Taiwan was the first country, on this current adventure, where I already had friends living there. I’ve known one for more than thirty years. We served together in Peace Corps Kenya, 1986/88. He traveled to Taiwan, after our COS (Close of Service). He never made it back to the USA. Today, he’s a husband and a father. I also met my other two expat friends, while serving in Peace Corps Ethiopia.
One was stationed in the northern region of Tigray. I saw him very little, as most of his PST (Pre Service Training) was held in that region. I still remember him saying there was tension in the air. That tension turned into a full scale war, a few months after our March 2020 evacuation, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than returning to the US, he took a teaching job in Taiwan. Three years later, he’s also a married man.
My other Peace Corps Ethiopia friend in Taiwan is female. We shared the same PST site, for twelve weeks. She’s only been in Taiwan for a year. Being single and living in Taipei, she was able to arrange her schedule to spend time with me. She also helped get me to the train station, when I traveled to Toucheng. Upon my return, we had a spa day celebration for her birthday.
Then, later that same evening, dinner with a few of her friends. My trip to Toucheng made it difficult to visit the others. To do so meant leaving Toucheng and going all the way back to Taipei and then transferring to another bus or train, in order to reach them. After a short visit, I would need to reverse course and go back to Taipei, then take a bus or train back to the guest house Toucheng. Needless to say, those two reunions did not happened.
My train from Taipei to Toucheng arrived around 1pm. Then, I took a taxi to the guest house. No one was there, so I sent a message, via the Expedia app, to the owners. A few minutes later, I noticed a man walking quickly towards me. He greeted me and explained that check in was at 3:00 pm. He then gave me the security code for the property, let me leave my luggage (in my room), and had me follow him back downstairs.
He went into a space next door and added air to the tires on an old bicycle. After giving the bike a test run, he told me that it was mine for my entire stay. I was worried about not having a bike lock. He explained that no one in Taiwan would steal it. He had just recently lost his cellphone. He simply waited a few hours and then went to the police station. By the time he arrived, someone had already found it and dropped off the phone.
I hadn’t been on a bike since 2017. I gave mine to a friend, before heading to Peace Corps Armenia. In Toucheng, I rode that guesthouse bike everywhere, down to the beach, over to the museum, and around the corner to the nearby Starbucks. Each time, I just parked it and walked away. The bike was always there, when I returned.
My stay in that town just seemed so normal. The other owner of the guesthouse invited me over for breakfast. She had friends visiting and was preparing a big meal with lots of local dishes she wanted me to try. If I hadn’t been eaten alive by mosquitoes, I would have stayed longer.
It took two weeks, ice wraps, oatmeal baths, and a trip to a pharmacy, in Taipei, to get all those bites under control. That bike was “almost” worth every bite! XOXO — GGT