Typhoon Blues

There’s another typhoon in town right now. Lots of wind and rain, and the news just posted that all schools and businesses would be shut tomorrow. This is something that the Taiwanese government does NOT like to do, because it means a precious day of productivity is lost, and its global edge might slip just that last little bit.

To most people, a typhoon day is a gift from heaven, an unexpected break in an otherwise humdrum workweek, a guilt-free excuse to catch up on missed sleep.

While I’m not so big a hypocrite to say that at the very least a large part of me shares these feelings, by and large I don’t welcome typhoons or typhoon days. The reason why is pretty simple: typhoons kill people and leave other people homeless. Take a look at what Typhoon Morakot did to central Taiwan in 2009:

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Not too pretty. Morakot killed almost 800 people, and left many others destitute.

When I first came to Taiwan, literally 3 months after I moved here, Typhoon Nari hit Taipei. I had just got an apartment with several other (foreign) roommates, and hadn’t even had time to furnish it. We were stuck in our empty apartment for three days without electricity or water. Here’s what our main road looked like after it had finally stopped raining:

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And here’s a photo of a bus caught up on a flooding street:

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Nari ‘only’ killed 104 people, making it much less deadly that Morakot. It still sucked.

So, while I can understand the sentiment of people who get gleeful about the idea of a typhoon day, I can’t really share it. Especially when most of the 800 dead in Morakot and the 100 dead in Nari, and most of the dead in every other typhoon that strikes the island, are the poor, the infirm, the elderly, and small children. I can’t really get excited about a free day off if it probably will cost a small child his or her life.

Call me a killjoy if you like, but that’s the way I feel about typhoons. I’ll never publicly disagree with someone who shouts “It’s a typhoon day tomorrow! Hooray!” because I’m not that big of a dick. I know where that person is coming from. But I won’t high-five them or celebrate the day off in any way, because I know that somewhere else somebody is praying that their ramshackle home won’t be toppled into a river in a mudslide or crack open like an egg.

Here’s praying that everyone on the island stays safe tonight, and for everyone’s luck to hold. Today’s typhoon, Saola, is reported to not be in Morakot or Nari’s ballpark, so hopefully there won’t be any tragic stories on the news tomorrow. I’m hoping for the best.

Dabendan

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