Saturday, June 30, 2012

Yi, er, san, si, wu... (one, two, three, four, five...)

Wow, the things I've seen and done since I last wrote is pretty amazing! The program I'm in really squeezes so much into these four short weeks, and I am exhausted! There's no way I can possibly explain everything I've done, but I can attempt. I really wish I could remember all the weird cultural things I learn throughout the day; those, to me, are sometimes the most interesting!

Since last time, I've gotten to be a little more familiar with the National Taiwan University Campus. The group played a scavenger hunt (in the 100 degree and almost 100% humidity) and went to the Unversity's history museum. I'm really surprised how many museums are here! I don't think Purdue has any that I know of. We also went to the zoology and insectarium that's here. The collection of insects they have is unbelieveable. They have a huge room that looks more like a library with tons of drawers that has probably 100 insects on each one. The only other things we've done on campus the past week are listening to lectures each day, which are usually extremely exhilarating and an hour and half each, and attempting to take a Chinese course, which failed by the end because we lazy Americans were way too tired by the end of the day to be able to even speak proper English. I can count in Chinese and introduce myself, however. I didn't learn bathroom though, which is probably the most important. But the calligraphy class we took was fun! They all kept asking me if I had written calligraphy before, but they also didn't see me tracing the characters instead of "writing" them... whoooops.

But the best things I've done this week have been off campus. We went to Yangmingshan National Park, where we hiked a trail on a mountain overlooking Taipei, and also Siaoyoukeng volcanic site. The volcano there has been dormant for several hundred years, but there are still several sulfur steam vents scattered in the area. We've been to the Beitou hot spring museum, which the building used to be used much like a Greek bath, and to Thermal valley, which is where the hot water came from for the baths. We went to a place called Jingshan that grows indigo, which used to be Taiwan's biggest crop aside from rice and tea. We dyed pieces of cloth much like tye-dying- something they really don't do too often here so that was pretty exciting for the Asians. One of my favorite places we've been to is Dharma Drum Mountain, the actual first Buddhist temple I've been too (Longshan temple I saw a long time ago actually wasn't Buddhist, it was Tao). I mainly loved it for its location; it's on top of the mountain over-looking the sea, which I haven't seen yet! It was a very peaceful place, which makes sense, but there wasn't as much "ummmm"ing as I expected. Then we went to the Juming Museum, which may be one of my favorite art museums I've ever seen. It was mostly outside that was full of people figures made from bronze and styrofoam. It was incredible that one person came up with hundreds of different figurines, but his sense of humor and our hilarious tour guide is what kept me interested. Driving back from this museum, we passed a Taiwanese cemetary, which I am not sure why is not a stop on our schedule becasue has some of the most beautiful arcitecture I've ever seen! Instead of stones, these people give their dead whole houses, and there are thousands of these marble houses, and each family uses different colors and styles for their house. They were all placed on a mountainside, and from a distance it looks like a city for the Greek gods or something. I was staring at it all on the bus that I really didn't get any good pictures of it. We've been to the Yingge ceramics museum, which wasn't too intersted except for the pottery that we got to paint in the kids 12 and under room, which fits me perfectly. One night we went on a frog observation, which makes me feel like a real Crocodile hunter now. I'm quite sure our guide was a frog incarnate; he could hear a frog 50 feet away, know exactly where it was, and grab it without missing a beat. Someone apparently needs a life. But we did see nine different frog species, even one endangered one. Yesterday we went to the famous National Palace Museum, which people might of heard of outside of Taiwan along with Taipei 101. Many of the Chinese artifacts were brought here from the Forbidden Cityh in Beijing before the Japanese take over. So all the artifacts we saw were about Chinese history, going back to almost 6,000 B.C. The museum was massive, and we barely saw any of it. We saw 1% of the artifacts displayed, which is 1% of the artifacts stored in the museum, which is 1/4 of the total artifacts that are both in China and Taiwan. It reminded me very much of an Asian Louvre; you would have to spend many years to be able to see everything. I finally got to see the very famous Jade cabbage, which I see magnts and keychains of it everywhere, and now I finally understand why. And of course the famous meat stone- a piece of jasper made to look like a slab or pork. It doesn't surprise me at all that the most famous artifacts are food related here...

Other than traveling around the Taipei area, I've gotten to know a whole new set of people who are actually more my age (most of the people in the lab and zoo were older than I am). Even thoug I feel like I've been here forever, I am still learning something new everyday about their culture. Oh, I do remember one cultural thing. So a couple of times I've talked to people about tacos, and how we eat them in America often since many of us like Mexican food. Turns out that taco here means octopus. Well I've definitely messed up people's perception of American food. I'm sure the term came about through a mistranslation at some point. I figured it out when the guide at the ceramics museum was discribing a vase in front of us, saying how the top had a big head and base came together at the bottom with lots of legs, like a taco. She certainly knows better now!

Wow, I still have 3 more weeks to go, and the amount that I am going to see everyday is not going to change! I have traveled to many places, but I've never been on-the-go for this long before. Not that I'm complaining; I feel so lucky that I have the opportunity to do this. But I can't wait to get some breathing time once I come home! I will be in Taipei for three more nights, and then I will finally leave this dorm room for the first time and stay in other hotels and camps as we travel around the island for two weeks exactly. I'm really excited, but I won't lie that I want it to go at least a little bit quickly! Hopefully I will be able to find internet access while I am abroard; I'm not sure I can remember two weeks worth of experiences when I get back to Taipei!

Inside the insectarium

View at Yangmingshan

One of my wildlife shots- which was the main point of the hike at the park.

At the volcanic site

Bamboo forest at the top of the mountain- the mist gets so dense here in the afternoon!

Bath at the hot springs

Thermal Valley

Our indigo clothes

At Dharma Drum Mountain

Juming Museum

My calligraphy, not too bad :)

Ceramics museum

At the National Palace Museum- we weren't allowed to take pictues inside. I was so bummed!!

With the two Texas A&M students!

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