Hi from Taiwan!

January 8, 2009 at 5:12 AM | Posted in Taiwan | Leave a comment

Hello from Taiwan!

After a 27-hour journey, I arrived in Taiwan on Monday evening. It’s been a whirlwind of meetings, events, meals, and fun since we arrived (and the jet lag isn’t too bad–although we are 13 hours ahead of the East coast! I think I’m finally more-or-less caught up).

We spent the last two days in Taipei, meeting with health officials in the Taiwanese government. We stayed at the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), where we were led by a Taiwanese researcher whose English name is–not kidding–Dr. Peter Pan. He set up meetings to introduce us to the director of IOSH, the director of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Agency, and other leaders in occupational safety and health. There’s a big culture of gift-giving here–every time we meet someone, we give them a gift, take a picture of us with them and the gift, and then they give us gifts. It’s really nice, and it’s fun to be greeted with such enthusiasm wherever we go. We also went to the top of the world’s tallest building, Taipei 101 (which I’m “holding” in this picture taken from the rooftop of the EPA). As you can see, the weather in Taipei was sort of gross–so humid that after walking around outside with some papers in my bag, the paper didn’t even tear when you tried to rip it, it just fell apart.

And of course, the food has been amazing. It’s so many new tastes and textures and smells that I’m not used to at all, so it takes some adjusting, but I have had some wonderful new dishes and found a few things that I can definitely do without. Dr. Pan took us out for a huge lunch on our first day (left photo), where the lazy susan in the center of a table for 10 was completely filled with different dishes. There’s lots of seafood, which is wonderful, and also a lot of pork–not as much chicken or beef, although beef noodle soup is a Taiwanese specialty. The middle photo is stinky tofu, which is a Taiwanese street snack sold at the night markets. It smells like an open sewer, and as I learned, it kind of tastes like one too, but it’s a traditional food so we all decided to try it. The right-hand picture is my friend Kevin’s face when he took a bite. We also got bubble tea from the stand where it was invented (no joke), and it was AMAZING! It’s slightly sweetened milk tea with tapioca balls it it, and while the bubble tea I’ve had in the US has been overly sweet with balls that get caught in the straws, this was just great. I couldn’t finish it (on that day, we had our gigantic lunch at 12:30 pm and the students at Taipei’s public health school gave us a “snack” of pizza and fried chicken at 2:30pm).

A few more pictures from Taipei–Taipei 101 lit up at night, the entrance to “Snake Alley” (one of Taipei’s night markets), and the Longshan Temple, the biggest in Taipei (I think).

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