It was my first time ever going to Taiwan, and I was really excited about it. I was about as happy as a little child running to living room on Christmas Day, unraveling the new toys Santa had bought him. However, the moment the wheels began to skid across the runaway, I started to second-guess my parents’ decision. Why? It’s because the weather was so dang humid!
While my parents were busy finding the luggage, my brother had convinced me to sneak off with him, with the promise giving me Jolly Ranchers if I went along with the plan. Just as my brother and I were about to make out great escape, I bumped into a huge, plump man who was bloated as a hot air balloon. “Hey, watch where you are going mister!” I stammered, stupidly forgetting that no one in this country would understand English.
“Ok, Jojo.” the mystery man replied.
In an instant, I recognized his voice. It was my Uncle William. He swooped me up with his Hulk-sized arms and took me to look for my parents. When I spotted my parents, they seemed to be in a state of panic, fearing they had just lost children. I cried out to them, “I am over here!”
Recognizing my obnoxious, nasally voice, my parents quickly spun around. Their faces of anxiety quickly melted off their face, like a popsicle on a hot summer day. After that “chaotic” episode, my family followed my uncle to his 2005 Toyota Camry. There were six of us, but only five seats. However, after what felt like hours of arguing my whole family was packed in the car like a can of sardines.
The drive to my grandparents house was just the beginning of this going downhill. Though the car ride only took one hour, to a seven year-old, it felt like an entire lifetime. To make matters worse, there was no air conditioning. The thick, mucky, humid air began to choke me to death. I was desperately gasping for air, shaking uncontrollably. I was banging on the window, pleading to strangers to save from the box of hell, but to no avail.
As we neared my grandparents’ village, which was nearly miles from modern civilization, my mom tried to cheer me up. “Wow, look at the area. It seems so calm and peaceful. It seems pretty safe up here.”
I sneered in disgust at the homes. They were old and broken down and seemed to have been built during the Stone Age. Finally, my uncle had arrived at my grandma’s house. It was old, decrepit and filled with rats and c***roaches. To make matters worse, there was mold growing all over the place. In addition, my grandma wasn’t exactly the kindest person in the world. Like, literally anywhere else but here was a better place to live. I wished something bad would happen, so I wouldn’t have to live at my grandma’s house. That wish came true, but in a way that I never expected.
When my uncle had turned on the T.V. that evening, there were reports of a huge typhoon making landfall in a few days, and Taiwan would be at the blunt of the typhoon’s wrath. Initially, my family planned on staying in my grandparents’ home. However, upon further inspection of the house, my parents soon realized that we would need to leave if we wanted to even have a shot at survival. My grandma was not willing to go at first, citing that the house is the last physical memory she has left of her husband, and abandoning it would be like abandoning him. Thought of leaving my grandma behind all by herself scared me, and my parents as well. Eventually, my family managed to convince her that she needed to go.
The whole family was yelling, tossing clothes, food, and belonging at one another. The scene resembled the part in “Home Alone” where the McCallister hastily get ready to go to the airport. After we packed up all of our belongings, we frantically made our way to a church located in the center of the city. As my uncle was driving down the road, we began to hear raindrops tap on the car. The raindrops tapped on the car as graceful as a ballerina. Pitter patter, pitter patter. Somehow, the soft noise seemed to calm all the tension and fear in the car.
Smiles began to appear on our face. However, those smiles and serenity did not last for long. The soft rain suddenly began pouring down heavily, resembling the sound of a machine gun firing. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before my family had arrived at the church. As we ran in the rain and into the church, I could feel the heavy rain pound against my skin, and it felt like a million bee stings.
My family was soaking wet when we enter the safe haven of the church; we were welcomed with a warm meal. We were given a rock-hard, stale piece of bread, along with an extremely salty bowl of chicken soup. We were also served a greasy lump of fatty pork as well as a piece of burnt chicken. Though the food wasn’t that great, it was probably the least of my problems.
After dinner, everyone but me was able to go to sleep. I was kept awake by the idea of possibly dying, a concept I still hadn’t fully understood. At 1 a.m., wind started pummeling the building. Whooooosh, whooosh. I heard windows crack and felt the building swaying side to side. My mind started playing cruel jokes on me as I began to hear strange and scary noises and see frightening, shadowy figures in the night. I was scared and clung to my sister’s arm even tighter, almost to the point where she was about to bleed. My sister woke up, asking me, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
I was too scared to even formulate a response to her question with my pouty lips. After what felt like an eternity of no exchange, my sister broke the silence by say, “Don’t get too worried. Remember, God is always by our side.”
My sister fell back down like a sack of potatoes and fell asleep within seconds. I lay there, comforted by sister’s words of wisdom. I snuggled myself into blanket not only for warmth, but for feeling safer as well.
Suddenly, I heard a deafening crack, sounding as if God had taken the sky and tore it in half like a piece paper. The giant sonic boom caused many of babies to cry. The crying lasted all into the night, but no one complained because at least we were all safe.
When morning came, which looked the same as night-time, everyone began nervously talking about the storm and how their homes could potentially be gone. Breakfast was served, which was just a bowl of gooey, unseasoned congee. As I waiting in line for the breakfast, I saw people beginning to crowd around the window and scream. Curious as to what was going on, I decided to see for myself what everyone was screaming about.
I managed to fight through the crowd and found a spot to watch the ongoing commotion. When I peeked down the window, I saw a few people being swept away by the tsunami-like waters. The strong winds and the ferocious waves were tossing them back and forth like toy dolls. I saw one child, whom was about my age, holding on to a car that had gotten stuck between an alleyway for dear life. Sadly, the fierce wind and massive waves not only swallowed the car, but the child as well.
The storm raged on for a few more days. I repeated the same process every day, waking and eating breakfast, which was accompanied by the sound of the merciless storm bringing more people to Death's abode. It was hard for me and many others to live with ourselves. We could only watch as more and more people died, doing nothing to save them.
Eventually, the storm finally subsided; however, we were forced to stay in the building due to flooding. When it was finally safe to go back to the village, it seemed as if someone took a rock and flattened the whole area. My grandma saw the bodies of her friends and the remains of her house. My grandma began to silently sob, wondering whether she was better off dead than alive. Seeing my grandma so sad broke my seven year old heart into a million pieces. I tried to cheer her up, but to no avail.
My family began walking around what used to be my dad’s hometown, truly understanding the wrath of Mother Nature. Debris and the dead littered the street, the thick, sharp, putrid smell covered much of the area. However, there was especially rotten smell that led me to the ruins of one of the houses. I saw a shoe stuck in the rumble, and I didn’t think much of it at first. Upon further inspection, I realized that there was a leg attached to the body. I took a step back, shocked by the gruesome discovery I had just made. It took me a while to realize that I had just touched the dead body of little child. I didn’t know what to do, and a child my age shouldn’t know what to do.
After we were done surveying the damage, my family and I returned to the church and stayed there until we boarded our flight back to Los Angeles. No matter how much my parents consulted me, I still couldn’t get the images of the death out my head. From that moment, I knew that nothing was certain life except for death. I realized that life is too short to worry about anything. You had better enjoy it because the next day promises nothing.