Thursday, May 31, 2012

Xiang Mao (Panda!)

The past two days have been even more different than before! Both have been spent at the Taipei City Zoo, the first day with my labmate Mia, where I was introduced to the rescue center (I've never seen so many different kinds of tortoises in my life! There were several hundred there I'm sure.) and we ended up just walking around the zoo. I got to see my first pandas too! It is kind of strange to see animals that are native to other parts of the world when I am not native to this area either, especially when looking at animals that are from North America (they had a mountain lion, bison, and bobcats). Not that I see those animals everyday, but it still feels weird! So we had a really great time. Afterward, my other labmates Kido and Zai picked us up and we went to a very small night market that is famous for its stinky tofu, something that every foreigner must try when in Taiwan! We had some, but it wasn't as stinky as some of the other kinds I have smelled when walking down the street, thank goodness! It is one of the most horrid smells I have experienced, but apparently it tastes good?? I am sure true stinky tofu will be forced down my throat at some point. We also had steamed bamboo, which I loved because it tastes alot like artichokes, which if you know me, I am kind of obsessed, and tofu soup. And to top it all off, I tried some tofu ice cream! It was surprisingly really good.

Yesterday I came back to the zoo to help as a volunteer in the rescue center. Shalou, a student in my lab who is doing turtle research, took me to the zoo on the back of her moped, which was quite the experience! There are probably more mopeds, or they call motorcycles, than cars here. They also probably follow less rules as well, which makes quite an experience. At the zoo I helped with preparing diets, cleaning cages, feeding the snapping turtles baby mice (which I thought was pretty fun), but most of all getting to know the other zoo keepers. They all seemed to be around my age, which made things really fun! I mostly helped QT (when I say names, that is their English name, which is laughable sometimes), and we had alot of fun with our free time. We played with lots of tortoises, including "Big Fatty" who was their biggest tortoise. Three of me could probably fit inside its shell. But probably the highlight of my day came when she asked if I wanted to go see the tigers. That's a no brainer! There were probably about 8 tigers kept in the back. Then the keepers who were in the tiger area pointed up to a cage that was above the tigers. So QT and I went to go see it. QT has only been working at the zoo a couple of months so she was just as curious about seeing things as I was. There were orangutans up there. We got to go right up to them through their fence, hold their hands, and even gave them kisses! I was in total heaven at that point! The best part was when one of the males kept trying to poke us with sticks in his enclosure. Then we realized what he was trying to do. He would take his stick and try to lift up our shirts and procede to peer under to see what could possibly be up there! It was one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen. Of course I had to teach QT some more English vocab, including "pervert." I could have stayed with them for hours, but I am not sure we were really allowed to do everything we did. But neither of us had a camera at the time, so next time I go back to the zoo hopefully we will hopefully get some pictures with my new orange buddies.

Everything else has been going pretty well so far! Other than my chronic soreness from my supportless bed, things have been alright. I still cant imagine how great a real bed is going to feel when I get home! And a curtain on the shower... that I will appreciate as well.

Walkway beside my dorm

On the way to the lab

My lab


Strangest parking garage ever- you drive your car onto an elevator, which then stores your car for you in a big warehouse; I've never seen anything like it!

Night market- Usually they are much more crowded, but the weather was pretty bad so we had the place to ourselves.

Garlic Tofu (almost all eaten), tofu soup, and steamed bamboo

More tofu! I didn't like this kind so much

Tofu ice cream

Kido and Mia

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wanshang hao! (good evening!)

I have to say the past two days have been radically different than the first two days! I have now met my lab group and have already observed/assisted with some of their "experiments" or labs. They are all super friendly and very curious about me! They have not had a foreign intern before, though there is one Indian PhD student in the lab. Yesterday we "sacrificed" a mouse to gather its sperm and Leydig cells, fun stuff! Then I proceeded to disect the rest of the mouse and got to remind the student the English word for all the different organs, which was fun! My genetics lab skills have been put to the test, though mostly I just do what I'm told! I think I am really going to enjoy my time working here, though it is hard for me to really assist much with anything since I am only here for four weeks, so mostly I will be learning. However, from what I see my labmates may learn more from me being there than vice versa! I am sure their English skills will improve dramatically, though I am skeptical if my chinese will ever even got off the ground...

Tomorrow I am very excited because I get to help one of the students who is doing research at the Taipei City Zoo! If I enjoy what we will be doing, I may be able to go there more regularly! I know we will be researching turtles, but I will learn the specifics soon enough.

Yesterday after meeting everyone and getting settled in, pizza was ordered for us. I could kind of tell the students were a little disappointed because they assumed that I wouldn't want pizza being an American, but this was NOT the pizza we are familiar with, even though it was Pizza Hut! There were several different types with various seafood; I asked what one kind was and they said "Japanese style." Well that didn't answer anything until they remembered the word "octopus!" If was actually pretty good!

It is absolutely ridiculous the amount of restaurants and food vendors there are here. Taipei is a shopper's dream, clothes and food are not only everywhere, but sooooo cheap! A decently sized dinner here cost about $1 in American dollars. But that doesn't mean that quality suffers whatsoever. I will hopefully be putting some pictures up of some examples :) here are the only ones I have remembered to take so far

Pyramid-shaped gelato, yum!!

yes, that is seaweed flavored Lays, not so yum I would think...
I saw this at the Taiwan version of a Walmart, which is just as huge vertically as Walmart is horizontally! There were many levels with sloping escalators so you can go up and down with your cart, genius! Pretty cool experience.
I feel like I am forgetting to say so much but mayber it will come back to me after awhile. There is no way to describe everything I've been doing and feeling but this will have to do for now!
Something else I will be feeling, my legs after my 35 minute walk to my lab everyday! But I am mostly just proud that I made it there today by myself without getting lost during the busiest time of the day, go me!!
Please keep in contact with me! And let me know if there is anything blatantly obvious that I am forgetting to talk about, becasue I am sure there is.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ni Hao (Hello) from Taiwan!

