Confucius Said: Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.
My first typhoon in Taiwan
I tried to make a booking for accommodation on Green Island (using a student who is fluent in English) but the lady on Green Island says there is a typhoon approaching and I may want to postpone my trip. That’s the first warning I get of a typhoon. I start doing the internet searches and find more evidence of this typhoon. It will be my first typhoon ever and I have no idea what to expect. I’m nervous but also a little excited, and there is a lot of adrenaline pumping in my body.
The typhoon is predicted to make landfall on Tuesday. On Saturday I do shopping and on Sunday I start charging all the electronic devises. The cameras come out and their batteries are charged. I mean I would want to take photos during this event and if we have a power outage I’ll want to save the mobile phone battery so I’ll use the cameras to take pictures. I fill all my water bottles.
My unit lies a little lower than the other units and it has happened in the past that the canal that collects the water running down became blocked with leaves at a point where it narrows and then the water runs through my livingroom. So I go out and clean all around my unit, pick up all the leaves, clean the canal and leaving everything neat for the typhoon. I also find a sturdy plank and some bricks to set up against my front door to build another barrier between the canal and my unit.
I get a text message from a young friend I made who says there is a typhoon approaching towards the end of this weekend and I must not go out, just stay indoors.
Sunday evening, I’m already in bed and having a whattsapp chat with a friend and telling her my news. She says “Do you have stuff standing around outside that can be blown away?” Ok, I did not think of that. So out of bed and in the pjs I go to my back verandah. The humidity at this point is 93% so no way I’m putting on a dressing gown. I bring in the chair and two small tables. The ants had got to the dustbin so now I have to take the rubbish out and walk all the way to the skip to dump it. I’m not worried about walking on campus in my pjs because its about 9pm, very dark and there is only one other female teacher on campus now. Only later did I remember the CCTV.
While cleaning the dustbin I thought about the communal kitchen and laundry room. So out I go again, walk around to every unit picking up everyone’s dustbins, brooms and whatever else they have lying around outside their places. I stack everything in the laundry, close all the windows, bring the free standing clothes driers in as well. I close the door securely, and I’m surprised it even closed as I do not think it has ever been closed in its life. So back to bed to wait for my first typhoon.
I had a good night sleep and wake up on Monday morning to a sunny day. I decide to take a walk through the village to see how the locals are preparing for this huge storm. It’s business as usual. The market is functioning, shops are open and people are acting like nothing is going to happen. Some of the properties do have their roll-up doors closed and that’s the only sign I have that I’m not the only jittery person around. The next few hours I spend on the internet and generally just being nervous. I see that the typhoon has made landfall and there are floods and evacuations in the north east. (I’m in the south west and as the crow flies about 500km away). Then around 2pm I get a text from the person who is responsible for me (Mr Wang). He says there is a typhoon on its way and I must prepare food and have enough water in case there is a power outage. Have now officially been warned and now I’m starting to think this is serious. Outside the weather looks like any other day around this time, cloudy, no wind and high humidity.
I already have about 3 litres of drinking water and (to my shame) I will admit that with my average water consumption that should last me about six days. But I’m not sure where our tap water comes from so maybe I need to store water for washing. I have no containers for this purpose so I head back into the village. On the way it also dawns on me no power = no lights. So I head to the futherest shop and start there for my search for candles. At this shop there are no candles but there is a 10litre bottle of water. Staggering under the weight I start walking up hill back stopping everywhere to ask for candles. Eventually at a shop where the owner speaks the best English of everyone in the village I find one single candle. The owner doesn’t want any money for it. So candle and purse in one hand and balancing the huge bottle of water I stagger back up the hill. Half way up the hill I realise I have a candle but no lighter. So turn around and back to the shop. The man asks if I forgot something I say yes, a lighter or matches. He gives me a lighter and again doesn’t want any money for it. Then as I start staggering away he asks if it’s my first typhoon. I’m thinking is it that obvious?
Back home I’m checking all the electronic devises again. Walking over the campus I noticed that the schools bicycles are all still lined up in front of the director’s office and I wonder if that is ok. I send a text to a director asking if they want me to do something about that. He answers back that they will be ok. I wonder how are bicycles going to stand up against a wind of between 80 and 180km per hour. Well if the school has money to waste I’ll just leave it at that.
By late afternoon, still no wind but its dark outside and its starts to drizzle and gradually it rains harder and harder. Adrenaline is pumping and I think to myself this is it, nothing to do but sit it out. I decide to have a shower, it might be my last one for a few days. I boil water and fill all my travel mugs with hot water. Who knows how long I’ll be deprived of hot tea. Then I close my back door and decide to sit in bed reading, while keeping my bedroom windows open. Eventually I fall asleep after sending text messages to all the loved ones saying I’m still ok but I think the typhoon is here.
The really hard down pouring rain wakes me at about 11pm. I fall asleep again and at 5am I’m woken by a dry branch falling on the roof. The wind and the rain is nothing significant. I get onto the internet and see the typhoon has moved north and left many people injured, thousands evacuated and floods in many areas. But a second typhoon has formed and is hot on the first one’ heels. Adrenaline pumps again. But the sun comes out and I start clearing the little debris there is from the canal in anticipation of the second typhoon. The next 24 hours go by with gusts of wind and constant rain becoming really heavy at times. At lunch time on Tuesday afternoon I’m walking around the campus, assessing damage -none, even the bicycles are all still standing upright, I empty all containers that have collected water (to prevent mosquito breeding, here schools are fined if the health inspectors find that on a campus), and again I start cleaning up the few leaves around my unit. But due to all the adrenaline still in my body I decide to walk around the village and see if there was any damage elsewhere. Apart from a single potted tree that fell over and which I righted I saw nothing out of the ordinary.
So that was my introduction to typhoons in Taiwan. I’m now ready for the next ones and they may be very bad. Perhaps I was lucky this time.