Our vendors: Lung-yen Huang (The Big Issue Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan)

By Yu-rei Lu, The Big Issue Taiwan

On a hot summer afternoon in July, rays of sunshine slanting from the west illuminate Exit 1 of Qizhang metro station in Taipei. Wearing a mask over his nose and mouth, Mr. Huang stands under a tree to avoid the heat. “It’s very hot,” he says. “Usually I start to sell magazines at 5pm and finish at 10pm. I came earlier than normal today!” His volume of sales tends to drop off at the end of the month. “It’s okay, whether or not the magazines sell well,” he tells me. “Selling them enables me to have a steady job. As long as I make my way outside and sell magazines, I have a chance to survive! The money I make from selling one magazine is enough to pay for a meal!” Huang puts on his work vest, ready to start.

It’s been four years since Huang started selling The Big Issue in 2014. He found out about The Big Issue Taiwan when he was receiving rehabilitation at the Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation after he was injured. The volunteers at the foundation recommended that he should work for a newspaper delivery company, but he couldn’t stand for a long time – nor was he able to carry heavy objects. They then introduced him to selling magazines. “I’m very grateful for the volunteers who eagerly and actively helped me pick myself up,” Huang says. “Selling magazines gives me relatively more free time [than doing other jobs], and I can adjust my workload based on my physical condition.”

Lung-yen Huang, magazine seller at Qizhang station Photo Credit: Yu-ruei Lu / The Big Issue Taiwan

On a rainy day five years ago, Huang accidently fell into a pothole on a pavement that was under construction, breaking his left thigh. He was working as an interior decorator at that time and, after the accident, he couldn’t go to work anymore. Huang rested at home for over half a year and resumed work at the construction site when his thigh recovered. One day when he was doing woodwork on a ceiling, he was struck by vertigo. He fell to the floor from the wooden ladder that he had been standing on. This time, it was his right arm that got broken. After recovering from the coma that he’d been in for three days in hospital, he once again lost his ability to work. “I was really unfortunate during that period of time. My left leg just healed, I just got back to work at the construction site, but I soon broke my right arm due to vertigo,” Huang says jokingly. “It left me incapable of working again for more than half a year. But all that wasn’t even the worst…”

During the treatment for the fractures in his right arm, Huang was diagnosed with oral cancer. “After the surgery, my illness [cancer] was controlled and my left leg fully recovered. It was just my right arm that had no power output: it couldn’t lift itself. Over the past five years, accidents have continually happened, changing my whole life all of a sudden,” he says. “But what’s past is past. It’s most important to enjoy the moment and take good care of myself. I come and sell magazines every day, and I keep bettering myself.” Huang talks about the past freely and openly. As for the future, he has dreams that he wants to pursue. He also remains open to challenges, despite the suffering and tests that fate has put in his path.

Huang has longtime patrons at Qizhang station and he also receives nice second-hand clothes from his friends at times. Standing on the pavement outside the station, Huang usually works with a mask on – behind which hides a genuine smile of his openness to life.

Translated by Sunny Tseng (Taiwan)