The Time I Almost Died in Asia

Picture this: you spend $175 NTD, which probably holds the equivalent of less than $6.00 USD for a seat on the Maokong Gondola to glide over a gorgeous city with a glass bottom. When you look down there’s a whole forest under you toes. High into the mountain forests of Maokong Mountain (known as Tea Hills in English) you stand nearly 2,000 feet in the air, surrounded by little tea cafes on a single road carved into the side of the mountain. It’s almost magic, really.

Traveling not only leaves you speechless and mystified, but it can hurt too. It leaves a void in your heart for the people that you have met and the places you have been. Anthony Bourdain shares the same experience by saying ,“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” But, I experienced another source of pain in the wilderness in the middle of an island. There I was with one of my best friends since preschool and another fellow bearcat. Just the three of us, our broken Chinese and zero sense of direction whatsoever.

 

After two, three hour sessions of Chinese in 90 degree weather where the corridors are outdoor hallways, my fellow travelers and I just wanted to do something because ... when are we ever going to be in Taiwan again to experience riding over a forest on an island ever again? I mean, come on now! We went to Maokong after classes so it was about 4 P.M. and the sun went down at 6 P.M. for some reason so we knew that we could catch the sunset and get some great pictures on the outskirts of Taipei.

So we get on the gondola and make it all the way to Tea Hill, which is just short of the peak of the mountain. By this time it's almost 7 P.M. and we’re starving! So we walk down the road to see where we want to go eat and there were so many cute places that we couldn’t pick. The Taiwanese generally like to eat earlier, so the places began to close. We ended up settling on a restaurant and at this time not even a thick snickers bar could cure my anger. Anyway, so we go in and could barely read the menu. We are the only ones in there at this point besides the family that owns the restaurant, so we basically ordered the food that we learned in class: noodles and tea.

So, that's what we got because we were hungry lost idiots! At this point I swear we were waiting for John Quinones from “What Would You Do?” to come out of the kitchen and be like, “sike." That moment obviously didn’t come, but we would have made so much money on a reality tv show that should’ve been called 'Three Dumb Americans Take On Taiwan.' It definitely would have been a one hit wonder, just saying.

 

Alright so the food comes, and it just didn’t look right. All the menu said was 'noodles in butter,' but that is not what came out. But, I was so hungry that I dove right in. That's when it started, oh baby that's where it all started. So now I’m outside scared to death and called my mom and told her that I only smelled the noodles (which wasn’t entirely true because I was too hungry to only smell it) and I didn’t want to worry her. She was 12 hours time zone difference away and on the other side of the world. My friend Mary notices something is wrong and it’s getting harder for me to breathe, but I was under the impression that I could talk myself down and it would be fine. Nope!

Boom. Full blown anaphylactic allergic reaction in the middle of the restaurant! At this point, I'm so scared and the Taiwanese family that owned the restaurant tried to give me this bottle of hot water because apparently there, it cures all. Still, I was panicking and simultaneously appreciating their efforts although we all knew what had to happen. Mary is on the phone talking to my mom and my mom was like “Mary, you have to give her the epipen.” So she comes over and just holds it next to my leg and I’m like what the heck are you doing, “you have to stick it in, but not too hard don’t hurt me.” This girl ends up just missing my knee when its supposed to go into the upper thigh. Then, Mary just leaves the used needle on the restaurant floor and we didn’t realize until we left in the van of the owners of the restaurant. At this point I only can hear whats going on and am almost out of it. But no worries because I have the hot glass water bottle that cures all, right? 

Okay, so the rest of the story I wasn’t really conscious for, but Mary told me that now she was on the phone with my mom. Mary, being the dumbest smart person I know, only tells my mom “Right now we are in the back of some guys van driving to meet the ambulance.” My mom had to be freaking out. Long story short, we get to the hospital after about an hour and a half because we were so high up in the mountains. At this point all I remember is this Taiwanese boy who was the only one who knew English so he became our translator, thank goodness. So now I’m at the register check-in just sitting on a bed, meanwhile in my head I was like “wow I’m going to die here” because they were doing absolutely nothing. I couldn’t believe that all this happened from eating the noodles, which by the way, was nut broth! 

After what felt like an eternity and being yelled at in Mandarin, we are in this one open room, presumably the triage room, but there were all the nurses and doctors cubicles there and all just staring. The nice Taiwanese boy wouldn’t leave until he gave me about 1,000 NTD to cover medical expenses. Eventually, some random lady shows up and says she’s from the school, but I’ve never seen her before. But don’t worry, it gets better.

The lady informs us that we have to pay the medical expenses and what the kid gave me, wasn’t enough. So Mary and I remembered that SVC has medical insurance. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t take the insurance, so I was panicking. We end up getting ahold of the study abroad advisor and she’s told Mary that only I can talk to the insurance agent, but I remember Mary saying “About that ... Allie can’t breathe at the moment, so that's not going to happen.” The lady tried to figure things out, but just kind of made things worse. Thank goodness my mom is my mom and handled the whole situation from across the continent with barely any idea about what's going on. She basically acted as my own, personal study abroad director because the other one wasn’t really understanding what was going on. But they said they aren’t going to let us leave the hospital so we ended up staying overnight and Mary stayed with me! While everyone went home and gave her money to get me some snacks and a toothbrush. Guess what she comes back with? SUSHI FLAVORED PRINGLES BECAUSE THEY WERE ON SALE. Not to mention how severely allergic I am to shellfish. Staying in that room with just a bunch of curtains and older people looking like they were on hospice, I was not having it. That night there were so many noises and sounds that I can’t even replicate if I could. 

All in all my mom saved the day and the lady from the school came back and we ended up going home 18 hours later…

 

Thanks for listening to a time I almost died in Asia!

HCXO,

Alexandra