Nina:
It's strange how things happen... you are trudging through the mundane weary lanes of life when suddenly, out of nowhere, love walks in and touches your life in a way that you know that nothing could ever be the same again...
>> Continued
 

 

 
     
 

 
 

She's From:   Taiwan
He's From:     United States

Chapter 2 - "Driving"

We arrived in Feng Yuan where Sara had booked a hotel room and then we walked around the town. Feng Yuan was a busy, crowded little city, and the stores stayed open until very late at night.

  Chris and Sara at the Swan Resort
in Taiwan
  People were milling around sidewalks, and many outdoor vendors were grilling food I could not identify.

Sara and I held hands as we walked. I had a wild case of butterflies, and I could not eat anything I was not used to right now. So she took me to a McDonald's where we ordered food to go. We brought it back to the hotel. We never finished eating it.

The next day was a long drive down to South Taiwan. Sara did the driving. I wanted to help but I was too nervous with all the scooters flocking about. In the cities, scooters were commuter vehicles, and they did not follow the motor vehicle laws that American bikes did.

 

 



   

 

 
       
  They drove anywhere there was space to drive, in any direction available, to and fro on both shoulders, on the sidewalks, between the cars waiting at stop-lights, everywhere. Mothers drove both their six year old kids to school on a single scooter, no helmets, weaving around in the traffic. I was white-knuckled, afraid we would hit one at any turn. You could wipe out an entire family by forgetting to check one blind spot. 

"The Swan"

Sara had booked a room at a luxerious hotel called The Swan that featured a Venice-like lagoon with rowboats and swans.

We arrived late at night and spent the next day touring the beaches and nature trails of South Taiwan.

Our days featured rolling white clouds and a sea-breeze blowing them across a sky whose blue competed with the sparkling ocean. It could not have been a more memorable, romantic vacation. Our love blossomed like a flower in the sun, and all the other tourists could see how happy we were together. And they were envious.

As we drove, she would stroke her fingers through my hair and sing to me with a voice that would have made the angels cry. 

"Happy"

We went to an old lava bed on the water and walked around on the rocks. The unusual formation of solidified lava was flat and lined with squiggles and poked with holes from its initial cooling, making it great for walking barefoot and splashing around in the cool ponds of ocean water it collected in its hollows.

I felt like a little boy prancing around, Sara strolling with dignity behind me. "Wow, look at this Sara, it must have been a volcano! Look at these holes, Sara! Neat! Hey this is cool, come over here, come on honey! Sara feel this rock, Sara walk this way, Sara come splash in the water with me! Wups, I slipped in the water, did I get you wet honey? Let me take a picture!"

Yes, I had lost it.

On and on it went. She smiled at me and giggled at me and watched me act like one of the children in her school.

Along the way I found a white rock with a sharp edge. It was perfect, like God lay it there for me to find. I snatched it and wrote some graffiti on the flat rock face for my Sara.

We were a very happy couple that day. 

"Accident"

One of the things Sara's sister had said before loaning her car was, "If I see even a scratch you will never borrow it again."

Sara assured her sister it wouldn't have any scratches, she would return it in exactly the same condition. That's a promise.

Well...

While we were in the South end of the island, I did the driving because there weren't so many scooters down there. It was easy driving, we had no problems... Until we started back toward Feng Yuan. Along the way, scooters and small motorcycles started to appear along the shoulders in the cities, and driving because a little more confusing. We decided I should pull over and let her take over. I spotted a 7-Eleven on the left and figured we could pick up a few snacks for the road. There was a place to park the car on the right shoulder. I was in the right lane. So I slowed down and edged onto the shoulder.

Suddenly there was a WHAM!

Sara screamed in surprise. I looked over to my right blind spot just in time to see the startled face of an older Taiwanese man tilting out of view to the ground. He had been trying to pass me on the shoulder, on his motor bike.

I quickly stopped the car and we jumped out to find the man lying on the ground with a decrepit little motorcycle on top of him. He got up on his own, and seemed okay, but he was not a happy person, and uttered what I guess was a string of curses at me and Sara in Chinese. I asked him if he was all right but he didn't know English. Sara listened to him and they exchanged a few words, I know not what. His tools were scattered all over the pavement and the mirror on his bike was broken.

