Three typhoons swept by our little island in the past two weeks. Despite the raised alarms, it’s come as something of a relief. The fierce winds cool down the heat, and the downpours can’t rival a stretch in June or July when I sloshed into school every morning in a sodden raincoat, only to contemplate the same prospect every afternoon.
JET group chats assemble in advance to instruct us on emergency preparation: stocking up on shelf-stable foods, rolling out the storm shutters, and filling the bathtub with water. One of our veteran JETs on the island endured two days without water and five without electricity during his first year on the island, but we’ve yet to face anything so severe. Besides the hardship of reduced grocery stock (without the ferry’s twice-daily visit, the dairy and aisles dwindle to nearly nothing), life continues apace. My church gathers as usual, in spite of the typhoons timing their maximum impact repeatedly for Sunday mornings.
Locals greet the storms with such aplomb in general that only one notable change in their behavior has struck me: the crowd of enthusiasts that materializes under the bridge with their surfboards.
The seas kick up impressive waves under the high winds, leading me to meditate on how little I would like to be aboard a ship in such a storm. The worst I must brave is cycling over the bridge on my way to church.
A comedy sketch couldn’t frame this exercise better. I embark from my home down a road lined with buildings, relatively sheltered as a I approach the corner light. Even at the dock, the wind buffets me at a right angle. Itoccasionally threatens me with the prospect of being pushed right off the curb, but I manage to trundle along by inclining against it at a steep angle.
Then I turn left onto the bridge.
I hit a wall of inexorable force. If I’m not prepared in my highest gear and taking it at a running start, there’s no help for it – I must circle around and try again to tackle the gentle incline in the face of these headwinds. Once even a headstart was not enough – I had no recourse but to drag my bicycle on foot, head bowed against the onslaught.
On times like these, I reflect again on the ships on the open sea – and shudder to imagine it, miles of open space with no windbreaks, nothing to temper the energy racing towards you.