It is noteworthy how many conversations started with people asking me about my limp – the vendor ladies selling dried fruits, Popsicles, and other food items at Jiji station. Incidentally, I have been impressed at how many conversations start with locals because of my injured foot. For example, Jiji station, also known as Chi Chi station, is a famous train station and was also the epicenter of the 7.3 earthquake in 1999 commonly referred to as the 921 earthquake. 921 devastated over 50,000 buildings in Taiwan, killed hundreds, and injured thousands. It is said that the country recovered very quickly with no credit to the Taiwanese government but due to the support of the many humanitarian organizations in Taiwan, Fo Guang Monastery being one. At Jiji station, there were vendors galore selling “xiao chi” small eat, or snacks. They would call out to us as we passed to buy their scrumptious snacks for a good price. Then my limp would catch their eye and therein would be the start of a conversation. They expressed genuine concern and offered advice for how to help me heal. “You must ice it!” “You have to put it in hot water” “You should rest it, don’t walk.” “Put it in hot water after four days” So my conversations with them were not about bargaining, or buying, or finding out what they were selling. They were always about how to take care of my foot. Consequently, the inquiries turned to “where are you from?”
It was nice to see surprised reactions when I answered this question. The surprise was that I can still speak Mandarin. Little do they know, receiving compliments regarding my language abilities in Mandarin really means so much to me.
We had a few more rest stops then pulled into Kaohsiung City, southern Taiwan, and the second most populated city after Taipei. The events of the day left me exhausted so I skipped the night market and Love River and went straight to bed to rest for the next day. I called housekeeping to ask them to bring an ice pack and briefly explained why so that they knew what type of ice pack to bring. Two young ladies from the housekeeping staff brought me the small, cloth ice pack. They were so concerned “how did you fall?” “are you okay?” “do you need a doctor?” I thanked them and told them I was fine and tried to tip them. They both shook their heads vigorously and said “no no no” they were definitely not going to accept a tip. They wished me a good rest and made sure that I knew if I needed anything at all I can call on them.
Kindness seems to be everywhere in Taiwan.