The ‘Hole’ Story: My Two Months of Hell in the Taipei Detention Center
Everybody cried sometimes, even the strongest ones, even the ones that giggled and joked a lot. Everybody felt the pressure of the time, and boredom, missing their freedom and their lives. They would call their arresting officers every day between 1pm and 3 pm, but rarely heard a voice answering the phone. Usually the answer was “Ta bu zai” — he’s not here, call tomorrow.
My arresting officer was a very nice man, telling me he was doing everything he could to speed up the process of opening my file in front of a judge and buying me ticket so I could go home. Of course the judge was always “too busy” to spare five minutes and take a glance at my papers, especially in the period before and after Chinese New Year.
However, this was happening to all of us, not just me. I was lucky — my arresting officer was nice and there for me at all times. Other women were devastated because their officer was always unreachable, there for they waited more than 6-8 months to show up on any kind of hearing or go to court and explain their case.
Eight months of waiting without a word! I was lucky. I won’t mention his name, but he always answered the phone and told me, “M, I am doing everything in my power to get you out, I’m speaking to your family, I know everything about your case, I am not forgetting you. We all want you home. You just have to wait for a while. It’s common procedure here in Taiwan, things go slowly sometimes. I will book you a ticket the moment I get a phone call from the prosecutor saying that you’re free to go. You’ll go home soon, very soon — I promise.” I must say those words were keeping me sane inside. He was such a nice man, so nice and different than the others.
You’re always watched and observed in Sanxia, or maybe it was because I was the only English-speaking person, “the white girl”. The way you behave inside is also important if you want to go home faster. I had my good guard who told me things — secrets! — things I shouldn’t have known. One day she called to me and whispered in Chinese, “The boss of this place will help you. We all know you are a nice person, so he made some phone calls. Don’t worry, they often talk about you, about your case. They watch you during the exercise time, you like to play and sport, you put a smile on your face when you can do something, they want you free. Its good, 8729! The boss likes you! He can help you a lot. Just take it easy and relax. You will go home – soon.”
Ahhh, I was waiting for that day so desperately. Come on! I’ve done things I’m not proud of in my life, but I have never, ever thought I’m going to be in jail — ever. I am a good person… I think hahahaha! So yeah. the boss of the center, my family, my boyfriend, my friends, they were all trying to help me in some way they could. My boyfriend was there for me all the time, all the visits, and I am grateful to every single person who came to see me and cheer me up during that time of hell. Thank you all, I love you soooo much! Hope I don’t have to return the favor! Stay out of trouble, stay away from jails — not fun, Hahaha!
I used to call my mom, my brother or my sister-in-law (who is Taiwanese) she really helped me a lot, N–, or some of my closest friends. My mom always cried on the phone or gave me some tough love, so after a while I stopped calling her. I didn’t want to upset her more. She couldn’t understand why I was not coming home! She was getting very angry, and then she would cry more. Not fun. I can imagine how she felt knowing I was cold (it was always cold), not eating (because she knows I’m very easily grossed out), worried that I will get hurt (knowing I lose my temper if provoked), and she was blaming herself for letting me go to Taiwan when I was still very young. That was so heart-breaking, hearing her blame herself… I was crying, she was crying, ay ya yai, it was a cry-fest for a while. I remember calling her on December 31st and wishing her Happy New Year, it was one of the most emotional moments in my life. She was very, very sad of course and like every mom she could only ask me in tears “M– when will you come home?” Ahhhh, I fought the tears so hard, just telling her, “Next week mom, don’t worry, soon. Very soon. Please don’t cry…” Those were the hard moments. Also the visit time, we couldn’t touch hands or even get a hug — nothing. We could speak on a phone, looking at our visitor through a plastic window, for 5-10 minutes. And then when the time was up, the guard rang a big bell, something like a loud, Christmas handbell. I hated the bell, I will always hate bells. The bell meant the end of the visit, it always ended with the last look, putting my hand on the plastic window, just wanting to touch the hand on the other side, get a hug…
Oh well, at least I had visitors; some women had nobody to talk to, no visit. I felt so sorry for them. Some of them are still there, still waiting to be freed, waiting for that day when the guard says your number, keeps a serious face and tells you, “hui jia” — you’re going home. The day I left, the guard couldn’t keep a serious face, she was smiling and told me so excited:” M—, ni jintian shiao wu, huei jia).”
It was February 16th. I will celebrate that day every year. My day of freedom.
After I left all the clothes and other stuff I used with the guards and got dressed in my own clothing, my arresting officer came to pick me up, smiling, and gave me a wink like a gesture “I told you, you’ll go home”. He was so nice to me, very polite, using my full name, tapping me on the shoulder and telling me, “Aren’t you excited?! You’re going home at 4 pm!”
I turned around and looked at the other women inside. It was a bittersweet moment for me. My friend Lia was crying — “Love you M—“. Others gave me smiles and made a hand gesture blowing a kiss. Even the guards who were not nice gave me a grin. “Good luck 32974”.
Ahhhhh freedom! My heart was pounding, I was out of the awful uniform, I was holding my bag, my suitcases, my arresting officer was very funny, smiling like a little kid. “Where is your boyfriend? You will say goodbye?” I smiled and said, “Yes, he’ll be at the airport, you’ll see.”
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