Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Conference Day #1

So after leaving my room, I encountered students randomly breaking out in a dance routine- Cheng Chung University Flash Mob?  I love living here- when I came back this afternoon, there was a pair of students randomly whirring balls on strings.  I feel like High School Musical comes to life at this University- people randomly start singing, dancing or performing for no obvious reason.

It's a beautiful day in Chiaya to start off the conference.  The campus is all geered up and decorated for the event.

Supposedly, they expect 1600-2000 attendees and the TEAL section (which I'm the invited speaker for) is upper picture, as the highlight they advertise.
Penny took me to a nice place for breakfast, an off-campus place popular with the students.  I was amused by the "Guns and Roses" bar next door:

Sure enough Taiwanese people do eat hamburgers for breakfast!  She was surprised to hear that was not common in the US.  She ordered me a chicken sandwich, slightly sweet on a spongy roll that was kind of like a hamburger.  Pretty yummy and fun to sample a college hangout.  Neither of us knew exactly what the plan was for today so we went for a nice long walk around campus.  She told me that twice a year, all the Taiwanese colleges have a huge 2-week sporting event which people train for all year round.  If I understood her correctly, majors for each subject compete against each other.  I feel like the physics sports competition would be fun to watch.  We also bonded over cats- supposedly she has a fat cat she named "Dolphin". I guess Chinese people like to name their pets after English names (often animals).

After the walk, I registered for the conference, exploring the booths and looking at some posters.  We ate lunch outside and Lei Bao, from Ohio State University joined us- he's the other invited speaker for the Physics Education section tomorrow.  I enjoyed talking to him because he's done research on how American and Chinese students approach scientific reasoning which I find fascinating... because he concludes they are quite similar.  Unfortunately, he's Chinese so he'll be probably delivering his talk in Mandarin tomorrow- I'll cross my fingers for English slides at least!  But we'll be spending plenty of time together over the next few days so I'll get the lowdown one way or another.
After lunch, we listened to the first planetary talk on Superconductivity which is one of the few that will be delivered in English, I chatted with someone at a University in Taipei that hosts three major science Olympiad type events.  He said he had an opening for a three-year position for someone in my field to develop assessment to evaluate these various incentives so I've got a job if I want to move here!
Anyway, Professor Lee didn't want to hang around for any more talks so we went to test out my laptop connection so I'll all ready to go for tomorrow.  We walked his puppy to the tea house so I got my first Taiwanese boba then I explored the path around the manmade pond on campus.

They have the funniest fuzzy red flower bushes- its the closest thing to the Dr. Seuss Lorax trees that I've found.  And I got to see some Taiwanese wildlife with black swans and various other birds.  So there's not much on the agenda for the afternoon so I think I'll read in the College of Humanities secret garden (well, it may not be that secretive but it is an adorable gated courtyard).
I'll miss the Taipei lantern festival (that happens 15 days after the lunar New Year) but they light up lanterns on campus so I can experience something similar.
Pictures don't do it justice- it's the most peaceful, serene magical place to walk around!