Armed with my guide book, I board a local bus. My calculations tell me that allowing for the return trip, and time to explore downtown, this entire trip should take about two hours. The bus is jammed-packed with people. Its difficult to see. Being an Amazon woman in a sea of tiny compact people doesn’t help. The bus is thick with bodies. It stops; people file off. I try to get my bearings, but the spaces are quickly filled by a rush of people. I’m effectively blindfolded once again. The bus jerks along, threatening to break apart. I’m treated to snapshot pictures from the bus window-downtown seems to be everywhere, tall buildings, bright signs and crowds of people. The bus turns around. Dizzy and disorientated, I leave the safety of this bucket of bolts and embark on a day and then a night in the city.
The stimulus of the city engulfs me. I cross the street and catch the bus home. The trip ends. The last few passengers disembark. The bus driver checks her rear-view mirror, makes eye contact with me, and happily announces something in Chinese. Frantic, I look outside. This section of Taipei is dark, unknown-its the end of the line. Seeing my look of horror, her expression softens and she asks, “where are you going?” I start to tell her, then realize I’ve forgotten the English and Chinese equivalent of Glenda’s address. I’ve forgotten her phone number. I stammer, “I don’t know.” Her face frowns. Her brows knot in worry. Still wearing a look of horror, I assure her I will be okay. She studies my face-I study hers-she isn’t convinced.
I get off the bus, plunge into darkness and try to find a way out. Aimlessly, I walk the streets trying to recognize something. Landmarks based on size and color turn out to be chain stores. Nothing is familiar. I’m exhausted, my feet demand slippers, but they will have to wait. I sit down in front of a 7-11 and study the map-seeing it for the first time. Slowly, I realize I need to find the center of Taipei. From there, I need to find the bus to Neihu, Glenda’s neighborhood.
A young Asian girl asks, “are you lost, can I help?” I tell her my quest. She says, “Come with me, I will help you find the way.” Together we walk to the train station. Once there, she finds an English train schedule and map. We ride together. She uses the time to teach me map skills. We get off at my stop. She deciphers the Chinese bus schedules and tells me which exit to take to find the bus that will lead home. I thank her profusely. She wishes me well. Following her direction, I board the correct bus. Neihu comes into view. Ecstatic, I vibrate with excitement, I found my way home. I stumble into Glenda’s home. Fourteen hours have elapsed. It feels as though days have passed, not mere hours. I look in the mirror. A different person looks back