My first week in Taiwan was filled with a lot of walking, picture-taking, bug spray and sweat! I was so excited to visit Asia, considering I hadn’t experienced much of Asian culture yet. Also, the furthest I had traveled from San Diego, CA was to Mexico, which was familiar. When we became immersed in Kaohsiung’s heavy heat and sea of motor scooters, the feelings of moving to another country for the summer became real.
Our first week consisted of tour of Taiwan, led by our awesome mentor, Matt! I appreciated how much he knew about Taiwan and how much I learned while traveling with him. It also felt comforting to travel with cohort members from Vietnamese culture, who were able to teach me about things that overlap between their culture and Taiwanese culture (how to prepare my zhou, which snacks to try, religious practices, etc.).
We first explored Taroko National Park, where we walked (hiked, really) almost 10 miles. The mountain views, dense jungle, buddhist temples and marble rock formations made it so worth it. This has been my favorite place in Taiwan so far. Juifen was next; a small city on a mountainside, overlooking Keelung harbor. Everything about Juifen was so charming . Here we explored our first night market and cooled off with yu yuan at the end of the day. I did not expect beans to taste well in a dessert but it definitely blew me away! We transitioned into “city life” by visiting Taiwan’s bustling capital, Taipei. It reminded me of New York City’s tall buildings, busy streets and fashionable people, focused on getting to their next destination. We ended our trip by exploring some of Kaohsiung.
After our week of traveling up and down Taiwan; we finally got settled into the dorms at Kaohsiung Medical University. The first thing that caught my eye was the plethora of undergarments hang drying everywhere! We heard the dryers did not work well, so I assumed that was why; however, my roommates later told me that people here typically wash the clothes they wear each day by hand (instead of waiting for a giant load to accumulate). At first, my roommates were a little shy with their English but now they are becoming more comfortable conversating with me.
We met our lab mates in Dr. Guo’s sports medicine lab the next day. Everyone was so kind and helpful. They definitely helped us get settled into life at KMU by showing us around and taking us to eat on their own time. They are still in classes here and approaching finals, so I really appreciate them taking their time to help us. Because they’re still in classes, we will be spending most of our time reading research articles. My project focuses on the benefits of an exercise intervention with Chronic Kidney Disease patients. I don’t have much information on the research project yet, but hopefully we will have to tie loose ends soon and get started soon.