#7 – bungee jump

This plan had been in the works since before the list was even created.

Truth be told, #7 only made it onto the list because it was already booked.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but never would have prioritized on my own.  Enter EF, my fearless sister.  I got a text from her, out of the blue, that just said: “Want to go bungee jumping?” and I immediately texted back in the affirmative.  Coolest sister ever (though I’d never admit it to her face, lest it go to her head…).

Since the bungee place she had in mind was in Gatineau, Quebec, it seemed only fitting to make a weekend trip to Ottawa for the occasion.  When I mentioned to NB that I was going, he immediately wanted in.  This surprised me greatly.  Apparently he was also somewhat surprised by his own enthusiasm, because he spent the weeks leading up to the trip being nervous and unsure about the decision.  At first I tried to reassure him, but then, when that repeatedly failed (to be fair, there’s no way to calm yourself for this kind of thing, in advance), I switched strategies and started telling him that he was welcome to wimp out, since I could just use his jump to go a second time (I’m supportive that way).  My strategy gained traction when I showed NB a video of my friend doing the same 200ft jump that we’d be doing; it was terrifying.

To give you a sense of what 200ft looks like, here’s a picture with a totally non-helpful attempt to show scale.  You’re welcome.

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The drive to Ottawa on Friday night was absolutely lovely, and felt (to me at least) as though it went by in a blink.   The sun was setting as we passed the exit for the Diefenbunker, which is by far my favourite Ottawa attraction.  If you’ve never been, you should definitely make some time to fit it in next time you’re in the area.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Seriously.  Words cannot describe how much I love the Diefenbunker.  Be sure to go when they’re giving a free guided tour, unless you’re really well-versed in Cold War history.

We arrived at NB’s friend A’s home shortly after midnight, and settled in.  We were both extremely exhausted from an early morning and long day, so our Friday night wasn’t terribly social, unfortunately.  Saturday was a little better; the guys picked up breakfast from Kettleman’s (another must-stop in Ottawa) and then played games while I got some work done, before NB and I headed out to explore the city.   I decided that I could find my way to my sister’s place without directions, which seemed logical enough given that I barely know the city and didn’t even know her address.  I mean, that makes sense, right?  So off we went!  NB was a terrific sport about the whole thing, indulging me as I made up stories about the various things we passed along the way.  Actual things I included on my made-up-as-I-went tour:

“Bank street is so-named because the Ottawa river used to come all the way up to where we are now.  When they filled it in, years ago, to make way for the city, the street was named after the banks of the river that used to lie right about here.  You’d think it had more to do with being a financial district, but you’d be wrong.”

“That laundromat was frequented by Trudeau and his wife.  True story.”
(Not likely a true story)

We did eventually make it to EF’s, but by the time we did I had managed to take us on a whirlwind tour of most of the city, including three lovely drives along the same stretch of the canal.  It’s all about the journey, right?

That afternoon we trekked out to the Canadian Air and Space museum, which was part of a secret plan that I had been looking forward to surprising NB with since we decided to make the trip.  He nerded out like a little kid, which was super adorable.  A school friend from his aerospace program called him when we were approaching the doors, and he was like “Guess where I am?!  The Canadian Air and Space Museum!”  Cutest thing ever.

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(NB got a hug from the Canadarm!)

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…and I made him do all of the interactive things meant for small children…

(like climb in the pilot’s seat of a… whatever that plane, above, was…)

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We attended a talk/demonstration on ejector seats, and then perused the plane collection and even got to see a helicopter take off.   My favourite part was when NB explained to me how turbine engines work.  I also enjoyed the fact that I spent the whole time getting excited about seeing the Avro Arrow, and then forgot that I had seen it, like, 2 minutes after finally seeing it.  le sigh.

The day concluded with a stop in the Byward Market for some (heavenly!) olive baguette from Le Moulin de Provence, and then Chinese take out and board games with A.  A solid Saturday night in.

