I couldn’t escape. There was nowhere to go.
The apartment building, a tower of brick, lay a mile off the ocean. There was no heating. There was no insulation. It was 9 °C (48 °F). The December chill went straight to my bones.
The water was ice.
I’d been in Taiwan for 24 hours, been traveling for 20, and hadn’t showered in 72. And the water was ice. It felt like needles. My skin was turning blue.
I shivered and looked for warm clothes. I hadn’t brought very many. My roommate, a girl I’d just met, was gone for the weekend. I was alone in an igloo. I had no idea what to do.
And so I grit my chattering teeth and curled up on my bed. It felt like a rock. And I cried. What have I gotten myself into?
• • •
Thus began my time in Taiwan. I was 6,000 miles and seven months from home. And I was miserable. Really miserable. Honestly. What was I going to do?! . . .
I was going to grow, that’s what. I was going to learn about and adapt to a new culture, not to mention make many amazing friends along the way. I was going to grow so much that my seven-month stay would turn into a year and a half, and, at the end of that year and a half, I wasn’t going to want to leave. Taiwan would have, in many ways, become my home.
You see, the reason the water was ice? My gas tank was empty. The way to fix it? Call Wei-Ming or Yenhsuan or Sueching and ask them to call the gas guy for me. (I couldn’t speak Mandarin; he knew no English.) The way to get warm? Buy blankets and portable heaters, and layer in as many clothes as possible. (The Michelin Man look was in, man!) The way to feel connected? Look with open eyes and an open heart at this new world around me. Absorb everything possible. Find at least one thing positive for every thing negative.
And never give up.
Because, as I would soon see, Taiwan was nothing like home, but, also, everything like home.
Just one way my Taiwanese friends helped me. More stories like this on the way.