I’m a child of the short attention span generation. Let’s vignette the shit out of my trip to Kenting for Moon Festival.
Our directions to our hostel in Kenting only specify that we should get off the bus at a 7/11 located across from a police station. I jump out of my seat at every passing 7/11 while Sharon slumbers hard in the seat behind me and Julia is plugged into her Ipod beside me. The streets are narrow, the buildings short, and the neon lights above gadget shops are the only thing cutting through the rainy darkness. Julia says this is the “real Taiwan”.
It dawned on me that the Chinese Moon Festival and Korean Chuseok are THE SAME THING. This isn’t going to be a holiday with fairies, glitter, lanterns, fireworks, and cakes shaped like moons, covered in dollops of frosting and filled with mint ice cream. It’s a night of squatting in the street barbeque-ing vegetables and meat with family. I think my idea was better…
Our hostel is dark and seemingly shut down. After a long wait, our hostess shuffles to the main door, lets us in, and disappears again, leading us to imagine her a ghost. Our room is like staying at your grandma’s house; it’s a mix of odds and ends and has a secret room filled with dolls and board games. Our side, wooden door doesn’t lock and when I go out into the darkness, I can tell I am in a room of old medical equipment. Are we supposed to be here?!
The beach is windy and it feels scandalous to strip down to our bathing suits when everyone else is so covered. We plop on towels and pretend that the wind isn’t covering us in a fine layer of sand. I go farther down the beach where a group of Taiwanese people are getting a surf lesson from a surfer guy the color of burnt caramel. The ocean is extremely salty and the perfect temperature. I bodysurf the waves until Sharon comes to join me and we spot Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Taiwanese doppelganger.
“I don’t find him attractive, but I can’t stop staring at him.”
Julia tries to open a bottle of wine with a chopstick. SHE SUCCEEDS and the wine flows…..all over her dress. We are in a family restaurant and the family next to us moves to another table.
I learn on this trip that Julia and Sharon don’t really care about eating ie don’t make it a priority in their life and often skip meals. For a foodie/lover of eating throughout the day this is a hard fact to face on vacation when all I want to do is eat in cafes and roadside restaurants. I spend a lot of this trip hungry….
Jon and Alana, friends from work, are sharing a pizza in a “cantina”. I watch them with envy as I sip my Irish coffee because Julia and Sharon don’t want to share anything. This leads me to eating sweet potato fries covered in “plum dust” from a food market on our way to another bar to meet some other expats. We all drink beers together until the typhoon starts to rear its head. We jump on the bus back and the rain is pouring so much that I worry that our bus driver will crash. We make it back and quickly run into 7/11 for typhoon supplies.
I wake and the typhoon is in Kenting. The wind is so strong that I can hear it slamming the door outside our room back and forth, sounding like a cannon. One look outside says we will not be leaving this hostel all day. I walk out of our room, in my pajamas, into the gray, dusty storage room of medical supplies by our room. I decide to play in the wheelchair and I wheel myself out into a room with a ping pong table and old surfboards hanging. A guy is standing there, arms crossed, looking at my quizzically and then asks with a smirk, “what are you doing?”
“Ummm, playing with the wheelchair?”
I wheel back into the room with a sheepish look on my face.
Sharon teaches us Mahjong which is confusing for me, since I didn’t know my Chinese numbers, but I catch on as quick as I can and it’s a pretty fun game, but after two games, I am all done. I don’t know how people can play it all day. Even in a reitirement home.
We get our fill of shitty American television and movies on this typhoon day. Grey’s Anatomy (never been into the medical dramas), an Amanda Bynes movie, and Rock of Ages, which has instilled a fear of Tom Cruise into my heart. I will never look at him again without imaging his tongue doing unsettling things.
Many realizations are reached.
1. This hostel actually has a whole Taiwanese family living on the top floor and they are utterly lovely people, who invite us a homemade lunch and dinner. Each meal made by the sweet grandmother, who let us in our first night. We no longer see her as a ghost, but as a fine cook.
2. This hostel used to be a hospital. That makes sense, now doesn’t it.
3. Our host wants to take us out into the storm to look at the ocean. It probably won’t be safe.
Sharon, Julia, and two other guys from the States pack into our host’s car and we slowly drive into the typhoon. We are all quiet, as if we are sneaking out of our parent’s house. Many scooters have fallen over and there are pieces of signs and loads of branches on the ground. Our host drives too fast for my taste and I have to pretend that none of this is happening because I don’t want to think what will happen if our car steers off the cliffs. Once already, our car had swerved off the road and a television crew caught it on camera.
We park by the ocean and it’s like nothing I have ever seen. I can only compare it to sitting in a raft on the Grand Canyon and seeing a big, brown wave/wall about to crash over you. If a creature of Hell had come out of those waves, I wouldn’t have been too surprised. We let our windows down and the wind almost knocked the car over. I hoped my parents wouldn’t be too angry if I died out here. Julia kept yelling things like, “ADVENTURE!”
Back at the hostel, our host asks with a devilish grin if we would like to see the examining tables. IN THE DARK. Sharon is getting freaked out and I enjoy chasing her around, yelling facts like, “Our bedroom was the patients rooms!! Angry dead people!”
Well, slightly skewed facts.
We go into a room with an actual reclining examination chair of sorts, with lights above it, and shelves of rusty old tools around. It’s creepy, to say the least. Julia decides to hop up on it and Sharon can’t handle it. I take a picture of Julia on that old piece of work on Sharon’s phone and after we email it to Julia, Sharon deletes the bad mojo off her phone. Julia is acting really wired the rest of the evening, and even though I am not superstitious and don’t believe in ghosts, I keep imagining her becoming possessed by a patient and killing everyone in the hostel because we have no way of escaping.
We all wake up on our last morning in full possession of our spirits and head back to Hsinchu County, but slightly wonder if our school would care if we never came back.