Xpat Magazine Winter, 2008
Tonight I ran beneath a crescent moon, thick like a section of orange, the color of lightning, surrounded by inky night speckled sparsely with stars. Golden Beach is the best place to run in Tainan. It’s relatively close to town and there’s rarely anybody on it at night.
I run there only at night, usually on Mondays. Ever since I started running at Golden Beach my Monday run has become something I look forward to.
Golden Beach is not a nice beach. It’s very dirty. There are always teacups and bottles and bags and Styrofoam littering the shore. Oyster trapping season has just finished and the trappers have, as usual, cut loose the old traps that are too old to use next season. So right now there are giant stacks of collected bamboo on the beach, and long piles of washed up bamboo lying lengthwise along the water line.
Most of the poles are as thick as a baseball and the length of two cars. If I go running at high tide, when the waves are pushing the poles up into the piles where they rattle around and a few roll back out by the wave, my run is like an Atari game, me watching the poles, timing their movements and leaping between them while trying to maintain my rhythm.
I run in bare feet so I need to run at the waters edge. If I run in the dry sand I risk stepping on broken glass. But if I run in the sand that has been washed over by the waves I can see the ground because the lights from the highway reflect off of the flat wet sand. I’ve seen thousands of tiny sand crabs, frightened by the sound of my feet, darting into the ocean in front of and around me. They come very close but I’ve yet to step on one.
I’ve also found that in Taiwan crave the feeling of seeing afar. After a week in the city, in the classrooms and alleys and city streets where you can rarely see more than fifty meters in front of you, my eyes yearn to stretch out across a horizon – any horizon. When I run at a Golden Beach they wander across the sky and the beach and the flat strip of multicolored lights that stretches across the black water of the Taiwan Straight.
But the reason that I really love running on Golden Beach at night is the same reason that I love going to the morning market. Running at Golden Beach gives me the same feeling that I get when I walk in the early morning sunlight among the butchers slaughtering chickens with tiny knives and the bamboo hat-wearing farmers with gummy toothless smiles. When I run on Golden Beach with the bamboo and the sand crabs and I look up at the moon (the moon looks very different on a tropical beach than it does in the high Canadian Rockies) and gulp the salty seaweed air, I remember; this is exactly why I moved to Taiwan.