Friday, June 23, 2006

Don't Forget to Bring an Umbrella

On my recent trip around Taiwan, I got caught in a huge thunderstorm. My girlfriend and I rode twenty or thirty kilometers through the storm, which may be one of the stupidest things I've ever done. The rain was so heavy that it was more like being sprayed in the face with a hose. Anyway, it reminded me of a time about a year ago when I was riding my bike to my Chinese class in Hsinchu. I got caught in a thunderstorm then, too, and the experience impressed me so much that I sent the following email message to all my friends who live in Hsinchu as well. I sent the original on May 11, 2005.

Attention Hsinchu Dwellers:

The end is near.

Today I rode my bicycle from the HRA office to my Mandarin class. It had been raining rather hard for over an hour when I left. About a block from the office, I found myself pedaling through six inches of water (that's about fifteen centimeters to most of you) (I mean centimetres).

I was amazed. I couldn't believe it. The alley was like a little river. Pedaling was getting difficult, but I pressed on.

Along Tian Sin Lane (the road with the canal, where the Salloway Cafe is), there was no standing water on the road, but the canal was full to the top and raging.

It was still raining hard.

I turned left onto Minquan Road and found myself up to the hubs of my wheels in rapidly moving water. It was white water adventure time and me with no life jacket.

Now I was barely able to get my bike to move, but I was almost to class and there was very little traffic. So I kept going. The only other vehicle nearby was a taxi standing in the middle of the street with water up to the doors.

I finally got to the alley where my class is and turned into it only to find that the water was now almost to the top of my tires. There were three girls in raincoats standing in water almost up to their waists kicking at something and screaming. I think they saw a rat swimming around.

When I got to the door of the class (which was luckily on slightly higher ground) I got off my bike. The door was closed and locked, so I waited a while. It was
raining ridiculously, and there was lightening and thunder. Finally I decided that class was cancelled for the day, but not until I saw giant cockroaches and
centipedes swimming around my ankles.

I was going to call my teacher to cancel, but I realized I had forgotten my phone. This was a big mistake, as you will see.

When I got back on my bike, the road was even worse, and it was raining harder. I was actually afraid I would ride into a hole or something, because I couldn't see the ground at all. There was driftwood floating by.

Up ahead, a woman got knocked over on her scooter by the two feet of water cascading down from Zhong-hua Road onto Minquan Road. I could barely see in the rain, and I was afraid to stop because I didn't know if I could get going again, but I jumped off my bike and waded over to help her get up and get her scooter out from under the water (it was lying on it's side and was completely submerged).

Just as I got to her a lightning bolt broke right over my head with a simultaneous explosion of thunder.

I almost soiled myself.

Once I got the woman on her way, I waded back to my bike, certain that THE END was nigh.

Up on Zhong-hua Road it was better. There was no standing water until I got to where the scooter tunnel is. I should say, where the scooter tunnel used to be, because it was gone. I mean, from Zhong-hua Road to the train tracks was just level water. If I didn’t know there was an underpass there, I’d never have been able to tell.

The rest of the way home was not too bad. Only six inches… I mean 15 centimetres of water or so on the road. People were getting back to their usual bad driving.

When I got back into my apartment and found my cell phone, there was a message from my teacher telling me that it was raining too hard, so class was cancelled.

It figures.

Now I must shower and burn my clothes, as most of that water on the road was probably coming up from some kind of wastewater system.

Cholera, anyone?

Always carry an umbrella (and scuba gear), but most of all, ALWAYS carry your cell phone.

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