Life of a Rooster

Memoirs of a psychiatrist, journalist and educator

The Famous Suspension Bridge Story

on September 1, 2014

Memories are often a jumble of images, sounds and feelings thrown together in the mists of time. I am not sure whether the trips to Sun Moon Lake and LiShan, another mountain in Central Taiwan, belong in this trip or some other trip. It is possible they are part of family outings, because I seem to remember Mama and my younger siblings being there…

But since I’m on a roll about doing the tourist thing in Taiwan, let me continue.

I believe it must have been a trip with Third Uncle or Fourth Uncle, who lived in the vicinity of Central Taiwan. We went to visit LiShan, or Pear Mountain, yet another famed sightseeing spot. I remember astounding gorges and tunnels dug out of sheer rock, and then that famous suspension bridge. I don’t mean the bridge is famous, I mean my story is famous. Well, for me, at any rate. I don’t really tell it often, because I’m ashamed of how young, reckless, thoughtless and idiotic I used to be.

Suspension bridges in Central Taiwan, just as flimsy and dangerous as I remember it.

Suspension bridges in Central Taiwan, just as flimsy and dangerous as I remember it.

So we started crossing this suspension bridge, which is pretty much a series of parallel wooden boards maybe 3 or 4 feet wide, and thick ropes on either side to hold on. Papa went first, after a challenging order to follow him or to be cowards. I went next, stepping carefully and slowly at first. Saadia followed me. Soon, I realized it was quite easy and safe so long as I did not glance down into the distant and steep valley. So I sped up my pace a little bit. Wow, how fun it was! the bridge was now swinging softly up and down to my step and I nearly started singing. So I increased the force on each step, making the bridge wave up and down even more markedly. Just as I was happily enjoying the wonder of it all, swing, breeze and sunshine, a sudden and blood-curdling scream paralyzed me in my stride. I paused and turned around. Saadia was crouched on all fours some distance behind me, pale and distraught, and screaming for all her life, “Stop it, Faw! Stop it!!!!!” ¬†What was the whole fuss about? I wondered. And just then, I found out why.

As I stood there, the bridge continued swinging up and down, but the hand-rail ropes did not swing in the same wave. So whenever my feet bobbed up a dozen inches, my hands on the railing would go down a dozen inches as well, making me feel that my hands had reached the height of my ankles. Pretty much, one was standing on a few flimsy wooden planks that flew up above the handrails, hundreds of yards above the tiny silver ribbon of a  river at the bottom. Or so it felt. It was my turn to be so paralyzed with fear, I could not even scream.

LiShan hot springs

LiShan hot springs

Well, as the laws of physics are eternal and immovable, waves without new incoming force tend to die out eventually. So the bridge stopped swinging finally and came back to rest in its proper place, below my feet. I managed to walk more or less steadily to the other side. Then I got an earful. Which I rightly deserved.

There were also some famed hot springs in LiShan, but I barely remember any of it. Definitely, the suspension bridge took the prize.

Sun Moon Lake I think was part of a trip organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I think. Not sure. I remember a coach filled with people, a night spent in a sort of hotel, and getting up, yet again, before the sun did, to admire the famed sunrise over Sun Moon Lake, which once again, did not materialize.

The breathtaking view of sunrise over Sun Moon Lake, a photographer's paradise

The breathtaking view of sunrise over Sun Moon Lake, a photographer’s paradise

 

But as usual, sunrise eluded us and we just saw mist everywhere that day.

But as usual, sunrise eluded us and we just saw mist everywhere that day.

It was rather cold, so now I am sure it was not that graduation summer trip. So I grumbled when dragged out of bed to admire the sunrise. And I grumbled more when the sun did not deign to rise for me.

I really want to apologize to Papa now, albeit too late. He tried to show the beauty of Taiwan to his dear daughters, knowing full well that it was highly probable we would not have that chance again for years to come. Yet, all I could think of was to grumble and be grouchy and complain about everything.

 


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