During my final ten years in Taiwan I poked around various forgotten places. Nothing fancy, exotic or dangerous, just “forgotten. For example, I taught at the southern branch campus of a university up north. As Taiwan’s population aged and the number of university students dropped, some schools closed, and the number at the branch campus fell off. Eventually the main campus began to bring entire departments “back home” or to close entire programs. Once on my way out of the building where my classes met I encountered a pile of materials that appeared to be on their way to the trash. From that pile I extracted a large stack of heavy paper that went through my office printer quite handily. (No more paper jams.) I also scarfed up a large piece of cloth perfect for “green screening” videos. The most wonderful prize was a discarded FAX machine with half a roll of paper still in it. Fax, of course, was a forgotten technology, but the machine enabled me to send “compliance compatible” documents to our financial advisor in North America from home. I no longer had to run out to 7-Eleven to do so.
In a storage room at Tainan Theological College I found the college bell, which had never been installed in the chapel tower. It was on a frame that facilitated ringing it. I told someone official, who arranged for it to be relocated to a place where it was once again usable. Few people had the imagination either to use it or the chutzpah to consider themselves permitted to use it.
Poking around a back room here at home uncovered something I had considered lost. We have a separate garage to which a previous owner added a storage annex. That’s where we put boxes we unpacked when we moved in. It’s also where I put the storm windows when I took them down last spring. While taking them down, I noticed that one had never been installed, and guessed that I’d have to acquire or build a replacement before winter. When the weather recently turned cool I set about installing what I’d taken down several months ago. That’s when I discovered the missing one. It had been in the garage all the time. It’s a good thing that I don’t need to build one myself. I took a closer look while washing the ones I was installing and discovered that, though like that FAX machine they’re a forgotten technology, they are no small feat of engineering. I may be able to cut a board and swing a hammer, but making a storm window is beyond me.
In January we’re going home to Taiwan for two weeks, during which time we’ll vote for president there. Maybe during some of the other days I’ll poke around sheds and storage rooms, just to see what emerges.
David Alexander resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.