Peter and Meiling are miracle encounters for me. I did not know them, had no reason or plan to meet them, but I opened their gate and went into their home.
I was on a day trip with friends. We first spotted their house from the courtyard that was built for a Japanese crown prince in 1922. Everything around us whispered zen. There, we stopped to breathe in the fresh air and saw Peter and Meiling’s house across the gorge. The walls were of almond color, warm and soothing in the setting sun.
My friend said, it must be that Bed and Breakfast that requires a 3-month advanced reservation. Out of curiosity, we went over the gorge to the gate of theirs.
There was no neon, no menu, no guest noise. It was simply someone’s home like the modest plaque said, Jin Gua Shi 101. As we were about to leave, we saw the small “B&B”, almost invisible underneath. We opened the latch of the low wooden gate, walked through the spotless front yard. The door of the house was wide open. No one was in sight. We called out.
Peter and Meiling came out from behind the kitchen, smiling. Within seconds, we were inside, taking off our shoes. Soon, every room of the house was shown to us.
This is indeed Peter and Meiling’s home. Their kids are older now. Peter is about to retire from teaching. They decided to open this B&B, “to meet interesting people.” They are new in business. Their B&B does not require 3-months advanced reservation, yet.
Somehow, we sat down with Peter and Meiling at the dining table. Peter made coffee and tea. Meling brought rice crackers.
We talked about our jobs, kids, about America, Beijing, China, and Taiwan. We talked about our life’s stories.
Peter was Meiling’s love at first sight in college, Meiling said, almost blushing. She saw Peter once and knew something would happen between them. Peter was not allowed to marry a wai sheng ren, outsider of the province. But his parents let him marry Meiling, who is not only an outsider of the province, but an outsider of Taiwan. She is from Malaysia.
All the while, Peter gazed at her, smiling.
We talked about unexpected encounters that Peter and Meiling called yuan fen. There is no accurate translation of the term, the closest would be “an encounter that is meant to be”.
We talked about libraries and books. Meiling brought out a recent book by the famous Taiwan author, Long Yingtai.
We talked about their interesting guests, about the fabulous decor of their home. Meiling went in to look for a business card of their interior designer to give to my friend who was about to renovate his apartment.
Peter set up his tripods and we squeezed together and yelled, “Cheese!”
It was dark outside. We lost direction of the parking lot. Peter said, “I’ll drive you there.” So we went into his car, while Meiling waved at the gate. “Come again!” She said, several times.
If you are in the area, please visit them for me: http://www.golden101.com.tw/about.asp . It is people like Peter and Meilng who make a place memorable.