First of all, Taiwan’s largest airport (TPE) essentially has three beautiful names:
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
台湾桃园国际机场 (traditional: 臺灣桃園國際機場)
Táiwān Táoyuán Gúojì Jīchǎng*
*(for non-pinyin readers, this third name is in pinyin, which phonetically spells words using a system of accents that conveys the four to five vowel intonations that gives Mandarin Chinese its very lyrical and incredibly difficult-to-learn reputations).
The airport was a welcome spot to land after my 24-hour journey to Taipei from Catania (CTA) (the return trip took 30 hours). It was easy to navigate and it welcomed me to Taiwan in my own language.
On the return trip, I started out by exploring the TPE gates. There was a delightful educational display about Taiwan’s natural resources. It was right next to a series of Prayer Rooms. During my journey to and from Taipei, I encountered Camel sponsored smoking rooms (thanks a-freakin-lot Germany), Chinese tourism posters like this one,
and all variety of multicultural combinations of food in my airplane meals (e.g., veggie rice stir fry, bread and Irish butter, fresh melon, Chinese beer, and a Tiramisu to finish).
Yet, Taipei was the only airport where I noticed the Prayer Rooms. There were symbols above each doorway indicating which faith was appropriate to which room. The Hindi and Muslim rooms requested removal of shoes, and the Christian room requested silence. Though not religious myself, I really like the idea of prayer room and I wished there had been a non-denominational/non-religious room for quiet contemplation. While I would be comfortable using any of the rooms for that purpose, at times I pause in order to respect those using them for the stated purpose. This desire to display respect (although nobody was around) extended to my reluctance to snap a photo.
Then, I contemplated the joy and delight of making crayon scrapings. I would not have noticed but nearly ALL the Taiwanese adults were having a great time making the scrapings. Never one to turn down an opportunity for simple joy, I wandered over to take a peek.
All European scoffing aside, I had a great time!
The thoughtfulness, cute factor and love of play evident in my short stint at the TPE airport reaffirmed all I had learned about Taiwanese culture.
Well, perhaps it confirmed what little I had been able to glean in a few weeks of light research and one week of trying to tap into the culture – that the Taiwanese are not only intelligent and resourceful, but they tend to live a life based in the principles of gratitude and graciousness. Gratitude for this very moment, and graciousness to the person next to you. It is a noble and exemplary way to participate in life. Xie xie, Taiwan.