Thursday, December 30, 2010

Taiwan Day 3 - FFFFFFFFFFail

Last night after getting back from the day's events, I was sitting in bed trying to write about it and the following gem resulted:

Today was exhausting, and though I feel awful about slacking off with regards to making an accurate portrawal.kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkklllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkfor two pages.

Hopefully the second time around is little more successful. I'm sitting at desk this time and armed with nasty hotel coffee and even nastier hotel tea. At the very least, I hope to avoid writing about being lazy and then immediately fall asleep.

The reason yesterday was so tiring was largely due to the massive amount of stuff we did. It started much as the previous 2 days did with breakfast at the local breakfast shop. This time was a little different because Dr. Huang and I went there and then brought breakfast back for the girls. I also got to learn some more breakfast vocabulary, which is fantastic for any language, mostly because breakfast is involved. We also talked about how to make some of the items. Once I'm back in the states, I'm totally making warm soy milk (DouChang). It is too delicious not to share, no matter how tedious the process may be.

After breakfast we all packed up a few days worth of clothes and our dirty laundry and then made the trip from Tu Cheng (the section of Taipei City Dr. Huang's house is in) to Bei Tou. Bei Tou, besides for Japanese tourism and prostitution, is known for its natural hotsprings. The whole area smells like sulfur, although my sense of smell was all but too messed up to tell. It worked out pretty well though. Upon arriving in Bei Tou, we went searching for a hotel to stay in after visiting a museum of the Indigenous population of Taiwan that strangely allowed very few pictures. After that, Dr. Huang left us alone to wait for him while he scouted out the area's hotels. The spot we were left in turned out alright, as there appeared to be a couple getting the wedding photos and a gentlemen making giant caligraphy scrolls for New Year's. When we weren't getting super excited every time the calligraphy guy moved at all (he had stopped making the scrolls by the time we arrived) Kenna, Kathryn, and I also had a good time discussing how things are different from the U.S. and simultaneously not. It's weird. Some things make us stand out like a sore thumb (language, skin color, clothing, wealth,etc), while other parts of Chinese culture come very naturally to us.

Eventually, Dr. Huang made it back and then led us to an awesome hotel. It was admittedly small, but the designs in it were gorgeous and after this morning's breakfast I'm an addict. However, the best thing about the hotel was that instead of communal hot springs, each room can be fed water straight from a hot spring into a tub. That was nice beyond words, although there were certain points where I thought I was going to pass out. Luckily I didn't and was able to go to the night market. For the most part, we only utilized the market for it's structures that provided food and doughnuts. Then we went home and slept like the dead. T'was good.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Taiwan Day 2.2.Talkandwalk

We ended up skipping the night market last night and went to a cool buffet-style restaurant for dinner instead.The table had a grill built into it, and you can order small pieces of meat to cook for yourself and your party. Everyone except Kenna got a turn working the grill, and I'm pretty sure we're all converts. It's probably one of the best overall grilling experiences I've ever had, although I have to admit that if I were hungry, working the grill would be a pain when all I want to do was eat, Otherwise it makes for a nice, well-paced meal. Granted, it also resulted in two hours of eating and grilling and trying all sorts of meat and fish in addition to the wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and deserts that didn't need to be cooked. And Fullness. With a Capitol F, followed by many zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I actually brought my camera along this time, so there are some pictures.

Kenna and Kathryn, meditating on the meal ahead.

This is Dr. Huang's excited face. He and I eventually ate our weight in fried meat.
I'm not sure what's going on here.
After we got back, the girls went bed and Dr. Huang and I went for a walk down by the river. It's always good to be out and about with him, as we almost never have a shortage of things to talk about, especially in Taiwan. It's interesting, because we don't really have much in common except our interest in research that borders on workaholicsm and our insomnia. I think we both benefit from the different perspectives though. I know I enjoy hearing about his family and his views on things at least. He might just be really good at smiling and nodding when I talk.
I also took some more photos on the walk, but I was stupidly tired from the earlier meal and not many of them turned out. The ones that did I posted below. I think I'll make another jaunt down by the river tonight if I get the chance and try to take some more pictures, the opposing coast of the river is begging me to make a panoramic shot. Granted, it might not happen until later this week if I go meet up with some of the traceurs (parkour practioners) that I've been in contact with recently. Hopefully that works out.
Much of Taiwan is powered by propane. These tanks can be seen pretty much everywhere, even indoors.

