Several months ago, a palm reader once warned me that I was going to lose a large sum of money in the near future. I scoffed at this but I canceled a hair-removing consultation that could subsequently result in my spending hundreds of dollars. Little did I know that I still couldn’t escape fate.
Besides subscribing to superstitious readings on occasion, I am open-minded about attending or participating in religious ceremonies. I took part in tomb-sweeping, a Buddhist ritual, during a recent trip to Taiwan. Driving from Taipei, my uncle took my dad, grandmother, and me to the mountaintop in the rural township Bali. Usually, families of the deceased, who was in this case my paternal grandfather, would sweep the gravesites as an act of filial piety toward the ancestors. The rest of the time, my grandma dictated the steps. We brought platters of fresh fruit, hung kuei rice cakes, a whole raw chicken, and other dishes as offerings for deity worship. As we held incense and bowed our heads, my grandma said some prayers in Mandarin and Hakka, a Taiwanese dialect. We then burnt piles of fake paper money.
Even though I had no idea what was being said most of the time, I felt peaceful and a sense of accomplishment after the ritual. Until I reached our car. One of the windows was shattered. My purse was gone! I kept imagining my black leather bag in place of the broken glass. Too many questions swirled in my mind: When did this happen? Why didn’t we hear it? Then I went straight to pessimism: I will never get my purse back. And everything I owned was in there.
As I pictured the thief getting excited for his or her gains, I couldn’t help but think: Why did this happen to me?
Everything important, at least. As I recounted the capital loss (about $500 in cash, a passport, an iPod, even a charger for it, a phone, etc), I got more and more depressed and furious. As I pictured the thief getting excited for his or her gains, I couldn’t help but think: Why did this happen to me?
We explained our case to the police, who responded that theft occurs very frequently in that area. I knew that all of this could have been preventable had I been more careful, but I felt that the police were being irresponsible on their part. I decided to focus on what could be done. Fortunately, my mother was in the States, so she helped cancel my credit cards and suspend my phone. My main concern was getting a new passport. I was already ready to leave when my vacation had barely begun.
The next day, my dad, cousin and I woke up early to fill out paperwork and apply for an emergency passport at the American Institute of Taiwan. After several hours of waiting, a new passport was given to me. At the same time, a middle-aged man anxiously explained his case at the counter: he needed a new passport and was going to head back to the States on Friday. When asked further about his story, he explained that he had left his bag in a taxi, and, by the time he had realized he had forgotten it, the taxi had driven off with it. We assured him that he would get a new passport because we had a similar story. I wanted to experience misery with some other people too but I decided that I really had to start cheering up.
I detoxed the negative energy by going to a hot springs resort in Beitou with my cousin. Immersing myself in eight different hot springs was the perfect remedy. At night, I bargained at the Shida night market. At a bar called Roxy Jr Café, we recounted the surreal experience of losing my purse. I then recalled that this was not the first time I had lost a huge sum of money on vacation. During a trip to San Francisco a few years ago, I got in a scooter car accident that cost me over $2,000. In a study abroad trip to China, I had left tickets to another city on the plane; it cost a few hundred dollars to place them. Don’t worry, my cousin responded. The person who stole your money will receive bad luck. I had to believe this for peace of mind.
When I went back to my uncle’s home, I checked my e-mail. One from my brother asked how I was doing. Was I stimulating the island’s economy? Yes, I replied jokingly. Someone or some people are benefiting from it. I realized that I was still a lucky person. Although I have encountered several financial crises, I have a supportive family who will be there along the way. No matter how hard the times get, it will be okay.