Thursday, May 30, 2013

到山頂 (up to the mountain top)

I'm getting into the swing of things! I've finished a week of my internship. I got to attend one of Dr. Dr. Chou-Chou's lecture on Monday.  He made me stand up in front of the class and introduce myself, and the students seemed very animated and excited to meet a foreigner haha!  But Dr. Chou has given me a lot of interesting background information to study and look over before I am entrusted with some of his data haha. I'm being introduced to many different sampling techniques, as well as some botany knowledge of the native plants here on the island. Currently, I am trying to understand a type of GIS programming software. I got introduced to it a little last week, but now I'm diving deeper. It's a common tool used to analyze population distribution on a map. You can add many different layers to the map such as temp, precipitation, elevation, ect. All to get a better understanding on the population's desired habitat. I know I am going to have a class on this subject later on in my Purdue studies, so I was really excited to get a jump start on this! That being said, it is proving to be a little difficult to grasp. But that's okay! The grad students are so helpful. And, I'm now starting to understand some of the basic tools and steps.

I think my favorite part of the internship so far is the mini excursions the grad students take me on.  They say because I'm here, the prof is letting them show me around :) So this week, I'm at my desk studying and working on some sample problems in the GIS software, and two of them come up very excited, and they ask if I would like to go see the mountains! So we just got up and left! Just as simple as that! The lab is really chill, you can get up anytime you want; just make sure you get your work done.

So we got to take the lab's car, well it was more like a worker van. It had a little trouble as we moved into higher elevation. :) The curves and steepness of the road proved a challenge for this oldie. But anyways, I absolutely love Taiwan. It took us around 20 minutes to leave the university and head north to Yangmingshan National Park. The grad students are so funny, they are always so energetic when they are showing off their country and culture. And rightfully so! Taiwan is beautiful. I can't say it enough. But anyways, they printed out a map of the route we were going to take, just in case I wanted to know where I was on the island. So the first stop was at a famous scenic spot that was adjacent to Chinese Culture University (a university ON the mountain side, very cool). It was my first aerial view of Taiwan, and it was absolutely gorgeous.  My guides pointed out where the our university was located, where the largest farm is located, and the harbor. When looking out onto the city, there was one building that towered over everything in sight. That was Taipei 101. It was ranked the world's tallest skyscraper until 2004, when the Burj Khalifa in Dubai took its place. I was told it was also awarded an award for one of the largest "green" building in the world. Hopefully you can spot it in the pics at the bottom!

So our next stop was at the volcano! A VOLCANO PEOPLE! never have one of those in Indiana! It was very neat, the smoke coming out of the rock, and of course, the wonderful sulfur smell made it an even cooler experience. This one was called Siaoyoukeng. I was amazed at how there were so much vegetation surrounding the site. The short bamboo were pinned down from the constant gusts of wind. There were a lot of other foreigners there, many different accents, kind of fun to try and pick out where people are from.
But we still had so much more to get to, so we jumped back into the car to head even further up the mountain! Next to the tippy top, where we could see all of Taiwan. I couldn't take enough pictures; by the end of the night, I ended up taking over a hundred.. so sorting through them took some time. There was a small rest stop before the switch backing occurred. There were colorful signs and posters all around, announcing that it was butterfly season, and sure enough, on the side of the road were many different colorful butterflies. I tried taking a picture of one, but they all turned out blurry due to my inefficient picture taking skills, sorry folks. Next time.
So the top of the mountain did not disappoint.  It was a 180 view of Taiwan. By now, the sun was starting to get lower in the sky, so a beautiful hue was starting to tint all the plants and mountain side. I wish Indiana had these sorts of mountains... I would never come down though.

The grad students planned on last stop for our little excursion. We were racing to the West side of the island, in order to reach the harbor and pier in time for the sunset. It took a little longer than they expected because of the rush hour traffic, as well as taking a couple wrong turns haha, but we made it literally a couple minutes before the sun was inches closer from the ocean's horizon. A beautiful bridge was where we stood as the sun started to set, and show off its amazing colors. Sunsets are things that I feel are one of God's most unique creations; the stillness and calmness that surrounds a sunset is universal. One of the few things that are. A perfect ending to an amazing journey of this island.

Here are just some of  the pictures from that day.. it was hard to pick which ones to choose!

one of the amazing views!

the volcano site! see the smoke? be glad you can't smell it though.. :P
the winding road up to the top

because I couldn't get a pic of a butterfly.. the sign will have to do

awesome tour guides!

the bridge at the harbor; there was a huge crowd waiting for the sunset

no caption needed..

the bridge lights up!

Friday, May 24, 2013

你好 (hello)!

Made it to the Weekend!