This is a helmet shop. Given how about 90% of the population in Taiwan ride scooters, these guys must be making bank. It's actually pretty neat, many of the helmets have cartoons or fancy designs on them. Combined with the special face masks that many people here wear (many people have washable ones with designs on them instead of the cheap doctor's masks), it makes for some stylish scooterers.

PS: I'm sorry for the low quality posts lately. I'll try and tighten things up in the future, it's been difficult to get everything squared away the way I like with everything we've been doing.

Taiwan Day 2.1 Flowerpower

Crackerjacks. Another busy day, and it's not even done. It's funny, I used to really look down on tourists, but having been one for the past two days I realize just how much effort it can be. Granted, I kind of went out of my way to make things difficult. Immersion language learning is terrifying fun.

I woke up a little early this morning, which is surprising because I stayed up late last night to try and skype with my fiancée. I took a few pictures, and then tried to skype a little more with my lovely lady friend. Also, for some reason my body has acclimated very rapidly with the area. So, when it's 50 some degrees in the morning, I get to shiver and be very out of character for the Wisconsinite that I am. It's pretty lame, though not nearly as much as when the water heater didn't turn on during my shower. Caffeine has nothing on that experience.

After freezing the sleep out of my bones, we went to breakfast at the same place we went to yesterday. Our plan is to either become regulars or get banned, as the food is delicious and we always toe the line with the ladies that run the shop. I've also forgot to take any pictures both times we were there as well, but I will remedy that tomorrow while demolishing a bowl of soy milk and dumplings.

After breakfast, we went to the Taiwan International Flora Expo and, after being literally crammed onto a full subway train, proceeded to take more photos than you can shake a stick at.
That's a really weird saying, although not nearly as weird as spooning with strange Taiwanese folks on a subway and not getting a phone number.

There's more photos at the link, feel free to check them out.

Anyways, most of the day is detailed by the pictures and their captions, but there are a few things that the pictures don't include. Namely, the random requests from large groups of Taiwanese kids to take their pictures with me and the other members of my group. They would just walk up to us saying, "pai jiao" (take picture) or "picture" and then make me feel like a movie star. It was surreal.

Now the girls and I are blogging/hanging out/resting up for our trip to the night market tonight, so stay tuned!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Taiwan Day 1.2 - Templetime

Even though I slept a little on the flight from Tokyo-Narita, I was essentially a snoring dead person last night after we got to Dr. Huang's father's house and got all set up. Dr. Huang's younger brother and his girlfriend were nice enough to come and meet us at the bus stop and walk us there. We also got to meet Dr. Huang's older brother when we arrived at the house, although he didn't stick around for very long. The younger Huang brother actually lives at the house, so we've spent a good amount of time with him. I try once in a while to talk with him, but his English is about as good as my Chinese. We've yet to come to a good understanding of each other, to say the least.

I'm starting to feel the Jet-Lag pretty hard right now, so I'll be brief and let some pretty pictures I took do the talking for me. First and foremost, the Huang house is awesome. It's basically a combination of three different apartments, one of which is in another building and accessible by a bridge between the two buildings. I think there are 2 kitchens, 2 bathrooms, and 4 living rooms. There is also a garden that is built alongside the bridge between the two buildings. There are lots of pictures that even have captions to explain things.

