Since living in Korea, I have inquired about which Asian countries I should visit. When I moved here, I mostly wanted to visit countries that I heard most about in America such as Japan or Hong Kong (aka countries that have had the most exposure in Western media). All other countries in Asia seemed beautiful but was always told they weren’t very safe. But what’s safety if the people aren’t friendly? Who will look out for you on your travels if you’re a foreigner all alone?
One country many friends have brought up casually in conversation is Taiwan. To be completely transparent, I did not know much about Taiwan. The most I knew was that many Taiwanese people are ethnically Chinese, and they were the master creators of Bubble Tea. Because I didn’t know much about Taiwan, I didn’t have much desire to visit until I heard the great stories from other expats about their experiences visiting Taiwan. One compliment I’d constantly heard was how “friendly” the people are in Taiwan. How “safe” my friends felt roaming around the streets of Taipei. According to the Asian Correspondent, Taiwan is the top friendliest Asian country for expats, coming in only second to Portugal in a list of friendliest countries in the world. So, I decided to book my ticket and head off to Taipei.
"It was just a shirt..."
"But I spent so much money on it!"
"I should just call it a loss..."
"But I was so excited to have it as a souvenir!"
Relentless thoughts ravaged my brain as I stood hesitant contemplating my next move. I chewed on my bottom lip and quickly googled the number for the city bus lost and found. "Got it!" I murmured as a bit of hope filled my heart. But as soon as it entered, it withered away as I remembered I didn't have international data or a temporary SIM card. (And roaming was too expensive to even consider, so I quickly suppressed that thought).
"Ni hao," I bent halfway in a polite bow to the waitress who served me earlier. "Hi, can I
Luckily, she spoke some English well enough to understand my predicament, and furthermore, she called the Lost and found and inquired about my bag on my behalf! She stood at the host stand in front of the small establishment patiently speaking with the transportation operator with concern in her voice like it was her own belongings that went missing. She calmly translated questions on her mobile device to ask me, and then translated my answers and spoke them to the operator on the phone.
"Xie xie," I replied with a smile and hung up the phone. "Go to this address. The bus terminal. They have your bag there." My eyes glittered with appreciation and my smile spread widely across my face. "Xie xie! Xie xie!" I exclaimed thanking her for her diligent work. She let out a small chuckle and with a gentle wave of her hand said, "Thank you! Have a good night!"
Frantically, I placed the floors of the mall, hurrying down slowly moving escalators, and swishing passed eager mall-goers. It was nearly 9 PM, and I had to get to the airport by midnight (I'm very punctual when it comes to checking in at the airport. Always 2-3 hours early). My head spun taking in the view on either side as I exited the building onto the brightly lit pavement. Strings of purple and green lights highlighted the vendors selling a medley of bubble tea and fried foods. Passed their carts I saw the line of taxis and darted to the first one in my line of vision.
"Are you available?" I asked the driver as he rolled down the passenger window. He responded with a dull look of confusion. "Is it okay?" I asked holding up the nearly universal hand-signal for OK. Reciprocating my hand gesture, he replied, "Okay."
As I slid my bum into the leather back seat, I realized I copied the address the waitress gave me...IN ENGLISH. "Dammit, Shannon!" I muttered to myself. Sensing my inner frustration, and lack of Chinese linguistic skill, the taxi driver pulled out his phone and translated the address exhibiting not only his quick thinking but also his patience.
around, the taxi driver stopped the fare meter and drove around looking for a bus terminal. He even rolled up on three random older folks and asked them if they knew of any bus terminals. Luckily, they did.
They pointed us in the direction, away from the decrepit suspicious warehouse, and to a lot full of city buses. There, we found a small white building with large windows displaying a room of desks, old burgundy Lay-Z Boys, and three middle-aged men watching a TV set hung on the opposite wall.
"What are you going to do?" Was the message I read on the driver's Google Translate
"I lost a bag," I typed out in response. And with that response, my taxi driver said "Okay," and marched into the office. (Honestly, I expected him to just take my money, and drop me off and I'd have to either ask him to take me to a normal station or hope on one of these buses and hope for the best). The taxi driver burst through the doors and told the men sitting down that this girl has lost her purse. They watched him in confusion. I knew the way he was saying ‘bag’ was more similar to how we would call a purse or wallet, but I wasn't looking for that.
"I lost a paper bag on bus 226," I typed and showed the youngest worker.
He grinned, looked at my taxi driver, and explained "it's not a purse," and reached below his desk to withdraw my lost treasure, "it's a paper bag." My face lit up at the sight of my missing bag, and I turned to see the half-smile of laughter on my taxi driver's face. They all seemed to find my urgency to retrieve a t-shirt in paper bag amusing, but it was important to me. And thanks to that ordeal I can now confidently agree with the common belief that Taiwanese people are generally very kind.
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