Friday, June 29, 2007


Not much to say now... just tying up a few loose ends, stocking up on sunscreen, and getting all my gear together for the 18-hour flight (yes, 18 hours on the same plane) that will take me to Taipei. I have accumulated a somewhat impressive collection of maps and travel guides in the past few days, thanks mostly to my dad, Kevin, and my mom's friend Dorothy, so I feel more prepared than ever to get there and start exploring. I'm really looking forward to this experience as a departure from the almost insane academic pressure and limited travel capabilities that I experienced in Beijing.

I understood when I enrolled in the program last year that it would mean an intense workload and a full academic schedule, and that's definitely what I wanted -- I don't think I would have felt at all comfortable attempting travel outside Beijing by myself. But this summer will be different, and I was very cognizant of that when I signed up for this program. We have three days of class a week (instead of six), most classes are run in English (so I am not prohibited from speaking any language but Chinese 24-7), and, most of all, I'll be doing the program with Kevin!!

Kevin is awesome at keeping me sane in any situation, whether it's freaking out because I can't handle another word of Chinese, or stressing out over silly academic competition, or just feeling too scared to try new foods or experiences just because they're foreign. Plus, he speaks Chinese fluently and understands even better, so the onus won't be all on me. You know, I've started rambling but my point is that I think we're going to have an awesome time and I'm all the more excited to have these guides and maps (thanks Dad! xie xie Dorothy!) because I look forward to traveling whenever possible and just generally being carefree!

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Great Visa Adventure

Well, I finally have my ROC visa, pasted securely in my passport, safe and sound -- but it was quite an ordeal trying to obtain one!! The process was long and complicated, and fraught with complications and miscommunications. The first day spent in the city involved nearly four hours of work at the New York Public Library as Kevin and I desperately worked to obtain hard copies of documents (financial statement, letter of acceptance from medical school, receipt of plane ticket and travel itinerary) we didn't know we needed.

The second day, when our visas were supposed to be ready, brought another surprise -- Kevin and his family, having made the two-hour trek into the city once more, discovered that my visa could not be processed because of a problem with my photograph. A couple of frenzied phone conversations later, the stage was set for day three, in which I woke up at 5:30, traveled to the city solo (love the LIRR) and managed to get the thing processed "same-day," finally putting an end to the exhausting rigmarole.

I'm just thankful there weren't any serious problems with my application, that would actually prevent me from entering Taiwan -- just miles and miles of red tape and hoops to jump through. I'm glad that's done and ready to get going for real!