Thursday, September 11, 2008

Go Reds!!!

...or something like that. Last weekend, Kelly and I got to go to Cincinnati to see a game between the Reds and the Cubs. Kelly's Dad planned this trip as an employee appreciation day, and all of his employees and their families were invited. We decided to tag along too, and we met the E&M bus at a Ryan's near Louisville. We were late (it was Kelly's fault obviously) so we scarfed our food quickly and then it was onto the bus for Cincinnati! That was the first I had been to the city, and it seemed like a nice place (from what little I saw). The ball park was definitely nice, and it was a perfect night for baseball. We had all the ol' ball park favorites: hot dogs, nachos with tons of cheese, and peanuts (no cracker jacks). It was an exciting game, the Reds had a grand slam and Alfonso Soriano hit three home runs, back to back to back. Most of the people in the stands were Cub fans, so the crowd was pretty pumped up about it.

The only drawback to the trip is that we had to turn around and come back home. The game didn't get over until almost 11 pm. We thought about getting a hotel room, but I grabbed a coffee in Corydon and felt pretty good. Kelly of course felt great since she slept all the way home :)

So what's been going on besides that? Well, Kelly has been crazy busy, getting up at 5:20 am so that she can get ready to go to work. She really likes her new job though, and I really like the money, so everyone is happy. We are looking forward to the football game against no. 16 Oregon this weekend. Boiler Up!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back in America...time to start life as an adult!

Sorry that we have not updated this recently, but it has been crazy ever since we arrived back home. We had an absolute amazing time in Taiwan, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. However, I was never so glad to return home. I had a wonderful weekend with my family in Kentucky, which definitely involved some shopping with my mom! We also celebrated my birthday in typical Moser fashion - by eating way too much food and topping it off cake from Piece of Cake in Evansville. I enjoyed every second of the weekend, and I was very sad to leave. Although, I have to admit that I was anxious to get back to our house and get back to normal life. Well, I don't know how normal it is though. For the first time in 19 years, I am not going to school. Yesterday, I started my job with Methodist Cardiology Physicians in Indianapolis. I am very, very nervous about everything that I need to learn, but I can already tell that I'm absolutely going to love my job. Everyone I work with is super nice and helpful. I think that the fact that I'm going to enjoy my job will make my commute to Indy much better.

Nick and I thought it would be a good idea to try and continue this blog. Hopefully, we can write weekly posts to let you know what's going on in our lives. Purdue football starts in a few weeks, and that is sure to bring lots of excitement to the Manicke household.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Research Makes Headlines

I am a coauthor on a paper published in the August 8 issue of the journal Science. This paper describes some work I've been helping with at Purdue involving the analysis of the chemical content of fingerprints. Our paper was reported on by a number of national news organization, you can check out the stories if you are interested:

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm a crispy critter

Sorry that I have not updated this recently, but we have not had internet access. We left Hualien on Friday (goodbye ants and cold water) and headed to Tainan - the oldest city in Taiwan. Nick is done with work, and we have the rest of our time here to travel. He had wonderful experiences at all three of the labs. I think that he is very pleased with the amount of work he was able to accomplish during his time here.

On Friday, we were on a train for approximately 10 hours! First, we headed back to Taipei to drop our luggage off at the hostel where Nick will be staying next Thursday and Friday night. I hope that it is still there when we go to claim it on Thursday. I would be very sad to lose all of our sourvenirs, not to mention our clothes! Then, we jumped on the train to Tainan, which took about 6 hours. When we reached our destination, we headed for the nearest McDonald's. It had been a very long day, and we were starving! Now, we will have to say that we succombed to greasy french fries and burgers twice during our stay here. Oh well....

Saturday was my 25th birthday, and we celebrated it by nearly killing ourselves with a 6 hour walking tour of the city. Let's just say we covered every temple in Tainan. It was well worth it, and we were able to see many of the famous sights in the city. That night, we went to what they call an "entertainment center". Basically, it was a 9 story building that housed shops, restaurants, and a movie theater. We had a lovely dinner, followed by three pieces of cake that we shared. They were having a special - buy 2 get 1 free - we just couldn't resist. Now keep in mind that we are not talking your typical American cake, but it sufficed for the occasion. We ended the night by watching the latest Batman movie. The people here in Taiwan must like their movies loud, because we held our ears during almost all of the fight scenes! We spent Sunday doing more walking and seeing more sights. We spent the night enjoying local food and checking out the shopping malls. I must say that our hotel was ridiculously cheap - $25 US dollars per night. Can't beat that huh? It was clean and was in an excellent location.

