Green Water

The sea is almost always quiet. One of the guilty pleasures on the beach is to watch frustrated surfers repeat their futile effort trying to climb up on a pitching mount. Transparency is an oxymoron: No sign of movement is visible from the surface. The water does not look blue. Because of excess algae or contamination or whatever, it always looks green. Muddy (sorry, turquoise) green water is what lies ahead.

Welcome to the Taiwanese beach. Just like Taipei city, daytime in close-up might not be the best way to appreciate its beauty. Nighttime in distant view, aided by the ubiquitous neon lights, turns the bland scenery into a magical wonderland. Darkness wraps everything softly with its warm blanket. The memory of chaotic and dull daytime makes the tranquil and bright night view even more beautiful than it actually is.

But strangely, what I truly love is the daytime version. I don’t need to swim or lie down. Just being close to the sea on a sunny day makes me calm. If you see a guy walking along the beach under the deadly sun wearing a long-sleeve shirt and jeans and leather shoes, that is me. You can leave me alone (which is always the case, for some reason). I just want to be surrounded by the green water.

There is another sea I know well that shares similar traits with the Taiwanese one: the Mediterranean. (One notable difference can be seen on Israeli beaches: giant jellyfish, washed up in rows. And people throw them against each other, which I call Russian roulette catch ball.) I lived in Malta, right at the center of the Mediterranean, when I was a tiny kid. The apartment I lived was in a resort town called St. Julian, right next to the beach.

My family and I returned to Japan after three years in Malta. My days of assimilation had begun. I did everything and anything to become “one of them.” When it finally became clear that I could not, I wrapped everything up and moved to Taiwan. I just followed the motto “Anywhere but here” and Taiwan was there for me. I told myself that I did not have a place to belong and was fine with it.

Yet after years of walking along the Taiwanese coastline, thinking of the Mediterranean, and wondering why I always feel safe, it is finally dawning on me: After all, I did not remove myself from my roots. I came back to where I belong, the green ocean.