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....