Today, we took a plane from Tainan to the Penghu Islands. We nearly had a disaster this morning and almost missed our flight, due to us riding around on the bus for an hour waiting for the airport stop! We made it to the airport just in time, and thankgoodness they let us on the plane. We are staying in Makung at the Penghu Sunrise B&B. The people here are very nice, and I am looking forward to their homecooked breakfast in the morning. We were also able to rent a scooter onsite, and we visited Sanshuei Beach today. We grabbed some pizza at the cafe/surf shop and then headed over to the beach. This spot is known to attract surfers, and we could instantly see why. The waves were pretty big and frequent. Of course we ventured into the water but we made sure to stay close to shore. We had a great time, but I got wayyyy too much sun. Let's just say that my husband called me a clown and then suggested that I title today's post "Crispy Critter". How endearing?

Tonight was another example of how I have fully embraced the Taiwan culture. My dinner of broiled shrimp were served with the heads attached! At first look, I refused to eat them. However, I learned that if you squeezed the head off first, they were easy to peel. Plus, they were quite tasty. I was desperate for food, ok?

We are nearly at the end of our amazing adventure. I cannot believe that it is time to come home, yet I feel that I have been here for a long time. We are looking forward to a few days of relaxation on the beach. I think I will take Nick's advice tomorrow and let the "umbrella be my friend". I will update our picture links. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New pictures

I just added some pictures from dinner to the Hualien Part 2 album.

Congratulations to my amazing husband!!

First off, we have BIG news! A few months ago, Nick was nominated by his professor, Dr. Cooks, for the 2008-2009 Merck Graduate Fellowship in Analytical and Physical Chemistry. This fellowship is given to one outstanding graduate student at each of several top graduate analytical chemistry program around the nation. Tonight, we found out that Nick has been selected as Purdue's recipient! I am soooo proud of him! Needless to say, we are very excited!! This will be a wonderful addition to his resume.

Ok, now for our "Taiwan" news. It was another hot, sunny day here in Hualien. Something finally happened this morning that we have been expecting - we (well, more like I) locked ourselves out of the room. I had just gotten back from my jog and ran out to put some laundry in the washer. Normally, it is almost impossible to lock yourself out, because the lock automatically unlocks itself when you open the door handle from the inside. However, if you don't turn it the entire way around, it stays locked. I guess I didn't turn it enough, because when I came back the door was locked. I had no idea what to do! I knocked on our neighbors' doors but no one was home. So I rode the bike to Wen Ping's lab on campus to tell Nick what had happened. I was soooo embarrassed! Not only did I lock us out, but I was still in my sweaty workout clothes. Luckily, Wen Ping was able to contact the landlord and he came and unlocked the door. He even invited us over to his pond to fish. How nice?!?

Tonight, we went out to dinner with everyone from Wen Ping's lab. We had a wonderful time. Wen Ping's wife and children came along too. His children are just too cute, and his wife is very sweet. The restaurant had "hot pots", which I have previously described as being similiar to fondue. Tonight's food was much better than my previous experience. We enjoyed a wide variety of meat and vegetables and some "sweet" soup for dessert.

Nick and I both have learned an amazing lesson from the people that we've met here in Taiwan. Acts of kindness and generosity go a long way and are very much appreciated. We have been very blessed by many people during our journey. We are both thankful and at times embarressed, by our how nice everyone has been to us.

Tomorrow is a big day for us, I get to start packing to come home and it marks the one week countdown. Can't wait to see everyone!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Celebrating our 1st Anniversary - Taiwanese style

Yesterday marked our one year anniversary. If you would have told me last year that I would be Taiwan for this occasion, I think that I would've laughed and called you crazy. However, here we are, in Taiwan, celebrating this very special day. Last year on August 4th, I married my prince charming and (in my opinion) had a fairy tale wedding. I enjoyed every minute of the planning process. The best part was that I did it with my mom. She definitely was the director of the entire process. If it hadn't been for her, we would have had a disastrous reception. Everyone who worked with us on our wedding day was fabulous, and I would highly recommend them all. I will put a list at the bottom of this page. Nick and I have wonderful memories from that weekend that will last a lifetime. A special thank you goes out to everyone who was a part of the process, especially our parents.

We went into Hualien yesterday afternoon and checked into our room at the C'est Jeune hotel. I cannot explain how good it felt to finally be back in a nice room. We have been without hot water for days, so I enjoyed a long steamy shower! The staff at the hotel spoke good English and they directed us to a steakhouse downtown. Funny thing was, when we asked them to call a cab for us, they suggested that we should ride our scooter there. I think they thought we were silly to be spending the extra money (it was only $3), but I was not getting on the scooter in a dress. The restaurant wasn't anything fancy, but the food was good. It just felt very good to be dressed up and doing something special with my husband. During dinner it started to rain and we hadn't brought an umbrella! One of the waitresses gave us her's - just another example of Taiwanese kindness. Nick walked me to the nearest storefront to wait for the cab, and he took the umbrella back.

