My tale of bravery (one whole tablespoon) –
Sunday found us at a gorgeous quarry in Chiang Mai, with red ridges rising out of deep teal water. Where I was initially certain that I was absolutely not going to jump in, I soon found myself plunging in…and it sucked.
I’d caught my first sight of the quarry from the road and my jaw dropped, it was enormous. My polarized sunglasses enhanced the gorgeous colors and I was very excited to go down and capture it with my camera.
We walked down to a group of very sunburned farangs (Westerners) taking turns jumping off the steep ledge. My eyes followed their quick drop to watch them swim to an area that wasn’t a sheer cliff. From there, a bit of rock climbing was necessary, without the help of any rope, to return to the ledge.
I was instantly happy to know that there was no freaking way I was jumping. I’d brought no swimming suit, I had my SLR camera and I am not a thrill-seeker, darn it! I also knew that James would be making the leap.
And soon he was out of his shirt, handing me his wallet, cell phone, and the most important scooter keys. He approached the ledge and you could see him fighting his common sense. It is a steep drop of at least 15 feet and a challenge to even return to the ledge.
I started to video and the Thai boys around us started chanting ‘Go! ‘Go!’ and he did! He was off the cliff and moments later in the water, looking up, no worst for the jump. He leisurely swam to the area to begin his climb out and I instigated another farang throwing himself off the ledge.
Soon James was beside me and we spend time exploring.
The intense sun continued to pound my skull and I took a step down the slippery slope – “I want to put my feet in the water”.
The water apparently leads to bad decisions for soon I’d decided I’d enjoy being in the water and found myself doing a small jump, having watched others jump in and disappear for long moments.
The water was cool and seeped quickly into my brain for I heard myself saying I would jump off the ledge too. Really?
I knew I didn’t want to have to try the rock climbing also, so decide I would instead swim back to where we were. I didn’t want to swim with my shoes so I walked barefoot, picking my way gingerly through 90 gazillion rocks and pebbles.
I reached the jumping point, look down and all confidence vanished. There were a few others around and I started talking to them, asking them stupid questions “jump straight?”, “jump here?”, stalling.
I realized that unless I jumped I would never do it, which also sounded fine, but I thought of how silly it looked when people stood around debating, so finally I forced myself to do it.
But during this time of debate, the memory of me as a kid attempting a backflip off the high dive had resurfaced. I’d landed on my back, the air slapped out of me, truly scared, only to repeat it years later. Each time I’d looked around, my face stricken in pain and only odd looks were returned to me.
I didn’t want to do that YET again but an idea had formed that my head was going to whip back and I’d get hurt. So while I don’t remember doing this, in photos, I’m holding my head with my left arm and my nose with my right. This allows me to get hurt, of course.
I jumped and immediately lost hold of my nose enabling what felt like a gallon of water to rush forcefully into my sinuses. I plunged and kept falling for what felt like too long and then started to kick to the top. I emerged, ears hurting with that same stupid look of pain plastered on my face. Dammit. I called up, “That is not how you do it” and again, just looks were returned.
I swam across to James and my ear drums felt like they’d taken a beaten. A low-level freak-out was in the works as I questioned what was in the water now circling my brain and would I once again be visiting the hospital due to an ear infection (punctured ear drum, or brain-eating bacteria).
By tiny degrees, the pressure lessened and my fear followed at a slower percentage.
As the thunder echoes in the distance, we eventually headed out, the sky dark with rain clouds.
Once home, it took a few hours for the pressure in my ears to resolve itself (hair dryer on low – thanks Internet! and Tylenol making the difference.) I was left wondering if it was worth it. I was in pain for hours so I would not rate it a great experience but it would not be possible to repeat it again. If I jump again you better believe I would have both hands on my nose and, in theory, I am a little stronger mentally for having pushed myself to jump.
I am constantly grateful for these little nudges out of my comfort zone. “Oh, I’m in Thailand, sure, jumping in a quarry sounds good.” “Oh I’m in Japan, sure, let’s go to a restaurant alone.” They are so minor and yet each is a tiny stepping stone making me a bit stronger.
(Because in my world “blurb” is an underwater sound.)