Eating noodles with chopsticks on the plane and doing a poor job, secretly wishing for a fork, but I want to experience everything. I can see the leaf-shaped island of Taiwan. I smile-my first solo trek.
The driver I hired is waiting. He bows slightly and welcomes me to Taiwan. His driving is erratic as he keeps up with the frenetic pace on the freeway. Vehicles complete bumper to bumper for road space. Further ahead, twisted wreckage blocks the road. Traffic grinds to a standstill. Emergency vehicles screech to a halt. Momentarily, everyone pauses to gawk. Just beyond, Police usher everyone back into the invincible rush of traffic and the competition continues.
The road narrows and the traffic intensifies. There are no discernable lanes. Everyone squeezes in, but there isn’t enough room. Vehicles spill onto the sidewalk. Pedestrians are squeezed out and forced to dart in and out of the chaos.
Its late, but the city is awash with a neon glow. Artistic, intricate Chinese letters adorn every store. I am faced with a riot of color, each competes for my attention, but I can’t absorb it all. My visual senses are saturated. I close my eyes. The radio croons out a song. Inflections rise and fall. I listen to the sound of language, the beauty of the human voice without the knowledge of words to blur the moment.
In the sanctuary of the vehicle, other sounds are muffled but ever-present, horns, firecrackers, barking and talking. Like a mechanical toy that won’t stop, this city is never still or quiet.
I arrive at my friend, Glenda’s home. The door is unlocked. Inside the apartment its quiet. Simple lines of tile floors, wood ceilings with little variation in color offer peace. Slippers lined up by the door, beg to be worn. A couch is nestled in a corner, a blanket casually draped on its arm. A reading lamp leans over casting a warm glow. There is little distraction. Clear thoughts are possible, as time slows in this place.
Glass patio doors block sound, but I’m lured by an inviting tile deck. A brick enclosure surrounds the deck and provides a dual purpose. It offers a peaceful transition from one home to another and a growing space for plants that are fussed over at home, but flourish here without the work. The city pulsates just beyond these walls.
A neighbor perfumes the night with incense. She notices me. Her round, lightly tanned face defies age. Like a well-worn path, her almond-shaped eyes crease into a ready smile. She enthusiastically waves hello. I cautiously wave back