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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

My 24th! A Big Leap

NEW ZEALAND | Saturday, 20 September 2008 | Views [1115]

Happy Birthday to me! It was my free day today at the Dorje Chang Institute! I woke up at 9:30, had some Weet-Bix and a cuppa before packing for the day becuase I wanted to get into Auckland early. With my camera, credit card, and some money I hit the road. I tried to hitch a ride but I'm foolish to attempt hitching in the middle of Auckland, so I took a bus instead. The driver told me there's a rugby match going on at Eden Park, and before I left this morning a resident of the institute told me it's Auckland vs. Wellington. That gave me an idea for tonight! In downtown I walked toward the Auckland SkyTower, watching a few people jump. At the time I was still nervous about it even though I've done several adrenaline-rushing activities, so I knew this one wouldn't be any scarier. There's always that feeling of vertigo even if you've done it before. A young man named Tim and his firend had just jumped and said it was amazing! After contemplating for a bit I decided to walk in and book both the SkyWalk and SkyJump for $240. A few weeks ago I came asking if there were any birthday discounts but was told that about every other person who participates in either the walk or jump does it on their birthday, so they'd be handing out discounts left and right; I even showed them my passport as proof. There was a SkyWalk ready right when I booked it. I had to put my camera, bag, and lucky cross away. That cross is my good luck charm, and I often feel that's what saved me when I fell hard on y head whilst sandboarding in Peru. The SkyWalk jumpsuit is orange with a harness. After going through all those procedures we were up to the Tower (with a capital T). The lift up to the tower takes about 15 seconds because the tower is so tall. It is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere at 328 metres (1,076 feet). We were all buckled into a rope that is attached to a bar that hangs above us. The ledge that we walk on is 192 metres above the street below and has no handrails! As we were getting ready there was a 10 year old girl getting ready to do the SkyJump and she was scared shitless. She walked back and then her friend (who was smaller) jumped with almost no hesitation. The first little girl had a second chance and I was cheering her on and she was still scared. Shortly afterward she jumped and I was proud of her. When I was 10 years old I probably would not have even walked near the edge. On the SkyWalk I was the last in the group because I was the least nervous. We then had a chance to "sit" in our harnesses and hang over the edge, which was really cool!

The girl in the front of the line was very nervous but I was enjoying every moment of it. The view of Auckland alone is worth the price of admission. I could see Waitemata Harbour, the North Shore, Rangitot, and even Waiheke Island from the Tower. For awhile I was thinking we would be walking up the antenna but I was told that walk was discontinued a couple of years ago. We walked all the way around the Tower! It was an incredible experience and I was totally do it again. We went all the way down to the base to check out our photos. I saw that little girl who jumped earlier and I congratulated her for her bravery. They sell a T-shirt with a chicken on it saying "I nearly did it" meaning they paid for the SkyJump but chickened out. However I was told that very, very few people chicken out. I had to hang around for 45 minutes so I walked around the SkyTower complex and then walked across the street and got a mincemeat pie and a vanilla shake. At around 2:15 my guide met me for the SkyJump. Beforehand I put Teressa's cross on for good luck; there's no way I'd be taking it off this time! The SkyJump jumpsuit is blue with a different harness. I laced up my boots so they don't fall from 200 metres and knock someone unconscious. I had to take the lift up to the SkyJump platform. There were two local girls set to go, so I let them go first. The first girl was very nervous and she jumped backward off the platform (to face the tower). The second girl was less nervous but still jumped backward. There'd be no I'd be jumping backward! I want all the buildings in front of me! Next up it was my turn to jump! I was buckled in, and the instructor posed with me for a photo. I was strapped in, I looked down at the target, he did a countdown of 3...2...1 and I gave it the biggest leap with absolutely no hesitation! I hung in the air for a bit and then the instructor took photos of me celebrating my 24th birthday in midair above Auckland! Then I was falling superfast toward the Earth, having the absolute great feeling. After 11 seconds of free fall I bent my knees and had a safe touchdown on the bullseye. I was already ready to give it another go! Unfortunately the DVD camera was broken so I had to settle with some photos. I was so happy that I did both the SkyWalk and SkyJump on my birthday! I asked the attendant to burn my photos to a disk so I can put some up on MySpace. She even gave me a discount since the DVD camera wasn't working. Next time I can bring my certificate and jump for only $75 and it's good for life. I'll be sure to come back so I can get a DVD. Teressa had asked me to get a DVD so she could see it. After a fabulous adrenaline-rushing experience I collected my bag and thanked everyone. My birthday is tomorrow for everyone in the US, and when I called several people they said they were worried about me. This whole situation with Teressa has had a disastrous effect on me recently but today I feel like I'm on top of the world. After a delicious late lunch at Macca's I tried to call Teressa again but she wasn't answering on my birthday. Then I tried calling other friends but they were busy. Everyone in LA is always "busy" with something or other, and the other day I told someone how annoying that is. As the sun was ready to set I used my free ticket to the SkyTower. I went up and up, and I was up there. The view from atop is beautiful! I sat next to a girl named Julia from Switzerland, in about the same place I met Maxi a couple of years ago. We watched the sunset and the bright lights of Auckland started to shine.

There are no SkyJumps at night; the last jump is at 6:00. Incredibly I saw a young man named Tim, whom I met earlier whilst getting ready to do the SkyJump. He was born in Pennsylvania and has travelled to Africa, visiting Benin, Togo, and Ghana. He's travelling around the North Island for three weeks and is a devout Christian. He prayed with me to get my relationship worked out and possibly cure my autism. Tim told me he once prayed for a girl who was diabetic and she was cured! That's unbelievable! I'm not sure if I want my autism to be cured but it may help me with relationships and social skills. After about a half hour in the SkyTower I took the lift back down and then walked off into the night. I was told by the attendants in the SkyTower that the rugby game was yesterday so I figured I was out of luck with the rugby game. Then I walked to Whitcoull's bookstore and glanced at travel guides on Scandinavia. I've considered doing my MA or PhD in Sweden because university education is free. It would be nice to do my MA here and my PhD there because I'd have three degrees from three different universities in three different countries. After Whitcoull's closed I saw a young man wearing an All Blacks jacket and he said the rugby game is tonight. As I was walking toward the train station I saw the bright blue glow of the SkyTower; it looks beautiful at night. There was a train specifically for people going to the game. The ticket to the game was only $17; you wouldn't find a ticket that cheap for any professional sport in the U.S. Going into the game I knew absolutely nothing about rugby except for that it's very popular in New Zealand. I stopped and got a pizza for $5 and then a fan in front of me was teaching me a bit about the game. Rugby is indirectly similar to American football without all the padding. It's a lot more physical; fights and injuries are very common. I was cheering for Auckland because I'm here. Behind me were some blokes cheering for Wellington and I heckled them saying "Wellington is that way" and one of them replied "America is that way." When I go to basketball games I frequently heckle fans who are going for the opposing team. Auckland was playing very poorly, and it was a big game because Wellington had not held the Rugby Union shield since 1983 and Auckland has held it many times.

In the first half there were several plays in which Auckland could have scored but the game ended up being a blowout with Wellington shutting out Auckland 27-0. It was quite a cultural experience going to my first rugby game, in a country known for its rugby. I want to go to an All Blacks game next. With my game ticket I got a free train ride, which I used to go back to Avondale. Once off I was very cold and I didn't bring a jacket; I hung it up to dry last night and I couldn't find a Salvation Army in town earlier so I could buy one. Minutes later I was back at the Dorje Chang Institute. Online I chatted with Veronica, my friend from Brisbane, and had a few cups of tea before calling it a long day! I'm 24 years young! 

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