When we got back to the hotel, we opened various cards that my family and Kalie had sent with us. It was nice to have something from home to help celebrate the occasion. Nick bought me a beautiful jade bracelet from Taipei, and I gave him a journal and a picture of his gift - a Playstation 2. Yes, I know that there's a PS3 out now, but I knew he would be satisfied with the older one. He was very excited, and I'm afraid I will have to set time limits on his new toy :) We also chocolate cake from a bakery in town. It wasn't as sweet as something you'd get at home, but it was definitely the best cake that I've had here in Taiwan. We both enjoyed very large pieces of it!

I was very sad to return to our dorm room. We still do not have any hot water. The last few days, we have also had problems with "pea" ants. I cleaned this place from top to bottom (well I cleaned around the junk) and I think I may have eliminated most of them. Just so you know the magnitude of our problem, I found them in my Special K cereal on Monday morning - only after I had taken a bite!!! We only have 3 more nights here, and I cannot wait to leave!!

Oh, as I'm typing this, 2 little ants just ran across the screen. How lovely?!? I cannot wait for Nick to get home so I can get out of this place for a few hours!

Wedding vendors we used:

church: First United Methodist Church in Henderson

reception: Evansville Country Club

rehearsal dinner: Kirby's in Evansville

photographer: Paul Van Hoy - Fotoimpressions in New York (he comes to Evansville for free)

videographer: Black Tie in Newburgh

dresses: Abbington's in Owensboro (I loved these people)

tuxes: Abbington's (Nick's tux vest perfectly matched the trim on my dress)

flowers: Old Saltbox in Evansville (The owner, Doug, is amazing)

cake: Piece of Cake downtown Evansville

hair: Guys and Dolls in Evansville (everyone loved their hair)

rings: Blue Nile and Stall and Kessler's in Lafayette

travel agency: The Travel Authority in Lafayette

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Whale Watching!!

Good morning everyone! I hope that you all had a wonderful weekend, we certainly did. Yesterday morning, we got up at 6 a.m. and headed into Hualien to go whale watching. Wen Ping had booked our reservations for us and gave us a map to its location. Everything went very smoothly and we arrived on time. There were probably about 30-40 other people on our boat with us. We were the only foreigners on board, but the guide was very nice and occasionally would translate in English for us. He told us where to sit so we would have the best view. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and there was a nice breeze. I'm glad that we went in the morning, because it wasn't too hot yet. There was only about a 30% chance that we would see a whale, so we didn't get our hopes too high. However, no sooner had we arrived out to our destination in the middle of the ocean, when we heard our guide speaking very fast in Chinese and pointing at something in the water. He leaned over to tell us that he had spotted a whale! Sure enough, but there wasn't just one - there were two! It was absolutely amazing. At one point, the whale stuck its nose and mouth up out of the water. As they dived deep into the ocean, we saw their beautiful fins splash up into the air. About 30 minutes later, we saw another one! This was an awesome experience.

In the afternoon, we rode our scooter about 45 minutes south to the Hualien Sugar Factory. This place is famous for their ice cream. There were many people there, and they had a few gift shops set up, along with some fruit stands. We ate our ice cream and enjoyed listening to a local youth group sing. We thought that they were singing Christian music, and this was confirmed when they sang a song in English. They did an excellent job! To our disappointment, we did not find any souvenirs here. All of the stores were very overpriced. However, on the way home we find an awesome shop. It had many antique looking objects and jewelry. We found a couple of great gifts here, and I can't wait to share them with their intended recipients!!

Back in our room, we were glad to finally get showers and relax. We still do not have any hot water though, but hopefully this will change soon! I will post a picture link to our album from today.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Picture Links

I just posted a couple of new picture links. Enjoy :)

"Man Overboard"

Hello everyone, boy do we have a lot to write about tonight. First off, our plans for today were slightly altered. We ended up riding with Wen Ping to go white water rafting in Rueisui, a small town about 68 kilometers south of Hualien. We left at 8 a.m. and arrived at the rafting site around 9. It was wonderful that Wen Ping was with us, because he took care of all the arrangements and we saw no signs in English. Safety seemed to be a key priority, with there being two safety instruction demonstrations plus a video. I was a little nervous, because they told us that the water would be much higher due to the typhoon last weekend. We were given heavy duty life vests to wear along with a helmet, but the helmet was more like a padded hat. At least it did a good job at keeping the sun off my face. We were fortunate enough to find a group of five people from Taipei to fill up the eight person raft. Everyone was very friendly and spoke good English as well. That made it nice because we could chat during our raft ride. They are all travel agents in Taipei.

In order for you to completely understand our experience, I must tell you about the setup. First, there were eight of us in a raft WITHOUT a guide! There were probably between 30-40 other rafts that were in our group. There were many lifeguards in motorized rafts that would patrol the river, making sure that everyone was ok. Another main job that they had was to keep our boats out of the dangerous areas. They did this by literally pushing our raft with their boat. Many times I had to duck down in the boat, otherwise they would have run over me!

