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.


Friday, July 18, 2008


Hi all, so I will do a quick recap of the past few days so that I can catch you up to what's going on here in Taiwan.

Yesterday, I spent the morning looking for souvenirs in the area around LongShan Temple. I did not find a single thing! It was still interesting to walk around the the shops and various food stands. They were selling all kinds of crazy things, fish, whole chickens, raw meat, you name it. For lunch, I met Nick and his friends and then I went off in search of some new shoes. It rained off and on all day yesterday and I was slipping and sliding all over the place in my sandles that have zero tread. I bought 2 pairs of sandals for under $40, one of which favor Birkenstocks. That's what I call a bargain. No need to worry about me falling and busting my butt now!

The last two days had been very ho hum in the food department. We had a coupon for a free pizza at the place we went to a few days ago. Being the cheapskates that we are (plus I was getting hungry and grouchy) we went back there and enjoyed a delicious pizza. Yum.....
We went back to the hotel and watched the new movie Iron Man. "But Kelly, Iron Man isn't out on video yet! How could you have possibly seen it already???" Welcome to Asia, the land of pirated movies and software! Nick mentioned to one of his lab mates that he would like to find a place to rent videos, and instead his lab mate gave him some movies he had on his computer, most of which are still in theaters. They're great as long as you don't mind the chinese subtitles and the ocassional theater goer passing in front of the camera to go to the bathroom.

Now on to Friday, our last full day in Taipei...Nick's last day in the lab went pretty well. He has really enjoyed working in this lab. Everyone in the lab has been incredibly nice and helpful, and he accomplished quite a bit for such a short amount of time. Tonight, Nick and I went out to dinner with about 15 people from the lab. We went to a very popular Japanese style restaurant and the food was great. It is without a doubt the best meal we have enjoyed together in Taipei. The meal had about 7 courses, and it only cost about 15 USD per person.

Getting to dinner, however, was a horrendous experience! I left the hotel early like a good girl to give myself plenty of time to meet Nick and his lab mates outside of their bulding at National Taiwan University. Well, I got on the right bus but it was going the wrong direction! I had plenty of time to get to the university so I figured I would just stay on the bus until it looped back around. Fast forward one hour, and I saw Taipei 101 out the window and I realized I was no where close to where I needed to be! So, I jumped out of the bus and ran from cab to cab looking for a person that spoke some English. Finally, I found one and he took me to meet Nick. I was 45 minutes late! I wanted to cry, but everyone was so nice about it that I didn't feel too bad. And of course my handsome and strapping husband was not the least bit upset or bothered by it.

Tomorrow we leave the bright lights of the big city behind and go to a new place on the southeast coast called Hualien. We are excited to see a new place, but we are a little worried to go to town out in the country. English will be much more rare, and the food will be even more strange. Send cookies!

Actually from 7/16/08

First, sorry to all of our loyal blog readers out there. The internet at the hotel has been down (disaster!!), so I have been unable to post. This is what we did on Wednesday. Now that I am behind, I may never catch up!

To make up for my laziness yesterday, I spent the day sightseeing all over the city. My first stop was the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Chiang Kai-Shek was once Taiwan’s dictator. The memorial houses a museum with exhibits dedicated to his life. It was interesting to see these things, although I’m not sure that this guy was very nice. The city is slowly trying to change the name of the memorial to National Taiwan Democracy Monument, and in a few places I saw that signs had been changed to reflect this. Unfortunately, my camera battery went dead as soon as I got here! So I’ll have Nick post some pics from the internet and a link to its website.
My second stop was in Ximen for some lunch. Ximen reminds me of Times Square – minus the prostitutes. It has lots of shopping and large movie theater. They are heavily advertising the new Bat Man movie. Nick and I may go and see it tomorrow (it’s in English with Chinese subtitles). I walked around many of the various shops and I was hoping to find a Chinese restaurant with an English menu. I guess I was looking in all the wrong places, because I didn’t find one. I ended up at KFC, which was a terrible idea. I became pretty sick afterwards, and I will NOT be eating KFC again while here!

In the afternoon, I went to the National Palace Museum. There was a 50% discount if you used your student ID, so I convinced the lady that my Indiana Driver’s License was one.

Wednesday night, Nick and I rode the MRT to someplace called Miramar Entertainment, which has a mall and movie theater and some other random stuff. The main attraction is a huge Ferris wheel, the second largest in Asia. It is so big, in fact, that it takes 17 minutes to go around it once! Ok, don’t get too excited, it moves pretty slowly. Anyway, it gave us some beautiful views of Taipei at night and it was very romantic!

