There really is so much to write about. The events of my arrival can be summed up like so: delay getting off the ground at LAX, freezing cabin made sleep elusive, pleasant flight otherwise (thanks to awesome headphones gifted to me), good service (they were so sweet to accommodate my diet despite having no advanced notice), 40 minutes to get our luggage at TPE, bus to Taipei from TPE arriving to aunt’s at 11p. Slept at 1a, up at 6 to meet tour group. First, to central Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake.
The tour group consists of 23 people; half from the U.S., the others from Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, China. We first stopped at Ita Thao which is a community in Sun Moon Lake, in Nantou County in central Taiwan and it is home to the indigenous/aboriginal group called the Thao people. Ita Thao is (pronounced “yi da shao”) which literally translates to “we are human”. The Thao people are only about 280 now, and have been in Taiwan since the Qing dynasty. Like many indigenous, originarios, aborigines around the world, the Thao have been mistreated, oppressed, and pushed to the corners of Taiwan, first by the Qing Dynasty, then the Japanese, then Chiang Kai Shek. Their language is considered an Austronesian language and is nearly extinct. It made an impression on me that the name of this town translates to “we are human”. It was called this to remind people of their humanity, a result of centuries of the mistreatment of the Thao.
Ita Thao largely consists of business attraction for the 6 million tourists who pass through Sun Moon Lake annually. The Thao people are less visible, often living in the alleys on the outskirts.
It was in Ita Thao that I walked into my first Family Mart. It was also at the door of this Family Mart where I sprained my ankle while exiting. I was excited about my snack, a perfectly roasted sweet potato and apples, and I just fell. The shooting pain was unbearable. I looked up to hear kind voices asking if I was alright, did I need a doctor, can they do something for me, etc. I was so embarrassed. I ended up with a bag of ice and sitting in a plastic chair in Family Mart for 40 minutes. I limped back to the bus, discouraged, concerned, and embarrassed.
Throughout that whole fiasco, I experienced many acts of kindness, from strangers, the staff at Family Mart, the others from the tour group who I literally just met not 3 hours prior to the incident… I was saddened by my misfortune but so amazed at the pure kindness shown to me by complete strangers.
My mishap prevented me from seeing some of the sights but I did have other experiences. One example is when I purchased frozen water from a vendor in front of a Buddhist temple to put on my ankle while others hiked up 538 steps to the Ci En pagoda. The lady continually asked me if she could help me by giving me bandages, a towel to wrap the bottle against my ankle, a chair to sit, etc. I felt so taken care of by complete strangers and it was with such compassion and concern. It was really touching. I also had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with a staff member in the temple, a longer conversation getting to know a woman in our tour group, and a brief conversation about mental health with a woman from mainland China.
Maybe it’s coping to make meaning from small, seemingly common daily occurrences but it did make injuring myself on the first day of a 5 day tour less depressing.
What great humans I met in “we are human.”