Sunday began similarly – breakfast from Kettleman’s and some window-shopping in the Glieb.  The day had a very different tone, right from the start, though; today was the day we’d tease death.

To stave off a nervous breakdown from anticipation, we spent the morning distracting ourselves with touristy fun.  I had never been inside the parliament buildings before, so we got free tickets for the walking tour at 12:50pm.  Since we had about half an hour to kill before it began, we had to find some way to amuse ourselves.  Luckily, parliament features a lovely grassy lawn that is conveniently bereft of prohibitionist fences.  It practically begged for lunatic frolicking.  And I was more than happy to oblige, with rolling…

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…and cartwheels…

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…and somersaults…

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…and random jumping (staple tourist photos)

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And then we went on the tour.  I took two pictures inside parliament, and they’re not even slightly interesting.  In contrast, there were over 85 pictures of our frolicking on the lawn.  Clearly my priorities are in order.

Finally, on to the main event!

We were bungeeing (no really, that’s a word.) with Great Canadian Bungee, in Chelsea, Quebec – about a 25min drive from downtown Ottawa.  We got there, as recommended, 30min before our jump and used the time to try to relax our frenetic nerves.  It’s terrifying to know that you’re about to jump off a super-high platform into a gigantic quarry and have to watch and hear many people do it before you.  It doesn’t help that the waiver you need to sign before jumping is double sided and involves waiving your right to sue if you die.   Pft.  As if you could sue once you were dead…

For the record, here’s the platform, viewed from the office/hut:

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After what felt like an eternity, we were finally given the green light to climb up that gigantic hill, just so that we could jump back down.  Totally logical.

My favourite part of the safety instruction was when the staff member described part of the process as “not an exact science” (his exact words).  He was telling us that we had three choices to make: (1) whether to have an ankle harness or just a waist harness; (2) whether or not we wanted to be ‘dipped’ into the water; and (3) something else I’ve since forgotten.  EF, NB and I all chose to be dipped, but the wettest any of us got was that NB’s hands went in the water (hence the “exact science” comment).  They then arranged us in jump order.  EF was first, I was second, and NB and JB (EF’s boyfriend) were last, which meant that the least nervous of us got to go first, and the most nervous had to watch everyone else go before them…

I don’t have any pictures of my jump, or EF’s, but I had time to run to the car before the guys jumped, so here’s a still image of NB, flailing through the air:

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…and safe and sound in the boat, after being unharnessed…

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The most terrifying part of the whole experience, for me, was climbing the metal staircase up to the platform itself, from the ground.  There’s so much procedure after that that you get a chance to calm down and catch your breath before they walk you, individually, along the long extension to the jump platform itself.  After that, two guys tie you in and double-check your harness, then you shimmy over to the ledge, put your toes over the edge, and before you know it it’s “5, 4, 3, 2…” and then your body somehow propels itself into the air.  For me, it felt as though my body just decided to go before my head could make sense of how high up I was, or that I should be scared.  NB said that for him, it was more like his body was rejecting the whole situation, but his brain was like “well, we’re already pretty committed…”  Either way, it seems that people experience a bit of an internal conflict over the whole thing.  But then you find yourself free-falling, and all you can think is “DEAR GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE” followed insanely quickly by “THIS IS AMAZING.”  For me, the whole jump (after the initial 0.0001 second of sheer terror) was utterly relaxing.  My whole body went limp and I flopped around very gently.  At a few points, I couldn’t tell that I was moving at all – let alone whether I was falling or bouncing back up – because the whole thing was just so gentle and smooth.  As soon as I finished, I wanted to go again.  So I did.  And the second time was way better, because I just stood straight and let my body fall forward from the platform, without thinking about trying to jump/propel it forward.  I highly recommend doing it that way.  It was also much more graceful than what I did on my first jump, which was something resembling a squat-and-fall.  Ugh.

