July 19, 2010

I suppose this is a little late, however, Happy Birthday Dad!

Providing that my mind has gone completely to cinders yet, my father’s birthday was actually yesterday (July 18). I had already sent a wish to dad on his birthday, but by my time! That is, July 18 in Taiwan. However, it was apparently still July 17 in Ontario! My little brother pointed out that my ‘premature’ birthday wish didn’t count. Humpf! Fair enough. He wanted a health kit for Treasure Madness, so I sent a message that since I was sending it from Taiwan, he had to wait for 12 hours (12.5 hours in Newfoundland!) to use it! HAHAHA! Time zones. All in good jest, didi!

Speaking of time zones, for anyone back home who doesn’t know (ahem…), Taiwan only has one time zone – not like Canada where we have what, six? And traveling TO Taiwan, you end up losing a day. Going home, you get the day back.

When I first moved to Taiwan back in 2002, it took a bit to get used to. I had left Canada on Aug 21, but arrived in Taiwan on Aug 23. Sort of strange, considering that the travel time was only 18 hours (yes, ONLY 18 hours)!! Heading back to Vancouver for my first visit, I arrived 4 hours after I had left Taiwan, but the trip again was about 18 or 19 hours.

I’ve tried explaining this concept to some people. Those that have a brain, can understand. May be a bit confusing at first, but you soon get used to it. Those that are a little more, how shall I say – challenged?? – still don’t quite seem to understand. There are those that, perhaps because they’ve never traveled outside one time zone or just don’t care. Whatever their reason, is not too much of a concern. I just humour them. When those back home are chatting and wishing me a good night when it is 6:00am here, I just respond back with same.

This crazy weather we’re getting here in Taiwan is starting to take its toll! For the past few days, we’ve been having super warm weather in the mornings. By that I mean it starts to reach 30C at 6:00am! By lunch time, it is a sweltering 32 or 33C, and the storm clouds begin to roll in. By mid-afternoon, it is dark, and you can just feel the rain in the air. Then the thunderstorms.

I love thunderstorms. Then again, I love anything that Mama Nature throws at us. I like the idea that we as humans, have no control over certain things. This blue marble we all live on, is a living being. It’s been around a lot longer than any of us or our extremely distant relatives. There are things that we just can’t do anything about.

The weather here though, is very strange. I was thinking a few days ago when the first thunderstorm rolled in, that Taiwan doesn’t really get a lot of thunder or lightening. I remember as a child in London, Ontario, that especially during the summer months, if there was rain, more often than not, there was also the lightening and thunder. As kids, I suppose we were probably some of the strangest. Or maybe it was the Johnson’s across the street who were the strange ones.

I never had a fear of lightening or thunder. I can remember sitting in the window with my siblings or parents, watching the lightening show. We used to ‘ooo’ and ‘ahhh’ at all the images that the lightening would show us. I don’t remember any of us hiding under the bed or praying to God to forgive us for whatever we had done wrong. Here in Taiwan though, it’s a whole different story.

People are scared of thunder and lightening. While in class this evening during the storm, we could hear the heavy rain falling on the roof, as well as the louder thunderclaps. Some of the kids were patting their chests over their heart. I always kind of giggle when I see this. I sometimes wonder if the average Taiwan person’s heart may be smaller than our big North American hearts. Almost anything will invoke this gesture.

I asked the class at the time what was the matter. Here I was standing at the front of the class, listening to the thunder. A rather loud clap, and I said something like, “YEAH!” I look around and over half the kids are patting their chests. I asked what the matter was. They all started talking, mostly in Chinese of course, about how it was scary.

The teacher said that during thunderstorms like this, people die. Really?! I hadn’t heard that before. Now, I know a little bit about meteorology. We took it in science class way back when. I understood then, and still believe today (unless God has changed his mind in the past 3 decades) that lightening will strike the highest point. Considering that most of my students (and some teachers) are shorter than me, I figure that if ANYONE is going to get hit by lightening, it will be me first, right?

I tried to explain a little of this concept to them. I also asked the teacher, when was the last time that they had heard about someone in Taiwan dying in a thunderstorm. She couldn’t remember. I wonder why? We live in Tainan. Everyone lives in houses or apartment buildings. Most of these structures are definitely taller than them. Heck, even though the country likes to cut down trees or keep them trimmed, they’re still taller than the students.

Again, I have to marvel at what is taught to students in Taiwan. They learn Chinese, math, how to play basketball, English, and how to play video games. I wonder at what grade the school system decides to teach these students about the world around them?

To get back to the class, here I am giving a short meteorology lesson (in English) on how lightening strikes the earth. Explain to the students that unless THEY are the tallest ‘thing’ on an open prairie, the chances of being hit by lightening are astronomical. Okay, so ‘astronomical’ is not an easy word for them, but I think they got the idea. I explained that they had a better chance of being hit by another student or hit by a bicycle on the sidewalk, than being hit by lightening. I try to avoid the ‘death’ thing, because it is, well, bad luck to talk about death in Taiwan. Fair enough.

I still do like and appreciate Mama Nature. We insects on this planet (humans, that is) may think that we are powerful and mighty and strong… Mama is a lot stronger!


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