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29th issue by NTOU on December 2011

Hello dear readers my name is Diogenes Castillo and I am from the Dominican Republic (DR). I'm doing a master's degree in aquaculture at National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU), Keelung, Republic of China Taiwan, all thanks to God, the International Cooperation and Develop fund (ICDF) and the Dominican Institute of Agroforestry Research (IDIAF). Below I would like to share with you some of my experiences in Taiwan. 
 
After a long trip (two days from DR) finally I arrived in Taiwan at night. I immediately found the person who was going to take me to the university. He was very helpful and told me a lot of things, but unfortunately only in Chinese. I hadn’t the slightest idea what he wanted to say to me! I realized that I was very far from home and nobody could come to help me. I was imagining that the man may be telling me that his car is damaged or that there is some emergency and he has to go. I was tired and hungry but then suddenly he passed me his mobile phone and I could hear someone on the other end who I could understand; Eileen Chen, the representative of ICDF. She was waiting at the university to make sure that I was given the best possible my reception was the best. I am very thankful for Eileen’s kind help! 
 
During the first days at university, when I was settling into the way of life and completing administration procedures, I made some friends from around the world. Some of these friends were also new to university and others had already spent some time there. We all had a common interest; to explore the new world in which we had arrived. Some of these students could speak Mandarin, so it was easy for us to arrange some activities in the local area.
 
Our first adventure was to visit "Ximending," which really was a great experience! Ximending is a district located in the west of Taipei and is quite diversified in terms of entertainment, fashion, cuisine and culture, with a strong Japanese influence.
 
During our visit we saw many people from around the world, but there was something that stood out above all; "the beauty of Taiwanese women." I understood why they have been described as angels from heaven walking on earth.
 
The food is very tasty everywhere in Ximending. We were curious and wanted to try everything, it was all so delicious! We even found it difficult to walk because we ate so much! When we sat down for a rest we found that we were in the gay area of Taipei and there were many clubs and bars. Taipei really is a diverse place! We enjoyed having a drink before returning to our university.
 
Another great experience I had was in Taipei 101, a special mall located in Xinyi District, Taipei, very famous in Taiwan. It is called Taipei 101 as it has this number of floors.
On entry to the huge tower, I wondered through the luxurious halls looking at the designer shops. Although it was very comfortable to walk around the shopping area, I was too curious to know what the view would be like from the top of the building. I rushed to buy a ticket for the observatory and in the queue I was surrounded by Chinese tourists, who watched me in amazement and who were not at all subtle! It seems that many tourists in Taipei who come from are visiting from China have the tendency to do this whenever they see people from another country.
 
At that time I was with my friend and when I went to hug my friend, a Chinese man behind me tapped me on the shoulder and started saying something incomprehensible in Chinese. Luckily for me, my friend could speak Mandarin and understood that the Chinese man wanted to know whether my friend and I were married as, if not, he didn’t understand why we would hug. In my country, Dominicans greet each other with a hug and a kiss, for a woman, and a handshake and a hug, for a man. I wondered what impression he would have about us if he came to the Dominican Republic. I finally had to put my hands in my pockets and not hug my friend, in order to fit in with them and not attract attention at the top of the tower!
 
Upon reaching the top, carried by the world fastest elevator (it took 15 or 20 seconds to get to the 101st floor), we saw some amazing views of Taipei. You can have an idea of what we saw by looking at the previous photos, hope you enjoy them!. 
Whale watching in Ilan
Standing in front of the boat as it makes its way through wave after wave feels awesome. The cool wind blowing against us, the sight of the vast horizon stretches across the ocean, sea birds flying high and low in search of small fish to feed on, flying fish glides on the surface of the water, all these scenes put together relative to the motion of the boat gives you the natural beauty of marine life. This is my story about a trip on whale watching in Ilan and I would like to share the experience we had on that day. I hope you will have a chance to go there and experience the same excitement and see the beauty of the coastal areas in Ilan.
Our journey started early in the morning from National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU) and we were travelling in a mini bus. It was a very beautiful sunny day, a perfect day for a trip like whale watching out in the ocean. Everybody was excited about going to see whales. On TV or in the some national geography movies you can also see whales but this is real life scenes of wild marine dolphins. At the jetty, we all signed up and climbed on to the boat with excitement. On the boat you can see the high ridges of mountains rising at the back; this is the beauty of the north eastern part of Taiwan, a place of many mountains. We were given safety jackets to wear in case of any emergency situation. The boat slowly made its way from the jetty and out we journeyed to the open ocean. Sitting or standing in front of the boat was perfect because you can see the whole view of the vast ocean.
Right ahead of us was a small mountainous island rising and gets bigger as we approached it. Its geological landscape was amazing, it could be a volcanic island in the past because one thing special about this island was that you could see the yellowness of sulfur in the water and its odour was very strong. We stopped at this geological spot for a while to observe the hot sulfur rising from the deep sea vents. If you are not used to travelling in the sea, you need to take a bottle of water because at this spot, the smell of the sulfur plus the rocking of the boat could make you feel like to puke but don’t worry it is just part of the fun anyway. The crews are there to help you and soon you will feel better and enjoy the scene of dolphins swimming just close to the boat.
Out in the ocean there were fishing boats scattered across the horizon. We left the island behind as we journey on. Finally we arrived at the spot and the boat slows down and just floating while waiting for the first glimpse of dolphins. After a while there was nothing, only small flying fishes jumping and gliding here and there and sea birds diving into the water to feed on small fish at the surface. The heat from the sun started to become hotter and everybody started to feel like going back home as soon as possible. The excitement was almost over but all of a sudden there was a big dolphin rising from the surface of the water and dives down again. Everybody were getting excited and moved to a spot on the boat where they could see the dolphins clearly. There were many of them swimming around the boat about a few meters away. Those who have cameras were standing by the side of the boat, waiting for a perfect snap shot of these beautiful dolphins, while some took videos of them. We watched in glee every time the dolphins swim at the surface of the water. There was laughter, shouting and surprise every time the dolphins come to the surface and it was all fun. 
After a while, they were gone and so it was time to head back. Everybody was satisfied and happy to see wild dolphins and to travel this far out in the sea in this part of Taiwan. Finally we reached the jetty and that was the end of our day out in the sea of Ilan. The adventure was a happy one for me, because back home I use to go fishing and diving and this trip just brings back memories of the best times I had out in the sea catching fish and seeing the beauty of the marine life under water.