Another crazy thing, was that people would constantly splash you. We had two small buckets in our boat, and I thought that these were for bailing out water. I guess that may be one of their purposes, but their main use was to throw water on other rafters as they passed us by. At first, I was a little annoyed by this, but I quickly joined in the fun and we had a great time splashing everyone else.

The first leg of the trip took us about 1.5 hours. We stopped at the midpoint and were greeted with lunch. We had no idea that this was included in the NT 800 (about $35) per person costs. I was very glad to see food, because I was starving. Little did I know that I would need all of my energy for the next leg of the trip.

They had warned us that the rest of the trip would be a little more "exciting" and dangerous, due to the swift currents. We set off and about 30 minutes later, we were greeted with a very swift rapid. Nick and I were in the front of the raft (I have no idea how this happened). There was a 4-5 feet water drop that we hit with our boat being sideways! As soon as we hit it, I knew that we were going over. The boat turned over on my side, and I went under the water I just knew that I was going to be caught under it. Thanks to my handy dandy lifevest, I quickly surfaced. I was very scared though, because I was moving down stream with the current. I could see Nick, but he was at least 15 feet away from me. I was screaming his name and trying to tell myself just to float on my back like they had instructed us to do in this situation. I got on my back and was quickly met with a wave from the current. I quickly surfaced again and I was greeted with the lifeguard. He grabbed my vest and heaved me into his raft. I think I thanked him at leat 50 times. Then, he picked up Nick and we headed back to our raft. Out of the eight people on our boat, six had to be picked up by the lifeguards. Thankfully, the rest of our trip was uneventful. All in all, we walked away with quite a few bruises, but we had an excellent time. I would highly recommend rafting down the Siouguluan River if you're ever in the area.

After rafting, we drove about an hour further south to Sixty Stone Mountain. We passed many rice fields on the way, and the scenery was beautiful. The mountainside is covered with day lilies from August to September. This flower is popular in Taiwan and Japan and is used in various tees and in food as well. About 70% of the mountain's flowers are harvested and 30% are left for tourism. Only a few of the flowers were in bloom today, but the view from the top of the mountain was amazing. Wen Ping took us to dinner a restaurant on the mountainside, where we were able to try these flowers. They were served in our soup and as a main course as well. Everything was very good!

I'm sorry, but we do not have any pictures for our rafting trip. It would have been impossible for us to take our camera. Here's a link to an article, if you're interested, and I will post a picture from the website on here. We do have some pictures from the island and from dinner. Alright, now it's off for a cold shower (we have not had hot water in 2 days) and then to bed. We have a busy day planned tomorrow!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Happy Friday :)

Good afternoon! It's 4 p.m. here in Hualien. I am very excited that Friday has finally arrived. We have some fun things planned for this weekend, and I can't wait for Nick to get home from work. This week has gone by rather quickly, since Nick only had to work four days due to the typhoon. I spent the week doing my usual routine of exercising, watching movies, and studying in the library. I also spent alot of time planning our last week here in Taiwan. We will be leaving here next Friday and heading out for 6 days of sightseeing before I leave on Thursday night. Nick is not leaving until Saturday, so he will be spending two nights in Taipei. I am flying home early so I can get things settled before I start my job on the following Monday. It is very difficult to make arrangements when you cannot speak English and the company's website is available in Chinese only. I spent much of last night listening to Nick repeat "Ni Hao. Ni huisho Yingwen ma?". In English this means, "hello, do you speak English?". We were finally able to book our hotels and one train ride. Hopefully, we can book our plane tickets tonight and then we should be about set.

As far as this weekend goes, we are going to ride down the east coast tomorrow on our scooter. We will be stopping along the way to do some rafting down the longest river here in Taiwan. Wen Ping offered to meet us there, and some others from Hualien are also coming. According to Lonely Planet (the guidebook of Taiwan that we've been using), this is must-do attraction. On Sunday, we are going whale watching with Wen Ping and his family. There is only about a 30% chance that we will see a whale, but he said that we would definitely see some dolphins. Either way, we will have a wonderful experience. I am hoping for warm and sunny weather.

On Monday, Nick and I will celebrate our 1 year anniversary!! I cannot believe how quickly this year as passed. We have a chocolate cake ordered from a local bakery and we've booked a room at a nice hotel in town. Nick has also promised that we will be eating "American" food that night too. I am looking forward to our date night. I know that it will be fabulous, because I'm spending it with my amazing husband :)

We miss you all lots!! Lots of love....

Monday, July 28, 2008

We survived our first typhoon!