If you’re thinking of going, I highly recommend Great Canadian Bungee.  It costs about $120 for the first jump (an even $60 for a second jump on the same day), the staff were phenomenal, and the whole day was a total blast.  Apparently they offer first jumps of the day at dawn, and I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be to jump into the beautiful early morning sky.  I might just have to go back…

#16 – practice random acts of cheer

It began on a rainy afternoon with over 100 plastic animal figurines…

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…which were liberally coated with the contents of a few cans of lime green spray paint…

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…and then, one by one, deposited around the city in nooks, crannies, and other corners and hideouts…

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…such as in under-construction subway stairwells

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…on pedestrian walkways…

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…on big red canoes by the highway…

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…in trees (the most logical places to look for hippos)…

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…on streetcars…

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(there’s nothing quite like the feeling of the breeze through your mane on a warm spring day!)

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…at crosswalks…

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…supervising home construction sites…

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…monitoring hydro use…

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…and generally hiding out in the urban jungle…

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What better than a tiny lime green creature to brighten the mood on a grey day, n’est-ce pas?

(this song also helps, in my humble opinion…)

 

#11 – get dirty (take 1)

I have been feeling so burnt out this week.

burnt out from work.  burnt out from stress.  burnt out from mess.  burnt out from human interaction.

Since I was lucky enough to finish work at 2pm today, my plan was to come home and catch up on all of the mundane tasks in which I had fallen behind in life: do some laundry and dishes, clean out some more clutter, cook a meal.

But after a bit of self-indulgent (and oh-so well deserved) post-work vegging, the thing I really wanted to do wasn’t clean messes; it was make a new one.

Time to get dirty.

Obviously the first step in this direction is to have nice nails (obviously), so I painted mine coral and magenta.  Step one: done.

Next, I went out onto the balcony and opened a big bag of dirt.  I not-at-all-carefully dumped some dirt into a bowl with water and dug my freshly manicured hands right into the cool potting soil, worked the water in with my fingers, and dug out handfuls at all time to fill my seedling tray.  I had already started some tomato seedlings weeks ago, but lost many of them due to neglect.  Try and try again?

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I didn’t even try to be remotely adult about the whole thing.  Did I wipe my muddy hands on my clean clothing?  Yes, yes I did.  The point wasn’t to go out of my way to get dirty so much as to not give a thought to the idea of trying to stay clean.  In that sense, at least, I think it was mission accomplished.  Hopefully, in a few weeks, I’ll be rewarded with lovely heirloom tomato plants to nurture all summer long.

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All-too-appropriately, I also stumbled across this quotation today.  I think it sums up my day quite nicely:

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt”
– Margaret Atwood

Isn’t that truly the sign of a spring day well spent?

tonight we are responsible for witnessing and remembering

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“One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space.  Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages.  Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators…

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“But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.”

          – Rachel Carson

#17 – fly a kite

Yesterday was quite possibly my favourite day ever.  (so far)

Like many great adventures, it began with a trip to the Dollar Store, where nb and I wandered, aisle by aisle, in search of kite-building materials.  $12.43 later, we walked out with:

  • a six-pack of bubble blowers
  • two packs of plastic animals and one of plastic dinosaurs (for a future plan)
  • one yellow plastic table cloth
  • a pack of bamboo sticks
  • one roll of red duct tape
  • one bundle of bright orange twine
  • one pre-made kite (because it would have been just too devastating if our homemade one failed and we didn’t have a backup)
  • one frisbee disc thing (like a frisbee, but no center) (like a donut frisbee)

After a few pit stops (after all, such a beautiful day practically begged for froyo and an iced latte), we made it to Christie Pitts park and set up our building station.  The sun was shining, and there was a perfect breeze.  Conditions really were just about perfect.

