An Ordinary State of Emergency
Letter from ... Taipei! Nora Lessing experienced her first typhoon.
Nov 02, 2015
By midmorning, a slight drizzle has set in. It’s raining constantly, if feebly. The square next to the subway station of Nanshijiao seems deserted. Usually, it’s packed with middle-aged people, exercising. Now, there’s an angry wind that seems to come out of nowhere. It lashes out at the trees that bend accordingly. Only traffic flows unaffected. Local scooter drivers in rain jackets shoot past. My friend Martin and I barely dare to cross the square. “Stay home,“ Trista, my university volunteer, advises, “secure the windows.“ That’s how my first day of typhoons in Taiwan starts off
Barred windows and huge blocks of grey concrete everywhere – once I had arrived on the island, I wondered about Taiwan’s strangely depressing architecture. A trip to Wulai in the south of Taipei revealed what it meant to live in a country that is regularly hit by tropical storms. In August, typhoon ‘Soudelor’ hit Wulai and hit it hard. Parts of the road crumbled and fell down into the creek, and there are burst tree trunks and debris everywhere. The huge mess is still being cleaned up by seemingly untiring locals. An amusement park up on the mountain stands strangely deserted, like the set of a horror movie. We’re the only visitors here, passing by abandoned bungalows and shooting galleries. Thick mud fills up a basin that weeks ago held paddleboats. Only the big blocks of concrete stand unmoved.
On the Internet, I read that the water might be cut off soon. We are advised to take precautions. Flights in and out of Taiwan are cancelled, and the trains aren’t running.. My university cancels all classes for the next day. In the afternoon, I try to wash my hands, but there’s no water. We decide to go shopping. There we stand in our rain jackets, struggling forward against ever angrier gusts of wind hitting down on us. Within seconds, we are soaked to the skin. We turn back and put a bucket in front of our house, hoping for it to fill up with rain water. The wind outside howls and makes the doors rattle. The front door is closed, but the doormat is blown into the living room anyway, leaving us worried and huddled up on the couch.
The next morning, the wind has died down, and the rain is reduced to a slight drizzle. Two people are dead, and many injured, according to the news. Scooters pass me by. On the street, they’re selling fried tofu, meat, and fruit. Some trees lie uprooted, and some flower pots have fallen over and burst. Otherwise, life goes on as if nothing had happened.