Sunday, July 31, 2011

MAB 2011: Saturday 30 July

Not as much fog as yesterday morning; nice! After the briefing I went straight off to the France 3 studio. Finally, the preparations could be start for a short interview. Peter George put his balloon in sight of the camera, so I was filmed together with my favorite balloon taking off. During the interview the moderator and I discussed the Mondial Air Ballons fan page, the ‘waiting waiting waiting… cancel’ principle and the improvements made by the organization this year. It was a light ten minute talk and I felt very comfortable being interviewed about my biggest passion. Wanna see it? Just click
After the interview I took a short walk over the launch area with my dad. We enjoyed the slight sun and the huge amount of balloons still taking off. When we were about to go back to our car a French balloon team headed towards us. Clever lesson: never say ‘no’ immediately when a Frenchman asks if you speak French (that’s what a young couple standing near to us did). After a ‘un peu’ from my side the pilot invited us to join his flight since he didn’t have passengers yet. So, there we went, completely unexpected with both feet from the ground again. From the first moment onwards I had this strange ‘I hope this will all be ok’ feeling. Confused rushing crew members, the balloon not spread out towards the right direction, twisted wires, etc… What was I doing here? Is this French style ballooning? Eventually I climbed on board, keeping this uncomfortable feeling during the whole flight. I was surprised however by the amazing sight from above. The sun was doing its best to burn away some little sheep like clouds while still many balloons were happily flying over typical small French villages. After this moment of enjoyment I decided to close my eyes. Landing time. My goodness, we were heading straight towards a retrieve vehicle parked in the middle of our landing field. We had quite some speed and after lots and lots of burning the basket eventually just missed the car. Oefff! Then the actual landing came: BAM BAM BAM; an elbow in my stomach, a heavy guy falling on me and a propane tank which was not safely secured crushing my feet. What a delight to be out of that basket again. Luckily the morning ended calm. During refueling I had a little children talk in French with the pilot his son and his little friend. They for example asked me if I have animals at home. After my answer they proudly summed up all their pets. Sweet. The pilot’s son is blind but I was amazed by the brightness of this little fellow. He disconnected all gas valves on his own and was perfectly manageable to help packing the balloon. He did everything by touch, and it was great to see how well this worked out.
The evening started with Austrian schnapps and cookies, hmm! The Dutch-Latvian team from Hans van Hoesel asked if my dad and I wanted to join for a flight with the ladybird balloon later on. Of course! We got introduced to the Russian team and their self made balloon. Even though there was a slight language barrier the Russians left a really good impression giving us a nice Russian balloon magazine and some pictures of their balloon. In comparison with this morning I felt comfortable and safe right away with Hans and his son Andris both flying the balloon. It was relatively dark, however, the colors were good for the pictures. It was a very pleasant flight with a hard but way better landing than this morning.
During the slowly traditional British-American ballooning after party we enjoyed some cheesecake and champagne. Unfortunately it was also already time to say goodbye to some Americans leaving France tomorrow in the early morning again. This long day ended with a sweet comment from Priscilla: ‘I will call one of my kitty cats Nienke!’. Adorable.