Nothing like another typhoon day to catch up on blog posts. And the haunting sound of the wind currently blowing through my un-closeable bathroom window reminds me of a story.
Last Friday at midnight marked the beginning of Ghost Month, which means the gates of hell that lead to Taiwan are currently open for trans-world communication. All month people burn offerings for the dead and refuse to go swimming at night, lest ungoverned ghosts decide to pull them under. We walked through a lantern-lit park in Yilan to mark the start of the month, but we had little way of knowing what the ghosts had in store for us later that day.
So there we were on Friday night, my roommates, neighbors, and I having just bought tickets to see a movie on the seventh floor of Yilan’s biggest department store. We hopped in the down-elevator to get some movie snacks at 7-Eleven, the be-all, end-all of Taiwanese convenience stores. There was little cause for alarm when the elevator went up rather than down. Elevators go up all the time, right? And there was little cause for alarm when the doors began to open on the eighth floor. People get on elevators from the eighth floor all the time, right?
But as the shiny silver doors slowly split, they slid open to reveal . . . nothing. A dark, empty room with concrete floors. A red, movie-theater rope stretched in front of the elevator. And no one in sight. I was in the back of the elevator, but all it took was a couple of screaming girls flinging themselves in my direction to realize that something was up. We stared at the barren warehouse, startled but unable to move, for a good five seconds before finally closing the doors.
I have to give myself some credit here, because I wasn’t actually scared. I was rational: someone must have been on the elevator before us and pushed number 8 on the button panel accidentally, I thought.
EXCEPT: there was no button for the eighth floor.
. . . .
We told this story to the LETs (local English teachers), who we’ll be co-teaching with this year, at our orientation workshops on Monday, figuring they’d have a logical explanation. But Ghost Month trumps logic every time. Since there were no Taiwanese in the elevator with us, one teacher suggested the ghosts were trying to send the foreigners a message, and another recommended we go to a local temple and pray. Our lovely coordinator Kelly has already given offerings to the local gods to keep us safe on our scooters (a topic I’ll have to fill you in on soon. I take my driver’s test on Tuesday!), and I think a trip to the temple would be a great cultural experience to say the least. One more incident like “The Eighth Floor,” and I may be buying some incense to show my respect.
And now some photos from my life in Taiwan: