Saturday, March 27, 2010

Taiwan will touch your heart!

All those tourism commercial videos and songs are kind of ridiculous, Taiwan's having a Tim Rice's Lion King-esque feel to it, with the chorus screaming out, "Taiwan will touch your heart." This catchy Taiwan tune has a tendency to give us wai guo ren (outside country people) a chuckle or two – especially at our most cynical or on a bad Taiwan day, but today, I had an actual Taiwan will touch your heart moment.

I decided to scoot over to a nearby mountain for a morning hike with my coffee. Get some fresh air and listen to NPR's Fresh Air. I ran into a few of my students out with their families. It's always funny to see them in a different context. Tough guy, Eric, becomes a little less tough and a little more innocent as he hides behind his mom too shy to talk.

About half an hour into the hike, I was stopped by a Taiwanese kindergarten English teacher, and we had a nice converation. She was with her mom, and I could tell her mom was proud to hear her daughter hold a long conversation in English (I could just imagine all the years of taking her daughter to expensive cram schools and probably at that moment really happy to see the hard work come to fruition in such a practical way). So...that moment "touched my heart."

In the middle of our conversation, a woman comes and says some things in Chinese to the English teacher. It turns out, that woman saw me at my scooter from a distance, then walked past it and noticed I had left my keys in seat! She hid them in my front storage compartiment, so they would be safe. She wanted the woman to tell me where they were. That moment "touched my heart" as well. So thoughtful.

People really go out of their way to help others in ways that I don't think we do. Maybe we do sometimes, but I see it here so much more often. My roommate left her wallet at a bar, and someone found her resident card, looked up our school, found the address and mailed it back to her. Or yesterday, my other roommate was trying to go to the skin doctor (and walked into a skin laser treatment place by accident - it's tough not being able to read). The people working couldn't speak English but went out of their walk to walk her out of the office and done the street to the place she needed to go to. I feel like foreigners back home are sometimes met with more hostility, but here they are very kind to us.

I think many of the foreigners here have moments of misunderstanding. It's difficult in ways you might not expect. You get tired of feeling strange and awkward. You get tired of not understanding why they do things the way the do. You get tired of being stared at. And over time you begin to pick up on things that you might now have noticed at the beginning. When it comes down to the really important things, I really love Taiwan. It will touch your heart (as hokey as that sounds).

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