Saturday, May 20, 2006

Green butterflies

The massive typhoon that swept over the Philippines last weekend, killing dozens before heading towards Hong Kong, took a right turn as it neared the China coast and started moving up our way. We ended up with nothing worse than some gusty winds and heavy showers on Wednesday and Thursday, but it was a reminder that typhoon season is upon us and we need to get the house ready (especially since it will be sitting empty while we travel next month).

After a typhoon passes by we get to enjoy, with some guilt, unusally clear weather. The improved visibility is like having new eyes. The mountain that is the focal point of our view is reduced to a little pointy hill because there's no haze to give the impression of great distance (and therefore greater size). Bamboo groves stand out in sharp relief, leafy trees suddenly reveal the shape of their greenery, and the gilded temple behind us gleams and shows off its colors.

I talk about the weather a lot, I think because it is a barometer of my foreigness here. In Seattle I know what to expect; depending on the month, the hour, and the direction of the wind, the sky can take on many different shades (of grey), and I read them unconsciously. But here I am often caught by surprise, more so when I am indoors and don't have other clues to tell me the weather is changing. It's a matter of time, I suppose, and experience. The other day as I was washing dishes, I was startled to see a bright green butterfly flicker by my kitchen window. In a flash I realized it was no butterfly, but a leaf, caught up in a gust that sent it four stories high. Within the hour, wind was whistling through our windows and echoing mournfully in the stairwell. Green butterflies are now filed away as harbingers of a typhoon. Now if I could just get used to leaves falling in the spring.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Dad's saga

It's been a crazy couple weeks. Every time I called home to see how my dad was doing, the news just got worse and worse: released from Harborview, but unable to keep anything down for two days; admitted to Whidbey General, where they discovered a skull fracture (way to go, Harborview); back to Harborview for infection (seems no one put him on antibiotics after putting two titanium rods in his leg); water on his brain; gout in his good foot; total exhaustion and no end in sight.

So yesterday, 12 days after the accident, I finally got to talk to my dad. What a relief! I had heard from my mom that he was doing a bit better the day before, but to hear it from him – just to talk with him – lifted a huge burden off my heart. I have been praying (as have many of you – thank you!) which is exactly what he needed; but I've wanted to do more and have felt a little helpless. I am so glad to be going home in two weeks. I just want to sit out on the deck with my mom and dad, watch the deer and take in the mountains. That's my dream vacation. ( If there was a bowl of raspberries within reach, that would be icing on the cake.)

Remember to tell someone you love them today. And thank God for the blessing of friends and family.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The hard part

My dad was in a motorcycle accident last week; my sister called to tell me, but I haven't been able to talk with my mom yet. His leg was pretty badly injured – he'll be recovering for the next month or two – but thankfully other than that he's all right. Still, I hate that I can't be there right now. Maybe I'll feel better when I can talk to my parents; for now, though, I just want to go home.

That's the worst part about being here, knowing that bad things happen in this life, but being unable to bridge the distance when they do. At church we often have prayer requests for sick or dying family members back home, and those prayers are always extended to the people here who feel helpless so far away. It's a small world in many ways, but physically, my parents are 9,000 miles away.

I can't wait to see them. Twenty-six days to go.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Easter break

We had a good break over Easter; sorry for the long spell between posts, but with camping, recovering from camping, and now the busy-ness of spring, I've gotten out of my routine.

On our trip, we traveled with two other families down the west coast of Taiwan (south of Kaohsiung city, towards Kenting), and then cut across the island on highway 9. Across is not the right word, as it implies a somewhat straight line; we curved our way over the mountains, keeping one eye out for people passing from behind, and the other eye on the oncoming traffic they'd be face to face with. It was not a bad drive overall, though – scenic vistas of lush forested valleys, and the blue-green waters of the Pacific were refreshing, as was the clean east-coast air. We camped near Taitung, at a well-appointed campground that was entirely deserted except for ourselves. The sandstone formations that make up the shoreline there are striking, almost sculptural. (You can see some pictures here.) Just up the road we found a wide sandy beach, covered with litter but otherwise, again, empty of people. I found a small cove for the kids where the surf wasn't so rough, and we spent a long morning digging in the sand and playing in the waves.

On our way home we stopped at a water park, stopped for lunch, stopped to buy ice for someone's sunburn, stopped to use the bathroom at a roadside Karaoke bar, stopped for ice-cream at 7-11, stopped to use another bathroom at a small roadside restaurant, stopped to buy onions (and use the potty) at a roadside stand, and finally made it home at dinner time. (I had wanted to stop for steamed water chestnuts, but thought better of it.) At one of our bathroom breaks we spoke with the owner while the kids were taking care of business. She has a daughter who's gone off to Belgium, and recently gave birth to a little boy. She's eager to see her new grandson – she doesn't even have a photo yet – and seemed pleased to have our company and share her news. She also looked happy to have our kids play on her tire swing. Her restaurant is fairly remote, with no other buildings within walking distance that I could see; it would seem a lonely place, but then she gets a lot of visitors like us, so maybe it's not so bad. Like most Taiwanese, she was helpful and friendly, and asked us to come again.

We've had some beautiful weather lately, brilliant blue skies with real clouds, the kind that look like something if you use your imagination. Such a nice change from the usual cap of haze. We've had a few rainy days as well (today is one, with even a bit of thunder this morning, but Nora's handling it better). I think that will be the pattern for a while now, until things are turned up a notch and we get into typhoon season.

We are down to four and a half weeks of school left, so the calendar is filling up. It's a busy time as teachers wrap up the year, and it's also when you start to realize how little time is left with the departing staff. I will be sorry to see them go, but it's exciting to know that they're moving on to new chapters in their lives. And their leaving means new arrivals, as people we've yet to meet prepare to start their Taiwan adventures. Lots of changes ahead.