: One thing I like the most about my job as a broadcast journalist, is that I get to meet a lot of people; all kinds of people.
Better still, strangers that were strictly professional but later became instant friends.
On the 28th of March this year, I had the privilege of going on a hot air balloon, for the second time.
You see, I have always liked heights. Flying, climbing, jumping… anything to get a bird’s eye view. When I was 13, I got a certificate for skydiving. I enjoy the uncommon view from the top. That’s why I always wished I was taller.
When I was 21, I was studying in Australia and wanted to do bungee-jumping to mark my getting “the Key of Freedom”. Also it is customary for students studying abroad to do crazy things to feel like they’ve “lived the life” or the YOLO spirit. But my mom sternly reminded me that if anything happens to me, she won’t forgive me for the rest of my life. My interest died there.
So my first time on a hot air balloon was last year, with a balloonist named Jonas Van Doorsselaere from Belgium. At that time, I thought I was lucky enough to be able to cross out one more item off my bucket list.
Despite being very young, Jonas was very experienced in manoeuvring the balloon and made my first experience worthwhile. He carried about eight of us in his basket and tended to everyone’s queries and worries calmly.
However this year, I had to count my blessings for being able to get on yet another hot air balloon. Partly, I have to thank a good friend of mine, Etty Khairuddin.. the Event Director from AKA Balloons Sdn. Bhd. the company that manages the Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta every year.
Partly too, it must have been luck.
This time around, the Big Guy decided to up the ante and make it sweeter by giving me the chance to ride with a Hot Air Balloon rockstar from the USA, Gary Moore in his special balloon that he called “Timepeace” – a tribute to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
We clicked instantly.
Well what can I say, music is a universal language. When you meet a fellow fan, you become buddies. Brother from a different mother. No blood tests required.
As I step in his basket that could fit three of us, he said “Oh don’t worry, I am a very professional pilot. I have been flying for TWO WEEKS!”
Yes, pilots should not have a morbid sense of humour. It should be set in the law or something.
Along the way he made comments such as “Well I hope everyone can swim” and “We should have a party up here!” or when another balloon gets close, “Hey! Move the other way, you d***!!”
Pfft. Rockstars and their antics.
But because Gary is just another guy with a huge passion underneath all that stardom – in this case, ballooning – we relate. We all like seeing individuals with big interests and pursuing them. We get inspired.
He is such an easy-going person, and together with his wife who came to Malaysia with him this time, they make a really good couple.
So within that 45-minute journey, albeit very brief in hot air balloon time, we bonded pretty well and even promised to add each other on Facebook so we can tag ourselves in the photos taken.
That day I made new friends. Not just Gary, but his wife, the crews, and a few other Pink Floyd fans who came out just to support another crazy PF fan with a huge PF tribute balloon. They were all donning the trademark Floyd prism t-shirt off the Dark Side of the Moon album.
As we said our temporary goodbyes (before we see each other again, at least on Facebook), Gary handed all of us custom made “Timepeace” hot air balloon pins for keepsake.
Without hesitation, we automatically put them on our shirts.
By the end of it all, my cameraman, Ansari and I walked through the Media tent to get to our car. As we were walking, guess who I bumped into?
Jonas. He still looks the same, so it was easy to spot him. He was at the fiesta too, but this year with a different balloon. The “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” three wise monkeys. How cool!
So we said hi and how are you and shook each other good luck for our future endeavours.
It always feels good to see familiar faces, regardless whether you see them every day or just once a year.
That day, I left feeling fulfilled and happy.
And I remembered actually thinking to myself “This is why I love my job!” and smiled all the way until…
Not long after that thought, I got a call from my editor saying that he wants the story pronto for 12pm news. It was 11.12am. Putrajaya to KL city to ingesting the tape. All in about 45 minutes? I’m screwed. Plus, school holiday traffic. Double screwed.
And then I remembered thinking “Gosh, THIS is what I don’t like about my job!!”
Hehehe ok, I’m kidding.
Oh God. Please don’t fire me.