Next, we bopped over to the Shilin night market, the biggest and most famous in Taipei. There is tons of stuff to see there and a lot of food, some of it is delicious looking while some of it is…well, interesting. We came across a booth selling a toy that we thought would be wonderful for Nick’s nephews, but the proprietor (along with about half of the others on the street) suddenly started wheeling away her cart, and politely said, “I’m sorry, I have to hide from the police.” A person next to us explained that some of the sellers are illegal and they have to hide when the police periodically come through. We tried to find the booth again after the police left, but no luck :).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Taipei 101

I have to admit that I was very lazy this morning. I talked to Mom and Dad and then spent the rest of the morning finishing the book that I started yesterday. Since the beginning of summer, my reading had been pretty limited to anything with "nurse practitioner review" in the title. After last Monday though, I vowed to not pick up a textbook again - well at least for another week. The cardiology office where I'm going to work was gracious enough to lend me a few books so that I could do some "light" reading. Let's just say that I need to cover at least 15 chapters or so, and actually retain much of this information. I better start tomorrow.

Ok, so about our day. Well, we had quite a crowd at lunch today, all total there were about eight of us. Sunny, Nick's lab partner for the week, gave me a crash course on cooking real Chinese fried rice. I took notes and will make it for everyone when we get back :) I decided to have it with shrimp for lunch, and it was very good. Oh yeah, Sunny is her English name that she has chosen for herself, it is unrelated to her "real" name. I guess it's common for Chinese people to choose an English name to make it easier on us "foreigners".

After lunch, I caught a bus back to our hotel. This was much easier than taking the MRT and even better that it dropped me off right in front of the university entrance. On the way back I found a bookstore and was able to buy "The Herald Tribune". It's the global edication of The New York Times. It was very expensive though - a little over $3.00 US for a newspaper. I have to say that I will be getting my news from the internet from now on. The newspaper was the highlight of my afternoon, along with a nap. Ok, so maybe I was very lazy today. I did exercise this afternoon though. I found that about 25% of the track is in the shade after 4 pm, this made my jog a little better than yesterday's. I was able to run longer, but it still was not a pleasant experience.

Tonight, Nick and I visited Taipei 101 - the tallest building in the world (at least until Dubai trumps it). Construction began in 1997 and it was completed in 2003. It also has the world's fastest elevator. From the ground level to the 89th floor only takes 40 seconds - pretty cool huh?!? The lower 5 levels consist of some pretty swank stores - Gucci, Coach, Tiffany's, and I think I spotted a Louis Vuitton too. We had a great time walking around the observation deck and seeing the city at night. The lights were beautiful! Afterwards, we grabbed some dinner at the food court. We will post pics soon, but let's just say my meal was not that good. I thought everything tasted good when fried, but I was very wrong. I was able to eat my two fried shrimp and some rice. Luckily, there was a Subway and I got to have a coke zero :)
We had a wonderful evening!

Nick has a presentaiton tomorrow and he just told that if I wanted to write anymore, I had to go to the commons room. Since I'm in my pajamas, I don't think that's such a good idea. Until tomorrow... Oh wait, I found some granola bars!!! Yea!!!! They were like almost $4.00 US, but who cares?!?

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Just Another Manic Monday" (Kelly)

This morning started off very hot. I haven't ran since I've been here, and I figured that it was about time for me to get back to the grind. The university where we are staying has a very nice outdoor track, yes I did say outdoor. I thought that maybe if I got over there by 9 am or so, I'd have a decent chance of beating the heat. Boy was I wrong! I got in almost 3 miles and then decided that it wouldn't be good to collapse of heatstroke in a place where little English is spoken.

We had an awesome lunch in a small restaurant close to National Taiwan University - where Nick's lab is located. Nick's new friends have totally spoiled us this week. They read the menus to us and then do the ordering as well. It's very nice because we are able to try lots of new things. Today we had noodles and dumplings. They were both delicious. I do not understand why the majority of Asians are thin, because their diet is loaded with carbs! Perhaps it's bec ause they do not eat near the portions that we do in America. After lunch, I took the MRT to SoGo department store. This place was massive, with many floors of clothing and housewares. I have never seen such a shoe and clothing selection! I resisted the temptation to buy anything. I spent the remainder of the day browsing through stores in Taipei Key Mall. This is an underground shopping area near one of the main MRT stations. It consists mainly of cheap clothes, shoes, and electronic gadgets. After having my fair share of exercise for the day, I headed back to the room around 4:30. I did some laundry and caught up on some reading.

Nick and I found an awesome restaurant tonight located near the Shida night market. It was an Italian restaurant that had amazing pizza. We had a ham and mushroom combination that was served on a cracker thin crust. It was fabulous though, and we agreed that it was some of the best thin crust we have ever tasted. Even better was that they served us iced tea that actually tasted pretty good. Yea for the needed caffeine!

