Week Two: Kaohsiung Medical University (living in the dormitory)

It has been a week since we met with our lab coordinators. I have yet to “officially” start my lab as I wait for the other international students to arrive, who I will work with in Dr.Guo’s research project.  In the meantime, I have been given references to read and prepare a twenty minute presentation on them; this left my week cut out for me in the lab’s office. Dr.Guo’s research assistant Allen, has been of great help. He help me find a near bank to where I can withdraw money, I was beginning to worry as I was starting to run low on cash. Most 7-elevens’ that I visited could not read my ATM card. Luckily, Jimmy (one of my lab managers) took me on his motorcycle to the Taiwan Bank.

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During my downtime, I have toured around the University and the outside markets to familiarize myself with my environment. For dinner, I had those awkward conversations ordering food; the menu was all in mandarin. Luckily, there was a nice lady who speaks a bit of English and with my little bit of mandarin (not much at all) we were able to communicate. It’s a nice vegetarian place where the cost is not only great but cheap! ($80NT= $2.58USD).

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In the weekend, I made an appointment to cut my hair in a decent barbershop, it was also an art gallery and a tattoo parlor (to reassure my family, I do not plan on getting any Chinese tattoos when coming back to the U.S). I did happen to find myself lost on the way to the barbershop, not inside the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), which consists of two floors but once I got out of the rail station. I printed out a sheet of the directions with the map, since my phone would only get (Wifi) signal in establishments but the map was not too detailed. I made a mistake to ask a man who was with his family (not knowing) that he was accompanied; as he was getting on the motorcycle. I mentioned mistake because he was with his wife and infant baby and was kind enough to guide me to someone that was familiar with the area (I was appreciative of his help).

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I was considering getting a phone for navigation, however having had asked, I was told that phones here are pretty expensive in Taiwan (especially for only two months). Although, not having navigation has given me the opportunity to regress back to when I did not have a navigation system on my phone (yes, I have to be more attentive however, it allows me to really pay attention to where I am going and speak with locals more often). Fortunately my small adventures in getting lost have made it worth to meet new people. For instance, when I got lost, I ended up stopping by a local fruit stand to have a refreshing drink of coconut water inside the coconut during a particularly hot and humid day. The server was kind enough to crack open the coconut after I had finished drinking the coconut water, to eat it! (She was kind and was guessing where I was from).
There is an abundance of bicycles outside the university and at the rail stations. I went ahead and rode my first bicycle in Kaohsiung, which has been awesome! There’s a lot of mopeds here and sometimes they ride on the sidewalk, so it’s been great to have ridden the sidewalk with them.

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– Omar

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