Taiwan: Day 5

Apr 28, 2010 by    Posted under: Post

Today I got a Chinese reflexology foot massage. It was amazing! Mei-Chu, a friend of my mother’s brought us to the student clinic at the college where she teaches. The young woman who turned my travel weary feet into baby feet was a godsend. Although there were a few moments when I had flashbacks to a massage I had in South Korea (where I felt amazing when it was over but slightly surprised that I survived it) for the most part it was pure bliss. The rest of my body is now quite jealous of my feet.

My days so far have been spent mostly working. The week before I left I was in a six day workshop on Embodied Anatomy and Yoga (the organs and endocrine system) and so I had quite a few things to catch up on.  I have ventured out a few times. We went to the open market one day, the supermarket on another day and the college today. This weekend I will explore the town and see what Taitung is all about. The guesthouse we are staying in is on the outskirts of the town so we need to either take the bus or have someone drive us in. I think there is taxi service available as well.

Everyone here is so kind, so generous. The other day my mother and I wanted to take the bus into town but weren’t sure which bus to get on as the signs were only in Chinese. A man saw us looking at a bus in typical confused tourist fashion and came to our aid. Then, when we were in town my mother asked a store owner where we got the bus to get back to the train station (that’s near where we are staying). She asked this in her traveler’s Mandarin vocabulary since the woman didn’t speak English. After some back and forth Mandarin and creative body language the woman called her son who came to the store, drove his motorbike to his car which he then drove back to the store to pick us up and drive us home. The Taiwanese are extraordinarily kind people.

We’ve gone out to eat a few times. The most difficult thing about Taiwan has been, not the language barrier, but the food. I am not a brave eater and, although I would like to show my respects to my host country, I simply cannot find it in me to eat many of the dishes commonly served here.  I now just say I am a vegetarian (wo chi su) and also eat fish. This seems to be acceptable and I don’t want to insult anyone by not eating what they cook or order for the table.

Christie, the woman who owns the guesthouse, has invited me and my mother to eat lunch and dinner with her and her family. It feels like we are staying with friends here rather than in an inn. This is my Mom’s fourth year in a row staying here so in many ways we are staying with her friends. Christie (I don’t her Chinese name) speaks very good English and her Mother and Father, who live here too, speak Mandarin, Taiwanese and Japanese. I have been able to use my baby Japanese to communicate with them, which has been a lot of fun. There are also two women who work here – Jia-Yu who speaks very little English but is very kind and we somehow understand each other. The other is Yanti who is from Indonesia and is a live-in employee. Yanti has lived in Taiwan for two years and speaks a bit of Mandarin a little less English. She has been teaching me Indonesian and I have been teaching her English using a dictionary Christie has of Mandarin, Indonesian and English.

There are so many languages floating around the guesthouse, it’s a little confusing and quite comical. Here’s how it works:  Christie speaks English to me and my mother, Taiwanese to her Mother, Mandarin to Jia-Yu and Mandarin with a few Indonesian words to Yanti. My Mother speaks a little Japanese to Christie’s parents, a little Mandarin with Jia-Yu, English with Christie and a few Indonesian words with Yanti I speak baby Japanese with Christie’s parents, a few Indonesian words with Yanti, mostly body language with Jia-Yu and English with the dogs.

More about the dogs: I spend a few hours every day with the dogs. There are actually five living here (and there is a rumor flying around that there are two cats that live in the back yard! I will investigate that tomorrow), including the two puppies. They are very well taken care of and loved dearly but are not given the same kind of attention we give our pets in the US. The first day I sat outside to play with them they were not so interested in being petted but seemed to like the company. Fast forward to day five and I am accosted by them every time I step foot outside. Oh the love! They have quickly become attention whores and I would sleep outside with them if I had a tent.

I feel the love everywhere, not just with the dogs. It is hard for me to believe that I am actually in Taiwan, working, enjoying a new country. I prayed for so long to have a job where something like this would be possible and now it is here. How did I get so lucky? Why was my prayer granted? I don’t know the answers to those questions but I do feel so very, very lucky, so fortunate to have this life, to be living this dream and to be sharing it with a all my new Taiwanese friends, including the four legged ones.

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