Saturday, May 31, 2014

Taipei 101: Not an Introductory Course!

Our last couple days spent in Taiwan were both wonderful and exhausting. After a fun final night with our China Medical University friends, it was time to wake up bright and early on Saturday and head north to Taipei. After riding the high-speed train, our first stop in Taipei was Fu-Jen Catholic University to visit the Nutrition Society of Taiwan for the annual meeting. Much like nutrition conferences in the U.S., there were vendors, research posters, and speakers. I had anticipated that we would be staying for some speakers during our time there. Looking back, I'm not sure what I was thinking, as I am sure all of the speakers would have been speaking Chinese anyway! Instead, we mostly stopped from vendor to vendor, trying samples, and skimmed through some of the extensive research presented on the research posters. We also ran into some of our grad school acquaintances from CMU.

After our quick visit to the university, we were off to lunch. (We never went hungry!) On this day, we went to a famous restaurant in Taipei, Din Tai Fung. The restaurant has also branched out into locations such as Australia, China, and even the United States. It is famous for its steamed dumplings. There was a long line outside the restaurant, but luckily Dr. Chow's daughter, who attends school in Taipei, made a reservation for us. As we were walking into the restaurant, there was even a framed picture of Tom Cruise making the dumplings and dining there. We weren't disappointed either. At least I know I wasn't!

I love this picture, because it captures the essence of the city
and you can even see Taipei 101 in the background!

Hey look! There's even bitter melon on the menu!
(picture from Morgan)
After lunch, we made our way to the Maokong Gondola (not the boat...aerial cable cars). While on the Gondola, we were able to see a spectacular view of the city, including Taipei 101.

Dr. Chow, Sandra, and Morgan in the Gondola
Myself with Dr. Kattelmann and Dr. Chow's youngest daughter

A Buddhist temple on the hillside
The tall building to the right is Taipei 101

Upon arriving to the top, we were greeted by rain. Our time in Taiwan would not be complete without more rain. It just so happened to also be the day that nearly all of us decided to leave our umbrellas at the hotel. Our solution? These super cute rain ponchos.

We may be a little soggy, but it was totally worth this
green tea ice cream!
As you can probably tell from the pictures, we were just a tad bit wet after that adventure. Luckily we had a little time to clean-up a bit before our supper plans. Jessie and Jessica road the train up to Taipei for the weekend and met us. Since Jessie's mom lives in Taipei we were able to dine with her. What a fun experience full of yet more new foods!

Unfortunately you can't even see Jessie's mom in the picture, but this was the restaurant.
Afterwards, we boarded the metro (this was a common process in Taipei) and made our way to Taipei 101. Prior to traveling to Taiwan, I had never even heard of Taipei 101. On the little package that my CMU friend, Jessica had made me, there was a sticker of a skyscraper and she had written "Taipei 101" next to it. My first thought was, "Oh cute! She is saying Taipei 101, kind of like we might say Bio 101 when we are talking about an introductory course." How silly of my! Instead, it is the second largest building in the world with 101 floors. However, it seemed that everyplace in Asia seemed to have a different idea of what was the largest building. According to the ever handy Wikipedia, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest. This building was similar to the observatory we visited during our time in Shanghai.

The lighting of the picture is not the best, but the gang's all here!

This giant ball is called a tuned mass damper and is used to help stabilize the
building during high winds, especially those found in hurricanes
Not many of my pictures turned out due to the terrible glare.
And that's a wrap on our second-to-last day in Taiwan!

Friday, May 30, 2014

I've Got Friends in Low Places

As I began drafting this post today, how appropriate was it that I stumbled upon this quote by Mayo Angelou as we are in the midst of celebrating the life this incredible woman? Before taking off on this journey of a lifetime, I know I had some preconceived ideas of what the people in both China and Taiwan would be like. Luckily I had already met students from Taiwan, so I already had a good impression of the country. However, I still had some doubts about the rest of the Asian population. When I was in high school debate, I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times our policy debate rounds resulted in "China will nuke the U.S." scenarios. (Yeah, yeah, I was a debate nerd back in the day.) In fact, I rarely heard nice things about Asia. Much of the talk on television is regarding the high air pollution or the ways in which the Chinese government is trying to keep their people in the dark by limited social media access. All of this certainly doesn't paint the prettiest picture. 

After traveling to both China and Taiwan, I am ashamed to have believed any of those notions about that part of the world. The people I met were nothing but welcoming and accommodating during our visit. They couldn't have left a better impression. It makes me wonder if travelers to the U.S. are left with a similar impression? I hate to say it, but I rather doubt it. 

Spending so much time with the students of China Medical University formed memories that I am not soon to forget. From cooking competitions to teaching some of our new friends card games to receiving our Chinese names, I am amazed with how easily we were able to connect with one another. When it comes down to it, we are all just college students with similar struggles and joys in life. How truly remarkable that we were able to come together and experience life together!

