Bed Time

I can hear her calling me from the lounge, her voice echoing through the dark house. She is pretty drunk by now. I had just sat through a 30 minute monologue, punctuated occasionally with a firmly held out hand and “retain, retain” repeated sternly at me. Put another way: shut the hell up and just listen to me talk. I’m good at listening sometimes.

Her calling for me gets louder. Fuck. What if she’s actually fallen or something and I’m just lying here ignoring her. Earlier in the evening she had knocked over a full ashtray and when I’d tried to clean up the mess of cigarette butts and ash she had insisted I just leave it – picking up the empty ashtray and putting it on a side table.

Getting up I sigh inwardly as I see her sitting in her armchair under a pool of light from the lamp, the matching seat next to her empty now, with her iPad in her lap and a fresh drink in front of her. She begins to go on about a hacker, but I’ve already taken my night meds so my brain is in a slight free fall. “He’s a hacker” she yells as she punches the screen with her fingers. “We need to forward these messages.”

I can understand her feelings of paranoia. Don’t worry gran. I feel eyes on us too sometimes. I’m just too drugged up to give a shit right now. Reassuring her that no one really cares enough to hack into our dull lives, I crawl back to bed. A few minutes later I receive a Facebook chain message from her warning me not to accept a friend request from so and so.

Throughout the night I can hear her playing various games on her aging tablet and talking to herself as she frequents the bathroom next to the room I’m in. Her strong British accent floats around hollowly in the dark.

In the morning she asks me if my brother has been in during the night (he lives in the flat across the hall – the one I was in before I moved to Taiwan) because she has found ash all over the lounge floor. I tell her he hasn’t.

Homeward Bound 

Our time in Mauritius has sadly come to an end. As I write this I am on a plane headed for my hometown – Durban, South Africa. I am excited to be returning after nearly a year of living abroad, but it is not without a heavy heart.

We are leaving the island a day earlier than initially planned, since we received news on Thursday evening (6th of July) that my beloved grandfather had passed away. It was not entirely unexpected, as he had recently undergone surgery for a broken hip and had been in ICU for some time, but no less devastating.

My grandfather was truly a great man. Even at 83 he was one of the toughest people I ever had the privilege of knowing, and he taught me many things about life that I will never forget. Although I believe his painless passing was in fact a blessing, since his quality of life was likely to decline after the fall that landed him in hospital, he will still be sorely missed. The world has lost a hero.

A funeral was definitely not on my original holiday agenda, however I am grateful that I will have the opportunity to say goodbye to someone who touched my life in such a wonderful way. Being with my family during this time will also help to ease the pain of this great loss.

There are many platitudes that come to mind whenever someone dies – he is in a better place, he will live on in our memories, at least he didn’t suffer. These cliches are meant to comfort us, and I guess they do to some extent, but I prefer to focus instead on the person that my grandfather was when he was alive.

His kindness and gentle patience with everyone around him are qualities I will strive to cultivate in myself, and his steady perseverance right until the very end will continue to inspire me.

Rest now dear grandad; you’ve earned it ♥️

Travel Time

The time has finally come for my much anticipated, desperately needed holiday. My boyfriend and I have a whole month of blissful leave ahead of us, and we have officially started the first leg of our trip.

We left Taiwan at 14.50 pm on Friday the 30th and flew to Hong Kong – a short flight just over an hour long. There we had a 9 hour layover. At this point we are no strangers to long airport waits. When we moved to Taiwan last August we spent roughly two days traveling from South Africa, with long stopovers in both Dubai and Hong Kong on our way to Taichung.

Airports are fascinating places ideal for people watching; masses of diverse human beings stuck together in one space, all under the stress of traveling. It makes for some interesting observations that’s for sure.

Our time in Hong Kong was relatively painless. We came prepared with books and the airport provided free wifi. Our next flight was slightly delayed so we only ended up leaving at around 3 am on Saturday the 1st.

