"Parasail or Parafail?" by Klara Kurti ('17)

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” I whisper to myself as I’m about to sign my life away to some random employee at the Grand Bahia Principle Resort. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been terribly afraid of heights. I couldn’t tell you the reason if I tried, but what I can tell you is that I have a panic attack if I’m higher than ten feet in the air. Nevertheless, the desire to be reckless, young, and free, inspires me to ignore this fear in order to go on roller-coasters, jump off cliffs, and on my recent vacation, go parasailing.

On this summer’s adventure, my family decided to go to the Dominican Republic for the second time. Instead of it being just the four of us (my parents, my sister, and I), we went with some distant relatives that we’re relatively close with. I was hoping this would make the vacation a little more pleasant for my sister and I because we would have our two cousins, Kevin (16) and Sea (23), around, and we wouldn’t have to stay with our parents the whole time. When we first arrived in Punta Cana, Kevin’s mother had a whole itinerary planned for us on what we would do during that ten day trip. However, being the trailblazer of the family, I decided to make my own itinerary. After all, I’m not the type to follow the rules of a dictator.

I also have to add that due to the fact that I had worked the whole summer and that school was only two weeks away, I wanted to do as much as possible to make up for lost time. I was hungry for adventure and I wanted to make the craziest memories possible. I wasn’t really interested in turning into a piece of toast on the beach, or playing volleyball with middle-aged tourists in the pool. I wanted to go swimming with the dolphins, I wanted to explore the safari, I wanted to take a boat to an abandoned island in the middle of the ocean; I wanted to make memories to last a lifetime. But let me just tell you that ‘memories to last a lifetime’ cost a fortune, so you will be charged an arm and a leg at these resorts because they will smell your touristy flesh from miles away.

I spent about two days trying to figure out what it was I really wanted to do. My cousins and sister put me in charge of picking the finest actives for us. I was now the leader of the pack and the ruler of our hotel room. Rest assured, the power got to my head, and I started dictating what time to wake up, what time we would eat breakfast, what time we would leave the pool, etc. Nevertheless, after those two days of relaxing by the beach sipping on Piña Coladas, I looked into the distance and there it was, what I really wanted to do: I wanted to go parasailing. It didn’t cross my mind at that very moment that I was afraid of heights and I would probably pass out before even having the chance of going up. Thinking back now, the heat and rum probably clouded my judgment, but I regret nothing.

The rest of the crew was on board, so we rushed to the lobby and began to negotiate prices. Since there was four of us, we got a ‘deal’ and only paid $180. Can you believe it? They dropped the price a whole $20. They scheduled our appointment to fly for that same afternoon and pulled out four contracts (our death certificates). At that moment, it hit me. We would be in the middle of the ocean, hanging from a rope and a weak parachute. Was that a risk I was willing to take? Did I have a choice? Everyone signed their names quickly, but I just stared at the words for a few minutes. The fears I had were not rational, most people would fear the rope breaking, I was afraid that a pelican or a similar bird would break through the parachute. My sister forged my signature when the employee looked away. Now, not only would we die, but we would go down as criminals.

As we were getting ready to go on the speedboat, the waves began to get bigger, planting fear in my heart. “Perfect, we’re going to drown before even getting a chance to fall 100ft. from the air” I thought to myself. Externally, I showed no fear. Dictators show no fear. Odeta got on first, I got on second, Sea next, just as Kevin was about to get on, his mother started shouting and running towards the boat. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that she spent five minutes lecturing Kevin and the man about keeping us safe and making sure nothing bad happened to her only son. From that day forward, Kevin has been proclaimed the ultimate ‘mama’s boy’.

After five minutes of traveling on the speedboat, we stopped. We could see the shore which made me feel better, but we were also the first ones to go up. My feet were shaking as I approached the parachute. They gave us old life jackets to put on and they made us wear this rope diaper which would connect to the parachute. I sat in the middle, Sea was to my left and Odeta was to my right. I let out an uncontrollable laugh as they were fixing us for take off; I laugh when I’m uncomfortable to conceal my fear. Before I could stop laughing, we were moved further away from the deck of the boat. At first they dropped us in the ocean and dragged us as our feet touched the water. Surprisingly, this calmed me down and I felt at ease. What came next, I was not okay with. They started speeding up and within a minute we were so high I could touch the clouds. I tried to cheer myself up by making jokes then proceeding to laugh at them by myself. Odeta and Sea felt fine, so they said.

 I laughed and laughed until the laughter faded and I began to squeal and started shouting. I had to calm myself down or I would have an anxiety attack. I looked up and closed my eyes and suddenly I felt a cool breeze. I pulled myself together and began looking at the shore in the distance. The view was absolutely breathtaking. All you could see in the distance were palm trees and these extravagant resorts in between all the green madness. The ocean looked endless and the different shades of blue created a soft ombré from the shore to the horizon. Fear escaped my mind and I let myself live in the moment (60 seconds before we were brought back down).

As they brought us back down, I was kind of disappointed because I had finally overcome my fear and was just starting to enjoy myself. As we waited for the other passengers to have their turn, we began chatting with a young woman named Natasha and her elderly mother (with a difficult to spell Ukranian name.) We talked about our trips and I even sang the Ukranian National Anthem for them because I attended a Ukranian high school. Needless to say, they were impressed and we exchanged numbers for when they come to visit New York.

The rest of the boat ride was smooth sailing (pun intended), we were enjoying beers and the company of the Ukranian women. Then out of the blue, the waves started to hit again, stronger than before. The boat was swaying back and forth and water began getting inside. I wasn’t afraid we would drown; I was afraid of getting sea sick. It wasn’t a surprise when moments later, I was hanging off the side of the boat, throwing up the shrimp I had for lunch that afternoon. Not only was I covered in my own throw up, but also the wind gently carried my leftovers to the passengers of the upcoming rowboat next to us. I heard the individuals moaning in disgust but I could not stop myself from throwing up. Then when I finally picked my head up, with leftover throw up on my chin, I realized they were all handsome young men, in their early 20’s. I didn’t die from parasailing that afternoon, but I did die from embarrassment.

I let out another uncomfortable chuckle as I apologized to the gentlemen and left the speedboat to get on the rowboat back to shore. I sat on the boat in silence, contemplating my existence and my bad luck with the male species. Was I hexed or was I simply chosen to live an extraordinary life filled with uncomfortable but funny moments? I have to admit that although the parasailing was an unforgettable moment by itself, the events that followed were the cherries on top of the sundae.