Saturday, 14 January 2012

En route to Taiwan

Hello everyone- back to India you ask?  Not quite- I was invited to give a talk on Active Learning Environments at the 2012 Chinese Physical Society conference so I’m currently en-route to spend 10 days in Taiwan.  Friends and family requested blog updates and 10 days isn’t enough to start a new one so I decided to adapt what I had.  Thanks for visiting!

Although my journey has barely begun, it is already apparent that it will be significantly different than my trip to New Delhi- a plane half full of Americans as opposed to being the only white person on my Air India journey.  Having just finished my qualifying exams last week (I passed!), started the first week of classes at NC State, I’m in a similar state of preparation for foreign travel than I was last summer.  No maps, no travel books, my Chinese dictionary inconveniently remains in my attic in Connecticut.  But at least this time, there’s some sort of pre-formed agenda waiting for me on the other end.

I didn’t choose my visit- the conference did- but it turns out that I’ll be visiting at a very exciting time.  I’ll arrive during a very tight election that the whole world is watching- I’m pretty sure I read Obama was here last week.  Since Taiwan doesn’t acknowledge absentee ballots, flights have been sold out and people have been chartering private flights from the mainland.  I read about a Hong Kong tourist organization who took this as an opportunity for sightseeing and planned a trip around the related festivities.  I’ve been warned to expect a ton of fireworks.

Speaking of fireworks, I’ll be here until Chinese New Year day so I’m already looking forward to a traditional Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner hosted by one of the professors of Cheng Chung University, the host institution for the conference.  One of my old bosses stopped by the house the other day and mentioned his daughter-in-laws’ parents live in Taipei.  They’re excited about showing me around the last couple of days, even though they think I’m in Taiwan to give a talk about “physical activities”.  I blame the gym teacher for mangling that message in translation.  So I don't know if they figured out I'm here for physics but I just learned that her mother was a high school physics teacher.  Not only did she teach but apparently, she wrote books on the subject and is highly respected in the country.  What an amazing coincidence to connect like this to an expert on Taiwanese high school physics teaching.

I’m getting warm fuzzy feelings about this trip already and I hope the weather will reciprocate- snow in Michigan delayed the plane’s departure.  Dr. Kan (the faculty coordinator from the conference) warned me that the weather could be funky- although Southern Taiwan should be pretty warm, he said it does get cold in Taipei and they don’t heat the interiors of buildings.  I've got leg warmers and Tibetan yak hair mittens and we'll see if they can handle temperatures that could drop below -12 degrees Fahrenheit!  That was the last thing I was expecting, given my grandma got me gearing up for summer-like weather, given Taiwan's close proximity to the Equator.

The Japanese airport is entertaining- sumo wrestling on TV, Pocky and Hello Kitty in the shops.  I definitely hope to return to Tokyo to actually stay awhile.  But not this week- places to go, people to see, things to do!  再见!  Zài jiàn!  Goodbye!