Our vendors: Li-qiu Chen (Big Issue Taiwan, Hsinchu, Taiwan)

Li-qiu has been selling magazines for quite a while, but she didn’t decide to move to her new pitch at the corner outside the FETnet [telecommunications company] shop until last May. Since then, she has started to grow a new customer base. She only takes Sundays off and works from noon to 5pm during the rest of the week. The job benefits her rehabilitation from a health condition significantly, in that it improves her mood and encourages her to reach out to people. “I used to do static jobs after recovery, like making origami lotus flowers at home or carrying out simple tasks,” she says. “However, I still want to find a decent job and get back into the workforce. It’s actually quite nice for me to come outside and sell magazines. My only concern is that I need to sit down every now and again, since I can’t be standing for too long.”

Before becoming a magazine vendor, Li-qiu had quite a few different jobs. She worked as a receptionist in a hotel after she graduated from university and this was followed by administrative work, such as ticketing and overseeing applications for passports in a travel firm where she also provided customers with trip planning and travel preparations in her work as a salesperson. As a result of her great deal of experience in tourism, she went on to earn her international tour guide license and started guiding visitors on tours to foreign countries; first to Australia and New Zealand and then further afield, to North America.

Big Issue Taiwan vendor Li-qiu Chen at Hsinchu Railway Station. [Courtesy of The Big Issue Taiwan]

“I’d been working in tourism for 10 years and had led over 30 guided tours,” Li-Qiu tells me. “I believed that the Rocky Mountains were the most gorgeous place before I discovered New Zealand, where the scenery is even more spectacular. But it is really hard work to give tours abroad. Not only does it require the body to cope with jet lag and subsequent exhaustion; tourists also have all kinds of issues to resolve. Being a tour guide isn’t as easy as people imagine.”

Li-qiu later changed her career and started teaching English in English institutions. Unfortunately, insomnia hit at this point and it gradually affected her performance in teaching. “I quit the job so that I could rest at home. My younger brother was kind enough to keep me company during that time, and he still cares about my condition. I live in a recovery home at present,” she continues. “With counselling and the assistance of the nurses and social workers there, my condition is slowly yet surely stabilizing. That being said, I still hope to get better soon and to start working again.”

Although Li-qiu’s work as a vendor doesn’t seem to be running smoothly today, her interactions with those around her, her attempts to deal with frustration at work and her efforts to improve her mood are all a great help in her recovery. Her work as a vendor is helping her to prepare for a return to the workplace and she views it as being her path to future independence.

Translated by Sunny Tseng