Sorry for the radio silence, but it's been a crazy week. I've started, stopped, restarted, and thrown out a long post about last Saturday's earthquake. I'm having a hard time putting the experience to words. So here's my attempt to just plow through everything that happened in the past week (in chronological order).
A massive earthquake hit Southern Taiwan at 3:57 AM last Saturday, almost exactly a week ago. It was really frightening — I awoke to the building shaking violently. I've been terrified of earthquakes since the 921 earthquake in 1999 (which killed more than 2000 people) and have been dreading another big earthquake since we moved back to Taiwan.
The earthquake affected our area minimally— our elevator was shaken off track, a couple of picture frames broke — but Tainan was much harder hit. Several buildings collapsed. The country entered the Lunar New Year holiday with anxiousness and bated breath as rescue workers raced against the clock to save those who were still trapped under rubble. I think right now about 30 are still missing and almost 90 have been declared dead. So, so devastating.
I have to admit that I'm still skittish, a week later. When I enter a room, I mentally plan what I would do if there were to be another earthquake. Is there a table to hide under? Are there things overhead that could fall on us?
Paul and I got on Twitter soon after the earthquake hit to check how bad it was and how people were doing. Before long, major news outlets like BBC started to send me tweets, asking if I would be available for an interview. I ended up doing two spots and a reporter Q&A for NPR, three live television interviews with BBC, two live radio interviews with BBC, a live television interview with Sky News, a recorded interview with NBC (which aired on The Today Show, apparently) and... I think that's it??
It was very surreal. I did the interviews thinking no one would ever see them, but before long, I was flooded with messages from friends and family around the world saying they saw/heard my segment. I was not nervous at all (and I didn't brush my hair or put on makeup before the BBC segments, which in hindsight is kind of funny/crazy), but I think that was at least partly because I was still so shaken by the earthquake and was operating on autopilot (and very little sleep). It was also hard to focus on anything but how horrible the Tainan situation was.
You can see one of the BBC interviews in the second video down here.
Needless to say, the earthquake made for a pretty stressful start to our Lunar New Year vacation. On Sunday, I 1) drove our car against a concrete divider in our parking lot and 2) left the burner on for a couple of hours while we were at a party. My mind was just all over the place and I couldn't concentrate on anything, but I couldn't relax, either. I was thankful we had scheduled a trip to Taipei — it felt like a good idea to get out of town.
We shared a guesthouse apartment with our good friends, the Ws. The guesthouse is really simple but it's at the best location, just a few minutes' walk away from the MRT. We packed so much into our three days there — we went to the CKS Memorial (always stunning), parks, the zoo, the harbor town of Damshui, a night market, two massive bookstores... We went everywhere on foot and I remembered again how much I love cities.
We are now officially participants of a local orphanage's "bridge" program. We will be taking a little girl (ML) home several times a month. ML has Down's syndrome. We are her first "bridge" family. She is in the process of being adopted by a family in Canada — the idea is for us to help her get familiar with life outside the orphanage with an English-speaking family. We brought her home for several hours today and we love her already. Anna and Lucy would not leave her alone (until I ordered them out of the house to give ML some space). ML is so much fun. She is sweet and laid-back and has a great sense of humor. She is also very, very cute — but you're going to have to take my word for it because we're not allowed to post pictures of the kids.
Double date night
We hit the town with some friends (sans kids!) tonight. Rather than opting for dinner and a movie, we decided to check out the Pier 2 art district. Paul and I have been there a couple of times and love it, but it was particularly beautiful tonight. The mood was festive, the weather was perfect, and the sunset and sky were just breathtaking.
We took the MRT in to avoid any holiday traffic and that in itself was fun. I sometimes forget how big a city Kaohsiung is (and forget how accessible the city can be). There's so much of this place I want to explore!
Happy Valentine's Day
I found a beautiful leather refillable notebook at one of Taipei's big bookstores and handed it to Paul. "You should get this for yourself," I said, completely forgetting Valentine's Day is just around the corner. I am usually very bad at Valentine's Day presents and I am so mad at myself for ruining what would have been the perfect gift.
That said, Paul did get it and he loves it. It's a Midori Traveler in the passport size.
It's hard to believe, but we only have a few weeks left in this quarter. I am a little panicky thinking of all that still needs to be done at school (and, frankly, all I still need to do before the end of break). I also need to squeeze a trip to the US in sometime... I'm trying to practice equanimity and not freak out about all of this!
So far, 2016 has been a little insane. One thing about Lunar New Year is it gives you a fresh restart if the January start didn't cut it. I am all about new beginnings. Happy Lunar New Year! 恭喜發財!