So I am officially on the opposite side of the world, and it definitely feels that way! The amount of experiences I've had in the past 48 hours have been more than I could ever imagine. My mood has never gone so ballistic either. I am still unsure how I feel about everything, but for now I am taking it one day at a time... or one 72 hour day at a time..

The anxiety and excitement of the trip kept me from sleeping too well the night before my morning flight out of Indianapolis. The next night was the 14 hour flight over the Pacific Ocean (some quality sleep right there) and the next night was tossing and turning in my elevated yoga mat that is my dorm room bed. So I probably totaled about 4-5 hours of sleep those three days. With jet lag on top of that, it's been quite interesting what I've been able to do while still in zombie mode.

Things started out hectically from the beginning when a phone call came right as I was about to walk out the door to go to the airport saying that my plane to Minneapolis was delayed. My flight was rerouted to Chicago, but wasn't official until the boarding passes came to the ticket desk two minutes before the cut off needed to let me through security. Thank you delta for your convenience.

But it hasn't all been a miserable story. I have been so lucky to have another Purdue student who is here for the four week internship before the BACT (Biodiversity, Agriculture, and Culture of Taiwan) program begins in June. Anbo is a Chinese exchange student who studied at Purdue this past year. He has been a great translator and tour guide, even though he has never been to Taiwan either! From what I've gathered, Taipei is kind of like the New York/LA of China; everyone wants to come here! Americans who have never been to New York still know about the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, etc... So Anbo knows many of the landmarks here as well. My first day, Saturday, we went to the Eslite bookstore, a famous store which is more of like a huge mall. We went to the top of Taipei 101, which was the world's tallest tower until 2010 when the Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai. We also went to the Sun yet-sen Memorial Hall, who was the founding father of Taiwan. Today we went to an area that looked alot like a Chinese Times Square. We ran into a concert with lots of screaming teenage girls, so we had to stop and watch. It was an alternative band called 831, and I thought they were pretty good! At the end they presented the band with a cake that had red colored eggs all around it, which means good luck for whatever reason. Then they passed out the eggs to the people in the audience, and I snuck one :) We also saw another pop singer who had even more screaming teenage girls at his stage. Something I thought was interesting is that most musicians in Asia are either Japanese or Taiwanese; they are rarely ever from China. We saw a very famous old theater and went to Longshan Temple, a buddhist, taoist, and matsu temple dedicated to the goddess Guanyin, the goddess of mercy. Quite an experience... I was definitely the odd one out!

Being the odd one out is the least I can say for how I feel when I go out anywhere! I have seen a couple of Westerners here in my dorm (I am living in the international dorm) but I do see a couple here and there at the metro station. I've never felt so alone in such giant masses of people! Whenever I see a white person, a black person, any other person other than asian, I find myself thinking, "Wait! Please be my best friend right now!" Haha. I am surprised that I have not seen any Indians here so far either. I do get odd looks occasionally, mostly by little kids, but people are pretty good about not making a scene of it! I've noticed so far about 3 people taking my picture, but those were ones that were not being sneaky about it whatsoever!

The English here is alright; many signs have English subtitles, and many brands are American too. But for all the English that is present here, I am quite shocked at how little people speak it. I would never be able to get around or find anything very easily if it weren't for Anbo! Another thing that surprised me is the accents of the English that I have heard. They are always American accents! I have not heard any British, Australian, or any other accent.

There are about a million other things that I could blabber about that I have done the past three days, but there's no way I can explain all the things I've seen and felt. Monday (today) I start my internship in a lab that I know nothing about yet! I am getting pretty nervous about it. I hope that my professor is nice, has clear English, has students that will help me and hang out with me, and has research that is actually interesting to me! Otherwise, this is going to be the loooongest 4 weeks of my life! Here goes nothing...

Please ask me questions anytime! There is no way I can sit here and recall everything that has happened, and I would love to talk to other people! Don't get me wrong, I have had a pretty amazing start here, but being independent on what might as well be Mars may be the hardest thing I have ever done. No one EVER for the rest of my life has any right to tell me I am chicken about anything. I baffle myself just sitting here thinking "What the heck did I come here for again?"

I will try and keep updating on what is going on! There is no easy way to summarize my experience, but I will do my best. I love you all and miss you beyond words, but I pray that this 8 weeks goes by quickly and as smoothly as possible. Email, message me about ANYTHING! I would love to hear about it!

Much love,


Square inbetween the boys and girls international dorms

My room is on the third floor to the right of the corner! (hidden by the left tree)

Main Street down National Taiwan University

Famous Bookstore/Mall

Taipei 101

Top of Taipei 101

Sun yet-sen Memorial Hall 
At the top! (Please ignore the large bags under my eyes haha)

Another view

Memorial Hall from the ground

Famous Theatre

Band 831

My good luck egg!

Pop singer, who got a very "Bieber" like reaction. Can't remember his name!

Entrance to Longshan temple

Big Buddha in the back!