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French ex-diplomat, Taiwanese friend reunited after 37 years

French ex-diplomat, Taiwanese friend reunited after 37 years

Taipei, March 13 (CNA) A plane ticket given to a former French diplomat by a Taiwanese man to help her get home helped forged a friendship of 37 years and was produced at their first reunion Wednesday. Retired French diplomat Monique Dodiner on Wednesday presented former school principal Chen Ching-cheng with the ticket that he had bought her in 1977 to help her leave the remote island of Lanyu by plane as bad weather had delayed the ferry service. At the time, Dodiner was 26 years old, traveling around the world on her own on a tight budget, and was trying to get back to the main island of Taiwan before returning to France. Dodiner, now a recently retired diplomat, said she returned to Taiwan to express gratitude in person to Chen, who was the principal of Dongqing Elementary School on Lanyu in 1977. Chen, 73, said he had not seen Dodiner since then but had maintained on and off contact with her over the years. He was moved at the reunion and very surprised when Dodiner produced the plane ticket after so many years, he said. The friendship between the two people began 37 years ago when Chen heard Dodiner asking the indigenous Tao people on Lanyu to allow her to sleep in a gazebo on the island, which lies off Taiwan's east coast. Chen stepped in and offered to let her stay at Dongqing Elementary School for her own safety. He reached out a hand to her again, giving her NT$1,000 (US$32.9) for a plane ticket, when he learned that she had been waiting days for the ferry because she was on a tight budget. A plane ticket from Lanyu to Taitung in eastern Taiwan cost NT$450 at that time, while the ferry cost NT$110, according to Chen. After Dodiner returned home in 1977, she and Chen maintained correspondence for three years but when he moved house, the connection was broken. They did not reconnect until a decade later, after determined efforts by Dodiner to locate Chen. Dodiner, 64, said she became a diplomat after her return to France and had often asked Asians she met on her travels whether they were Taiwanese, as part of her efforts to find Chen's whereabouts. She said she spent half a year asking around in Paraguay, the only South American country that has formal ties with Taiwan, after she was assigned there, and finally met a Taiwanese pilot who succeeded in helping her locate Chen. Dodiner and Chen resumed contact in 1990, and a year later, she sent him a picture of herself at Lanyu Airport to express her gratitude for his help. (By Tyson Lu and Scully Hsiao)


Updated : 2021-08-06 04:53 GMT+08:00