We have just finished up the laundry and are ready to get some sleep. I think that I may be getting somewhat use to the hard bed. However, if you could come up with a way to send me some granola bars and vegetables I would be forever grateful. Miss and love you all!!!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jade, Big Macs, and Fireworks

We had a very exciting day! This morning, we ventured over to the Holiday Jade Market here in Taipei. This is supposedly the largest jade and semi-precious stone market in Asia, and it is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. If you are in search of a bracelet, necklace, or any other type of jewelry, this is definitely the place to be. We wheeled and dealed and walked away with a few souvenir items. These of which will remain unknown, because they are probably the gifts of many of our blog readers :) After the market, we set out in search of lunch. We just happened to come across a McDonald's and chose this over the all Chinese menu of its competitors. Although I will have to say that this is not something I plan to do on a regular basis, I thoroughly enjoyed my chicken nuggests and french fries. The menu was quite different from what we were used to, no grilled chicken sandwiches or salads were in sight. Ironically, this was the first time that Nick's ever had a Big Mac. Evidentally he went straight from the Happy Meal to the Double Quarter Pounder. We were finally able to have a soft drink for lunch too, something that I have missed very much.

After lunch, we walked over to the Holiday Flower Market. This area was overflowing with gorgeous flowers and plants. There was also an overwhelming number of bonsai trees. Some were small and cute, while others were large and beautiful. Nick wishes that we could smuggle one back home, but I assured him that I didn't think we could get past customs.

After the flower market, we walked (notice how that word is used rather often) to the Chinese Handicraft Mart. This was four floors of jewelry, ceramics, and other collectable items. Nick and I fell for this tourist trap, and we purchased a few interesting things.

Tonight, we were hoping for a rather relaxed evening; however, Yan Kei and three others from Nick's lab offered to take us to see some fireworks and then to the night market for dinner. Of course we could not turn down this kind offer, so we set off with them in hopes that we would not go too long without dinner. From what we gathered from Yan Kei, the music and fireworks were in honor of a new movie opening in Taiwan, Red Cliff. The fireworks were definitely some of the best that I had ever witnessed, and they used some very unique features that we had not seen before. The fireworks were set off on the riverfront, and we were very close to them. I have a feeling that this would be illegal in America. At times, it felt as if they were exploding directly above us. A bridge spanning the wideth of the river was used as an integral part in the show. Fireworks were shot off from its sides into the air, and at other times, they cascaded from it like a water fall. Small objects were also placed into the water that shot off fireworks and looked like sprinklers. It was a fantastic show, and we were glad for the experience. After the show, we went to the Jingmei night market. There were many different types of food and clothing for sale. Much of the food I did not find appealing, but I was able to find a few things that I liked. I had a Chinese dumpling filled with cabbage and bits of pork that was very tasty. I also had a chicken and onion sandwich that I labeled as "very American". For dessert, Nick and I split a pancake sandwich filled with a small amount of chocolate. This was my favorite, and I wished that I didn't have to share!

I have to say that although today was very busy, we had lots of fun! I plan to have a leisurely morning tomorrow. Maybe hit the gym and do some laundry? Dirty clothes pile up fast in this hot, humid weather!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

From Danshui to Maokong (Nick)

Today we decided to check out two places on opposite ends of Taipei: Danshui all the way to the North and Maokong to the south. Danshui take almost an hour to get to by the metro, but it has a lot of things to see. It is known especially as a romantic place for couples to stroll around while watching the sunset. Unfortunately, Kelly and I were there around midday, so no sunset just heat. We checked out a Dutch fort from the 1600s and the former British consulate. The highlight of Danshui was our trip to fisherman's wharf. We crossed a footbridge there called Valentine's Bridge, which would have been a great place to see the sunset (once again, just the heat).

After Danshui, we decided the best way to spend the rest of the afternoon was to go back to the hotel and sleep. Definitely the best afternoon activity during the summer in Taipei. After grabbing some dinner, we made our way up to the maokong tea plantations in the hills above Taipei. They don't grow much tea anymore, but it is a very popular place to hang out in tea houses and take in the nice views of the city below. We got there by a gondola which goes through the taipei zoo. Going through the zoo at night, with all of the large trees in the zoo and the occasional wild animal call, it felt like we were traveling through a jungle. After getting to the top, we strolled around and looked out at Taipei lit up at night.

We left for home around 10 pm, and Kelly could barely make it home she was so tired. If I hadn't woken her up she probably would still be on the metro. I think that would have been hilarious, but she doesn't have much of a sense of humor about stuff like that :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Earthquake rocks Taipei!!! (Kelly)

As I sat in bed this morning being lazy and reading Harry Potter, I felt a sort of rumbling beneath me. The bed shook slightly, and at first I wondered whether or not this could be an earthquake. I assured myself that it was not, and that they must be doing some sort of maintenance work on the floor below us. The sensation quickly subsided and continued on with my reading. However, I was wrong; at lunch, I was informed that it was indeed an earthquake. No need for alarm though folks, evidently that is a common occurrence here in the city.

