The ‘Hole’ Story: My Two Months of Hell in the Taipei Detention Center
I am a very stubborn person. I made myself a promise I would not let all that chaos break me and make me go nuts, no matter how long I was about to stay there. Sometimes being stubborn is a good thing, if you use that in a productive way.
So I read a lot, and I ran. Every time I felt I was going nuts or claustrophobic, I ran from the one side of the room to the other side – many, many times. Some women prayed, some played cards, some of them made things out of paper. I ran, thinking of running through a forest, a beautiful park; I visualized freedom and nature. I had lots of books that friends and N– had brought me. I read all the time, so that the guards started talking about my bed full of books, smiling, being nicer to me.
One day one guard told me, “So, you’re very smart hey? You always read and stay out of trouble. But when you’re angry you are scary. Some girls are afraid of you. They say you told them, fuck, or fuck off, getting angry in the morning. Why are you angry?”
Ha! Why was I angry?! How about waking up at 6:30 every morning, eating crap, the lack of fresh air or hygiene, having to wait to pee for 20 minutes in line, hearing everybody eating so nasty and noisily, spitting rice and talking while eating, having nothing to do, nowhere to go, the constant noise and spending four fuckin’ holidays locked up — Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year and Valentine’s day.
WHY WAS I ANGRY? I am still angry about their laziness and ignorance. Was it really necessary to put me in jail for two whole months? NO! Those are the things I’m angry about: the lack of human rights, the hypocrisy and their slow process of releasing people. Okay, maybe I was lucky that I only stayed there only two months, because there are still some people – many other human beings — with the same problem I had, but they can’t go home, because they don’t have money or anybody to help them. Money means everything in Taiwan, and it SHOULDN’T BE THAT WAY in this situation.
I know girls who had stayed in Sanxia for 8 or 12 months, just because their lazy arresting officer wouldn’t open their case or present the case to a judge. I met girls without family or friends, who have no money to pay their ticket home, so they lived in jail. Period. End of story. Nobody helps.
You asked me what were the women inside like, and why were they there. I was in the non-smoking section the first 20 days and there were 40 women there. After that I was transferred to the smoking A section, sharing my life with around 90-100 women. All together there were around 150 women and that many more men upstairs. We saw and interacted with the male prisoners only during the work-out time (supervised by a lot of guards and the boss of the detention center, who was a nice man).
So, the 90 women I met in the A section were all very different and everybody had their own story. We talked about our problems or stories during the smoking or sleeping time. Everybody knew everybody inside, but like everywhere in the world, we chose our friends and women we trust carefully. At least I did. I had couple of good friends inside, but my best friend was a pregnant lady called Elena. Her English was very good, and she helped me communicate with others in Chinese, get to know them better, translated thing to the guards (whose English was very poor) because her Chinese was far more fluent than mine. There were all sorts of cases inside: fake marriages, prostitution, lost passports, illegal entries in Taiwan, fake passports, fake ARC [Alien Resident Certificate], overstayed visas, drug users, drug dealers, murder attempts (Taiwanese prosecutors consider a girl barfight an attempted murder), thieves, women caregivers who were accused of neglecting the old people they took care of when they died, women who were waiting months and months for a crucial witness (who’d already left Taiwan) to come back to the country and be a witness in their advantage, even young girls who initially reported themselves to the authorities for overstaying, but didn’t have money for the ticket and punishment fee of 10,000nt and so on.
Continue to Part 4