This morning, I found out a couple of important things.
  • My rechargeable batteries do not work. Awesome, right?
  • Kathryn accidentally brought AA batteries with her. She needs AAA batteries for her camcorder.
  • Kathryn is willing to give up said batteries. I blame my winning smile and pokemon references.
Basically, I wasn't able to take pictures of the awesome breakfast we had, nor of the temples we walked to/got kicked out of. Actually, we pissed people off at breakfast as well. We walked to this nice little cafe place that serves breakfast all day. Breakfast in Taiwan is delicious, for the record. We had steamed dumplings (jung jiao), some omelet-like dan bing that lacked cheese but made up for it by inducing happiness in my mouth, and warm soy and rice milk. The food was great and very quick in coming, but we forgot to pay until after we had started eating. The ladies at the counter/kitchen didn't appreciate it. Lame story, I know. The temple story is better. Basically, we were too loud and Kenna was apparently dressed like a strumpet. Look it up. One of the temple attendants followed us around with a very vague sign until she got completely fed up with Dr. Huang explaining her culture and Kenna's exposed upper neck. She wasn't happy until we were on our way out and Kenna had a turtleneck on. We're so scandalous. Gag me with a spoon.

And now I'm going to nap before we go out for sashimi dinner. After that, I get to Skype with my fiancée and pretend to be a zombie in severe respiratory distress for a few hours until tomorrow's visit to the Taipei Flora Exhibition.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Taiwan Day 1.1 - Deltastic

I'm in Taiwan now, and everything I've seen so far makes yesterday's adventure with trans-Pacific travel very worthwhile. You'll have to wait until tomorrow for that though.
For the record, 12 hour plan flights are unpleasant. Especially when they are followed up by another 4 hour flight. Including the layover at Tokyo-Narita and hour long bus ride to Dr. Huang's father's house, I spent a total of 18 hours traveling. Oofda.

I know that I should be grateful to even be traveling in the first place, particularly by plane, but there was much that detracted from from the excitement I should have felt. Between the turbulence, the upset stomach, and the desire for hard ground and a hard bed that results from imitating the contents of a flying sardine can for half a day – it was difficult to enjoy myself. Honestly, the worst part was just being cooped up so long. Everything else was relatively expected, and would have been balanced out by the rest of the flight. I really got a kick out of the many languages present on the plane. This is probably revealing a little too much of my nerdiness, but with everyone speaking Chinese, Japanese, and English, I felt like IK was on the set of Joss Whedon's Firefly. (I just discovered that it on Netflix and, to my fiancees chagrin, am in love. Alas, both romances will have to go unfulfilled for the next month.) The flight also had some edible food going for it, at least in my opinion. Note that I didn't say good. One of my cohorts spent the last half of the trip hunched over in their seat, probably fighting desperately to avoid throwing up like another one of the group did. I've come to the conclusion that if nothing else, this trip will be one large gauntlet for my stomach. This may be my undoing, but I tend to see eating the same way a velociraptor sees petting zoos.
I spent the time on the plane as best I could, considering the small war against food poisoning being waged in my tummy. As I forgot to borrow a book from a friend or pay my fine at the library, I was stuck with a ten year old book on drug interactions in and outside of the body. It turned out to be about 3 hours worth of entertainment/distraction, mostly because it was like traveling back to a time where genetic engineering wasn't nearly what is today. I'm glad I got to skip out on the days when recombinant insulin from yeast was considered more expensive than hacking it out of pig pancreas. There was also the description of one drug's side effects, wherein a remote number of patients would orgasm whenever they yawned. No joke.

The rest of the time was spent talking to Dr. Huang and the others, attempting to jump start the part of my brain that understands any Chinese, and writing. I also managed to keep my camera alive long enough to take some pictures. For some reason, the thing eats batteries like none other.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until tonight (or tomorrow morning for those of you 14 hours in the future) to post about all the awesome that is here, as I've had hot water and tea to sustain me so far this morning. Until then, happy-day after Christmas from the other side of the world.

Monday, December 20, 2010

More to do about nothing. Again.

