This weekend was one of the best I’ve had in a long time! It had been a rough couple of weeks with one thing after another piling up on my mind. Finally the weekend came and I just couldn’t take it anymore, so it was time to pack my bags and hit the road! I’ve come to determine that there are few things more therapeutic than good friends, loud music, and driving, so as we reached the highway and cranked the tunes all I could think was “Hallelujah!”
It took about four hours to get to our beach in Taimali and it rained the whole drive up there. We cursed the skies and wondered if maybe we should have waited for a weekend when there wasn’t a tropical storm waging war with the ocean off the coast of our paradise island. But nevermind! We were going, going, gone and that’s all that mattered. Reaching our sandy shore just after the last hints of daylight had dissipated, a few of us fumbled around searching for firewood while the others set up camp. They must have been planting trees because there were TONS of strategically-placed holes everywhere! I think I fell into them upwards of ten times that night. It was ridiculous! And as we looked high and low for wood, we quickly realized that there weren’t any sizable pieces we could use to fuel our fire, so we foraged on the ground and climbed trees to collect the biggest branches we could find. Armed with wet sticks, coconuts, and palm fronds, we headed back to the beach where we ran into some local men who were setting up traps to fish for sand crabs. They invited us to join them, and that’s when the real excitement began.
After finishing with the tents, we all hurried down to the water where the men taught us to tie chunks of fish onto large grates and then run out to the ocean’s edge between waves to bury them in the sand. We had to wait about 10 minutes before recovering the traps to allow time for the crabs to come, and then we repeated the process of running out between waves to retrieve it and bring it up onto the beach. With our hands, we carefully and quickly swept away the sand, watching the rocks tentatively in case one should jump to life and try to scuttle away. On numerous occasions the crabs were almost successful in their escape attempts (those suckers are quick!) but we always caught them. At one point, though, tragedy struck when we lost a bucket-full to a giant wave that overcame us unexpectedly. According to the locals, it turned out to be a bad night for sand crab fishing, but since it was my first time and I have nothing to measure it against, I still consider it a success!
By this point, the rain had pelted us for a couple of hours and then finally died down. Our local friends laughed when we told them we were going to make a fire with our wet pile of misfit wood-type materials, and in true Taiwanese fashion they offered happily to help us out, producing a blowtorch and using it to dry out our wood. We thanked them, said warm goodbyes, and spent the rest of the night roasting marshmallow, eating the giant watermelon we bought on the side of the road, and laughing ‘til we cried. I began to wonder at one point in the night if I could have gotten second-hand drunk from the local’s whiskey, because there was a moment when I tried to get up to move out of the path of the campfire smoke, but instead I stood and, in one smooth motion, twisted around 180 degrees, lost my balance, and promptly fell face-first in the sand, straight-legged and everything. All that was missing was someone with the foresight to yell “TIMBER!” I just wish I could have seen it happen myself, because considering how hard my roommate Carolyn was laughing, I feel like it must have been even more hilarious to see than it was to experience.
Going to sleep and waking up to the sounds of the ocean was amazing. We were the only ones camping there, so it almost as if we had our own little island to ourselves. The next day was incredible, though. I went exploring with one of the other teachers and it was like we were 5 years old again. We played with the smoking coals from our fire, plucked wild orchids to wear in our hair, picked coconuts from the tree and cracked them open on the ground, gambled with wild berries, and just generally went looking for trouble. We found an old Taiwanese man who didn’t speak a lick of English but really wanted to visit with us, so we sat on his porch and played language charades while he babbled at us in Taiwanese. He offered us cigarettes, water, and papaya, and then waved goodbye as we scampered off to find more mischief to get into.
The absolute best part of the trip, though, was playing in the ocean. The riptide was too strong for us to really swim, but we stood out in the water and waited for big waves to come in and sweep us away. I love the sound the little rocks make when the ocean crashes on the shore and tries to swallow them up again, making them tumble and clatter like a rainstick as it drags them back with the receding wave. More than anything, though, I love it when a huge wave swells up and then just bulldozes you, sending you tumbling and rolling through the water, not thinking of anything except which way is up and which way is down. Then when you open your eyes, you see that it has carried you a good 20 or 30 feet and deposited you somewhere along the beach completely different from where you began. Sometimes I try too hard to control things in my life, so I guess I take some sort of strange comfort in watching a wave charge towards me knowing that it is so powerful and imminent that there is absolutely nothing I can do to either predict or control what will happen when it hits me.
At the end of it all, I felt revived and better prepared to come home to Fengyuan and slip back into real life. I look at myself and am pretty proud of my sunburn, scrapes, and exhaustion. Why is it that I am never happier than when I’m battered and bruised? I guess that’s just my way of knowing I’ve had an adventure.