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.