I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I didn't have a driver's license in Taiwan, not even an International Driver's License. I started to worry the police would come and haul me off to some prison camp to have me caned or something.

I apologized in English, for all the good that did. Sara walked over to a nearby teller machine and withdrew the Taiwanese equivalent of USD $30 cash and gave it to the man. He seemed satisfied with that and drove off in a huff.

That was the easy part. The hard part was inspecting the passenger door of Sara's sister's car, now baring a nasty foot long gouge and missing a section of the side-view mirror casing.

After picking up our snacks, Sara took the driver's seat and we rode in silence for a spell, our fairy-tale shattered by a quick reminder of the real world. I was very embarrassed and apologized. She said it's okay, it's her problem. I said it was mine too. She explained her sister's warning. I said I would pay for the repairs in cash, but Sara didn't think it would matter. Her sister would never let her use the car again.

I said, "Well what if she didn't think it was your fault? What if you tell her some motorcycle hit the car when we weren't even moving, and gave us money to pay for it. Then you give her my money and everything is fine, no harm done, no feelings hurt. Could have happened to anybody."

Sara agreed. Later I found out the plan worked, at a cost to me that was about 1/3 of what it would have been in the US.

"Rest Stop"

Many times I didn't feel that Taiwan was all that different from America. It was very industrious, with a lot of merchants and advertising. Sara and I, I noticed, were the only "mixed" couple there. In some towns I was the only "White" person to be found. Needless to say, we got many curious looks. Asian-American couples are common in New York City and other places in America, but not in Taiwan.

The only place I ever was separated from Sara in Taiwan was at the rest stop. Everywhere else we were together hand-in-hand.

On one of our car trips, we pulled over at a rest stop where we could use the restrooms. We walked up to the building to a large open "T" entry, where you could enter left into a restroom and right into a restroom. This is a very typical restroom construction, like what you would see in an airport.

Sara went left and disappeared around the hall corner, so I turned right. Inside there didn't seem to be anyone around, but I came to a stop with some puzzlement. Nothing but stalls, no urinals... 

If I had been thinking clearly (which on short notice I never do), a big red caution flag should have crawled up the pole in my head, but it didn't. All the stalls were closed, in use I presume, except for a couple in the back, where the doors were not shut all the way. I kicked one of them open and stared. 

The stall was not occupied by a person, nor was it occupied by a toilet. At least not a toilet I expected to see. Down on a dirty floor was a hole surrounded by a modest porcelain ring. It was truly disgusting. What was this, an outhouse? I didn't want to use that thing, it would give me nightmares. I had half a mind to pee into the stall from here and make a run for it.

Instead I just turned and began to stalk back out when a troop of women walked into the room, about 5 or 6 of them. That was the slap in the face I needed - I'm in the wrong room!

I looked at them with shock, and they looked at me with curiosity, and I said, "Oops!" And I hurried out. They didn't scream or shout or anything you see in movies. In fact, they giggled at me, said a few things in Taiwanese (I imagined "Another silly American man"), and went about their business before I was even clear of the scene, as if this was normal.

When I got back outside, I found a T entrance for Men, quickly used a very normal looking urinal there, and then hid behind a tree until Sara returned. I rushed her back to the car to explain what happened and that I was very embarrassed. She smiled at me and gave me a kiss.

"Our First Wait"

When Sara dropped me off at the airport, we were sad. I could tell she had a difficult time trying to keep from crying when a stranger took our last picture together before I got on the plane. The picture didn't turn out well, it was dark, gloomy. But we kissed, hugged, said goodbye, and my honey watched me walk down the hall and board the plane. It was a long flight home, and I had a lot to think about. Did I just meet my future wife? It is the question that I would ask myself over and over for months, and my heart would keep saying, "yes, yes" but my brain would say, "how, how?" She is Taiwanese, I cannot move to Taiwan without giving up my career. What will I do? "One step at a time," I told myself. "Take it one step at a time, things will work themselves out."

When I got home, we picked up our relationship via live chat again, and not only was it as strong as ever, it got stronger. All we could talk about was seeing each other again. That day would come in February, 1999... 

"Chris"

>> Continued in Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six and Part Seven.