I awoke during the night and thought it was rather warm in here. When I looked at the air conditioner, I noticed that it wasn't running. I woke Nick up so he could turn it on, but he informed me that the electricity was out. Great way to start the morning huh? In addition to this, there was about an inch of water in a 5x4 foot area. The area around the window unit began leaking during the heavy rain and wind that we received last night. Nick awoke during the night and noticed this and thankgoodness he had moved all of our things out of the way. After we cleaned up the water and had breakfast, we were concerned as to what we would do the rest of the day without any electricity. Fortunately, it came back on in a few hours. At least this way we can do productive things, like surf the internet and watch movies on TV. Oh, and we have air conditioning now, which is a top priority here in Taiwan.

The rain had slowed to a steady drizzle and the gusty winds had stopped, so we walked down the road to the nearest restaurants for lunch. We tried a new place that reminded me of fondue restaurant. We both had our own pan of broth that was set onto a burner. The temperature was controlled by us, and we were given a large plate of food that we could place into the broth to cook. Unfortunately, the large plate of food included thinly sliced beef, cabbage, greens, shrimp (with the heads on), tofu, and an assorted of other things that I could not identify. Nick cleaned his plate, but I was left feeling rather hungry. We will not be eating there again!

We passed the afternoon by watching TV and I took a nap. I think Nick did some work, or maybe he was just surfing ESPN's website - who knows?!? We drove the scooter back to the "strip" and found a restaurant that was open. It was packed and took forever to get our food, but at least I didn't have to eat another PB&J. Although, I seriously think I could get used to eating that stuff :) We just finished watching the movie "Definitely Maybe" with Ryan Reynolds. It was very cute; I would highly recommend it. We are both looking forward to spending some time outside of our cozy dorm room tomorrow. Who knows , we may like this so much that we could sell our house and move into graduate student housing. Now there's an idea!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday, July 17 - Typhoon strikes Hualien!!

Kelly and I left the apartment around noon today to get lunch and go to the store. It was a little windy, but still sunny and kind of a nice day. The national weather service here in Taiwan said the storm would be arriving sometime in the evening, so we decided to get out while we could and stock up on food. There is not much at the grocery store that we want to eat, so we got the ol' faithful stand-bys: PB&J and cereal.

Although the weather was still good, we didn't think it would be a good idea to venture too far from shelter, especially since weather prediction here is notoriously inaccurate here (not through any fault of the weathermen, the weather is just unpredictable). We just laid around the dorm, watching TV, Kelly cleaned some, and I did a little work. Around 4 we got a call from someone from my lab telling me that we wouldn't be going to work tomorrow because of the weather. This got us a little concerned obviously. I thought this thing would last like 6 hours, now we are afraid it may keep us indoors tomorrow too. So, with the wind starting to pick up and some rain starting to fall, Kelly and I made another mad dash to the store to get some more food. Although Kelly was happy to make sure she had enough peanut butter and jelly to last for several days, I decided to branch out a little bit. I got some meals that come in a pouch that you can heat up in warm water (we don't have a microwave which kind of limits our eat at home options).

5:00 pm - The winds and rain really started picking up around now. The satellite images from the weather service show that the edge of the storm is over Taiwan now. We are watching the movie "Ella Enchanted" to help pass away the time.

10:30 pm - After a delicious supper, and another movie "Troy", we are ready to go to bed. Kelly had a PB&J and I had my ready to eat meal with some noodles. It was ok, but I think Kelly thought it was rather disgusting. We enjoyed vegging out in front of the TV and eating about half our stash of food! Hope it doesn't have to last too long. It is still raining hard and it is very windy. The electricity has gone out a few times, but it always comes back on quickly. Hopefully, it will not go out for any extended period of didn't occur to us to pick up a candle or a flashlight for some reason

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Taroko Gorge

We had an absolute fabulous day! We woke up very early and headed off to into Hualien to catch a bus to Taroko Gorge - the most popular tourist spot in Taiwan. Once we arrived at the bus station, we bought tickets for a bus we thought would take us there. Thankgoodness that we went to the visitor's center to burn some time, and we found out that we had bought tickets for the wrong location! In the end, we got our money back and were able to take a taxi for about $3.00 more. Taking the taxi saved us a little over an hour's time, and we were dropped off at the exact location that we wanted!

Taroko Gorge is one of seven national parks in Taiwan. Click here to visit the website - it has some great pictures. The park was started back in 1986, but the roads and trails date back to the early 1900's. The land was originally inhabited by aborginal tribes. In 1914, Japan entered the gorge hoping to gain access to the forestry and mineral resources. They used brutal military force and most of the aboriginal people were forced from the land. The Japanese began carving roads and trails into the gorge, and in the 1950's the Taiwanese government extended many of these. Unfortunately, many of the trails are spread out from one another, and the only way to get from one trail to the other is to walk on the major road that runs through the park. Of course there are some amazing views seen from the road, but there are not many areas that are "pedestrian friendly".

