This title is recommended by the roommate Tang, hopefully every week I have someone from Taiwan recommending me a title for my blogs, thank you Tang!
Hello friends and family, future MHIRT trainees,
This blog post will be recapping my first 2 weeks of experience here in Taiwan, which are jammed packed with adventure. The night we arrived in Taiwan, interestingly enough I didn’t feel I was in distant country. Maybe it was because I was tired and/or we were up very late that night. When arriving at Taipei, looking out of my window the next morning I saw a man steaming some dumplings. It hit me right there that I was…well half way across the world. The places our mentor Matt took us around Taipei simply put me in awe. I loved how a city as busy as Taipei could be so green in terms of trees and parks and rich in culture. What I remember the most about Taipei was the cabbage. That would make much more sense if you are in Taiwan. The cabbage is their staple vegetable and Taiwan has many jade stone-carved cabbage sculptures to praise the vegetable, also they carve out one to two crickets on them. I guess overall the city of Taipei was a very good introduction destination for all of us to experience Taiwan.
We then moved and allocated in Jiu Fen. Probably my second most favorite spot, Jiu Fen is a city that is carved alongside a mountain and that place is really amazing. I feel like I got a more of a culture shock there than anywhere else. First of all it is the endless amount of stairs one needs to overcome to barely get some food and get to our hotel. Prices are very cheap there and it is definitely a touristy spot if you plan to buy things in Taiwan. Our mentor Matt mentioned when eating pizza with him that Jiu Fen was his favorite destination because of the beautiful sunrise you can experience each and every morning. For this reason, the culture shock came when my roommate and I left our room at night and explored the city once all the shops were closed, that way we could experience the city without the people. Because of this, my itch to adventure really started. You definitely get a different feel of the city at night, a much more calm, spiritual feeling rather than the fast paced and the usual busy nature of Jiu Fen. We visited a couple of shrines and pinned pointed more that we wanted to visit the next morning. At 5 am, excited to explore more of Jiu Fen and wanting to see the sunrise, we woke up and got ready, invited another cohort of ours to explore with us and left by 5:30 am. We saw yet another version of Jiu Fen, we saw a different city at this point, there was so many things the darkness of the night hid from us and that prompted us to have to go to these places. We visited 6 shrines, a bunch of memorials, the wilderness, closed and open shops, interacted with the locals for snacks and directions. Finally, we then saw the sunrise. I know I will use this phrase a lot but honestly it was breathtaking, time seemed to stop at that moment and pictures could not capture the moment we experienced in front of us.
Upon leaving Jiu Fen, we arrived to Nan’ao. This place is very small and rural. We got to see the beach and rode scooters, which was a first for me, we also survived storms, we hiked…a lot and visited a waterfall. The waterfall is what I remember the most and I know my fellow cohorts and Matt would probably agree to that statement as well. The reason why is because I had the pleasure of jumping out of said waterfall, overcoming my fear of heights. I did so many things that were so foreign to me, eat things I have never tried before or do things I don’t do at a regular basis. Overall, Nan’ao helped me build character for this country, to survive and be ready and aware of everything, not in a unsafe way if that is what your mind is leading you to think but in a culture shock way, to be aware of my surroundings and aware of where I am. My best memories here are honestly the good nature of the people there. They invited us to have lunch with them and everybody we met was so nice to us, simply glad to be in their nation. I started to notice the curious stares in Nan’ao though. People starting questioning if I had Chinese ancestry or if I was Jewish or Middle Eastern or funny enough from the Bible. I don’t mind it though, the stares I mean. They are simply curious just like I am, they probably have never seen an American before, much less a Mexican-American.
After Nan’ao we arrived to my favorite location from our mini vacation, Taroko. This place has amazing food, amazing scenery and just has everything I needed and wanted in life. The view from our hotel was again breathtaking. A huge hill outside my window with clouds forming upon seconds. I felt I could just reach out my hand and almost touch them. Hiking there was fun. Many trails showed us the wildlife of Taroko, which at times where scary for the group, especially the banana spiders. We saw rivers and mountains, butterflies I have never even seen before, and shrines too. The air felt clean and made you feel light, calm and again, like time does not affect this place. That rain though… normally I wouldn’t want rain but the rain in Taroko just helped immerse yourself into the environment way more, removing the sweat and heat you felt from the hike, it honestly helped cool us down. The best thing though about Taroko is definitely seeing how the clouds form upon your very eyes. It is again, breathtaking.
In Kaohsiung, our last destination, the university has been kind to me and all of us. I started working the first week in, doing patent work and rewording manuscripts. The lab personnel have been very open and kind to me, they are working in some amazing things. They have been teaching me Chinese when we go eat and talking about the great things Kaohsiung can offer, which hopefully I will get to experience over my weekends here. Already, I have visited a student symposium of engineering, I also visited a bike and golf club manufacturing company that works in partnership with Marvel Studios, and today (06.27) I rode bikes to the harbor to a university that would give us a demonstration on the EMG research they are doing for paddling over water, not to mention we the lab group, we went exploring to old town Kaohsiung. My favorite thing to do here at the university thus far is hanging out with my friends after work. Hearing about their days, their stories, their adventures, experiences, it is honestly great. I love to choose almost every single day since starting work a random location to visit for the day. My favorite experience however thus far in the university revolved my PI Professor Guo’s birthday. The celebration itself is so interesting. First, the birthday cakes are usually made out of fruit and bean paste and the bread of the cake is very soft and non-sweet. The celebrated often ask for 3 wishes, 2 of those are said out loud and the third is not said. Also the celebrated asks for someone to serve to everyone, starting by the oldest to the youngest. This is how to pronounce happy birthday (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUz2UVdNC1I), zhu ni shengri kuai le! This whole experience to me was mind blowing but at the same time being accepted by the lab that quickly made it seem normal and cute.
That is all for now, overall Taiwan has accepted me and my fellow cohorts with open arms and kindness. Local restaurants around campus know us by now, and are starting to give us discounts and free-food. I want to thank everyone I have met alongside the way to Kaohsiung and the people around me, especially I want to thank the people waiting at home, for being patient with us about communicating with you guys, these weeks have been very busy for everyone especially with the WiFi problems we have been having of late. I am looking forward for my future posts, lets see what lies ahead.
Cheers, see you guys later,
Edgar or E if you are in my lab (I know that Edgar is very difficult to say for the locals).