Celebrating our birthdays in Taiwan!

Hello everyone! As we enter the last couple of weeks of our trip here in Taiwan, I am starting to realize that time flies quickly, especially when you have busy weeks! Our work in Dr. Li’s lab has picked up tremendously these past couple weeks, especially because our grad student, Kelly, had to return to her hometown, Taoyuan, for the summer. Although we’ve worked long days, many of our experiments have either failed or have been delayed due to circumstances beyond our control. Last week, we found that the DNA we had used in our transfection was contaminated. We also had difficulties in some cells not growing as fast as we had anticipated due to unknown reasons. Regardless, Brendon and I both agree that our time in lab was invaluable and I will never forget this experience. Typically, each day we ask Kelly about some of the cultural differences in lab and regular life in Taiwan vs. the US. Several times now Kelly has mentioned that she is learning so much from this opportunity to work with us, which makes me glad that we can have this cross-cultural connection in both science and daily life.
Taiwan MHIRT 2018 Team in Kenting
   
Scooter rental on the beach!
On the Wednesday of week 7, we celebrated Ayri’s 21st birthday! The night before, I went to a local flower shop nearby KMU and bought her a dozen sunflowers for her birthday. They were only $4 USD! For her birthday weekend, the MHIRT group took a trip to Kenting, a beach town in a southern region of Taiwan called Pingtung. Tickets were about $20 USD, and we were able to find a hostel for $15 USD a night. A tip that many local Taiwanese friends mentioned was that we should rent scooters while we were there for local transport. They were very convenient and cheap, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who plans on visiting Kenting. We spent the entire day visiting various beaches and scenic viewpoints, all of which had picture perfect views! We also bought passes to go banana boating and tubing, which was a first for most of us. Our beach vacation in Kenting ended on Sunday, where we rented the scooters for only half a day. We found ourselves about 30 minutes away from Kenting Main Street at a scenic viewpoint. As we were taking pictures, it suddenly started to intensely rain. Instinctually we jumped on our scooters and drove to Main Street as fast as we could… while getting pelted by rain. I definitely would not recommend this, but it was definitely an experience I won’t forget!  
Taiwan MHIRT 2018 Team… post-rain bike ride
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
The week after Ayri’s birthday was my birthday! Something I had mentioned in previous blogs was that I really value how kind and caring our friends in Taiwan are to us. Both of my Malaysian roommates had bought me gifts for my birthday, even though I had only briefly mentioned my birthday the week before. They are very nice, and I know I will stay in contact with them even when I return to the US. For my birthday, we decided to travel to Taipei for the weekend. On Saturday, we visited the Taipei Zoo. Student admission was only $30 NT, which is only $1 USD! I believe the zoo is one the largest zoos in all of Asia; for reference, the San Diego Zoo is close to 100 acres while the Taipei Zoo is around to 400 acres. I was really impressed with the number of exhibits for the admission price! For the rest of our trip, we visited other tourist locations like Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial and Longshan Temple. Interestingly enough, we found that there is an underground mini shopping mall at the Longshan MRT stop in Taipei. For nearly 2 hours, we were lost in the souvenir shops finding gifts for our friends and family in the US! The dynamic of having to do lab work during weekdays and having weekends to travel makes time go by very quickly. It’s hard to believe that we have less than 2 weeks left here in Taiwan! Only one more blog to go…
Until next time, Kathleen 😊