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I felt really happy to have brought an aerospace engineer with me for kite-constructing, since I had no more than a basic sense of how it would work.  I was more than happy to sit back and watch as nb tied together the two bamboo sticks and used his finest boy scout knots to hold them together.  I was a little more helpful when it came to attaching the sail.  I was the one who suggested, for example, that we duct tape the outline of the sail to give the edges some stability (to prevent them from folding in) and to make it easier to cut the tablecloth without fraying it.  I also suggested that we copy the commercial kite in terms of building pockets to hold the bamboo sticks to the corners.  It really was a glorious team effort, and I felt really special when my suggestions were validated by someone I consider to be an authority in air mechanics.

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The first flight was exciting but slightly underwhelming.  It got off the ground but required quite a bit of movement on nb‘s part to be sustained in the air.  I suppose that’s for the best, since he had been complaining about our need to do active things together to burn off our froyo indulgence.  Be careful what you wish for!

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nb quickly decided that our best bet would be to run with the kite down the hill, so that it could gain enough momentum (and height, since he would be gradually running lower) to get and stay aerial.

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This worked only marginally better than running with it on flat land, but it was positively exhilarating to see how much fun nb was having, running around with this ridiculously awesome homemade kite.  Seriously, look at that smile?  I can’t imagine a feeling so bad that this picture couldn’t remedy it.

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Adjustments were made, including adding a tail for better stability, but the kite still needs work.  I look forward to revisiting it later this summer.

I tired myself out with the kite flying, even though I did a great deal less running around than nb (I mainly flew the commercial kite, and it required little movement on my part), so we took a break to toss around the frisbee, and then sat back down in the grass so i could blow bubbles.

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It truly was the most spectacular way to spend a beautiful day off in the city ♥

la réponse and first steps

I have to say, I have felt really, really thrilled and excited over the past week.  When I posted the list, I very much expected that it would come into existence without making a sound, and that it would linger only as an archive of my intentions.  That so many of my closest and best friends want to join me in my crazy adventures is both heartwarming and energizing.  I can’t wait to get cracking!

This week seemed like a perfect time to get started on #16 (practice random acts of cheer).  It was raining all day on Monday, so I stopped at Canadian Tire and perused the spray paint selection.  I wanted something bright and cheerful to stand out against the grey skies.  I already had some lime green spray paint, but I was running low.  I ended up with a can of neon pink.  Perfect.  I was now well on my way, since, earlier in the day, I had already purchased the other component in my plan: over a hundred plastic animal figurines.

Unfortunately the neon pink worked out less well than I had hoped, and ended up requiring a plain pink base coat in order to adhere, and I had less green spray paint that I thought, so my progress stalled very early in the process, BUT progress was made.  The plan unfolds – slowly, but surely. (Photo evidence and more details of the plan are forthcoming).

Technically, this means that I could also cross #21 (paint something) off the list, but that seems like cheating, so I’ll leave it…

I also sorted through two big rubbermaid containers, resulting in four recycling bins full of paper waste and two boxes of things to donate.  My office is now 60-70% more useable than it was before.

Perhaps the highlight of the week so far, though, was attending my first ever baseball game.  In fact, aside from a Toronto Rock lacrosse game in high school and a Markham Waxers hockey game in elementary school, the Jays’ game this week was my first professional sport experience.  It was awesome!  As is characteristic for me, I found myself getting distracted by strange and wonderful oddities – like the man who snuck a salad (with quinoa!) into the game, in direct violation of the implicit junk-food-only imperative; the man in front of me with iridescent hair (seriously, it was like fish scales); and how David Ortiz somehow made the whole stadium feel so much smaller the second he stepped up to the plate.

I have a thing for crowds, I really do.  Seeing so many people in the same place for the same reason just gets to me for some reason.  This experience was no different.  I was wonderfully overwhelmed and excited by the amazing sense of anonymous togetherness and community in the Skydome that night.

In any case, I have a plan to tackle #17 (fly a kite) today, so I should be off!  Pictures and details forthcoming :)

Tschus!