Our first stop was the Tunnel of Nine Turns, this is one of the more popular trails in the park. It is only 2 kilometers long, but it is absolutely amazing. The trail highlights the depth of the gorge and the magnificent marble cliffs. I can definitely see why this is deemed the most scenic area in the entire park. Next, we hiked a little over 8 km to Tienhsiang, one of the large recreational areas in the park. We walked the majority of the time on the road that unfortunatley was also on an incline. Let's just say that I thought we would never get there! We did stray off and walked the Lushui-Hulia Trail that ran through some wooded forest area and then alongside the mountain. We had to go through a very dark and scary tunnel too. I'm glad that I had a strong, handsome man with me :) When we finally reached Tienhsiang, we had a picnic. I was very glad that we had brought our lunch. Otherwise, I think that we would've been eating fried tofu for lunch. I didn't see too many options among the food vendors. I had the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich, courtesy of my husband. We picked up some coconut crusted bread at the bakery last night, and it was wonderful for a PB&J. Anyways, after refueling, we decided to head out to another trail.

The Baiyang Trail is 4 km from beginning to end and it has many tunnels along the way. Some of them were very, very dark. I could not see my hand in front of my face! Thankgoodness that they weren't too long, and there was a hand rail to hold onto. At the end of the trail there is a tunnel that takes you back to a "water curtain". I did not walk back there, but Nick did and said that it looked like a small water fall. The area infront of the tunnel was filled with Taiwanese children playing in the rocks and water. It was a very busy area! There was also a small suspension bridge off the trail that we crossed and had a wonderful upclose view of some waterfalls. This was definitely a great hike!

After walking the 1/2 mile or so back to Tienhsiang, we decided to check out the Siangde Temple. It is a buddhist temple and was completed in 1968. We walked up many stairs to reach the top. When I saw a sign for the Heaven Summit Pagoda, I knew that we were in for a long trip! This was a tall structure about 7 stories high. There are stairs on the inside that you can walk up, and I was able to reach about the 5th floor or so. Heights are not my thing, particularly when there's not much room between you and the short railing the separates you from plummeting to the concrete floor below. I was able to get a few pictures taken before I carefully descended to the security of the ground floor. This area offered some amazing views of the gorge, but both of our legs were burning on the hike back down.

We hiked back over to the visitors center area to await the bus that we thought would be picking us up at 2:40. Let's just say that some how we missed the bus, and we were forced to wait until 4:40 for the next one! We even tried to get a taxi back, but we could not find one that would take us into Hualien. We were very glad to see the 4:40 bus, and quickly determined why we had missed the earlier one. It was nothing like we were expecting!! I'm just glad that we found the bus, otherwise I may have become a very, very grouchy person. The bus ride took a little over 2 hours!! We thought we would never reach the train station.

We finally were reunited with our scooter and headed across town to the annual Stone Carving Festival. It was nothing like we expected and it had very few food vendor booths. I'm just glad that we found some eadible food - chicken and beef "wraps".

We were never so glad to finally reach our dorm room. After a very long day, we were ready for a shower and some rest. I think that Nick may buy a motorcycle when we get home, he's watching "Wild Hogs" (the movie with Tim Allen and John Travolta) and laughing quite frequently.

I've posted a link to our pictures under "Taroko Gorge". Enjoy :)


Friday, July 25, 2008


I am very glad that the weekend is finally here! I don't have too much to blog about today. I spent the morning exercising, doing laundry, and I watched an old Harrison Ford movie "The Witness". It was pretty good. After another good ol' Chinese lunch, I spent the afternoon in the library. I finally got the people at the information desk to understand that I wanted to use the Internet, but it shut off after 30 minutes. The library also carries two daily newspapers that are in English, so it was nice to catch up on the news around the world.

Tonight, we drove into town and attempted to find the Hualien train station. There is supposed to be a visitors center near there, and we wanted to get some information about Taroko Gorge. We drove around for at least an hour and could not find it. Although, we did come very close (we recognized a few things from our trip into Hualien), but we gave up because we decided food was becoming an urgent need. It just so happened that Nick found this restaurant (The Clubhouse) that we heard had great western food. I had the enchiladas and he had the burritoes. They were fantastic! I would definitely go there again. Funny thing was, they served french fries with our meals. I guess they don't believe in the endless chips and salsa that you get at Mexican restaurants in the states.

We stopped at the grocery store on the way home to stock up on food for our trip tomorrow. You would not believe the flavors of potato chips that are available. I saw labels for seafood and fried chicken, yum, yum :)

Sorry that it wasn't too exciting today. I am hoping to have interesting news to report tomorrow on our trip to Taroko Gorge, and we should have some fabulous pictures.

