Thinking back on today makes me sad; it was my last day of work here in Hong Kong. Even now, I can not believe that I will not show up to work on Monday. Seven weeks sure flew by… I came close to finishing two genes for my polychaete phylogenetic project. Originally I planned on doing 4 genes, thus completing the project, and attempting to publish a paper. However, now if things go according to plan, Yanan (or someone else) at HKBU will be doing the second half of the project. Correspondence between Hong Kong to write the paper will hopefully not be a big issue. While I left with a sense of disappointment because my half of the project was not complete, I know that my lab mates are more than willing to help me out. They are great.
Having such a great ending week makes it this much harder to pack up and leave Hong Kong. The past couple weeks I decided I wanted to learn mandarin (for Xiamen and Beijing), so they have all been helping me learn the basics. They are highly entertained by my sentences that I can formulate (and butcher…).
On Wednesday, my lab group and I did not have to work. Instead, we had the most fun day ever imaginable. Because my professor is affiliated with Hong Kong’s “Reef Check”, a program to maintain a healthy relationship with the coral reef ecosystems of HK, it meant that we all got a free day of fun. While some people on the large scuba boat were spending the day measuring coral, my lab mates and I had the opportunity to tag along. The day was spent swimming, snorkeling at the reefs, eating lots of food, sun bathing (sun burning…), and generally having a great time. The most interesting part of the trip was definitely introducing Yanan to water. While my lab mate is completely comfortable and in control in the laboratory setting, one thing she has never mastered is swimming. In fact, I believe it was her first time in a body of water. Coming from mainland China, she did not have a lot of opportunities to learn to swim. Having grown up as a swimmer and lifeguard, my life has revolved around the water. Yanan knew she was in good hands. Initially, with a life jacket on, she could not turn/move in the water. Adding in goggles and snorkel to the equation was another issue… I was happy that for once I was able to be helping Yanan. There were times when I literally had to take her by the hand and pull her away from the coral. I also had to swim her out to the reef, by pulling on her life jacket. The combination of being out of shape, having to swim her extremely far away from the boat, and not wearing a life jacket myself, meant that it was quite the feat… But by the second snorkeling session, she did not want to leave the reefs! While she was still lacking motor skills, Yanan was able to become moderately comfortable in the water. I think that it was a great experience for both of us.
On Thursday, my lab team and I (and Stephanie) went to have a farewell hot pot dinner. Steph and I were thinking it would take an hour, two at the most, for this celebration. Boy, were we wrong. Four hours!!!! Four hours of non-stop food consumption. I do not know how they do it. Once again, I had a great time. Sharing the boiling pot of soup in the center of the table to cook our foods led to constant interactions. I tried eel, ox stomach, pig liver, and all sorts of foods that seem foreign to me. Side-note: Last week I tried jelly fish, (called “sea blubber”) not so good. When thinking back about all the great times I have had in HK, the hot pot festivities will rank highly.
Today was the day filled with goodbyes. My lab crew, usually such sticklers for the rules, tried to convince me to not hand in my key card. When I told them I was going to hand it in, they said “No, you should keep it! That way you can come back in anytime.” I handed it in anyways, because it had to be done. After having the key card in my back pocket for 7 weeks, leaving the building for the final time with an empty pocket was a strange feeling.