Greg’s bike has been at a police station since Wednesday morning. They were nice enough to take it into protective custody after he crashed. Today there was opportunity to schedule picking it up. An officer had kindly written the station address on a piece of paper, in Chinese, for a potential taxi driver. With that information, which I couldn’t read, I got into a taxi at the corner near our apartment.
The first part of the route was the same as the way to the hospital, so I was hopeful. Then he drove farther, turned a few more corners, and I was pretty much lost. In about 20 minutes, he did get me to the correct police station, however, for which I am thankful.
I had taken Greg’s alien resident identification card with me. I showed the formal, but polite, officers that and tried a simple Chinese sentence stating I was here to pick up his bicycle. I got the impression that they got the completely wrong idea. In my mind, its a toss up as to whether they thought I wanted to visit him in a cell or wanted him arrested. It just goes to show that a slightly formed preconception on the receiver’s part combined with a bad accent can be very misleading.
Since this was Chinese New Year’s Eve, I had limited options as to who to call for help. Providentially, the landlord had visited Greg earlier in the morning and I had met his daughter, who is fluent in English. Her number had been given to me the night before when she had spoken to me over the phone, after her brother called for her language skills in communicating to me. With a friendly face to go with the voice and its offer of future help, I felt comfortable calling and asking for translation help. When she spoke to the policeman I could see the understanding fill his countenance.
He very quickly lead me to the bicycle (and helmet), made sure it rolled, and looked at my map with me. He spoke one word in English after much thought (and I know that feeling), saying “left” while pointing right. I decided to follow the gesture. I tried to get on the bike, but found there were several minor problems preventing it from functioning, including the chain being displaced. It wouldn’t fit in a taxi. The sky was very overcast (like it always is in these sorts of stories), with no sun to see. So off I started, not knowing what street I was on or which direction the river was in.
I tried to look confident, just so I would feel better, if nothing else. That’s hard to do while straining to locate street signs and reading a map. The officer’s directions seemed to pay off, though. I found the flood wall to a river. A river meant a bike path. All I had to do was find a way across the 8 lane city street.
The first part of this crossing involved a small city park ‘island’ adjacent to the larger part of the street. There are small and large parks all over the city, so this was nothing unusual. What was unusual was the homeless men sleeping on the benches. One of their dogs began running toward me, growling and barking. The bike was between me and it. It seemed best to stop for a moment and try to appear non-threatening. Okay, I was non-threatening and I think the dog knew it. I was having a major adrenaline rush and seeing no options for escape. That particular man rather apathetically called the dog back, which caused it to pause but continue to make its point. Then it began to come towards me again. The man stood looking kind of at it and me, but kind of distantly like the whole situation was inconvenient. I could only think in English at the moment and said, “Please help.” several times somewhat weakly. Did I want to be asking a homeless man for help?
Strangely, the dog decided rush past me and chase after something else. I breathed a sigh of relief and thought of walking the rest of the short distance out of the park. That’s when I saw the pack of strays being aroused at my presence. There were 8-10 of them, medium to large sizes, all looking strong and aggressive. About half of them were already on their feet and beginning to come my direction, slowly. There’s something menacing about a pack of dogs exhibiting that kind of confidence. I tried to keep and eye on them without giving them the challenge of a full stare. They were blocking my access to the smaller street I had just crossed. The large busy street was just a few feet away and I began moving toward it. Then my phone rang.
It was the landlord’s daughter checking to see how I was doing with my errand. Being required to speak while under the tension of the dog situation lead to a flood of tears. I apologized for answering while crying, trying to explain my current dilemma. She tried to help me figure out where I was, but it was unfamiliar territory to her. She said she would think about it and call me back.
I felt silly crying in the middle of Taipei. There weren’t the usual crowds of people around to watch. However, no one was walking by to offer help like usual, either. I thought it was because of the part of town, but it may have been because they were all getting ready for their celebration tonight. Most of the tension now having been released, I decided I preferred walking on the highway to walking any closer to the dogs. I was able to find a break in the traffic that let me safely make my way up past the park and back to the side street. The dogs began barking loudly and I looked back to see them rushing a college age man who was getting on the bus at the stop next to their ‘pad.’ I then remembered having seen him standing on the other side of the street. He, too, had not wanted to be near the dogs.
After a few hundred feet, I came upon a vast cross walk. I made it to the other side, but could not locate access to the river. The side streets were either looking like dead-ends or questionable habitat. Again, there were very few people out and about, and the ones who were were unsmiling men. The main street was now only an overpass for cars. I chose a side street and direction based on the road signs, such that I knew I was at least heading north. It seemed to be leading toward the river, but it also seemed to be going to a shop or industrial area, somewhat vacant looking. I questioned both my wisdom and my sense of direction, but couldn’t come up with better options so decided to go on for a bit more. A couple of distantly spaced bicycle riders passed me. Then a couple more who really looked like recreational riders. Then I saw the ramp to the river bike path. Hooray!
Once I was up on the path I could see two major landmarks that Greg had pointed out to me on our various excursions. I knew exactly which direction to head in and called Greg. ( the landlord’s daughter did call back around then, so knew I was okay.) From his recliner, nursing his three broken ribs, he was able to tell me which bridge to use so that I would have the shortest trip home. It meant going on very high ramps and sidewalks on the sides of bridges, definitely not my favorite things to do, but I would end up on a section of bike path that I had ridden on several times. It would be worth it.
The picture below shows a glimpse of the side I was coming from, after I felt safe enough to stop and take a picture:
In the photo below you can barely see the round building in the center right that is our major landmark for locating the smaller walking path that leads to the apartment. Line your eyes up the the dark fence post most center and you should be looking right where I was looking. The walk is about 20 minutes from there.
The next photo shows the tower that was the first landmark that I saw. And it shows the bridge I was crossing.
I thought this next view interesting in the visual effect of the unfinished sections of bridge hanging out in the air.
The bike path is much longer when one is walking. It is a little more tiresome to be pushing a bike the whole time, too. Here is a desolate stretch along the river. Most of the time I was the only one there. Greg should have been riding today.
I am happy to report that the rest of the walk was uneventful, saving that I was less than patient with drivers, once I got into the lanes, honking at me to walk faster out of their way. Sure, they were on their way to family gatherings, but I had just walked a bike for an hour and a half, some of the time not knowing where I was or if I was going to be some dog’s dinner. When I got home, I enjoyed the left-over pizza and hot chocolate that I had been deciding on for the last hour. How was your day?