I recently stumbled on a journal I kept 13 years ago, just after high school. Most interesting is a letter I had written to future me. The innocence, the naivety I had then has somehow been weathered, the world is a great reality check.
Dear Baks @30yrs,
- You have a wife and kids, and you shall attend the kids’ PTA meetings and give a speech.
- You shall drive a black Toyota Surf.
- You shall own a rental apartment block in the city.
- You shall travel Kenya, mountains and beaches.
- You shall have done crazy stuff like kayaking, bungee jumping, diving and Safari-rallying.
Well, here we are in 2019. What do I tell 13 year old me? I don’t have a wife and kids, and I don’t think I would give speeches at PTA meetings. I now understand why my folks missed every PTA meeting. Toyota Surfs’ were then leading in the dynamic SUV arena. Let’s ignore the apartment block – maybe I had meant a rental house in an apartment block.
To save my fragile esteem and self-confidence, led me to embrace item (e). Bungee jumping. Kayaking and diving needs a lot more motivation. And, water. Lots of it.
Search results direct me to Sagana, merely an hour or so from the city on the Nairobi – Nyeri Highway. It’s ran by Rapids Camp, on the banks of the river. The Extreme Adventure point is rich with activities for an individual, or team building on a corporate level.
Overnight camping. White water rafting. Zip-lining. Bush dinners. Bush picnics.
I guess 13-year-old Baks would be glad that I picked the most extreme. Bungee Jumping. It’s a 60m steel tower, and I start the booking process. My butterflies start churning right away. Booking is done beforehand, and once on the jumping platform, you are given 10 to 15 minutes to jump. If you choose not to, well, go back to your rental apartment in the city and make another booking.
And grow some balls while at it, sir.
And, no, they won’t refund the Ksh. 5000 booking fee.
I book, anyway. I may have lost the indigenous nature and roughness associated with my people in the years I’ve dodged traffic and pick pockets in the city, but there’s no way I’ll watch 5k go up in smoke. I make a booking, bang on my birthday. If fate and providence conspire against me on the day, and the elastic cord they strap on my back snap, at least it’ll be on my birthday.
There’s an eerie thing about dying on one’s birthday.
I take a simple breakfast. Blended orange juice, and toasted bread. I think those shall have disappeared from the system in the drive to the camp. I certainly do not want anything coming back up on the way down. I’ll be upside down, and death by choking on own vomit may ruin the moment. I don’t want to be known as the guy who choked on bread and orange juice on a bungee jump.
The reception at the camp is excellent. The instructors immediately strike a rapport, and in a few minutes I forget why am there. I could have been there for my wedding, then I remember a friend saying weddings pack more butterflies. You are hardly at ease on your wedding day.
The instruction phase flies past. Not that you listen much, with the 60ft steel tower right there in your face. All the while, I study the people around me.
There’s a lady, perhaps in her late 40’s. She’s sitting on a tree stump sobbing uncontrollably in the hands of a much younger girl I suspect to be her daughter. In between heart wrenching sobs, she’s trying to tell her something in Dholuo. I don’t understand much, but it’s easy to notice she’s begging for something, maybe forgiveness.
“What gives?” I point at them with my thumb, and ask Steve, the guy taking me through the paces.
“Oh, that mama has had the jump and it shocked her so much and got her emotional. She’s apologizing to her daughter about something she did years ago” Steve says, offhandedly. He kinda seems used to it.
“What? That’s crazy” I say.
It’s a bad habit to point at people with your thumb, by the way.
“It’s not crazy, bro. People get a different perspective on their life during the jump” Steve adds. “Oh, let’s get up the tower. You next”.
I get as close as I can to the mama and her daughter. I heard lots of daddy-this and daddy-that in between their sobs. The girl had also started sobbing. That dad involved must have been a dead-beat, you think?
It’s a really bad habit to listen to peoples’ problems. Maybe am watching too many episodes on the Real House Helps of Kawangware. Mama would be furious. I should be ashamed of myself. A grown ass man eavesdropping on a poor lady bonding with her daughter who probably has daddy-issues or maybe she had a twin and they were separated at –
“HEY! CLIMB!” Steve roars from below me. Let a brother be, man.
I hadn’t realized I’ve been speaking aloud. We were perhaps halfway up the steps to the ramp. Anything to keep me from looking down. Kumbe I have acrophobia. I had spent most of my childhood scaling mango and avocado trees. But none reaches half the height of this tower.
Mercifully, we reach the top.
It’s magnificent. The sky is clear, and towards the west, I can see Mt. Kenya in all its glory. A few cotton-ish clouds are floating above it. This is why our fore fathers prayed to the gods of the mountains, before the missionaries arrived. I can see sprawling townships and the city far off. I don’t get enough time to savor all the beauty, from above the world.
I step on the jumping point, detached from the ramp. I subconsciously feel the harness on my back for the umpteenth time. Did they say it supports any weight up to a maximum of 105kgs? My 75kgs feel a little like 500 right now.
The sobbing mama must have weighed at least a 100 and she made it. I keep reminding myself. Perhaps, we may be overrating these birthdays. It’s a day like any other, right?
“….12, 11, 10….” Steve is counting downwards. “….take a deep breath… 8, 7…”
Wait, did he just skip 9? This is a scam!
I didn’t wait for zero. I guess if I had, I would never have jumped. I would have asked Steve to start the count again. But to be honest, it’s the thought of my booking fee that kept flashing through my mind. I couldn’t lose five grand. Hell, the sobbing lady would have been manlier than I!
In a moment, I see Melisandre. Doesn’t ring a bell? That’s the powerful witch in Game of Thrones, The Red Woman. She had a simple prayer to the God of Death: Not Today. So, Not Today.
The first few seconds felt like those moments between wakefulness and falling asleep. You can’t really grasp what happens. Then it hits you like a rock on the forehead. YOU ARE FALLING HEAD FIRST INTO A RIVER! Depending on how sharp your faculties are, how fast your mind processes stuff, this is the time you may either start enjoying the jump – or getting a heart attack.
I’ve heard people say life flashes before you the moments before you die. Perhaps, that explains the sobbing lady on the tree stump. I am different. I start thinking of weird stuff.
Why do they call avocado ‘guacamole’, and it’s not the same thing?
Why did the chicken cross the road?
But I kept seeing flashes of me at 13, and understood why I wrote that letter to future me. I had lots of ambition. I needed focus and determination. I had to achieve something – I felt a jerk, and suddenly am going back up – I had finished the fall, and now am bouncing till the tension subsides. I was also glad the sermon in my head had stopped.
That dude inside there can really get going at times.
I come to a rest with my head a foot or two above the water. A kayak rows alongside and a guy pulls the harness and hoists me on it. I gain my bearings after a moment.
“How was it?” the guy asks me.
In some circles, I can’t keep calm, but right away, am unable to answer. I felt like Jesus after His resurrection. Calm. Refreshed. I have to get out of here before I start sobbing like the lady on the tree stump. And, by gosh, I smell like a skunk. That adrenaline ka-sweat really stinks.
P.S. They take videos of you during the jump for a small fee. They send the clips to you later if they ‘aren’t embarrassing’. What does that mean? I ask. Steve confides that sometimes grown people s**t on themselves.
I am yet to receive mine, and am afraid to inquire.