One of my favorite parts of travelling is making new friends, and I cannot stress how friendly our Taiwanese labmates and roommates have been to us. Whether it may be taking us out to lunch on a daily basis or taking weekend trips with us to other regions of Taiwan, I am really grateful for their hospitality and patience with us.
Recently, one of Dr. Guo’s students, Rachael, was kind enough to take me to get a haircut with her. The haircut itself was very quick, it only took about 5-10 minutes and I was very pleased with the cut. I was shocked to find out that the haircut only cost $6.50 USD!
Near the end of the week, my labmate in Dr. Li’s lab (Kelly) invited us over to her apartment for games and dinner. Nearby her apartment was a local Taiwanese market, where we bought some meat and vegetables to cook at her house for dinner. Although we get to eat at delicious and inexpensive Taiwanese shops daily, it was so nice to have a home-cooked meal at Kelly’s house.
After dinner, we played a game called Snorta, where players have to make animal noises according to cards that they draw. Interestingly enough, we quickly realized that different countries have different ways of making animal noises. It was a night of a lot of confusion and laughter!
Throughout this past couple of weeks, I find myself getting more and more comfortable in lab. There are obvious cultural differences in the wet labs of Taiwan vs the US: in general, Taiwan has fewer restrictions on health and safety, but I find that American lab cell culture is extremely wasteful in comparison. Coming from Colorado (an extremely dry climate), I had realized that Kaohsiung has a very humid and hot environment, so the students at KMU are taught to take extra precautions and preventative measures in cell culture to avoid contamination as much as possible. Progress on our FOXA2 and cell migration project has been very slow since we are working with so many cancer cell lines. Brendon, Kelly, and I run into issues with the cancer and bacterial cells not growing well, so we have to troubleshoot and problem solve daily. I am learning so much information on molecular and microbiology that I know I will take back to the US, I am really grateful for this experience!
A pivotal moment for the Taiwan MHIRT team was when we travelled to northern Taiwan on our own. This past week, we took the high-speed rail to Taipei and worked our way to Shifen Old Street and Waterfall. Shifen Old Street is well known for its floating lanterns and market street. That night, we stayed at an incredible hostel in the Yonghe District called Hostel 8. The rooms were extremely well kept and we each paid about $11 USD for the night! Early the next morning, we went on a guided tour of Thousand Island Lake and the Pinglin Tea Plantations. We learned how the local Taiwanese grow, harvest, and process tea, and we had the chance to learn how to properly brew tea (if you ever get the chance, go to a Taiwanese teahouse! So cool!) To end our trip in northern Taiwan, we hiked the Xiangshan trail (Elephant Mountain). This is a popular trail for tourists and foreigners, which has an incredible view of the Taipei skyline.
Every week I am discovering new things that I love about Taiwan, but there is still so much more to see. Although I am here on a research internship, I feel like I am on a vacation every day! I can’t believe we arenow entering our 7th week of MHIRT, only a few more weeks to go!
Until next time, Kathleen 🙂