Saturday, September 10, 2011

National Museum of Natural Science (國立自然科學博物館), night markets, and new friends

Sorry we’re lagging so far behind on the updates - I promise we’ll do better? It’s been a crazy week for both of us with some more training and making up classes missed on the typhoon day. Last weekend we took a bit of time for sight seeing and after I came home from my Saturday class we went for a little walk (read: hour-long march in the hot sun with no water) to the National Museum of Natural Science (國立自然科學博物館). 

We stopped on the way at a restaurant famous among the Taichung expat community for its delicious Western food and exorbitant prices. Finga’s Base Camp is not far from our apartment, and offers a huge selection of burgers, sandwiches, pastas, and hot entrees. Its menu features many items I’ve never seen elsewhere in Taiwan, like roast beef and lamb with Yorkshire pudding, Roquefort cheese, and chili dogs! When we had dinner with some American and Canadian friends later that night, one of the guys at the table described Finga’s as having all of Taichung’s foreigners “by the balls”. I get where he’s coming from. We had smoothies and tasty grilled chicken burgers with bacon and avocado. It was our first taste of avocado since a memorable batch of avo and chicken sandwiches shared in Brett’s parents’ kitchen the day we left Calgary. Go into any convenience store in Taiwan and you’ll find avocado milk, (blurgh?) but I’ve yet to actually see a real avocado in a grocery store.

After lunch, we slogged the rest of the way to the Science Museum. The facility is huge. Huge. We stumbled to the ticket counter, still digesting the huge chicken sandwiches, and were immediately comforted to see clear price listings for the museum overhead. The whole reason we’d gone was to check out the special exhibit I mentioned in my last post, the Silk Road! The lady behind the counter took one look at us and asked in English, “Special Exhibit?” We nodded. I gave a thumbs up. Boje let out a confident “Dui!” So far so good. She billed us and handed us the tickets, but they seemed to be a good $300 cheaper than what we’d planned. Maybe it was a special family day? She pointed us in the direction of a building across the courtyard and we headed off.

When we got our tickets stamped at the new building, things immediately seemed wrong. We were clearly in a space/energy exhibit. We approached the people at the door and asked them “Special Exhibit? Silk Road?” They got out an English map and pointed at the room for special exhibits back in the building we’d just bought our ticket in. Ohh! We walked back, but by this point I was already starting to get that familiar feeling of being shuffled around by staff who simply didn’t want to deal with the stupid people who couldn’t even speak Chinese. At the next building, we were let in without a problem and walked into what was apparently some sort of televised conference that had attracted a large crowd. We walked around the area trying to figure out what was going on until we saw a sign for the Silk Road! Yay! We walked up to the exhibit, handed our tickets to the girl at the door with a sigh of relief, and were told “No. You must buy another ticket.” WHAT?! The tickets we had were general admission for entry to every part of the museum except for the Silk Road. Guh. We decided to make the best of it and check out some of the other stuff at the museum. I started out pretty grumpy, but by the time we’d been in the “Stages of Life” room for about five minutes I had already perked right up. The Natural Science museum had stuff on evolution, dinosaurs, (including a scary, camo-clad dinosaur that turned and yelled at us in Chinese when Boje took a photo of it), tons of stuff about aboriginal Taiwanese peoples, Chinese spiritual beliefs (including a collection of paintings of hell), Chinese and Taiwanese agricultural history, prehistoric man and his ancestors, space, etc. My favourite was a section on human life and death. There was an Egyptian mummy and information about death and burial rituals from lots of different cultures. Apparently in the old days, important Chinese people were buried in suits made of jade beads and they had all of their 9 “openings” sealed with pieces of carved jade. Ears, eyes, nostrils, mouth, anus and genitals! I realize I sound like a preteen here, but my eyebrows nearly hit the ceiling when I read the caption next to that little jade cylinder!

That night we went out for dinner at a nice little restaurant with a girl from my branch, her boyfriend, and another Canadian couple. Afterwards we went to my colleague’s building where Boje got a chance to try driving a couple different scooters to get a feel for it. I was encouraged to try as well, but was way too chicken. I think when I see Boje getting the hang of it in the future it will be easier to wrap my head around the idea, but for now I’m just not ready!

After that, our friends showed us around a night market near their house. I am keen to go back. They had lots of English signage which was a nice change! B and I agreed it had been way too long since we’d done a night market - the smell of stinky tofu was so jarring! The smell was just so much more a part of our routine in Kaohsiung, I guess!

Since this is a long weekend, our goal is to post three more entries before we return to work on Tuesday! Stay tuned!

Random Alley
We suspect this shop is undergoing renovations
Amanda and the T-Rex
The museum had a number of half bird half dinosaur creatures. I'm guessing that these are supposed to be depictions of some of the evolutionary stages between dinosaurs and modern birds. Whatever the case may be, the person that got to make these must have had a lot of fun.
"Angry Birds" suddenly has a new meaning
Beetle versus Elephant. Which will win!?!?
Hanging out
Some funny ideas about what to do with the deceased.
A depiction of hell
This is Ludao the platypus, a national hero. Ludao is credited with saving more than 100,000 lives when, in 1993, he managed to find his way into the storage pool of spent nuclear waste at a nuclear power plant. Ludao's presence was noticed via monitoring equipment and, after an investigation as to how he he gotten there, it was revealed that there were severe cracks in the storage pool containment walls as well as main reactor casing. It was determined that if Ludao had not prompted the investigation, a meltdown very likely would have occurred within weeks, potentially killing more than 100,000 people that lived in close proximity to the nuclear power plant.

By the way. That thing I (Brett) wrote about Ludao isn't entirely true... as in it is completely untrue. I actually have no idea why there was a taxidermied platypus lying on a satin green bed in a display case. I like to think of him/her as "Ludao the platypus" and I like to think that they did something heroic to deserve such a fancy mausoleum.


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