Monday, February 12, 2007

Balloon popping contests and death spirals, oh my!

Part 3

During the day, I took my gringo friends around the base. One fellow, A, had been an airforce intelligence officer, while C’s grandfather had been a pilot stationed at Clark in the 60’s. We did a bit of duty free shopping, which was bittersweet as the large Nutella bottles we had planned to buy by the crate load were not available at Puregold. Durn it.

As we went around the Clark Expo, A pointed out that the conical antennae like structures encircling the exhibit center were just that, antennaes. He asked if the Expo had been built on the “old antennae farm”, which made C, T, and I wonder if he meant ant farm or was it an air force term. Anyway, we learned a bit of military/engineering trivia about such things as we drove around the perimeter while A taught us arcane stuff about antennae’s. Good thing we all had a couple of cups of coffee by then!

Between show and meals, and the bit of shopping and ogling antennaes, we came up with grand scenarios of what we would do with all this space at Clark if we were masters of the universe. T suggested turning it into a major university, A and I suggested holding an annual marathon; T wanted to create a recreational park with pools and a spa; I suggested an East German-style athletic camp (A added that they’d have to include the steroids). We thought that the Expo would be the perfect place for evangelicals to hold their loud, noisy, congress-esssessss, since they need the space, and we’d prefer not to hear them. That was right before we found out there were these antennae there and, hey, maybe if those things still work, we can send out sonic beams to trap them all in there…

We also caught a few more shows at the airfield. We went back for the balloon popping contest and a couple of the paraglider exhibits. The former was interesting to watch, pilots from the airforce/navy, and exhibition pilots from the US and Korea (I think he said Korea) would fly their Cessnas or Piper Cub planes across the field to try and pop one yellow balloon. They’d radio in “now! Now!” and the balloon would be released at the far side of the field, they’d maneuver around trying to pop it with their propellers, but other than one pilot who popped 3 of the 5 balloons, the others were lucky if they got one. One poor fellow never quite got the hang of it and went home with his tail between his legs. Nary a balloon for him. Hopefully this was just a bad day. The announcer kept mentioning the tricky wind conditions that made it harder for the pilots to catch up with the balloons, but it’s pretty tough to see the balloon (yellow) in the air, and catch it just right in the center of their propellers. We all imagined the kind of training you have to do just to get one; we suspect the winner has his son running around with a balloon while he tries to burst it with propellers.

The other aerial show we caught was the paraglider exhibits, two to three paragliders strapped to large electric fan like motors glided around on parachutes (the technical terms so elude me, you just have to imagine it), turning tricks like death spirals (sideway turns), and generally catching the thermal waves. Would have been more fun to watch if they could use trapezes and have a companion attempt a death defying leap, I think!


Katrina said...

What a fantastic way to kick off your birthday week! I hope the rest of your birthday is as filled with friends, food and fun. :-)

Mila Tan said...

Thanks Katrina. After the last two weeks, I need to detox.

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