In addition to interacting with the business owners, we were also able to explore the areas where their businesses were located. Occasionally, we would have a day dedicated to “cultural experiences,” a day without interviews or a defined schedule. One day in particular in Hualien, while walking to one of the few Western style restaurants we were able to find because we were feeling nostalgic, we made a new friend: a dog that was a mix between a collie and something else. We decided to call him “Spirit.” He befriended my teammate in the post office. I needed to purchase some stamps, but we also found a furry companion for the afternoon. Spirit proceeded to follow us. We crossed streets, waiting at traffic lights together, and he would walk ahead but always make sure we were close behind. Naturally, we thought it was pretty funny that we found a “spirit guide” to escort us through Hualien.
On the way to the restaurant, we found a Starbucks. My teammates were thrilled! So, we went inside, taking notice of the “No Dogs” sign, and left Spirit outside. We expected him to run off and find new friends, but he stood outside and began to whine and cry. When another customer opened the door, he wiggled his way in and sat next to me. I was horrified. My Mandarin is very limited, but I was able to say, “That is not my dog!” and “I don’t know who he is.” Still, Spirit was resilient and refused to listen to the employees at Starbucks. After I got my coffee and moved to the door. I opened it and said, “Come!” in Mandarin, and wouldn’t you know it, Spirit waltzed right over, like he listened to me all the time, incriminating me forever in the eyes of the Starbuck’s staff. Spirit remained with us until we almost reached out destination, some 10 or 15 blocks from where we first met him, when he was startled by a stray cat and ran off. We are fortunate enough to have images of him looking expectantly at us from the opposite side of the glass doors in Starbucks as a reminder that our adventure, despite how strange it was, actually happened.