She turned around and rushed outside holding her breath.The smell was horrible, and it was so sad to be welcomed like that when thousands of tourists were getting out of the boats right there. It surprised me that people felt it was something normal and natural.
My stomach jerked. There was no other way but using what was available there. I covered both mouth and nose with my hand, and stayed in the line. With no running water, anything that “missed” the hole since the last cleaning stayed there. I thought – even animals were kept cleaner in their barns than the people.
My aunt where I went on vacations had a cow and pigs. We, my friends and I, used to play in that stable all the time after the cow was sent to the pasture during the day. It was clean and well ventilated.
When I got out of the hut I prayed to stay healthy, hoping I didn’t catch any hepatitis or something like that, and praise God, I didn’t.
The men and my friend were waiting for me. We lined up behind the hundreds of people walking up the hill on a trail, and kept moving. Vendors selling strange food, clothing items, toys, paper dragons and all kind of stuff were sitting along the way. We slowed down to see some handmade jewelry and Chinese decorations. I wanted to buy a t-shirts imprinted with the map of the island. The sellers tried hard to find one on my size, but all the XXLs sizes didn’t fit. I left it like that.
The road was going up, surrounding the mountain. I was already feeling tired, and there was no sign we were getting at the top soon. Then we saw these men carrying people in a sort of baskets, two carriers per person. They were coming down. Ah, I was so exhausted. I felt tempted to pay for a ride, but I was afraid. What if they would have stumbled and throw me down the mountain? I swallowed my pain and continued walking.
I didn’t know what we were supposed to visit up there. It was such a crowd of people all ages keeping up to the heights, while eating chicken feet or deep fried worms on a stick.
Then we got there.
It was a temple. I wasn’t sure what religion, Buddhist, Confucian or Tao, but the old construction covered the top of the mountain. My body was so exhausted that I needed to get on the side of the road to catch my breath. I looked up to see the edifice, and it was stunning. Beautifully decorated with religious symbols the stonewalls were magnificent. I wanted to go inside even though that meant climbing more steps.
After dragging myself on top of the stairs that surrounded the temple, I walked inside. Actually, I found myself in a long corridor without roof that took us to a new level. A large room opened on my right and it gave me shivers when I stepped in. It was an empty space, with a heavy spiritual weight. I could sense it. People walked slowly to the windows and watched to other mountaintops in the horizon, but I couldn’t get out faster. My legs and feet were hurting, and that didn’t bother me anymore.
The heaviness of whatever was going on there in the unseen world wiped away my whining, and I walked down the stairs as fast as I could, without stumbling.
I drank the last drops of water from my bottle and sat on the cement wall by the road, waiting for my friends.
One little girl was flying a colorful dragon.
I said a prayer.
-To be continued-