Hopefully, my posting arbitrary silliness once in a while (like this) isn't too offensive, as I enjoy it too much to stop. It's very similar to the war I'm waging against the new uprising of Christmas cookies, I want to destroy them by any means possible, but more often than not the means is my mouth and gullet. It's kind of counter-productive.

I'm actually posting with a purpose this time, however. They don't really pertain to my study abroad trip or even Naturopathy - instead I've decided that I need to engage in UNBRIDLED SELF-PROMOTION. Exclamation point. Smiley-face. Et cetera. The reason for this is three-fold. One, I just added some friends and family to this blog's mailing list (which can only consist of 10 people). I figured their first email update for the blog should be very professional, complete with YELLINGABOUTTAIWANBECAUSEITSSOOCOOL. Two, I also just emailed a large number of my teachers from high school, informing them about the blog and my upcoming trip. I also figured that they deserve a nice dose of professionalism as well. Finally, I wanted to encourage people to sign up for Google reader. I use it to keep track of not only blogs, but also the online comics that I read and even video blogs. It's very versatile, and if you check into the special features you can cycle through all the content you haven't read yet with a single bookmark. I really like it, and it's a nice way to get around having to check a bunch of different URL's.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Study abroad potluck

Here's just some silliness from last week's study abroad potluck.
I attempted to make a Cookie Monster hat using googly-eyes and some pins. 
Enter my friend Abel.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Soft-spoken with a loud message.

It's starting to hit me that I'll be half-way around the world in less than a week.

After finishing my finals and getting almost everything squared away from the past three months of school, I fell into feeling like I had time to rest. Instead of continuing with my ridiculous list of things to do to get ready for Taiwan, I've been engaged in way too many forms of timesink (youtube, facebook, and other forms of non-productive crap).

I can't keep playing around like this.
There's so much that I not only need to do, but want to do.
I want to see some people for what may be the last time, as they've also graduated and are moving on to terrifying pursuits of employment and settling down and what not. I want them to know that I valued our time together. Also want to see some people that I will inevitably see again. No matter how much I think I can get along without them, I need to remember that I don't want to. Most importantly, I want to embrace the fact that my time is only valuable if I use it purposely. Otherwise, my past three years of work will mean nothing - not to myself, employers, or anyone else. My accomplishments must be a beginning, not an end.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Check out my face! It's new and covered with less hair now!

T-minus 12 and counting...

Part of me wishes that I was counting down to this, but this is not the case. I'm rapidly approaching a month away from my friends, family, fiancée, and just about everything else I've now realize that I've failed to fully appreciate. At least the next twelve days will be too busy for me to have any time for silly things like fear. Or sleep.

Motivation: Nothing beats a leaking stomach.
My to do list:
Virology final: Check
Senior Portfolio: Check
Honors Stanley Kubrick Paper: Check, Dave.

Genetics final: not check
Psychology final: not check

Getting the transfer from the Gilman Scholarship: check? soon? please?

Seriously, it needs to get here yesterday so my gut can return to it's normal, almost ulcerous state.

I've also have a study abroad office lunch tomorrow. In true Midwestern fashion, all the winter and spring study abroad students are being sent off to uncertainty and trepidation via potluck. I don't know about you, but nothing makes me feel brave like taco-lasagna. At least my fiancée is coming along with me, so she can help me make awkward small talk about the weather and the like. I've long learned that except for when there is a distinct collection of nerds in a room, pretty much everything I have to say is either uninteresting or painful. Unless someone wants to discuss class, research, games, parkour, breakdance, hip hop, or spud guns, I'm useless and should just have to smile and nod if I want people to stick around.

