I arrived in Taiwan for my mission on a Thursday night. We were all very jet lagged as I remember because it had been a 24 hour trip from start to end or thereabouts. My Chinese was awful and I was still getting used to everything. One thing I had a hard time getting used to was my bicycle. I mentioned before that there was a "female etiquette" expected by the sister missionaries about how to mount a bicycle gracefully in a skirt. Isn't that some sort of oxymoron right there? It literally took me a few weeks before mounting gracefully became second nature to me. OK, so coordination is not exactly my strong suit.
From my journal from my first Saturday there: "I can't believe the traffic. I almost got run over by a bus, a couple of taxis, and a motorcycle or two. This Taiwan defensive driving is just that, and everything looks the same. All the signs are in Chinese characters so I can't read what they say."
The next day was my first Sunday there. I dressed up for church as was my usual practice. One of the sisters who was a Taiwan native, Sister Xu, asked if I wanted to accompany her on a trip to a church meeting she needed to attend after the morning church meeting I attended. I remember being so tired from the jet lag. She said it was a good distance away and she needed someone to go with her because her companion was sick that day. Don't ask me why I said yes because she said it was a long bike ride. I was a brand new missionary, excited to be there, eager to serve, and eager to please. Red flags should have gone up all over the place by the other sister missionaries and certainly by my own companion however. My Chinese was terrible and this missionary was a native with limited English...EXTREMELY limited English. I guess they gave in when I was so eager to help because they knew how LONG the bike ride was to get to this other chapel and my companion surely didn't want to make the trip. According to my journal it was a 50 minute bike ride! No wonder the other missionaries in my apartment let me go!! Later that day I wrote, "If anybody told me I'd be out there in my good peach dress and high heels riding a bike in crazy traffic through a smoggy city, I'd laugh..." (Mind you, this was my FAVORITE peach dress). I learned pretty quickly after that to never wear high heels again except on very special occasions and to never wear my best clothes except on special occasions. This was my first Sunday there however and no one told me that). Putting someone on a bike who hadn't been on a bike in a long time is one thing but putting someone on a bike in high heels who is not exactly coordinated, can't really speak the language, who just arrived in the foreign country a few days before and subject her to horrific, dense traffic is really ridiculous! I survived but was exhausted.
The next day was Monday. I found out who my new companion would be and that we would live in an apartment with two other sister missionaries right there in the city of a million people where I had arrived in just a few days earlier. There were four of us in that apartment, including Sister Xu. Two days later on Wednesday, only six days after I arrived in Taiwan, Sister Xu asked me again to accompany her somewhere. So off we went, me a brand new missionary and my temporary companion who just needed someone to go with her
This is what I recorded in my journal later that day:
"Then something else happened today. I almost got killed by a train today and that's no exaggeration. I was splitting off with Sister Xu, a native, and we were going to make a left onto the main highway. It's so noisy and this was right at rush hour. The cars were honking and loud noises were all over but something called my attention to a frantic whistle so I stopped. There was a man frantically pointing at me behind me with a desperate look on his face." ( I also remember other people pointing and everyone, including my companion, shouting "helloooo," "helloooo," helloooo over and over again. I had been oblivious to them at this point because it was so, so noisy and I was trying to figure out my bike). "I quickly looked to my left and I was about ten feet from a train." (I wrote ten but it was probably more like 30). "I was stopped in the middle of the train tracks and I didn't know it." (It's a wonder people were yelling helloooo and pointing and waving and blowing a whistle! I was about to be killed right in front of them). "Somehow, and I know it must have been angels, somehow I found the pedal (I'm still not used to the bikes yet), but I found it and got off the track with about two seconds to spare as the train whizzed by. I could have literally been killed." (You think?) "I was so scared and I didn't really get the full impact of what happened until I got home...Heavenly Father protected me...If I hadn't moved off that track, I would have been killed."
I've told that story to my kids many times. I remember it was just the engine of the train, no other cars were attached to it. I remember how fast it whizzed by me after I got off the tracks. I remember being shocked and stunned when I saw the train coming right for me. I remember the conductor leaning out the window waving at me when I first realized he was almost on top of me and he had a worried look on his face. I remember the desperate looks on people's faces. I remember many people shouting "helloooo" over and over again. I remember the intersection was huge with cars coming and going in all directions. I remember the deafening noise and not being able to discern what was happening. I remember the frantic look on Sister Xu's face when I finally looked at her. I remember being oblivious to everything that was happening around me except for that stupid bike pedal and trying to figure out how to get back on that bike. Forget gracefulness! I also remember knowing I was helped somehow by divine intervention and that God literally saved my life.
I think that's the third "I was almost killed on my mission story" I've blogged about. The fourth was when I was almost squished between two buses on a busy, busy city street one evening. The bus drivers couldn't see me in between them. Why I was in between them is beyond me really, but I was. I remember thinking, I might get killed here. Once again, I was spared and I never rode between two buses again! Smart girl.
Here are a few random pictures from the internet showing crazy traffic situations similar to what I remember.
Glad to still be alive. :)
I am also very careful
on train tracks these days. :)