(hot hot hot) Summer in Taiwan

This summer, sometimes it crossed our minds that we made a big mistake…staying in Taiwan during summer. Not because Taiwan is so awful or there’s nothing to do, but because of the insane humidity and heat that starts around half May and presumably lasts until October. The hottest and most humid months must be June and August, which we almost fully experienced this year, lucky us! Fortunately we could escape this “oven we call home”, for an amazing wedding in June and a nice rendezvous with our family and friends in the Netherlands. We also had a quick 2 week escape to lovely Indonesia (see our blogs). But for now we will share our experiences of summertime in Taiwan!

We didn’t stop working during summer! Because it was so hot, seeking the comfort of a coffee shop or an AC cooled office area, was a necessity. Erik became a PhD student as well, so we had a lot of preparations to do, and made time to dive in to our topics. Of course we had some breaks, like when our friends from the Netherlands (Marily and Ralph) stopped by to visit Taiwan (on their honeymoon). It was a fun experience to play tour guide in our backyard, show them around Taipei and to discover the island together. One of the more magical experiences we shared together was an intense earthquake, that made all the geologists (Marily, Ralph, Chantal and Viola all share a background in Earth Sciences) go crazy with excitement and Erik’s heart skip a beat. It felt like a train running through our bedroom in the middle of the night! Luckily there was no damage and the geologists could discuss which plates bumped into each other, while Erik was still recovering. 

Naturally our friends also wanted to experience a Taiwanese night out with some old skool karaoke. However, over here it’s not like going to a karaoke bar; it’s a next level experience where you can choose from one of many fancy looking buildings (known as Partyworld) and you can reserve a whole room, with often a private bathroom, to enjoy your karaoke night out. These rooms are set up with a bench and a huge TV screen showing awful video clips with each song. Luckily there’s a whole list of English songs to choose from (mainly from 80-00’s) so we could freshen up our memories and entertain ourselves for the night with the Backstreet Boys (Alright!) and the Weather Girls (Hallelujah!), and according to Rick Astley we couldn’t give up on each other now!

Taiwan is (in)famous for it’s betel nut culture and we were warned, while driving around the island, to be careful at night on the coastal roads for truck drivers chewing these insanely red betel nuts. We didn’t feel unsafe on the roads (despite the poor driving skills of some Taiwanse). Also, we didn’t see a huge amount of truck drivers chewing these betels, just once in a while, in the smaller villages, we were greeted by a betel nut smile. 

Something else that kept us busy this summer: we want to share a brief note about bureaucracy in Taiwan…. We all know it can be hell in the Netherlands, but here they have put us on edge as well. We still cannot get over the fact that we lost hundreds of euros to legalise Erik’s diploma to start his PhD here. It’s a perfectly fine Master diploma from Maastricht University, but this was not good enough. It needed stamps. Lots of stamps (when talking about stamps…don’t get us started about opening a bank account here). However, both the original diploma and transcript had to be sent back to the Netherlands and pass different institutes and need the help of Viola’s mum to get the appropriate stamps in Den Haag.  In the end it all worked out and luckily after a process of 4 months and a ridiculous amount of emails back and forth (also with an increasingly grumpy former employer for translating all payslips and statement letters about salaries)it worked out; Erik now also has his own very special visum: a Goldcard! So treat him like a King;)

Note: Erik will probably lose his very special visum again due to the fact that he cannot get his scholarship on this visum; you need a student visum…ugh we’ll stop here and hopefully enjoy the fact that everything has worked out next month!

Even though all of this made for a bit stressful start of his PhD career (combined with the fact he already had to start an intensive program in August, which kept him very busy) Erik is really happy how everything turned out. We now both have a goal here in Taiwan; working on our projects on antibiotic resistance and ecosystem recovery, both in the  face of climate change. There’s actually much overlap between our research fields (Erik health and environment, Viola on ecology and human-environment interactions) so the next couple of years we can work on increasing our knowledge again and hopefully come with some useful results;)

And actually we can conclude that during summer in Taiwan the weather is really nice; we had lots of sunny days and almost no rain, Taiwan only got hit by 2 typhoons (which was not too bad; just a huge amount of rain in a very brief period) and we enjoyed surfing trips, camping trips on the weekends, exploring the many trails around Taipei City with beautiful sunrises and sunsets. You just have to accept the fact that it’s really, really hot and you’re going to get soaking wet while hiking… we managed and persevered!

Now we are going to enjoy our mooncakes and exchange some pomelos while having a nice rooftop BBQ with some friends, since today it’s a national holiday: mid autumn festival!

Below are some photos from our experiences and also check out our new Taiwan photos in the Taiwan folder!

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