Bye, Grandma

The whole day hiking in Kaohsiung, it had been windy and rainy. Some people on the hike had said that a typhoon was coming in, but in my experience, Taiwanese people say that every time it’s rainy and cloudy, so I didn’t put any stock into what they were saying.

On my way back to Taiwan Grandma’s house, the wind picked up and it started raining a bit more, but I still didn’t think there would be a typhoon. I checked the weather when I got back and saw that the wind in Taipei was blowing at 70 mph, forecasted to blow even harder later that night. So I admitted to myself there was a typhoon, but I still didn’t think it would be that bad. I packed my things and got ready to leave for my 7 o’clock train back to Taoyuan.

I knocked on Taiwan Grandma’s bedroom door. I was planning on walking to the train station, but I wanted to let her know I was leaving and thank her for hosting me. She opened and I said, “Xie xie” — thank you — “I’m going now,” and gave a small bow (Chinese style), sure that she’d be relieved to see me going. Instead of returning my bow or smiling, she said something in Chinese and called someone on her phone. I sighed and prepared for another Tower-of-Babel conversation. She handed me the phone. Taiwan Brother was on the other end.

Apparently, all the trains, buses, and highways in the country had been closed to prepare for the “super typhoon” closing in (I swear, they’re ALL “super typhoons”). There was no 7 o’clock train; I’d be spending the night in Kaohsiung again.

Taipei and Taoyuan are in the north of Taiwan (the pei in Taipei means north in Chinese) and Kaohsiung is in the south. The typhoon was blasting through the northeastern part of the island, but it was only rainy and windy in Kaohsiung, so I was grateful to be out of the line of fire, but bummed about being stuck. I spent the evening drowning my sorrows in ice cream and Doritos.

The next morning, Taiwan Grandma and I raced to the train station on her scooter. We had to get me back to Taoyuan in time for work, but all the trains were packed with other people trying to get back north, so we shot over to the bus station. By now, we worked together like a well-oiled machine. I’d wait in line, she’d go off somewhere (leaving me unsure whether or not she was coming back), then when it was my turn in line, she’d come back and smooth talk the ticket counter while I batted my confused American eyes. We eventually found a private bus that could take me to Taoyuan.

After I bought the ticket and she made sure I knew where to board the bus, she turned to go. I didn’t know whether she was coming back later or leaving for good, so I stopped her. We couldn’t say goodbye — I only know how to say hi in Chinese and, in four days, I hadn’t even heard her try to say anything in English, so I’m sure goodbye isn’t in her vocabulary — so I bent down and hugged her. She bristled since hugging is an uncommon gesture between foreign men and old Taiwanese ladies, but I think I saw a smile as she quickly left for her now Gordy-less scooter.

Staying with Taiwan Grandma had been a struggle because of the language barrier and I don’t know if she enjoyed my visit, but Taiwan Mom says that she’s been back to church every week since my visit. She made a friend at church, so at least that’s cool. Maybe now they can ride the scooter together.

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