Ward: Typhoons... internal and external

Stranger in a Strange Land

AS I finalize this column, we are battered down and in the midst of a typhoon once more. Actually, this may be posted a day late as we lost power about four hours ago and with the winds and rains well Beneco is good but has lots of priorities as well.

Might as well share this week with typhoons... a constant in my life in three of the seven Asian countries I have lived in Japan, Taiwan, and here of course.

I couldn't even begin to count the number of typhoons I have been through. But of course, we remember the most notable ones... in my case three come to mind.

In 1973 on the day of our civil wedding in Japan, there was a typhoon worsening over the day. As I was a young Army Medic and my bride was Japanese, we had a lot of love but very little money, so it was purely a dash between the Japanese government offices and the US military ones to get all the docs properly stamped and accepted.

As we hit the last office, they were locking up as the storm had gone into "condition one" a grading the military applied to typhoons at the time. We begged him to push up the shutters and give us that one final chop required.

Done. One month before I turned 20, I was officially a married man... using the term "man" here a little loosely, of course. But with close to two years under my belt in the military, you do grow up a bit more quickly... like it or not.

Funny thing is that right after that final chop, I had to drop Junko home and report to duty... all medical staff had to stay at the hospital for emergencies during "condition one" status. I only saw Junko again 72 hours later when the storm flew off. In the meantime, a few typhoon babies were born, and some drunken marines requiring stitches passed through our ER.

Fast forward around 10 to 11 years later and I am now running a logistics company in Taipei. Typhoons meant to get the trucks secured, the warehouse sandbagged, and juggling the scheduled jobs while you wait things out. This is when I was sitting in a coffee shop in the heart of the city. Hunkered down as the winds and rain were at their peak. I should have been home of course but had passed by the warehouse to see that we were riding things out okay.

Out that coffee shop window in the split of a second, I saw death manifest. A vendor was pushing his dumpling cart down the street trying to get his tiny business into a safer shelter when suddenly a large piece of tin roofing came swirling through the air and cut him into pieces... instantly gone in a matter of seconds. A sight one doesn't forget.

Now fast forward to Baguio around 2009 or so, typhoon and storm system which lasted as I recall are close to 40 days. I don't recall the rain ever stopping even once over that period. I don't recall the sun ever peeking out. To the left of my Liteng house, a hillside gave way, taking two houses that should never have been built on that slope away. On the right of my house, a massive tree came down taking my neighbor's fence and three cars parked in the street out in the process as well. Power every day was really hit and miss. That indeed was the longest of the numerous storms I had seen in my years in Asia.

What lessons can we take away from such life experiences?

Go with the flow... Japan lesson.

That wedding created in the midst of a typhoon lasted 20 years and blessed me with two beautiful daughters and now seven lovely grandchildren.

Every moment is precious as may be our last... Taipei lesson.

That dumpling vendor in Taipei and his little cart had undoubtedly weathered many storms before but at that moment circumstance and fate came together.

A similar moment awaits all of us (hopefully more peaceful i.e. in our sleep perhaps)... so live truly in the moment and be kind in your interactions. Finally... Baguio lesson.

Be patient to "ride out the storm."

I do remember after those 40 some days of constant rain, mold, and gloomy skies the most beautiful sunshine manifested for days.

I think we can apply that to our current six months and counting of CV19 precautions.

Indeed people (myself included) are getting lockdown fatigue...we all just want to be our social selves and live the life we treasure. But the effect of that behavior leads to the second and even third wave cities are experiencing.

Think of a cancer patient in the midst of the rounds of chemo... absolutely they are fatigued physically and mentally... but they know completing the course, staying determined gives them the greatest chance of survival.

These "are" truly stormy times for us all in this human race.

But the pure joy of living and all it holds is worth waiting for the sunshine in our lives to manifest again.


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