Sun, Sep 21, 2003 - Page 17 News List

Lost Frontier

Fred Frontier came to Taiwan with a job and a well-researched plan for his time on the island. Then within days of his arrival, he vanished from sight

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

American Fred Frontier went missing in May, shortly after arriving in Taiwan. He is thought to have disappeared in Tienhsiang, Taroko Gorge.

PHOTO: DAVID MOMPHARD, TAIPEI TIMES

Like countless foreigners before him, Fryderyk [Fred] Mieszko Frontier came to Taiwan to teach English for a year or two, then travel on. He landed a job with Hess Educational Organization while still in the US and was to work at a branch in Kaohsiung. He arrived in Taiwan on May 20 in plenty of time to start training courses on May 26. With a few days to relax and a love of the outdoors, Frontier decided to see some of the beautiful places he'd read about from his home in Seattle. He packed a bag for his trip and left the remainder of his luggage at Hess' office in Chungho, Taipei County, where he was to take his training courses.

From there Frontier's story departs from the countless foreigners that came before him. Where he went and what he did on his trip remained a matter of speculation for nearly a month. The only thing his family and his employer knew was that they hadn't heard from him during that time. In Taiwan for only a couple days, Frontier vanished from sight.

Missing teacher notice

Of course, Fred Frontier wasn't the first English teacher in Taiwan who appeared to have skipped school. "We've had a lot of teachers bail on us," said Hess' Overseas Recruiting Coordinator, James Li. So two days after he failed to show up for training courses, Hess administrators simply sent him an e-mail reminder then phoned the Taipei Hostel where he was staying. According to Hess' records, a receptionist there said Frontier had checked out on May 22 and had mentioned wanting to visit Kaohsiung and do a bit of hiking. He had said as much to his recruiting manager, too, when he first went to the Hess office on May 21. The recruiter had given him the name and phone number of Colleen Symons, the organization's head teacher in Kaohsiung, but Symons never heard from Frontier. On June 1, she called all the hostels and hospitals in the Kaohsiung area describing Frontier. No one had seen him.

Now concerned, Hess administrators in Chungho e-mailed Frontier's mother, Barbara Klita, who planned to come teach in Taiwan with her son. It would be another two weeks before they would make contact with her. On June 9, according to Hess' records, AIT contacted local polices stations, who posted an all-points bulletin for Frontier on June 28. Hess, meanwhile, placed a missing person notice in the China Post and contacted hostels, monasteries and religious organizations on the east coast, where Frontier had also expressed an interest in visiting.

When Hess hired him on April 19, Frontier thought he was to be posted in Luotung, Ilan County. He'd even visited local Internet posting boards to inquire about living accommodations there and ask where he might find a locker to keep his luggage while touring the island. He later learned, however, that he'd be posted to Kaohsiung. And so on June 16, when authorities learned that Frontier had

purchased a train ticket for May 22 costing US$19.10 (NT$660), they assumed he had traveled toward Kaohsiung.

"We got a credit card bill from his girlfriend back in the States," Li said. "Obviously it only had the amount and didn't say where it was to. We looked at the train schedule to try and see what destinations cost that amount to get to." Having already been told that he wanted to visit Kaohsiung and do a bit of camping, they determined that he'd likely gone to Pingtung and perhaps into Kenting National Park.

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