Ni hao!  Greetings from Taiwan! I got all settled into my room and got through my first day here with no major problems! Haha. My flight got into the airport at 4:45 in the morning, so I had a whole day to explore, which was really nice. But anyways, I got into taxi and headed towards the university.  Initial reactions to Taiwan, was it is really hot lol. Once the doors to the street opened, a huge heat wave hit me, very very humid. So the car ride was about an hour to the university. I loved looking out onto the city and countryside of Taiwan, it seemed very busy for 5 in the morning. I was in awe of the huge mountains that surrounded the edge of the city’s tall buildings. The mountains were covered every inch with green, huge trees.
When driving to the university I couldn't help but notice the small differences. First, there wasn’t really any speed limit posted for the highways. But the majority of the cars were going 100 + mph, and it seemed normal. Although we were going pretty fast, everyone seemed to be great drivers, better than Americans haha. Second, when we got into the city of Taipei, the highway was VERY close to the buildings. There was room for probably 2 cars that separated the fast moving traffic of the highway to the houses and apartment buildings. It felt very weird, because Indiana has tons of open farm land and just grass in between the highway and, well, anything haha. Third, the lights have a countdown! America should be taking notes on this. It just counted down until when the lights were going to switch, when you could go. Very helpful. Forth, there are more motorcycles on the streets than actual cars. When walking around, I stumbled across probably 120 motorcyclists packed together on one of the streets waiting for the light to change green. They were like a school of fish! So many! Finally, 7-11 stores are equivalent to McDonalds. They are everywhere! I did find one McDonalds around campus, but only one! These 7-11’s vary in size, from a small corner-store, to a mini mart size! Thankfully there is a big one right across the street from where I am staying.

I got to meet my advisor today! She met me at my dorm, helped me check-in, and took me on a small tour of the university. She was my much needed translator for half the day, because I needed to buy a MRT card, pay some bills at the bank, and get some food haha. But after checking stuff off the “to do list” I had the whole day to explore. I just walked around the market, looked into the shops, and stalls. The street food smelled amazing! I had some famous milk bubble tea (recommended by my advisor). I had to go to a convenience store to buy some food because I’m pretty much living on my own for this first month! I turned in early today to catch up on some sleep, probably bad idea at the time because I woke up at 4 in the morning the next day… woops!!! But this way I had some good God time, and I got to hear the birds singing outside my window!

Today is when I am going to  meet my professor I am going to work with! I had to be at the university at 10 today, so I got left a little early to go take some pictures of the area. So I finally met Dr. Chou-Chou!!! :) His English is surprisingly good, and he is supper nice; very passionate about the environment. I got set up at a work station, next to some of his grad students. Today, I got to learn about the GIS database system.  Something which I know I'm going to have to learn later on in my study at Purdue. So, after working on this for a couple of hours, the grad students took me to a Thai dinner spot. And of course, walking wasn't an option, so we had to buddy up on the bikes haha. Never stood on the back of a bike before! But, here in Taiwan, I was told that pretty much every student has a bicycle for transportation. A little scary because the street areas are always crowded. The food was amazing!! I had some type of curry, of course rice, and a sticky fruit dessert. Also, a drink that was refreshing, but had some type of noodle looking thing in the drink.. wasn't too sure of what it was, but still good! Next, they wanted to show me the forests. By now it was around 8pm, so it was already dark. They said it was a 10 min drive. So they thought it would be good to use their motorcycles! Never been on the back of a motorcycle before either! haha, new experiences all around! It was so fun!!! Zooming through the night market was a cool experience in itself. But we then arrived at the entrance of the forests. I was amazed, at how close the forest was to resident housing, and also you could see the main city. We had flashlights and our hiking shoes on, and one of the grad students lead our group, it was mentioned that he could find animals really easily. So we headed out! The forest was actually just opened to the public 10 years ago; previously used by the military to house certain weapons and personnel. There were surprisingly a handful of other people hiking at night, something that is a very common outing I guess! We were able to spot many frogs, geckos, lightning bugs, some very HUGE spiders, and some cute lizards. I posted some pics of our findings below.  I got to hold a frog, and one of the lizards didn't have teeth, so everyone took turns letting the little guy nip at their fingers haha. Such a neat experience! Climbing through the mountains at night was very unique.

almost there! only 3 hours left, (flying over Japan right now)
a view of my dorm (on the left) 
this is called Drunken Moon Lake, inside campus!
the library
The famous Palm Blvd. (leads you into the university)
found this little guy on the night hike, so cute!
Woah, sorry I wrote so much! Just there is so much I want to share! 


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

And I'm Off!!!

Hello everyone! While writing this, I am currently at the Seattle airport waiting eagerly for my very very long flight to Taipei, Taiwan... I think the flight is around 14 hours or so. But anyways, I actually have 2 hours here at this airport until I have to go board the plane, and since I have taken many laps around the same gates, passing the same people, and probably getting a couple weird looks from the convenience store owner (whose store I went in 5 separate times), I thought it would be fun to try out my first blog update. I’ll be posting this when I get internet access, but thought it would be good to get all my initial feelings and experiences out in text!

 Even though, I haven’t actually arrived at Taiwan, the whole process of flying internationally, solo, is a pretty awesome feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I was so nervous when we pulled up to the airport, but after getting through security and all that, it was really neat to just walk around the airports. 

This first flight wasn’t too bad, only four hours long. Having a middle seat made it seem longer, but I exhausted everything I could do in my little box seat. I needed to stay awake for this flight (and the layover) so then my jet leg won’t be as bad once I land at my final destination.  The airlines played the recent Oz movie, so that was a good distraction for an hr +. Read some books, flipped through some magazines and discovered the plane’s different “radio” stations! There were a lot of classical music stations surprisingly, but I did manage to find one contemporary music station, and one country. So I ended up flipping back and forth between these two genres and jamming to them for the last half of the trip. J  So the computer is going to die soon, so I am going to sign off! See you later in Taiwan!

view from the window! (snatched this while my neighbor was in the bathroom (: )