As I write this I am currently on a plane bound for Mauritius – my home away from home ever since I lived and went to school there for two years when I was young. We have just taken off and a 9 hour flight stretches ahead of us. I’ve settled in as comfortably as I can and am more than ready for a week of sun, sea and simple relaxation. By the time this post is published I will already be by the pool.

Plum Rains and Med Changes

So for the past few weeks we have been in the middle of what is known as Plum Rain season here in Taiwan. I have no clue why it’s called that but it happens every year at the end of spring/beginning of summer.

During this time rain can ambush you at any moment – do not be fooled by fleeting blue skies – and when it comes it doesn’t fall lightly. I’m talking torrential downpours that will have you soaked in seconds if you are caught outside without an umbrella (even with one you’ll still get wet).

I’ve always liked the rain. The sound and smell of it calms me and it has a cleansing effect on the world around me (rain here = no smoggy pollution to choke on). However, my brain doesn’t seem to agree with me – how surprising.

Over a month ago my psychiatrist warned me about the rainy season and told me that it might have a negative effect on my mood.  He wasn’t wrong. After about a week of erratic weather I began feeling sluggish, sad and demotivated. Little tasks – such as grocery shopping and cooking – became mountains to climb, and the slightest setback had me in tears. Normal feelings of tiredness clicked over into pure exhaustion and there is nothing more soul destroying, in my opinion, than waking up day after day feeling unrested. My anxiety and irritation levels spiked severely. Headaches lingered constantly and my low mood dipped even further.

When I saw my Dr again a week ago I could just listen and cry as he explained about a lack of sunlight and how it affects certain neurotransmitters in the brain. He suggested a slight med change and I gratefully accepted – nothing major, just tweaks here and there. I’ve started to feel a little better anxiety-wise since then. My mood and energy are still low though and he told me it would take up to two weeks for the new meds to kick in.

Overall I’m just hanging on to the fact that in less than three weeks I will be lying on a beach in Mauritius, far from work and the infernal heat of the Asian summer. 

Opposites

Euphoria is a beautiful, iridescent bubble

Surrounding me

Keeping me safe

Things that would usually annoy or wound

Happily bounce off

Into the ether

 

Depression is a ball of sticky, heavy sludge

Surrounding me

Weighing me down

Things that are trivial cut deep and linger

Destroying me

Piece by peace

A Mother and Her Son


On a recent trip to Hualien we had a long layover in Taipei. After a few hours of roaming around the city, finding something to eat, and getting lost in the rain, my companions and I decided to retreat to Taipei Main Station to await our evening train. 

By this time we were all exhausted. We found our way to the main hall where people were allowed to sit on the black and white checked floor in a large cordoned off area. There were masses of fellow travelers gathered there. Dumping my bags down I immediately lay down in relief and stared at the expansive ceiling and walls. 




Almost as soon as I had settled in comfortably for the 5 hour wait that still lay ahead a security guard approached us and told us we were allowed to sit on the floor but not lie down. This was around my 30th hour without sleep and my entire body hurt. Having to sit up, unable to stretch out like I had, seemed like pure torture. 

We resorted to playing silly word games to pass the time, which served as a hilarious distraction for a while, but after an hour or two restlessness got the better of us. We took turns staying with the bags while the rest ventured out to find dinner. 

When it was my turn to keep watch I looked around cautiously for the guards in their neon yellow vests. When I didn’t see them I quickly lay down for a few seconds at a time – anything to temporarily ease the pain in my back. It was then that a mother and her son came and sat down near me. 

They didn’t have any luggage with them, which I thought was strange. They both sat cross-legged and facing each other. The boy looked to be about 9 or 10. As I watched them they began to play some kind of game with their hands. I have no idea what it was, but from the look of glee on their faces I gather it was fun. 

I began to feel strange watching them, like I was spying on an intimate moment, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away. They were totally in their own world and didn’t even notice me. Every so often the boy would giggle and squirm with happiness, as his mother laughed and spoke softly to him. After a while they got up and wandered away. 