The top picture is of the washer and dryer here at our room. It has been a guessing game at figuring out how to operate it! The other picture is of one of the "no scooter" signs on campus, indicating that you cannot take your scooter on that particular road. The track here at the university is also in the background. The last picture is of the restaurant sign where we ate tonight.


Thursday, July 24, 2008


Hi all, I've just posted a link to a web album with some of our pictures in it. It's on the right side of the page under "Taiwan pictures" .

21 more days to go

I will be coming home 3 weeks from today...yea! I am greatly enjoying this experience and we are thankful for the opportunity, but I am definitely an all-American girl through and through. I will be spending both my 1st anniversary (August 4th) and my birthday (August 9th) here in the beautiful country of Taiwan. I am looking forward to some belated celebrations back home in America, that will include a trip to Angelo's (my favorite restaurant in Evansville) and a cake from Piece of Cake. Oh, and Nick and I will finally get to the eat the top layer of cake from our wedding. Oh, I know what you're thinking "yeah right, I'm sure that's going to be good", but little do you know that Piece of Cake rocks and freeze amazingly well. I just had some cake from the wedding last month, and it tasted awesome. My #1 piece of advice for future brides: get the most cake for your money. The cake is one of the best parts of the wedding. Well, that and the bride walking down the aisle :)

So what have I been doing for the past couple of days? Well, I have been working out in the morning, going to lunch with Nick, reading textbooks on cardiology, and watching movies on TV. I wish that I had a video of our lunch dates. The menu is completely in Chinese without pictures. Thankgoodness Nick has learned a few Chinese characters: rice, chicken, pork, beef, and noodles. So we are taking a half educated guess when ordering lunch. It has all been edible, with most of it being rather good.

Last night, I told Nick that I refused to eat Chinese for dinner. The last American food I had was last week, and I was craving something other than rice or noodles. So we headed into town on our scooter. About an hour later, we found a Pizza Hut! They had some rather unusual pizzas - with pineapple on just about all of them. However, I definitely defined the term "binge eating" last night. Who knows when I'll see American food again, right? It's hard to justify spending over $20.oo on it, when you can get Chinese for about $2.50 (or cheaper) per person.

I am really looking forward to this weekend. We are planning to do some sightseeing outside of Haulien. Plus, I'll get some quality time with Nick. Tomorrow I'm going to start looking for a bakery where we can get a decent cake for our anniversary. Wish me luck!

Here are some of our pictures from lunch and dinner - check out the pizza with shrimp on it. The other pic is of part of the university here in Haulien. It's absolutely beautiful!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Hey guys, sorry we haven't blogged in a few days. Nick has the computer at work all day, and I cannot use the computers in the library because I don't have a student ID . How silly is that? We are headed to bed. I will try to blog in the morning and catch everyone up. It hasn't been too excited around here - except we had Pizza Hut tonight for dinner :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Girls Can't Play Ball"

Today was a hot one here in Hua-lien. The temperature was in the low 90's, but according to, it felt like it was 104. There is a nice, occasional breeze, that when combined with sweat, definitely decreases your body temperature by a few degrees. Sounds nice doesn't it?!?

Today was Nick's first day in the lab here at Dung Hwa University with Professor Wen Ping Peng. He is going to be helping them put together a new instrument in the lab. He is hoping for good results from his time here!

I ran outside on the track here at the university. It is absolutely beautiful with mountain views in every direction. Although the heat definitely slowed me down, I was thankful to be outside and enjoying the clean, fresh air. The air pollution in Taipei was terrible! Nick and I went to lunch alone, and were forced to order from a menu with no English or pictures. Thankgoodness the guy working the counter recognized chicken and rice. The food was ok, and the price was great - less than $6.00 for both of us.

Ok, now for the best story of the day. The guy Nick is working with asked him to play basketball after work. I rode my bike to the university and had planned on watching, and maybe doing some shooting around. So I asked the guy if girls play basketball here in Taiwan. His response was, "girls can play volleyball" and even better was that he said it with such seriousness. If we had been in the USA, I would have quickly informed him that girls are quite capable of playing basketball. I think I could've taken him 1 on 1, even if I haven't touched a ball in forever! In addition to this guy's comment, I was informed by two other people that basketball is a "man's sport". Evidentally, girls play volleyball here because it is pretty much a no contact sport. I should get them some tapes of girls' basketball games :)

For dinner, we rode the scooter into town (which is over 20 minutes) in search of a restaurant with some American food. We found a steakhouse that had a salad bar and ice cream for dessert. It was good, I had a piece of chicken and some noodles. Nick had a steak, but had to have it sent back for some more cookin' because it was rather pink. All in all, we had a nice meal, and I could say that I was rather "satisifed".