So a little about my day...

For lunch, I took the MRT (subway) to meet Nick and two others from the lab. The nearest MRT station is about a 10 minute walk, but it sure beats walking in the heat. Today it was very hot and humid. It takes me about 30-35 minutes to ride the MRT and walk the rest of the way to Nick's lab. When I did arrive at Nick's lab though, I was definitely sweating quite profusely. A couple from his lab joined us for lunch and we went to a small restaurant that is known for their beef needles. Basically, this is a bowl of broth with noodles and hunks of beef. I had some difficulty getting the hang of using my chopsticks to eat the noodles with 2 pairs of Taiwanese eyes on me. By the end of the meal I feel that I had semi-conquered this feat. At least I ate enough to be satisifed. On the way home from lunch a small rain storm erupted. It was pouring! Luckily I had an umbrella and made it safely back to our hotel. This was only after I slipped about 10 times and almost landed on my bottom. The walkways here are made of tiles that are very, very slick when wet - especially if you're wearing flip flops that have the tread of a pancake. I spent the rest of the day reading and cleaning our small room. I did not dare to venture out again due to the weather.

Nick arrived home around 6, and thankfully, the rain had cleared. We ventured out to a food court in search of dinner. I was already very hungry, and after walking at least 2 miles, I was ready to find something that I thought looked edible. We settled on chicken and rice and some various unknown side dishes. I ate the chicken and some rice and gave Nick the unknowns :) After dinner, we went to Longshan Temple. This was quite an experience, and one that I don't care to do again. This is one of the most famous temples here in the city. The structure was beautiful and looked exactly like something you'd see in a book. There were many people inside lighting incense and making their offerings. These offerings are food, for the most part, with some flowers as well. I think that there were about 7 different gods that one could pray to, dependent upon the nature of your request. I have to say that I find this to be an uncomfortable experience, but I am glad that I was able to it. This combined with the strong incense smell was enough for me. After viewing this temple and reading about the many others that are located throughout the city, I can see why Taiwan is in the 10/40 window. If you're interested in this, you can check out this website

After what seemed to be a very long day and miles of walking, we finally made it back to our hotel. I hope that you found our day interesting. Coming up this weekend, I think Nick will do some blogging :)

- Kelly

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Taiwan 101 (Kelly)

I arrived in Taipei at 5:30 a.m. this morning. After 3 flights and a total of 18 hours of either sitting straight up or in a partial reclining position, I finally made it. It has been a whirlwind of a month, with Nick leaving for Taiwan about 2 1/2 weeks ago, and me spending time in Kentucky visiting with my family. I was able to take my nurse practitioner certification exam on Monday, which was a huge blessing. We did not think that my application was going to be processed in time for this to happen before I left, but it went through just in time. Oh yeah, and I passed too :)

So back to my first day here. Well...let's just say that it is a very scary feeling when you're walking around and you suddenly realize that you cannot read anything. Seriously, did I really thing that there were going to be English subtitles everywhere? Nick has met some very generous and kind people from his labs here in Taipei, and his new found Taiwanese friend, Yan-Kei, actually drove him to the airport to pick me up this morning. This was completely out of his way, considering that my flight came in at a ridiculous hour, and the airport is approximately 35 minutes out of town. I was so happy to finally be reunited with my husband again! I know that 2 1/2 weeks is not that long, but when you're with a person everyday, it seems like months.

We are staying in a hotel on the campus of National Taiwan Normal University - basically it's similiar to a dormroom. Only slightly better because we have our own bathroom. I walked 40 minutes in the sweltering heat to go to lunch with Nick and others from his lab. Lunch was ok - basically I ate things that I deemed as "safe". Oh, and I did use chopsticks throughout the entire meal, as no forks were in sight. Nick and I went to dinner at a restaurant with English on the menu...yea!! The food was ok, but I would definitely not recommend the plum juice.

I will leave you with one funny story...I had seen an advertisement for Mister Donut - a bakery here in Taiwan. I have been very excited about these donuts, and of course when we spotted one tonight, I just had to have one. All of them looked delicious, and after only an ok meal, I was excited about the prospect of having something that I imagined would be similiar to a Donut Bank donut. Well, I was quite mistaken. I picked the prettiest chocolate donut in the case, and it turned out to be only minimally sweet and nothing like I had imagined. Nick ordered what he thought was a creme filled donut, and it turned out to be a pastry puff filled with some meat-like concoction. We split mine and threw his away. Needless to say, I will not be frequenting Mister Donut again. However, I did see a Dunkin Donuts down the road :)

Well, it's time for bed. I am looking forward to our many adventures that we will share together here in Taiwan over the next month.

- Kelly