Here are some of my favorite pictures with our new friends:

The students made Morgan, Jessica, and me signature stamps for our Chinese names!
Coolest gift ever!

I dare ya to try topping these amazing people!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Traditional Chinese Medicine

While at China Medical University, it was only natural that we learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine. Our first exposure to this was during our tour of the Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine on the campus. This past year, I have been trying to simplify certain aspects in my life by switching to more natural beauty products. I have been trying to make a more conscious effort to use less chemicals and also be more friendly to the environment. Therefore, learning more about alternative approaches interested me. However, I must admit, I was a bit skeptical of some of the philosophies presented. (More on that in a bit.)

Our Friday (of last week) was full of new learning experiences. Our day began bright and early with orientation for clinical nutrition at CMU Hospital. There, we were greeted with a number of registered dietitians and some doctors and nurses who were employed at the CMU Hospital. Our students and professors exchanged questions with one another about the differences between the professions and health care system in each country. I think I may have mentioned this in another post, but I was surprised with how much more of a dietitian's services are covered by insurance in Taiwan. I certainly wouldn't mind that part of their healthcare system.

Group picture after our orientation
After meeting with the healthcare professionals, we were led on a tour of the hospital by one of the physicians. We walked through both Traditional Chinese Medicine specialties and Western medicine areas. Outside the rooms of practice, a number was listed on a screen, which indicated how many people had already been seen by that physician today. We talked to a physician who performed acupuncture later in the day and she told us that she usually saw about 10 patients an hour!! She must be sticking those needles in pretty quick!

 I didn't take many pictures within the hospital, because I thought it would look unprofessional and I am sure the many people sitting and waiting to be treated would not appreciate my camera out. However, once we were in the more secluded pharmacy area, I did snap a few photos. Since my brother is a pharmacist, I thought the process of filling Traditional Chinese Medicine prescriptions would be something that interested him. Just like with Western medicine, the traditional approach also involves the ordering and filling of prescriptions. The ingredients of each prescription lit up on the screen above the work counter of the pharmacists and they quickly went to work filling each.

A Pharmacist is working on filling one of her prescriptions
The Pharmacist is showing us some of the more popular and expensive prescriptions given

Much of the prescriptions are given in a liquid, soup form
that the Pharmacists prepare with the induction method of heating
Showing us the large variety of herbs, roots, etc. offered
This Pharmacist is preparing a prescription for a client. Each section is a day's worth of medication.
Can you imagine taking all of that each day? Most of it looked like the bark of a tree. Yum??
After touring the hospital, we also took part in a Tai Chi session with a professor originally from Germany. When I first saw Tai Chi boxing listed on the agenda, I was pretty excited. After little to no exercise for two weeks, my body was ready for some movement. However, I soon discovered that I had anticipated something much different than what we participated in. The lesson was more about finding your "chi" aka energy and less about throwing kicks. His practice promoted slow and controlled movements. While I enjoy exercises including yoga and pilates, I had a difficult time staying patient with such slow movements. I suppose that is part of why the instructor mentioned that it takes 10 years to become more advanced at the practice of Tai Chi. Perhaps it takes longer for a person to quiet their mind and fully immerse themselves in the practice. While it was an interesting cultural experience, I think I will stick to the exercises I currently know and love.

Here is a video that will give you an idea of what Tai Chi is like if you are a visual learner like myself.

Next on the agenda: A lecture entitled "Introduction of Chinese Medicine." The physician leading the lecture performs acupuncture at CMU Hospital. I was a little nervous about attending this lecture because: 1.) needles and myself do not mix 2.) needles have a history of making me pass evidenced by two separate blood drives where I wasn't even giving blood. (I guess it's a good thing I didn't go into the nursing field!) However, the physician began her lecture by giving an overview of the traditional philosophies. I will admit, I had a hard time fully appreciating much of what she was teaching us because it seemed like an awful lot of quackery and little scientific research. The philosophy of Chinese Medicine is comprised of: the Yin-Yang Theory, Eight Principles, Three Treasures, and Five Elements.

Even though the beginning of her presentation did not really catch my attention, it got much better as she began to demonstrate some of the methods she uses in practice, including: acupuncture, cupping, and scraping.
Jessica tried acupuncture on a pressure point on her hand
Morgan had the sliding cupping method performed
I tried the standard cupping method.
I had to sit like this for 10 minutes

It looks more painful than it was.
It only felt a little uncomfortable if I moved and it tugged on my skin a bit.
To put it bluntly, it basically forms a giant hickey on the point the cup was attached.
My back felt really good after I had this done, though I imagine it is quite painful
when performed all over the back at once.

While touring the hospital and learning about some of the Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques was quite interesting, I think there are certain aspects  that I wouldn't mind taking, but there is plenty that I would certainly leave. I don't think you will see me volunteering for acupuncture any time soon!