(By Becky Martin – Kitchener, Ontario, Canada)
Taiwan, the land of spiders as big as your face, cobras blocking your dusty hiking path, cicadas as long as your finger and so loud that in their crescendo they force you to cover your ears to prevent pain from their intense singing. It’s a place that has geckos crawling up your walls and clicking their tongues at night and of brazen cockroaches by the dozens scampering and hiding if you dare turn on a light at night and disturb their nocturnal shenanigans. Where the temperature ranges between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius and a hundred per cent humidity eight months out of the year, forcing you to get comfortable with being wet most of the time from your own sweat or from the daily rides through the rain on your scooter.
It was the happiest place I’ve ever lived and I’ve moved 20 times in my life, 15 of those times with my husband. It is a place I still dream of several times a month even after having moved back to Canada six years ago.
My husband, Craig, and I lived in Taiwan for 10 years and experienced many wonderful things, faced many challenges, had fun and grew as individuals and as a couple. Those years are precious to me, years I’ll always be grateful for, but there is one experience that sticks out when asked by people interested in our time there.
The year of the super typhoons, category 5, winds exceeding 200 kilometres an hour. The storm that blew through the outer cracks of our building and made our walls seep, pouring water into our apartment for six hours straight. The storm that was just days after Craig and cracked four of his ribs in a scooter accident and we could not stop mopping lest our apartment become completely flooded.
We lived in an apartment complex outside of town, 21 storeys high, on a hill, on the 16th floor and no protection. That category 5 typhoon roared into town like a dragon with ill intentions. The winds were so loud we had to shout to be heard, the rain so hard it poured in from every window seam, AC unit and balcony door.
For six hours we went back and forth between the master bedroom, a spare bedroom and the living room, mopping, dumping buckets, trying to prevent our apartment from flooding. The bedroom seemed to be a losing battle; Craig could not keep up with the waterfall flowing into apartment.
He came up with the idea of sealing the window with Vaseline. Okay, sure, worth a try, but Craig said we had to open the window to do so to create a seal.
Insanity, but I was willing to trust his idea.
Not many people can say they’ve stared into a super typhoon. Once I pushed out that window, with She-Ra strength, the dragon swooped in and raged right in my face. And what did I do? I laughed. The rain stung our skin and I would have been wise to keep my mouth shut for the driving rain speared the back of my throat, but I couldn’t stop laughing, what where we doing?!
Craig was not laughing as he applied globs of Vaseline around the window frame and soon, he gave me the okay to shut the window. It slammed shut and…it worked; the Vaseline sealed the window enough that it slowed it down so that we could keep on top of the dragon’s spitting rains.
Though Canada doesn’t challenge me like Taiwan did just from stepping out the front door, since moving to back home I have made of point of continuing to challenge myself, because in doing so, I am always encouraging and inviting personal growth.
I’ve taken stained glass classes, pottery classes, joined the Tai Chi society and am learning the art of moving meditation. I’m learning to communicate with horses through my volunteering that does therapeutic riding with special needs children and I gave up a 25-year career with children to start a window-cleaning company. Taiwan taught me that challenges are an imperative to growth and the expanding of the spirit.
So, bring on the lashing rains and the scorching heat. Give me spiders as big as my face, ear-splitting singing cicadas, cheeky cockroaches and cobras in my path. I will not melt or shy away, I will not shriek or hide. In fact, I just may laugh in the face of it and say, thank you.
Your turn! What lessons have you learned from life’s awesome and absurd moments? Share you stories with us and help us grow our collection of teachable misadventures.