Of The Warm, The Generous, and The Neighborly

It was a scalding and busy Saturday for me, full of sleep-deficient-related headaches while nailing the major portion of the errands I set out to do for the day. After, I went out for a cooling walk to get a lemon-passionfruit drink with my reusable mug at the Coco Tea street shop.  I took a stroll in the Jingmei Market and headed home down a side street past a waffle cafe called TROUBLE MAKER 搗蛋鬼手工鬆餅.

TROUBLE MAKER 名片
TROUBLE MAKER 名片

I had thought they were closing for good, not enough business or something, because whenever I walked past before work their metal gate was shut.  But they were open now, they only open from 1pm-10pm, and since I hadn’t had my coffee that day and I’d never been in there, I decided to step in. 🙂 There were no seats, they said, as there were some reservations coming up to be filled, but I asked to just sit down for 10 minutes on one of the two empty seats at the corner edge of the counter just to drink a latte. Then I’d be out. My hands were full of purple flowers, a just-out-of-the-oven angel food cake, and lemonade in the metal travel cup, so I didn’t have hands for a take-out cup.
I’d never take one anyway cuz I don’t drink from paper or plastic cups 98% of the time. They are an environmental  pollution on a mass scale. Moreover, the toxins in the plastic inner lining have estrogen-mimicking chemicals that cause cancer, low sperm count, ADHD, asthma, infertility, and heart disease. 😉  Trust me, you want to stop drinking out of paper and plastic disposable cups.

*Hint, hint*: bring your reusables.

Luckily they made an exception, and I was seated at the corner right in front of me, just out of the way of the entrance. I sat to await a latte worth $5 CAD or 120 NTD in a little white mug.

One of the waitresses approached me to chat, and she was so polite and personable I swallowed. Somehow she thought I was French.14686682543501 Right after the warmth of the waitress, the cute Taiwanese couple to my right made a little more room for my stool and straight away offered me some of their just-served, two small waffles! (They weren’t that small, it’s that they’re just not the size of a meal. More like a delicacy or after-meal snack.) I thought, ‘Omg, they only have two quarters pieces on two little white plates, each one a different flavour, so beautifully designed and decorated, and they want to share with me some of it?’ I was taken aback and almost embarrassed, but I thought to the fact that I am in Taiwan, and these are Taiwanese people with customs of being welcoming and thoughtful. Really. It’s been a special experience, to be able to live here close to 4 years altogether and always get a kind of warmth and welcome like this from mature individuals. Totally a blessing.

I have two other recent stories:
A couple weeks ago I went to a grocery store to buy some things. In the line to pay, I was sort of clambering to get my stuff balanced in my cloth bag and get out of the way of the person behind me. A couple times the cashier said, “慢走”, which essentially means, take your time, or transliterated, slowly go. Honestly, it made me feel significant, rather than that the running through of groceries and efficiency of lineups be more important that the living humans that use what they’re buying to function. It’s people over stuff, instead of stuff over people.
Same thing when I was coming out of the apartment building onto the street; an older gentleman said, “Your pen,” which had fallen out of

Borrowed photo of a waffle made at TROUBLE MAKER from Joanne Chen's instagram page.
Borrowed photo from Joanne Chen’s Instagram page of a waffle made at TROUBLE MAKER

my bag when I closed the door. I thanked him and strode back to quickly pick it up. I guess, noticing my haste, he called, “慢走” to take it easy and don’t worry myself for it. It’s not like he was commanding me to pick up my stuff. It was all benevolence.

So, these are definitely not random acts of kindness. They happen all the time. This is their everyday way of life. This is in their culture, their conditioning. It’s very gentle and kind actually, especially for the neurotic types. I get the sense it is to tell a person to be and feel comfortable in their doing, and to not let anyone feel badly here. It seems to be an non-verbalized function in the society to keep everyone stable so that no one feels badly, and so no one does badly. It’s like a socially built-in crime control, but with no punishment. Quite lovely.

So for you, my dear non-Taiwanese readers and visitors to Taiwan, I want to extend a welcome to those of you who haven’t quite settled in and don’t quite know what to make of the locals, or who maybe haven’t experienced the warmth and welcome of these people, yet.  It will come, I guarantee it, if you stay open and be as mindful about them as they are to you. It’s not just you the foreigner doing this to get special treatment, because they treat each other the same way.
There is so much to love about these people and this place, and it takes only the uncovering of it, or immersing yourself a little more into the day-to-day life, out and about among them. 🙂 You will soon know to expect the unexpected invitations (that you should just say yes to and trust them with an open heart), the conversations, and the beautiful treats they often bestow, like bites of the waffle here, haha. 😀  In fact, it’s been really nice to learn from this culture how to share more, especially the things are precious and most prized by me.

One thing to remember, if you sense a bad feeling at a place you go to frequently because you stand out, or you’re new there, or you have quirky habits, just walk lightly the future times. Don’t show up loud and booming the greatness of yourself or your country of origin as if it’s better.  1. because it’s not (each country has its own splendor), and 2. it will help you to connect with them and engage a little more in the heart.  I had an ex who was so damn proud of himself, turning his nose down at Taiwanese ways, food, and other things, that when I went to some of the same restaurants in the future I felt disliked and unwelcome. Until they had staff turnovers, that is, and I got a fresh start ho ho ho… lol.  It’s all about being considerate, and maybe a little humble too.  歡迎 🙂

Rebecca Kehl

Canadian expat enjoying the beauty and people of Formosa. Interest in healthy living, animals and trees, and finding ways to de-plasticize our daily lives. Writer, teacher, salsa dancer, wellness enthusiast, coffee-lover, daughter, true friend, human, soul, stardust... ;)

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