I can’t quite explain it but seeing them brought a kind of calm over me. My mind was pretty fragile from lack of sleep and I had been feeling rather unwell. In the few moments that I watched them I saw the love and joy that they shared, and this somehow anchored me into the present and soothed me. I’ll never forget them – whoever they were. 

Holidays

In a little under four weeks I will officially be on leave for a whole month. I can’t wait to be free of screaming children and classrooms. However, as the time draws ever closer I can’t help but be filled with apprehension. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to go home and see my family and friends, but holidays are always a bit of a weird time for me. 

The truth is that my Bipolar Disorder doesn’t seem to take a vacation. I was reminded of this just last weekend when I had four days off and travelled to Hualien. The night before we left I didn’t sleep at all, I was too keyed up. The next day was spent traveling to Taipei (with a 12 hour layover) and then finally to Hualien in the late evening. In total I went close to 40 hours without sleep, a big no no for me. 

By the time we got to our destination I was a mess. I was switching rapidly between giddy hysterics and paranoid panic. My thoughts were racing and my whole body felt wired. Just before boarding our train out of Taipei I had a full on anxiety attack, and spent the ride to Hualien wrapped in my boyfriend’s hoodie hiding my tears from my friends. I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to sleep when we got to our hotel. 

Thankfully my meds helped me out and I did manage to rest. The remainder of the trip, though enjoyable, was spent in a fog of sadness. Depression is rude like that – it doesn’t care that you’re on holiday. 

So, as much as I can’t wait for my upcoming time off, a part of me is understandably on edge. I will have to face multiple triggers while I’m away – extended traveling without proper sleep being the least of them. 

I’m already feeling overwhelmed by the amount that needs to be done before we even leave – such as transferring money from my bank account here to my one in South Africa, shopping for gifts for everyone, and various other admin things. 

I won’t even touch on my anxiety surrounding actually being back home, not to mention the looming depression that will almost certainly be waiting for me when I return to Taiwan and work. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Hualien Day 2: Liyu Lake

On our second day in Hualien we decided to visit Liyu Lake. We caught a train at around lunchtime and then got a taxi there from the station.

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Once we got there we wandered around for a bit. The place was huge and there were many people there despite the weather being overcast.

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There were all sorts of activities going on – people kayaking, pedal boating and fishing.

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Once we had walked around to the other side of the lake we decided to rent pedal boats for an hour and go out onto the water.

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As we started to head back to shore the weather broke and the rain and mist moved in over us. We got out our umbrellas and ponchos and headed to a coffee shop to refuel. From there we got a taxi back to our hotel.

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Hualien Day 1: Taroko National Park

This past weekend my boyfriend and I accompanied a few friends to the city of Hualien, on the east coast of Taiwan. Although it was raining the majority of the time (it’s the season of plum rain) we still managed to visit some incredibly beautiful places.

On our first day there we went to Taroko National Park (one of nine national parks in Taiwan), named after the landmark Taroko Gorge. Photos of this place can never do it justice but that didn’t stop me from trying.

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The bus dropped us on a bridge over looking part of the Liwu River. From there we descended a few metal stairs into the gorge itself, and followed the Shakagang hiking trail that was carved into the rock face.

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As we wandered along the path I was awestruck by the gorgeous colours of the landscape. It seemed almost unreal. Mother Nature proved once again that she is always the most beautiful.

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Once we had completed the trail we hiked back to the bridge and then moved on to go and see more of the park. We opted to walk instead of waiting for the bus. Our next stop was the Eternal Spring Shrine (also called Changchun Shrine).

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Unfortunately the bad weather meant that the trail was closed, so after stopping briefly for coffee we decided to head on up to the nearby temple and bell tower.

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Near the temple we had to cross a small suspension bridge that had a five person limit.

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After that it was a pretty steep climb up to the bell tower. The views were worth it though.

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We paused at the top to ring the bell and drink in the sights, then headed back down.

By this time I was pretty exhausted (we had been hiking for close to four hours) so my boyfriend and I separated from our friends and headed to the visitors center to catch the bus back to our hotel.

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