy looking out into the ravine. Peeking over the edge, I see a tiny dot below that I’m fairly certain is Kay. I wave to her and after a few moments, I see her wave back. It’s…pretty far down. I exhale heavily.

The Bungy Japan guys are super cool about keeping my mind occupied – asking me questions about where I was from, what I did in Japan, what my plans were after etc. As they fasten the bungy apparatus around my ankles, they pull it tight and I find that I feel oddly secure and reassured.

Until I step up on the ledge.

Much higher than I expected.

Much higher than I expected.

Part of the bungy cord slides over the narrow ledge in front of me and feels like it is going to pull me down with it. My hands instantly clamp down onto the metal side railings just in case something were to go wrong and drag me screaming from my position of safety. At this point, my mind is obviously not in the most rational of states. I step onto the ledge and try my best not to look down. It is not as easy as I had imagined. I find myself struggling against my brain, which has activated Survival Mode and is not having any of that psychological bullshit.

“Alright, move forward a bit more”. One of the cool guys tells me. I inch forward a scant millimeter or so.

“Little more, mate. Put your toes riiiiight over the edge.” his coaxing, nonchalant voice instructs me as if I were putting the finishing touches on a bowl in a pottery class/easing me into a pose in a yoga class.

My instincts scream in protest but I do so, suddenly feeling my heart leap into my throat. Looking down to make sure my toes are okay, I catch a glimpse of the rocky bank of the river directly below me. Far far below me.

In this moment it hits me. I am really going to jump off this ledge.

“Fuu-hu-huuuck” I blurt out as I force myself to look away. “That’s pretty high”. I focus instead at the group of people on the bridge to my left who are watching me in anticipation. As instructed, I flash a nervous peace sign and a terrified smile at the camera man who is also waiting off to the side.

The guy who was helping me lightly touches my elbows and move my arms up into a horizontal position. I had not realized how hard I had been clenching the rails of the platform. Wrenching my hands off, I take a deep breath and hold my shaking arms out at my sides, feeling like the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Suddenly, the countdown behind me starts. It’s fast and I quickly realize there’s nothing else to do. I bend my knees, pull my elbows backwards and leap forward off the platform.

And my mind goes blank.

I close my eyes briefly – due to instinct more than anything else. When I open them, the scenery around me unfolds beautifully in my vision – the pine trees, the mountains, the yamazakura, the glistening river off in the distance. I feel weightless and for a brief brief moment, it’s like I’m flying. Then the sensation of free-falling quickly takes over and everything I see begins rushing by at incredible speed. It’s then that I let out an adrenaline-fueled scream of delight.

IMG_6588

To be honest, I don’t clearly remember the feeling of being snapped back up. By the time I realize that it’s all over, I’m clapping my hands and laughing hysterically; the sound of my dumb adrenaline-fueled cackle echoing through the mountains.

I pull myself upright to try and see the bridge but I am swinging underneath it and am only able to see the underside. I let myself fall back down and enjoy the lazy swing of the rope. I’m spinning slowly and it’s almost relaxing. Once again, I extend my arms out horizontally and let out another whoop of excitement. I can feel my heart pumping in my temples as the blood rushes from other parts of my inverted body straight to my head.

As I get closer to the bottom, I begin to see the upside-down figures and colors of the people who had jumped before me. I wave and speak to them, but realize that they can’t hear me. By this point, the blood that has rushed to my head has made me a bit delirious.

I continue laughing uncontrollably as the BungyJapan guy pulls me into the raft and unhooks me. With adrenaline still pumping through my veins, I stagger to my feet and feel the blood drain from my head again. On the banks of the river, I high five everyone who is there (maybe twice) and then eagerly wait for the next people to come down.

One of the reasons why I wanted to do bungy jumping was that I have also been skydiving. I wanted to experience the difference between the two. Skydiving, while exhilarating felt very protected. Of course jumping out of a plane isn’t the safest thing to do, but I mean that I was strapped to an instructor who did everything for me. He threw us out of the plane together, pulled the chute, guided the parachute to where it needed to be (he even let me steer!) etc.

But with Bungy jumping? You’re on your own. You don’t have a fancy dive suit. You don’t have goggles. You don’t have anyone strapped to you to help out. It’s just you and that heavy elastic cord tied around your ankles.

To watch people jump is totally different than the feeling of standing at the edge of the precipice getting ready to do it yourself. You are the only one who can throw your body off the ledge. The guys running it will not push you. You have to be the one to take the plunge. And I think that willing yourself to leap off a tall place with nothing but a bouncy rope for safety is the scariest, most thrilling thing about bungy jumping.

Once you do take the plunge, however, it is an incredible adrenaline rush. All of the fears and worries that you may have about it are completely erased as you’re falling through the air. I would say that there’s probably nothing like it.

It’s not clear yet whether Bungy Japan will be back again. However with the success that the past two years have brought, it might be safe to assume that they will. If and when they invade the Moto again, I recommend everyone to challenge their fears and jump off a bridge! You will definitely NOT regret it.

*I originally wrote this in the Spring of 2013. Feedback and comments appreciated! Have you ever bungy jumped? Did you have a similar experience? Different? Would you ever bungy jump? Let me know!*