8/12/2010 12:21 PM
Last week was our final week of work in our respective labs, and it seemed to go unnecessarily quickly, naturally since the end was approaching. We tried to see the buddies as much as possible, since they are good friends now, and I gave them each MU t-shirts in appreciation. They all loved them and were wearing them immediately. On Friday evening, Cindy (who is coming to study at Millikin for the entire coming academic year-great news) took me to buy some native music and a Taiwanese cookbook that was also translated into English. I had had a short ride home from Donbie the night before with John on his "moto" as they sometimes call the motor scooters, so I had no lack of excitement when I found out that we were not taking the bus to go shopping way downtown, but rather a scooter, for a half hour ride each way. Before coming back to the game sort of lounge where everyone else was congregating to play card and board and other games, we stopped at one of the stores, as they call the restaurants on the street, nearby and had super tasty noodles and steamed dumplings. One of Dr. Barnes's new friends had invited us to come to the game place, as he wanted to meet everyone, so we went there and had fun too.
On Saturday, we ventured into the central mountains to go to a theme/amusement park and then famous Sun-Moon Lake. I guess the theme of the park was local and aborignal culture, as guests were welcomed with native dancing and other spectacles. As the one picture shows, we stepped over (through) fire, as the dancers had done in the performance, to get in. Orignally they were carrying torches, but then small bases with flames still coming from them were laid on the ground, and the mass started moving forward, so we knew that that was how we got in. Of course, we probably raised our well-shod feet higher than the dancers did! There were other cultural exhibits in the park, but by the time we had had fun on the rides (pretty similar to home mostly), we had to leave, as we still needed time to go to Sun-Moon Lake. So we rode two gondolas up and over and down several mountains. Even though it was fairly cloudy that day (meaning I couldn't get a good picture of the lake from the gondola), everything is so verdant that it was really pretty nonetheless. The lake, with some fairly blue water, did seem like a nicely secluded mountain lake, although it was big. We unfortunately saw little sun and no moon while there, but many people, as it is now well known (and near the theme park). As the pictures show, serenity is somewhat broken by frequent boat tours across the waters. However, as another picture shows hopefully well (I hope I put this one on), there are some stands of grass and low plants that almost appear to be like floating islands near the shore in the lake. Since the plants grow right up from any exposed land, all one sees is green coming from the blue water. A sort of day market existed near the lake, so we tried some tea there, and Cindy retrieved for me some extraneous I believe chicken part whose identity I don't recall but which I do remember being a little tough yet palatable. After this, we rode over to a nearby hillside where a preserve of peacocks was. The brilliant colors of their necks and heads and their impressive mating displays were a relaxing yet scientific way to end a good day.
That night, the buddies and Dr. Barnes had planned a birthday celebration for Justin's birthday. We sat on the concrete approach to Luce Chapel; the whole grassy area around the chapel is essentially their "quad". They had bought several foods [all varied and usually what we would consider extraneous (except maybe the gizzard) chicken parts] for Justin to try and guess what they were. We also got to try them if we wished, which was fun. Trying to eat a chicken's foot was interesting, and we also got to try duck head, which was really fairly tasty, except when Justin sucked its brain out. On the perhaps less repulsive side, we also had cake, which was really good and eaten with what we might call enhanced toothpicks-but they work, so it's OK, and sparklers and music. The buddies sang a traditional song from Taiwan that is normally sung at graduations to friends as they part ways. Then we showed them some American music (but our singing was not as good).
As we were sadly preparing to leave, Life Sciences did have a farewell party for us Monday afternoon. Lots of traditional foods, including great dumplings, as well as some Pizza Hut pizza, which really didn't look too bad. That night, Kate's lab invited anyone who wanted to go to have hot pot, so I went since I liked my first hot pot. This turned out to be the real thing, where you really cook it yourself in the seasoned broth they give (one side more mild-royal broth they say-and the other spicy). It was good that we lots of people to share, as there is plenty, and especially that we had natives, as we would not have known what at all to do. The little curls of beef cook really fast, but some other things need more time to simmer. We tried golden cod balls and beef stomach among other things in the pot. And they really eat it hot, because it is essentially boiling the whole time, and the burner is not turned off under the pot in the middle of the table until everyone is done eating. Afterwards, a couple of them took us to a gaming arcade, which is apparently popular in Taiwan, especially the batting part of it, as Major League Baseball is very popular there. After work and school, people go to practice their batting to see if they can hit the target that signifies a home run.
