A lot has happened over the last few weeks. So much so, that my mind feels like gravy, the kind I can't find anywhere here, the brown savory stuff I'd smother my potatoes and peas with. What was on the plate, you might ask? Well, there was a hefty portion of kids dancing mixed with a bit of Thriller-zombie-dancing teachers, there was a dash of lesson planning, an essence of job hunting, sprinkled with tear-filled goodbyes and for dessert, total body exhaustion!
So, the past week was the last week of school at the Berhan Language School. We had a final assembly, where teachers were treated to their students performances we've been working on for the past few months. My older group showcased movies, all based around the concept of a haunted cram school. They all wrote and performed their own stuff. They heavily preferred that over the other option, which was to sing and dance for their parents. In addition, the whole movie thing was really fun for me. I was able to dust off my editing skills and have really fun with the projects. The teachers also put on a rendition of MJ's Thriller for them and a hip-hop version of Clap Your Hands. We had too much fun and it seems like the kids enjoyed it too.
Last Sunday, I participated in my first olympic size triathlon. I've been training for it all semester long and went with a local friend of mine and his girlfriend. We woke up early morning, 5 o'clock, to head down to the race track which was in the northern city of Taoyuan. The day was beautiful, super sunny and hot, and I was pumped. I lined up with my fellow racers (class 20-25 year olds). There were about 28 in my age group, me being the only foreigner. The race started and I dived in, the water felt fine. In having grown up on Coeur d'Alene lake, I found myself regurgitating those adventurous memories of youth and compiled them into the swim, all the while remembering days of diving off docks with floaties on. I was comfortable in the water, zig-zagging a bit but ending up following a few racers to finish. Next, off to the bike portion. I was most confident with this portion of the race. While in Fengyuan, I've met a good group of cyclists who do twice weekly rides to beautiful scenes around the country roads of Taichung county, old train roads and friendly farmers abound. The leader of the group, a Taiwan professional racer who won a few races here, has taken me in and helped me, often times insisting I follow close behind him although he is quite a bit swifter than I am. While biking in the race, I found a good pack of fast cyclists and followed close behind, as I practiced with my dear old friend in Fengyuan. I made it out, 40 km worth, in first place in my age group. People were saying "You're the best! Keep going." and other Chinese-equivalent phrases. So my adrenaline kept on kicking and a-running I went. The day was hot and a loop around a track seemed like it took eternity. I ran full speed towards what I thought was the finish, but to my alarm, I needed to make another loop around the track (a 10-km run that seemed like a 50). I staggered a bit when I heard the news and kept on running. 8 km in I started feeling weak, dehydrated, lack of glucose and sun-baked, it seemed my body was insisting on rest, ready to end about 3 km back. I started walking and then...details hazy, I found myself in a medical vehicle. Body covered in sweat, pure exhaustion, my body reached a limit and was now waking up from it. I found myself defeated trying to muster up enough Mandarin to answer the questions being thrown at me. "What hurts?" "Are you a teacher or a student?" "Alergies?" "Needs?" The only thing I wanted to say was "Can I finish?", "What happened?". I stared outside the window, watching runners pass by, with a faint foreign language clatter above me, just lying weak against the bed, feeling dislodged from a race I was persistent on finishing. Bummed and weak, I was taken to a rest stop to get water and watermelon. It was hard to walk and my extremities were numb, constant tingling of fingers and toes, but I rested up and was given an incredible back message. In about an hour, I was ready to go and rest up some more, remembering next time to keep my pace steady.
After the tri, I met up with friends to go to our vacation spot in Green Island just off the northern city of Taitung. It was a perfect spot and I constantly was enamored by the scenes of turquoise ocean and emerald tropical forest. The essence of the island was free-spirited and full of life. We journeyed by scooter, venturing off side roads to lead us to beautiful scenes rarely viewed by the casual visitor. Up to the low hanging cliffs, up to the once-volcanic mountain, we saw plenty. Highlights were dips in the ocean, floating face-up and getting sunburns, dives to see tropical fish, schools biting the tips of my fingers, dramatic cave production that included a battle amongst frogs and lizards, star gazing, culture indulging, sunrise awing...it was all too wonderful.