My last big thing to worry about besides packing, last minute Christmas celebrations, hanging out with my friend Abbie who is getting back from India with just enough time to hang out for a day or two, and writing really long run-on sentences is the plant/herb field guide that another member of the group and I are working on to help us identify the plants we'll be coming across in Taiwan. Normally, looking up pretty pictures of plants wouldn't be too difficult, but I've also been trying to find the medicinal uses of said plants. Sifting through the loads of crap that contains this information has made for some late nights and early mornings. And these guys.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship

I've mentioned the Gilman scholarship a few times on this blog, but I should really explain it better - especially for those from the UWRF SURSCA blog. To properly do so, we need to go back in time, all the way to September.

My research professor Dr. Huang had just planted the seed of a possible research endeavor in Taiwan, leading to me researching all the possible sources of funding that he and I might obtain. I quickly found two things: I was initially discouraged to find that 3 months before the trip was much too late to begin looking into the majority of the international studies grants out there. Then I found the one exception to this rule: The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. It was a procrastinator's/late starter's dream. Granted, upon finding it I had all of a week or so to complete the application before the submission deadline. It made for some hectic times, trying to coordinate with UWRF's study abroad office and Dr. Huang - in addition to my normal class and research load. Somehow, I managed to get everything squared away on time with some proficiency. While it all worked out, I must say that unless you really like coffee or really despise the sun, give yourself more time than I had.

A little about this scholarship, taken from the scholarship's website.

"The program aims to encourage students to choose non-traditional study abroad destinations, especially those outside of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The Gilman Scholarship Program aims to support students who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad, including but not limited to, students with high financial need, community college students, students in under-represented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities. The program seeks to assist students from a diverse range of public and private institutions from all 50 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.
Award recipients are chosen by a competitive selection process and must use the award to defray eligible study abroad costs. These costs include program tuition, room and board, books, local transportation, insurance and international airfare."
Some other good things to know regarding eligibility.
Finally, some things you might not find on the website.
  • It's really easy to apply, especially if you plan ahead. Most of the application is online and is used to determine if you are eligible. There were no letters of recommendation required and only two essays (that admittedly caused me a little trouble due to my professional writing having more in common with riding a merry-go-round while attempting to smash a speak-and-spell with my face). The rest of the applications largely consisted of proving that I was who I said I was. Honestly, for a chance at up to five grand, it wasn't a bad deal.
  • The program requires recipients to do a "Follow-on Project", which is basically a way to make sure that recipients give back to their college and community in addition to helping promote the Gilman program. This blog is one aspect of my project, as well as meetings with multiple student groups and classes. One unforeseen addition to my project is the welcome, albeit somewhat unnerving, publicity I've been told to expect in the weeks to come before I escape the country. Word on the street is that the UWRF PR dept, as well as the local newspapers want to cover me. Unfortunately, this means that I will probably have to shave and tame the mullet that's been cohabiting my head wear for the past few months.
  • You'll be missed.
  • This is technically on the site, but on average, 1 out of every three applicants gets accepted. I was one of roughly three thousand applicants, and the first student from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls to be accepted in the past ten years.
Ten years. That's ridiculous for one very, very simple reason: Me. 
I seldom find myself to be the sharpest tool in the shed. I don't have a 4.0 gpa. It's close, I'll admit, but I'm no prodigy. While it may help to be the best and brightest, the Gilman program is primarily geared towards the people who want it. In other words, it's is aimed at the people who recognize the importance of a global perspective and developing their standing not only within their own community, but in our ever-shrinking world. In my opinion, it's aimed at everyone, many just don't know it yet.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I got this in the email today.

Dear Gilman Scholarship Applicant:

Congratulations!  On behalf of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education (IIE), I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected as a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

During the Spring 2011 application cycle, the Gilman Scholarship Program received nearly 2,900 applications for over 850 awards.


Congratulations again on being selected as a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.  We look forward to working with you and wish you the very best as you embark on your experience abroad.


Jennifer Campbell
Assistant Director
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program
Institute of International Education

This awesome for two reasons. 

It's money I no longer have to borrow/beg/do backflips for, and then there is the simple fact that I won something. Take that, kids who picked me last for dodgeball.