Everyone is really welcoming in Taiwan, always saying that we should come back whenever but as soon as we could. Several of the buddies said that they would try to come and see us sometime too. Cindy is coming right away, which, if possible, made leaving a little easier. Kelly is probably coming to law school in the US in I think a year or maybe two (age of matriculation at university is a little older in Taiwan), but probably not around here. Other than that, I am not sure, but we definitely found some good friends in Taiwan in the buddies, our lab advisors, our doctors in the hospital for Justin and me, and the people in the Office of International Education and Programming at Tunghai. We are safely home now after another really long flight and resting up for more work that lies ahead. I hope that reading this blog has been enjoyable as producing it has been.
8/3/2010 10:43 PM
Last week on Tuesday evening, a couple of the buddies took several of us to a sushi bar for dinner. I know that we have sushi places at home, but I have never that I recall been to one, and this one was really interesting. Where we sat, we were around a central preparation area where the staff put little dessert-sized plates with an item on each one on conveyor belt around the perimeter, and we just reached up and tried what we wanted. Luckily there was an English menu, so we could know what we were getting. If something was not there, one of the buddies could order it separately for us. Each plate was 30 NT, not too bad a price, and we also had all the soy sauce and wasabi and teabags and hot water at the table that we wanted. Aside from the obvious, I enjoyed trying fresh okra; I had never seen it not cut up in soup or cut and fried.
Our hospital internship ended really well; on Friday I went with Dr. Wei (my assigned doctor) to one of the other buildings where he does do a little research (uncommon for doctors at Veterans General Hospital Taichung, as it is really called, despite what I might have said before). He was working with rat models, and so I got to see a live beating heart there too. He had two graduate students from another university collaborating with him; their lab technique was not quite what I was used to even from Life Sciences at the university, but they got the work done. Since there were no traditional cardiac surgeries that day (only robot-assisted), I went to the operating room where Justin was that afternoon and watched a parathyroidectomy. At the end of the day, we effectively resigned our positions and returned our name badges after having had a tremendously enlightening experience.
On Saturday, all of us went to Tainan. It is the hometown of Will, one of the buddies who went along. All of the pictures this time show scenes from Tainan. We saw Chihkan Tower, one of the larger temples and tourist sites in the city. Kate was able to buy a Chinese cookbook in Chinese and English at the souvenir store there. Afterwards, I wished I had seen that to buy, but I am still looking other places we go now for a bilingual one. It was interesting, because a lot of the instructions seemed to have pictures with them for each step of the preparation.
We also went to the Temple of Confucius. One of the pictures shows the four Chinese characters that were on the walls of the inner area for Confucius's four virtues. Between Lukang and here, I have learned well how it is appropriate to step over thresholds going into or out of temples, and to go in the right and come out the left side.
We also went to one of the forts that was erected against the Japanese threat in the mid-nineteenth century and saw a demonstration of the firing of one of the cannons as part of a talk or skit (in Chinese). We went to the Anping Tree House, which now basically is an area for preservation of the many native banyan trees. We learned about figs and especially banyans in this area, and how the searching taproots the trees often put out to reproduce will grow down walls and in buildings if there is soil there. Even roots of adult trees will do this if something is in the way, as the picture shows.
We last went to the ancient road of Anping (which I believe is a district of the city where the tree house and this are located). It was more like a day market, with several streets actually, and things were starting to close as the sun was setting. There were games that we were able to play and win trinkets at, and Kelly's friend Ari is from Tainan, so she showed Kelly and me where all the good food for dinner was. The last picture is from this street. I think it might actually be a small temple toward the end of the street where we were.
On Monday night, several of us were taken "shrimp fishing". It was not quite what we expected, like going out on a boat and dragging a net. Instead it was a giant barn or garage across the road from the university where there were large in ground tanks of water where shrimp were brought in from regular catching. Here we were given the opportunity to fish for them more like regular fishing, using baby shrimp as bait. What we caught, we kept in nets at the edge of the tank where we were sitting, and at the end, they cooked all of them for us, so we got to share in a (small) feast. I believe I caught five, Justin caught five or six, and Brittany and Steph caught three that they donated to us. The buddies who went also caught several, so we had a nice second dinner. These were a little harder to peel than some we have had, but we are getting much better at the deheading and deshelling thing now after more practice.
We are also continuing to enjoy all the other animal parts we are trying. Last Thursday evening, one of the residents in Cardiovascular Surgery (under Dr. Wei) invited both Justin and me to go to dinner with several of the doctors, including a couple of Justin's assigned doctors. We had more really interesting things in the roundtable (with spinning center) format. Interesting cuts of chicken (however, we did not try the head, butt, or feet), more intestine, although I don't think we had any pig ears this time.
