Startled by the sound of my alarm, I squinted one eye open to check the time. Saturday, 9 AM. Both eyes shut with ease as they refused to acknowledge the morning rays illuminating my room. Then a moment of clarity: “I want to go to the beach.” I rolled over and whispered to Peter, “let’s go to the beach.”
We lounged in bed for another 30 minutes Googling “nearby beaches” and decided to venture to Zhu-Wei beach for proximity’s sake. The idle route is a low-stress environment to test ride Peter’s new 150 CC scooter.
With a trepid heart, I sat behind Peter and tightly squeezed his torso for the entire 14 km (8 mile) ride. Until that moment, I haven’t ridden a scooter since my accident in 2013. My left knee and hip still pain me from the collison.
We puttered past farms, tattered buildings, and brightly decorated bus stops, and my grip relaxed. A grin cemented on my face while the light breeze played with my hair and the sun kissed my cheeks. A giddy sense of adventure and spontaneity radiated within as I held on to Peter and watched the gentle clouds painted on the light blue sky slide by.
The joy and excitement shadowed my navigational duties. We missed a few turns and parked in a dilapidated lot. In the end, we found where sky meets sea; proof of a job well done.
A range of emotions flowed through me as we walked onto the chocolate shore. At first glance the quaint and sleepy cove seemed an idyll place. Dogs played in the sea water quietly lapping onto shore. Parents watched their children dig holes in the sand from the comforting shade of rainbow umbrellas.
A few steps closer to shore, the sun reflected off a variety of plastic washed ashore from the Taiwan Strait. In lieu of seashells and rocks, plastic glittered along the shore — bottle caps, microwaveable containers, water bottles, and squeezed Coco cups.
The beauty and tranquility that beaches offer is why they’re revered in my eyes. Wind gliding over sand and waves gently greeting the land have a lulling effect which clears my mind. I’m instantly transported to an reflective state – uncluttered by anxiety and responsibilities.
This time the connection was disrupted by a grim reminder of human waste surrounding me.
I looked around and thought about every time I sipped on an iced latte from Starbucks, purchased carry out fried rice, chugged water from a plastic bottle, and used plastic utensils because I was too lazy to find a metal fork.
Looking at the forgotten waste, I resolved to significantly reduce my consumption. It will be challenging considering I have limited vocabulary. I don’t even know the Chinese translation of “plastic” or how to politely say “I don’t need a straw.” It’s motivation to learn more Chinese phrases and simultaneously reduce.
The time evaporated as we raced and sprinted a few yards, threw a tennis ball while the water splashed our calves, and photographed the cloudy scenery.
Before we departed, I dipped my sandy feet in the water and a playful border collie greeted me with a purple Frisbee in mouth. She dropped the foam toy by my foot and with expectant eyes waited. (Only 10 minutes before this moment, Peter and I agreed that border collies are smart and fun because they can successfully play fetch.) Amazed that she can read minds, or she can understand English, I scooped up the Frisbee and hurled it into the wind.
Peter and I rolled over in laughter as she kept returning the toy to me, and only me, for 15 minutes.
Hunger and Peter’s sunburn forced us to say goodbye to our new friend and find a shaded meal. A mile down the dusty road, we happened upon a Thai restaurant seated on the bed of a river along the outskirts of the fish market. We shared three spicy seafood dishes.
Peter swallowed a spoonful of soup into the wrong pipe, which left him coughing and teary-eyed the entire meal. I watched him with a grimace and asked myself “Do I help? … Can I help?” I refilled his water and avoided questions that could not be answered with yes or no.
Our delicious yet taciturn lunch marked the end of an endearing afternoon in Zhu-Wei. I can’t wait to see where Peter’s scooter will take us next.