5:30

You know that moment of anxiety when you realize you’ve slept through your alarm, and now you have 10 minutes to scramble together and head to the airport, where you’re scheduled for a flight boarding in 30 minutes to go to an island off the coast of Taiwan?

Okay, maybe not that siuation ENTIRELY, but you catch my drift.

This story starts on a Tuesday.

“Okay guys, wake up. It’s 5:30.”

Sheer terror.

What followed was a string of mumbling, stumbling and a record best time for getting myself ready in the morning since, well, ever. All the while, Papa was moseying about as if waking up less than an hour before a flight was just your everyday thing.

We stepped out onto the streets of Taipei outside his apartment to call a cab. At 5:45 a.m., the city was pulling itself out of a deep summer sleep. A few cars trickled through the traffic lights and I could actually hear birds chirping.

We got through all the airport nonsense quickly and boarded our plane with time to spare. It was the tiny kind of plane that you board on the Tarmac, and we landed a mere 40 minutes later at Magong Airport in Penghu, an island off the west coast of Taiwan. Again, we were traveling with Papa on business, where he would sit in on a conference with the Environmental Protection Bureau.

After landing, we went straight to the harbor and boarded a tour boat. Along the tour, we cast several nets and learned lessons in the local sea life.  I got up close and personal with a little blowfish before we tossed him back to the sea, but chickened out on holding any of the squid or crabs that we also caught on board.

We checked into our room in the afternoon and had a quick tour of the island, including a visit to two of the beaches. We walked around and checked out some of the little shops surrounding the main street after dinner.  In contrast to the rest of Taiwan, Penghu is a lot more quiet and even spaced out. A lot of the locals come from families that have lived on the island for many generations, and the rest are from foreign countries that have chosen the island for its scenic charm. We passed a surf shop owned by an American who came to the island and runs a business teaching people to surf. Things move a little slower here, and driving by grazing cows reminds me a little of home.

Our visit here has been brief, but altogether enjoyable. Right now, Papa is wrapping up his meeting and our flight back to Taipei leaves in an hour. I get the feeling that even though things are more relaxed here, we’ll be leaving in a rush, yet again.

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