We are down to our last week now, but we have really enjoyed all that we have done here. My last week of research is looking to be possibly fruitful for the time spent (and possibly extendable upon returning home). I think that everyone will end with hopefully some good results and at least having expanded horizons in terms of culture and research. This weekend we will go to Sun-Moon Lake and a nearby amusement park and possibly some other geological wonders. I'll bloviate on those when we hopefully return to the US safely.
7/28/2010 3:44 AM
If you are still reading this, I really appreciate it and hope that I am enabling you to have even a glimpse of the fun and different experiences we are having here. First a few corrections from previous blogs. I believe I reported a bit on Kate's research at the beginning. She said that she is actually working with fiddler crabs and that she must have been hungry when they first told her (as she had said that they were feeder crabs-hey, there are a lot of different species of crabs!). Also, when we were in Lukang last weekend, we were on a street that had some small shops along it as well as our lunch restaurant (with the traditional lights). This was actually a day market according to the ever informative Kelly. These are different from night markets in that they are a little tamer and in other obvious ways.
The pictures this time are all from our weekend journey to Kaohsiung this immediately past weekend. Kelly has lived there for much of her life, and so she showed us around. We saw some of the buildings in the center of the city. We also saw much of the city and the harbor leading out to sea from the tallest building in the city, 85 Skytower. We were on the 74th and 75th floors of this; it was very high but still noticeably lower than being twenty floors higher in Taipei 101. Some of the later pictures show the whole building with its interesting structure. I figure that the elevators must go up through the narrow parts where the whole thing is connected. The one picture attempts to show the part of the building extending out on one side from above. We went to some smaller museums later that afternoon and had some awesome traditional dumplings for dinner.
The next day, we went across a small part of the harbor to the land out on the ocean. There was a wide and crowded street with all sorts of shops and food along it. We ended a nice stretch of beach. The waves were awesome. When we went back to the street at lunchtime, we were shown several vendors with their fresh fish right out on the street only under ice. Some was still alive in water; regardless, it was fresh and being cooked for the patrons of the restaurants behind the counters. We had an amazing lunch with some shellfish and parts of crabs I had scarcely seen before. We also had to pull the heads off the shrimp, releasing what was probably remnants of a "brain", and peel the rest. After this, we went off the main street among some more traditional dwellings, which can be seen against the modern city in some of the pictures from our hike up to the lighthouse. Before we did that though, we went through a tunnel in the rock cliff that jutted out into the water at the end of the beach and arrived on some more secluded waterfront on the other side. It was hot, as can be deduced by the umbrellas, but beautiful. We actually timed our visit there quite well, as it has started raining there and here just about every other day. This makes it pleasantly cooler (but still not cool-70s degrees F) even though wet. They say that this is just lots of rain and that a typhoon would be much worse and windier. Apparently we dodged one a few weeks ago that went to the Philippines instead.
The hospital is becoming ever more intriguing as it winds down. Justin has scrubbed in and helped significantly on several operations, and I have seen three open-heart operations on infants this week. The one Monday was only four days old, and the other two have been six months old. The older ones' hearts are somewhat bigger, and yesterday I was clearly able to see the right chambers of the heart, the pulmonary artery, the aorta coming out from beneath, the superior vena cava, and the right pleural membrane moving because of the lung all at once. Everyone else's research is very educational and challenging still as far as I know. The new Life Sciences building here is very nice and well-equipped, but I don't know if everyone's lab is in that.
We only have two weeks left now, and we are enjoying learning everything that we can from the buddies and everyone else. One thing that I did learn from our buddy Roger is that originally the rule on the campus was that the buildings were not to be taller than the trees surrounding them. I guess as the trees grew, the buildings could be added to every quarter or half century. However, times have obviously changed, as our relatively new dorm (and some other newer buildings) are a great deal taller than the buildings surrounding them. I can also continue to see how much work the buddies have put into learning English and wish that we could have had more time to learn Chinese a little more slowly and better. When Kelly went home to visit her family in Kaohsiung a few weeks ago where she wouldn't speak any English (and I even have her permission to write this), she said that the first night she dreamed in English; the second, a mix; the third night, all Chinese. However, when she came back here, it was as though she had never left.
I actually originally tried to publish my blog for this week last night after the pictures went up, but the relatively speedy Internet was misbehaving (that is, gone for some reason), so here it hopefully is now.
