Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 4 - Sciensauce

Good things to know about Taiwan's public transit system.
  1. The buses don't stop unless you hail them.
  1. The buses are privately owned, so they are all a little different.
  2. As the buses are not government property, the drivers are just as reckless, if not more so, than the scooter drivers. If they were all amazing defensive drivers, the streets would be filled with carnage.
  3. I'm borrowing this from a friend I met yesterday: when crossing the street, don't just look both ways. Look in every possible direction. In Taiwan, it is very possible to be hit by a car while on the side walk. It's like playing bloody knuckles with traffic lights.
Luckily, we all managed to avoid this fate and worse during the bus ride from Hell's amusement park the Downtown-most part of Taipei City after the train back from the hot springs. After being shaken like human martinis for 20 minutes, the bus poured us out into Academic Sinica research campus. Solid land never felt so...solid. After getting everything stowed away in the campus hotel that we were staying in, we toured Dr. Huang's old labs and had pizza with some of his old research assistants. While they understood English and I knew some Chinese, we ended up using Dr. Huang as a translator many times while talking about everything from babies to bioethanol. Even with the language barrier, I think it was good learning experience for everyone. In addition to a few new words, I learned that my pronunciation in both English and Chinese is roughly atrocious. Hopefully I'll improve or one of the other by the end of the trip.

Getting to take a look at the research facilities that Dr. Huang worked in was great. It was my kind of place, with science tucked in every nook and cranny and big, expensive machines waiting to be put to work. For the first time in a while, taking the GRE's started to look very appealing (GRE = big nasty test to get into graduate school). While it's been in the back of my mind for year or so now, I'm thinking that if for some reason I decide against going into naturopathic research, the reason will most likely be grad school. I'd probably try and do something with developmental or evolutionary biology. Ever since I took a zoology course two years ago, I've been really fascinated by the correlations between the different phyla and their indications. We covered everything from Eukaryotes to mammalia and I loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, I tend to dedicate the majority of my resources to my goals, so I've not really had the chance to explore my interests outside of medicine and healing. Even though I can be scatterbrained and have multiple interests\projects going in completely different fields, when it has come to getting into naturopathy school I have let very little be a hindrance. I may joke about grad school now, but that's all it is.

Naturopathic school doesn't have any kind of admission exam, as they emphasize instead on applicant history. I really like this about ND schools, although I must admit it took me a while to come around to not being completely skeptical about it. While frustrating and stressful and a royal pain at times, standardized tests are my friends. I was one of the lucky jerks that cruised exams like most kids eat Halloween candy. As a result, I had a really easy time seeing why organizations and the like to use them so frequently. In hindsight, the tests weren't a really good indication of anything other than my innate ability to fill in a bubble-sheet correctly. I still see how they can be useful in determining how capable someone is, but there's a lot they don't factor in. Unless you're being hired to take tests, performance can really only be measured so much by something like a GRE or the MCAT.

We also finally set up embryos yesterday before lunch. It's good to be officially out of trip's first few days that were set aside for tourism and getting over jet lag. I'm sure some people were getting sick of me only talking about the food and the sights. Granted, others might be less happy about it. Research is kind of an acquired taste. 

For the experiments, I was pleased to see that Kathryn was not useless in the lab. Having not seen her in the lab prior, I was a little concerned as I knew that a lot of the protocols we would be doing on the trip would be brand new to her. Many of the people I've taught the protocol to in the past have at first lacked confidence or just generally sucked. I know that I was that way at first. In truth, she's not as experienced as Kenna or myself, but she's a quick learner. It's really a relief. Hopefully her affinity for learning lab technique continues, otherwise this could become a rough couple of weeks for her.

After the embryos, we pretended to be vodka and gin on the buses again (I'm seriously considering borrowing a helmet from someone while I ride around) to go shopping and see one of the Massive public gardens in Taipei City. It was very pretty although since it's the winter a lot of things were out of bloom. It's also kind of chilly, which confuses every bone in my born-and-raised midwestern body. A week ago, the temperature outside was -5 degrees and I was fine, now it's 50 and I get goosebumps unless I'm wearing pants and a jacket.

After the garden, we had to skip the shopping we had planned on and instead went to see the Cheng Kai-Shek Memorial before it closed. On the way, we picked up some hot milk-tea for the girls and what I think was lemon-flavored battery acid for Dr. Huang and me. It was delicious, but my stomach could probably be effectively hooked up to jumper cables and used to start a car. I've also yet to take a tally of my remaining teeth. Another down side was that if we hadn't gotten our drinks, we would probably have been sick with the cold but also arrived at the memorial in time to see it. We arrived just in time to see them shut the memorial doors. From what I could tell, it was a lot like an Asian Lincoln memorial. Luckily, there are other things to see at the memorial, so it wasn't a complete waste. In fact, some of memorial's neighboring buildings simply defy explanation in size and detail. I'd venture to say that pictures might have trouble expression how beautiful and grand those buildings were as well. I guess I'll just have to take people with me the next time I go out there.

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