As a foreigner, being in a new country can sometimes be unbearable especially if you are accustomed to be around your family and close friends on a daily basis. At the age of 20, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life; that is, to study in Taiwan. I have been living in Taiwan for the past nine months and I have been blessed with many amazing experiences of Taiwanese hospitality. One person in particular, who has gone above and beyond for me, is my dear friend Lena; better known as Xie Jia Rong, 謝佳容

I can clearly remember the day I met Lena. It was a Wednesday morning at about 9:30 am, and I was sound asleep on the bottom bunk because I didn’t like the idea of climbing up and down the ladder of the bunk bed in our room. Bang!!! Frightened, I popped up as quickly as lightning, to see what that loud noise was about. It was the door, Lena walked into the room and the door slammed shut behind her. Half awake, I saw a girl no more than 140cm standing in the room. She had pale soft skin, rosy lips, straight black hair and to top it off, the cutest little pair of white shoes I had ever seen. Realizing that I was sleeping in what was supposed to be her bed, I said, “I am sorry for being in your bed.” “It’s okay, it’s okay you can sleep back, I will just be moving my stuff in today. My name is Lena, what is yours?” Before I was able to answer, she ran over and gave me a big hug while saying “Welcome to Taiwan, I will see you later.”

Lena came back in the evening like she said she would and that was when it all begun. I immediately realized how much she loved to talk. It was hard for me to understand everything she was saying because she has a speech problem. Still, that did stop her from talking to me or anyone else. As she spoke, I nodded my head to signify that I was listening even though I did not quite understand everything she said. Shortly after, I left the room and told her that I would be back soon. The truth of the matter was that I didn’t want to go back in my room because I didn’t feel comfortable. Between the nonstop talking and constant hugging; I was looking for any excuse to leave. I wasn’t sure if I would have been able to be content living with her since I was already so uncomfortable and it hadn’t even been 24hours since she moved in. I told myself that perhaps she was just excited and that she was going to calm down. Unfortunately, she did not and I had to accept that I could not change her and that is just who she is.

Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. As time passed, I discovered that having her as a roommate wasn’t bad after all. She is very kind and friendly. She saw me one day struggling while writing Chinese characters and she came to me and said “let me help you”, she took my hand and held it with hers and she thought me the basics of writing characters. As she did this, she told me this was the way her mother had taught her. That day I saw Lena in a completely different light. I felt warm and happy that I had a Taiwanese friend who was willing to help me; one who accepted me for who I am. It knew that it was only right for me to do the same.

From that day forward, our friendship continued to blossom. One of the main traits that I admire most about her is her generosity. She gives freely and willingly. For instance, there was one day I didn’t have any money to eat so she came in and asked me “what will you eat today Damita??? I replied “nothing, I am very broke;” to which she responded, don’t worry you can share with me. I didn’t want to take advantage of her but I could see that she simply wanted to help. Thus far, I’ve tried many Taiwanese foods because of her. Whenever she comes back from home she would bring food for me to try and I must say that I’ve enjoyed them all. 

On April 29, I was extremely sick. I had a high temperature and I was in severe pain. Guess who took care of me? That’s right…Lena.  She allowed me to sleep on her bed, covered me up, made some green tea and she even went to Shillin night market, to buy food for me. Lena has unquestionably been there for me through the good and bad times I’ve experienced over the past nine months. In my eyes, she is the epitome of what a hospitable individual and true friend should be. Through several acts of love and kindness, Lena has made my first year in Taiwan nothing less than memorable. She is about to graduate so I will no longer have her as a roommate, but during the time we spent together, I was able to learn a lot from her. I will definitely miss having her around. I’ll even miss her constant talking and innumerable hugs.