7/19/2010 4:39 AM
First, a couple of clarifications from previous blogs: the pleasant little teahouse where we had the oil sticks was in another night market across the city that I, not knowing for sure, will use my best Chinese phonics to spell, Yi Zhong Jiang. Also, the bus cards that we are recharging are just Taichung city buses, although interestingly, we were able to recharge these even at a Seven-Eleven in Lugang, granted, it's only 10 or 15 miles away, but it's still cool. The picture from the boardwalk-like night market outside Taipei (I'm pretty sure that's on here) where I appear to just be standing shows a mountain across the water that is supposed to have the form of the face of one of the gods reclining or sleeping if you see it the right way, but I can't remember which god. I don't know why, but I didn't until just now put the couple of pictures of Rongzong Veterans Memorial Hospital on here. These are looking across the street from the Tunghai U side at it.
The newest pictures primarily show us at Lugang this past Saturday. They show the two temples that we visited. In the one, the pillars that have all the little lights on them are for when people come and place a light on them for themselves in the proper place when the year is the same Zodiac sign as their birth year. They do this for peace. The one with a slight indent in the middle is the alcove where they come to pray if they need to study well for a test or something else. Another deeper one is shown with me standing in front of it. The two pictures at the second temple (after the picture of the traditional Chinese hanging light in our lunch restaurant) that don't look like much are trying to show the two lions, one male and one female, guarding the temple, much like how two guarded the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Their is a picture of a sign in the road showing 50 meters to the temple. There were two more at 100 and 150 m, I believe. The last picture is of an old-style garbage truck. The new ones look more like ours; however, here they play music like the "ice cream truck" at home, so, as they come slowly down the street, everyone knows to come out with his or her garbage bag and hand it over to the guy standing in the bed in the back of the truck, even as it keeps moving slowly along.
Last Thursday, I was able to try my hand at the beginning of the engineering artificial coronary artery process. Using a short stretch of Teflon tubing and a small roughly square of the basilar membrane layer of porcine amniotic membrane, I rolled the basement membrane for a hopefully strong yet flexible vessel. After chemical cross-linking and lining with the cultured coronary arterial or aortic endothelial cells that I believe I mentioned previously, the vessel is to be capable of gaining function. It is first spliced into a tube hooked to a bioreactor, which subjects it to shear stress like normal blood pressure using buffer. The research that has been and is going on among several graduate students concerns the junction protein expression and thus orientation of these cells in response to this stress, thus if they act as normal vascular endothelial cells would in response to fluid flow. They seem to do well there; however, the cardiologist I am shadowing now at the hospital thinks that this shear pressure leads to the expression of too many factors by the cells and that the vessel does not provide enough impedence (like resistance) to flow (thus it would not support it but likely break apart). The initial rolling, which I did fairly well at in two tries I think, was as far as I got, since the hospital internship started Friday. My vessel is probably dry and sitting waiting. I may get to play around with a little more when I return in two weeks; however, I am supposed to have a small project of a similar nature that I can work on and hopefully complete in one week before we leave. It is supposed to give me some good experience with imaging with what is called a confocal microscope.
On Friday, I right away (after ward rounds) was able to witness a mitral valve replacement. I had never before seen a live beating heart that was then depleted of blood and stopped from beating during the cutting and replacement and then closed and refilled and made to beat again. I also saw the newest robotic setup that another doctor was going to use in a coronary artery bypass surgery. Today, I witnessed the replacement of a segment of a patient's descending aorta that had ballooned out or was distended and whose stretched walls were more likely to burst (lethal). The early aorta really is as big as they say it is.
That night, we enjoyed some American food at TGIFridays (except for Paris), and then we went to a movie (in English with Chinese subtitles); it was in at the top of a tall sort of round building that looked somewhat like a grain elevator.
On Saturday, we toured the two temples (mentioned before) in Lugang (our buddy Cindy's hometown). Lugang is known for its many large and small temples. One is always to enter on the right and exit on the left (from the outside). Also, one is never to step on thresholds to prayer areas but over them, and deeper alcoves like the one I'm standing in front of shouldn't be entered for better luck from the god. People praying carry thin bamboo-like rods around whose tips they light in the fires from the incense in the large urn-like structures; these they often wave slightly during prayer. The large temples we visited were an interesting combination of locals praying and tourists; however, it was understood that these were also for tourists, because there were souvenir shops in appropriate places. The one picture shows a small group providing music along the side walk of one of the temples; they were playing very instruments of whose identity I was not sure.