I am quite proud of my husband and his adventerous spirit. I never would have thought that he would get on a scooter, much less drive one. I have to say that I feel that we have embraced the Taiwanses culture quite nicely, and the scooter is the pinnacle of this.

Sorry, but we didn't take any pictures today. I will post some other random pictures on here. Enjoy! The top pic is of the place where we're staying. The one on the right is our lunch on Saturday, and the bottom is "how many people can you fit on a scooter?".

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Feeling Right at Home (Nick)

Our first full day here in Hualien has been better than we could have possibly hoped for. First and most essential, we got some transportation. Unlike Taipei, which has buses and trains to take you everywhere, Hualien does not have much in the way of public transportation. Plus, the university is pretty far away from Hualien and there is not much out here. Fortunately, My unbelievably gracious host Wen Ping lent us a scooter!!! Now, some of you may think the image of Kelly and me riding around on a scooter together is funny. But let me assure you, a scooter in Hualien is a must have. Not having a scooter in Hualien is like having a scooter instead of a car in America. I have never really driven a scooter before, so I got a 15 second lesson from one of Wen Ping's students, and then off I went on my first test run. I went by myself to limit collateral damage in the very likely event of an accident. Well, as it turns out driving a scooter is like falling off a log (or scooter?) and there was nothing to it. In fact, Kelly and I made the 12 mile trip into Hualien to look around. The city traffic did make us a little nervous (especially when we found ourselves in a pack of people on bicycles, and I almost collided with one them as we were accelerating from a red light).

Now, if you think me and Kelly riding a scooter together is funny, you should have seen us earlier in the day before we got the scooter. We went to see my lab and get lunch on a bicycle. That's right, both of us on one bike. This is a very common sight in Taiwan, and this bike even had an extra seat on the back for this very purpose. It beats walking, but I would collapse from exhaustion if we tried to go into town on the thing.

In the evening, Wen Ping picked us up along with his wife and two adorable kids. We drove out to the river front to watch some fireworks. The fireworks were really not the main attraction, but rather what he called "water dancing," in which they shoot water up into the air and light them up with lights and lasers. They even spray water in a large fan and project pictures and movies onto the water. It was really beautiful and unique, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it.

New Pics

Hi everyone, Nick just posted some new pics to our Taipei 101 entry. We're getting ready to go to dinner with Wen-Ping and then we're going to see some fireworks. We'll catch you up later.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

We're not in Kansas anymore

Ok, so right now I feel about 100 different emotions. Well, I don't actually know if there are that many, but you get the point. We just arrived at our so-called "suite" here in Hualian. First things first, the train ride here was absolutely beautiful. Mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, definitely the best of both worlds. When we arrived here, we were greeted by Wen-Ping, the professor who is in charge of the lab where Nick will be working these next three weeks. He is actually the main reason w

hy Nick is in Taiwan. He did a post-doc in Nick's lab at Purdue, so there was already a well established connection between he and Dr. Cooks. All of the arrangements of the trip were done by him, and we have greatly appreciated his help! We went for dinner at a vegetarian buffet, and we finally were able to eat some vegetables. That is one (of many) thing that we have missed about American food. For some reason, Taiwanese people think that we eat alot of McDonald's and KFC. We have repeatedly tried to explain that no, we do not eat at McDonalds weekly, let alone everyday.

So back to our "suite". When we opened up the door, we were greeted by a room full of somebody else's things. Books, papers, cds, lotions, cigarettes, you name it and it was out on display. I was sure that they had given us the wrong room key. However, Wen-Ping assured us that we were in the right place. I kept hoping that he was wrong, but I am still in this room surrounded with clutter (and it's NOT mine)! Ok, so maybe I didn't accept it quite that easily. I cried and whined, and at one point I think I threatened to go home. Unlike a toddler, my tantrum was short (7 minutes at most), and I joined in on Nick's effort to tidy up the place. We have made much progress, but we are very careful not to mix our stuff with his. You could lose something forever in this place.

Tomorrow we are going in search of bikes, food, and something for me to do for the next 3 weeks. I saw a hospital in town, aren't they always in need of a nurse?!? Oh right, language may be a problem. Well, maybe I can volunteer to do something. Anyways, I am making a list of good things about our room in hopes of enlightening you to our situation. Well, this is mainly for my benefit...

1. There's a TV and we found some movie channels in English.

2 . This guy has left us a refrigerator. I may finally get to have some milk with my cereal.

3. High speed internet. I can call home with Skype and blog nightly. You may get sick of me.

4. We have our own bathroom. Although I'm going in search of some bleach tomorrow and plan to do some hardcore cleaning.

Four things, that's a pretty good start isn't it?!? Drop us a line and let us know how you're doing. We would love to hear from you!!

Oh, I forgot to tell you that we visited the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall this morning in Taipei. Please click the link to read about it and see some more pictures. The top pic is of us in front of one his cars that is on display at the museum.