6:30 a.m., July 1, 2012. Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport:
Our eyelids are being pulled open by the hooks of excitement, fear and anxiety while, at the same time, being pulled closed by the weight of exhaustion; a tug of war that fights with and alters our perception of the new world we are entering. The hallways of the deserted airport feel long and mesmerizing. Immigration lines tortuous. Our brains are running on dial-up in a high-speed world.
The luggage carousel creaks and stumbles along slowly. Bag after bag is spit out from the belly of some small, dark unknown place and sent tumbling like crowd-surfers onto the rolling ripples. Bag after bag pass by and the crowd thins. But, we remain. Our dial-up brains are finally realizing what this all means. The picture is being loaded pixel by pixel downwards across our minds. Our bags have not joined us on our journey.
Loading…Loading…BeepErrggZZZSSSEeeeeeeekkkkWhissh. F*@&! Immediately, we join the rest of Taiwan and are now running on high-speed. The problem: their high-speed is in Chinese, ours in English.
We stumble over to the baggage counter, we think, and inquire about our bags. We, of course, don’t have our baggage tags from San Francisco because of a “failure to communicate” way back in Chicago. After leaving our name and number with some helpful Taiwanese airport employees we move through customs, dazed and confused. “No, we don’t have any bags,” we tell the officers. We’re not sure they understand how we could come across the world without bags. Really, we’re not sure they understand anything we are saying. They just let us through, probably out of pity.
Money exchanged: about 14,000 NTD for each of us. Cool. Driver holding a sign with our names, check. English speaking driver, no check. Oh well.
We step through the automatic doors out of the air conditioning and into the Taipei summer heat. It’s around 7:00 a.m. now, but it doesn’t feel that way. The air is not the kind you breathe. It’s the kind you drown in. It’s thick, hot and wet. It feels as if you are walking through a hot gelatin that covers and fills every pore of your body, smothering it. If we didn’t smell badly from our trip, which we did, we would soon. Good thing our bags made that trip with us. Our driver motions to the trunk. We only have backpacks. He is confused. We can’t tell him anything. He shrugs and we get in the car. Air conditioning. Thank you, Willis Carrier.
Our Mercedes takes off onto the highway destined for Taipei City. There are water bottles in the car. Are they free? We don’t know. We risk it anyways. It’s just good to be on the road, at our destination and entering a new era in our lives. We follow the curving highway with mountains covered in thick foliage on one side and a tall, futuristic-looking, and unfinished elevated highway on the other. Yin and Yang.
Finally, we see, perfectly framed between the two leather front seats, the node of Taipei: Taipei 101. We have arrived, bagless and crazy in debt. The future is unknown, but, hey, isn’t that the beauty of it? We’ll see…
If anyone has any great stories about feeling helpless in another world, please share below!