On Sunday, Keith, Kate, (buddy) Kelly, and I went to Luce Chapel on campus to the church service there, as Luce Chapel houses Tunghai Universtiy Christian Church, since this is a Christian-founded university. The service was in Chinese, including the choral presentations; however, headphones were available for translation of the spoken word. Much of the service music was similar to home, and since most of the hymns were Western like sung at home, English was put under the Chinese, since the hymns were really translated into Chinese. Hearing everyone else singing them so differently was interesting. After the service, everyone goes to the Student Gospel Center I believe it is called for lunch, and since we were first-time visitors (even recognized during the service), we received ours free. We met and talked with a newly retired political science professor who had studied in Pittsburgh and in Ohio somewhere and come here over 40 years ago and taught his whole career. It was fun to hear how much the campus had changed since he had been here; it was very small when he first came (around 800 students I believe, now over 20,000), as it was only founded in 1955 I think.
I suppose that this is enough reading for a while, and I am fairly busy with the hospital, as we have a couple of all-surgery dept. meetings tomorrow and Wednesday where they discuss various health care topics or specific medical/physiological topics (probably all in Chinese though) that we can attend for the experience.
7/13/2010 4:53 AM
Actually, the fun had certainly begun by the first blog, but now with our research beginning, it gets even better.
I have now added some pictures (I think) from the beginning on. Some show the lounge on our floor of the dorm with a Chinese magazine, others show the amazing flora on the campus as well as Luce Chapel, the center of religious life. Then there are views of the city, and the round glass structure is part of the National Art Museum. There is a picture of our group outside the science museum at the end, and I think that I added the bottom of the flora-covered mall that I mentioned as well as a view of the Celebration of America event.
Soon I will add the most recent ones, including my mango ice dessert (yum), as well as what is called an oil stick, the fried breadstick dessert we had at a teahouse. There are also our Chinese names written out on the last day of class by one of our Zhongwen laoshi (with some diacritical marks, "Chinese teacher(s)"). The rest are from our journey on Saturday to Taipei. I will also put one on that I got of my amazing buddy Kelly (English name) and another buddy Cindy and me at a restaurant/tea house from the first Sunday.
Last Tuesday afternoon, we had our first cultural class, in which everyone else made and I attempted to make a tiger face from what seemed like bamboo grass that we braided. These are shown in the first pictures. This came from a Chinese legend about what a male could call a female whom he found especially unpleasant or unattractive (a word for some sort of tiger).
On Wednesday, I fared much better, as that day we were creating figures from pla-do like stuff. The native who showed us how to make snoopy figures was very fast, and while we made ours as he had demonstrated, he made us each another figure, and mine is like a little tiger.
On Saturday, we ventured to Taipei. It is a little more Western-feeling as cities go. The roads are wider everywhere, like in parts of Taichung, and thus there is much more order. One really interesting thing I noticed at large intersections is that, in sequence with all other traffic flows, there will be a time when all traffic is stopped and pedestrians can cross everywhere, even diagonally according to lines drawn for such. We did this a couple of times, and it was rather cool.
We visited Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world now I believe by various measures from the Organization on Tall Buildings and Urban Dwellings. We toured the mall and ate lunch in the transcontinental food court at the very bottom, and then several of us toured the highest tourable floors. The highest one was an outside deck on one of the ridges of the building. It was the 91st floor at 390 m. Down a couple of floors, we got an audio tour of the city as we looked out each side and learned what we were seeing (in Chinese and English, as necessary). "101" in the name not only refers to the actual building and its floors, but it also is supposed to signify going past 100% to the next level, and out of one side we could see the new development in the research park at the edge of the city, where much biotechnology and other fields were blooming in the twenty-first century.
We took the metro to one of the farthest out "suburb" cities of Taipei that was on the water leading out to the ocean and toured a boardwalk style night market later in the afternoon; according to Kelly, the shops there were more the traditional style. We saw toy shops and candy shops, among other things.
That night, we went back in to Taipei and toured (unfortunately quickly) the National Palace Museum, commemorating the founding of the Republic of China. Inside, it was mostly an art and historical artifact museum divided up by Chinese dynastic order. It was fun to at least briefly see the things read of in the history book come alive.
