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Friday, April 20, 2018

one last scoot adventure

The night I signed my contract to work in Taiwan, the principal and dean of the international school took Sean and I out to dinner to celebrate and get to know one another. We were at a job fair in Boston, and we knew almost nothing about Taiwan before signing a contract to live and work there for two years. As Helen and Christine, the dean and principal, told us about Hsinchu and the school, they asked us if we had ever driven scooters before. We had, in fact, on our backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. They told us that the scooters were crazy and dangerous but also how most people got around. 

From that moment in February until we moved in July, I fantasized about the scooter I would own and the adventures I would have on it. In my fantasies, I was puttering around Taiwan on a hot pink scooter. I was also always wearing a flowing, emerald green dress in these fantasies. To me, a scooter represented freedom and adventure and a new life.  

In the end, I didn't end up buying a hot pink scooter (although they do exist here), and I don't think I have ever owned an emerald green dress in my entire lifetime, but boy oh boy have I had some epic adventures on the back of my scooter over the past six years I have lived in Taiwan. I even created a new word for my 2-wheeled hobby: scoot adventures. 

Last weekend, that chapter of my life came to an end-- at least for the time being. 

We are moving in 10 weeks. We will finish the school year, pack up our suitcases and sell a bunch of our stuff, catch a ride to the airport, get on an airplane, and not come back. While I am excited for things to come, I am also totally heartsick about leaving Taiwan. This funky island has been my home for the past six years, and there are so many things I have grown to love about it. My scooter and scoot adventures are just two of those many things. 

Even though I am busier than I have ever been trying to juggle being a middle school/ high school teacher and being a mom, wife, and human being, I just knew I had to take one last scoot adventure before we leave, and last Saturday was the perfect time to do it because my scoot buddy was visiting from America.

We left at 6:30 a.m. with backpacks full of Family Mart sandwiches, chips, and water bottles. The three hour journey to the top of Sheipa National Park was bittersweet; sometimes, it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that we are really leaving, and that I am really doing some things for the last time. Sheipa felt so familiar, and I had to keep reminding myself to soak it all in because I would not be back. 

The journey there included a fresh landslide with small and large rocks still tumbling down the slope; it also included three dead cobras and a trail of stairs that sadly led to nowhere. The weather was perfect, and Sheipa National Park was just as beautiful as I remembered from my last visit there six months ago. I had a wonderful time with my old, worn down scooter that has served me so well for more than half a decade and with my dear friend who deeply understands my thirst for adventuring on the back of my scooter.  

Every time I go to Sheipa, I have a slightly different experience. This time, we scooted further into the park than we ever had before, and we were rewarded with beautiful views of Mt. Dabajian, a tabletop mountain in the middle of the central mountain range, which is the most distinctive peak in all of Taiwan. The aborigine people that live nearby it even consider it a holy peak due to its unusual formation although science certainly can attribute its formation to wind. Regardless, it was a sight to behold, and I am so glad I got to see it on a clear day. 

Eventually, we had to turn back. On the way down, I thought about this hobby of mine. I know a lot of people think it is reckless and dangerous, especially now that I am a mother. I guess all I can say is that I never feel like I am being reckless or dangerous. In six years, I have never been in one accident either serious or minor. A lot of my fellow expat friends and colleagues say they will swear off scooters forever once they become parents (despite the fact that none of them are actually parents), but I would never choose to give up something that brings me such joy. No, I will never put my infant daughter on my scooter with me either, but if anything, I want to teach her to seek and embrace the things that make her feel the most alive, and I know my scooter has certainly done that for me. 

For some people, maybe that doesn't make a lot of sense, but I imagine it would on the back of my scooter in the rugged mountains of central Taiwan. 

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