Sunday, 15 January 2012

Tainin: Taiwan's Cultural Center

            What a great day at Taiwan’s oldest city and it’s capital center! I’m burnt out at 6:30 PM but, in my defense, the natives were dropping like flies before I got tired.  Our most awesome tour guide Professor Shieh noticed right away that I could handle his action-packed itinerary (I was raised on Foote family vacations, after all!“She went to India- she’s tough!”- it’s better he associates an India survivor with “tough” as opposed to “insane”.  Taiwan looks different than the US but it feels incredibly safe, welcoming and tourist friendly.  Besides the language barrier, I would feel very comfortable living here.  Reflecting back on my trip to India, which was none of those things, confirms that traveling to India alone was absolutely bonkers.  But I survived, loved it and want to go back so I guess its fine.
            Anyway, busy day so I better get reporting!  After a bunch of train hopping, Penny and I met up with Professor Lee and two other physics graduate students, who were super shy to begin with.  Fortunately, they warmed up to me after my earnest and friendly but jilted attempts to speak Mandarin.  They ended up being very devoted luggage watchers and obscure-food-google-rs which came in handy!  The weather turned out to be excellent. A humid and drizzly morning turned into a beautiful 70-degree day, a real treat! 
            First stop was lunch and boy, can these people eat!  Here’s the first round of lunch- little did I know, this quantity of food would triple over the course of the meal.  I didn’t eat close to as much as everyone else but it put me in a food coma for the rest of the day.
Japanese food for lunch- this is a third of it

Kaijilingyou Temple
The afternoon was filled with walking which felt amazing after all that traveling- to the Kaijilingyou Temple, flower & bunny garden and Japanese house, Fort Zeelandia, assorted markets and Sunset Harbor.  I didn’t realize that the Dutch first settled this city, it was taken over by two Chinese dynasties then the Japanese then the Taiwanese.  What an interesting mix for architecture, sculpture and landscaping!  

The flower and bunny garden was probably a favorite- I felt like I was in Japan with the serene, shaded gardens and house that looked like a Tea House but was actually a house for students.  Although the sites were entertaining, I was probably equally entertained by the tourists. There were some no-nonsense Japanese tour groups, one of which had three women with the most unfortunate hair coloring that I had ever seen!  Blotches of red, orange, yellow- eick! Speaking of interesting fashion decisions, there was a middle aged women in a black one-sie that had the phrase "hot lips" printed all over it.  Not an attractive outfit but hot lips?  Really? It makes me wonder people think it means.  Penny says all Taiwanese people take English starting in elementary school but she didn't feel like they did a good job teaching it.  We've definitely had to play some charades to communicate and all my "tour group" preferred conversing in Mandarin.  The weirdest thing I've seen so far is a huge sign for "Hamburger Pudding".  When I saw that huge sign, I immediately did a double take expecting to see a sketchy fast food place of some variety.  But no, apparently Hamburger Pudding is a school for Americans... Whatever inspired that title, I can't even imagine!
Well, I certainly have more to report from today's travels but I also want to run through my talk a few times and I'm pretty sleepy so I'll post a couple pictures and fill in the blanks another time. Oh, I am now settled at my room at the University! They have a hall of guest rooms in somewhere connected to the Student Union.  I'm actually the only person in the entire wing right now which is a little eerie... but I've got a normal toilet, Internet and water so I'm not complaining!  As you can see, they thought I needed three beds.  

Tomorrow I'm heading to the physics building to see the active learning classrooms and meet with faculty.  晚安 Wǎn ān! (Good night)