We had our opening meeting yesterday with the Life Sciences Department to get acquainted. It was mostly just a brief history of the department in relation to the university, and then we got started with our faculty or graduate student advisors with reading and training for research, even if that only involves observation. Some labs also have native undergraduates working in them. Even though we only have four weeks (excepting Justin Brohard and me, as we will be at Rongzong Veterans Memorial Hospital for two weeks in the middle), we will hopefully at least get to have an impact on a small part of a project and have fun learning from it. Two that I have heard of that sound particularly thrilling are those of Kate Atwater and Keith Burczak. Kate is working with (and hunting for) feeder crabs, and Keith is leaving at 5:30 tomorrow morning with a group of researchers to go up into the mountains hunting for fungi (presumably morels or mushrooms) to cultivate and study.
Time is ever rolling onward. We are a third of the way through the trip, but it is good. More after a while.
7/8/2010 4:10 PM
Wow, we arrived safely in Taiwan after very lengthy travel. The airport in Taouyan (a surburb of Taipei) was very welcoming, and we had Tracy (Dr. Barnes's wife) and all of our Taiwanese "buddies" meet us in the "Arrival Hall". We rode on the storied karaoke bus for about 90 or 100 minutes to Taichung and Tunghai University. Unfortunately it was dark, so we couldn't see as much, but we were tired anyway. It is quite warm (hot) much of the time here, although if one is in the right place, there are nice breezes, and some nights it cools off some. However, we are still really glad to have air conditioning.
The city in Taiwan is really bright and fast-moving, especially the street and night markets. In Donbie (Tunghai Villa), right behind the campus, the roads are narrower and sidewalks often don't exist, so we have to be very careful of the cars to an extent but much more the motor scooters/motorcycles. There are tons of these just parked along the road right up in shop fronts and others moving. They are pretty quiet here and zoom in and out of people, who are last on the right-of-way list.
In Donbie, there is everything from various authentic Chinese cuisines (ummm) to clothing stores to the family mart I believe it is called. It looks and is very much like a Seven-Eleven, of which there is also a great multitude here. We actually must go to a Seven-Eleven to put more money on our bus cards when we run out, as they're like gift cards that everyone scans upon entering and exiting the bus.
On Saturday evening, we went to a (small) restaurant just north of the main road above the campus and tried real Chinese dumplings with pork and leeks in them. I had corn soup and also tried a bite of Dr. Barnes's (Paris's) sour spicy soup, which was more beef broth-based I think and had things like tofu in it. It was really good. Most restaurants, whether in a market or on the bigger street, except fancy ones in the city center, are smaller than we are used to. The cooking, and sometimes ordering, area is basically outside, with a small area of inside seating behind it, providing respite from the heat.
On Sunday, we rode the bus to the downtown and went to the Taiwan National Museum of Fine Arts and the National Museum of Natural Science. The art museum contained more modern (recent to even last year) art than I expected. It looked a lot like a museum at home, except that it had the sounds of an orchestra playing in the lobby that almost sounded as though they were coming from within the building. It was fun just perusing both museums and appreciating what they visually had to offer, as most of the time, we could not read the words. Between the two, we cooled off with some of the Taiwanese equivalent of ice cream at a cafe along the street. It is essentially crushed ice with condensed milk and fresh fruit such as kiwi or mango (or red beans) on top. That night, we saw the "America Day" celebration in Taichung, which surprised me somewhat. We also saw a thirteen or so-story shopping mall with department stores and a bookstore on top that we want to return to. I believe that it occupied one side of one of the buildings in this part of the city. It was quite attractive with greenery and flowers planted all the way up its outer walls. That night we ate at a nice tea house and (larger) restaurant in the same area, although it was still inexpensive by our standards. The food was excellent (our buddies had to help suggest what to eat before we got English menus); we even tried some really different things like blood/rice cakes (I believe it was duck blood), small chunks of what almost seems to be meat, and eel. The rice is what holds the whole thing together. We had pearl milk tea, which was their signature, and it was nice and cold and sweet (much of the tea here is served cold).
On Monday, we began our Chinese classes, and it is a challenge, but today, we began to have a better handle on it. They go for four hours in the morning this week. Monday night, we rode the bus to Feng Chia, the largest or nearly the largest night market in Taichung. It backs up against Feng Chia Univ., but Tunghai is supposed to be better and prettier (the campus here is pretty and well kept). It was extremely crowded and hot and bright, and much of it smelled like stinky tofu, which luckily did taste reasonably better. The roads there were a little wider, and even with all the people, the occasional scooter would creep through, and we had to watch.
We are pretty well settled in now and having a really fun and interesting time. I think that this is all that I can think of now and will write more soon.