China Research

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Now that everything is said and done.

Over the past few weeks, things have been very busy in the lab, with us taking advantage of every moment of free time to visit places around Xiamen and every moment in the lab to get our results and prepare for the final presentation.

From a lab point of view, everything went well, including the final presentation, even though we were relatively rushed getting everything together. As usual, everything that can go wrong goes wrong when it comes down to crunch time. Our acid did not arrive on time, we lacked volumetric tubes and were constantly unable to locate the professor with access to the machine (he refused to give us a key to the lab in the first place). In addition to all that was listed above, three days before we were scheduled to give our presentation, our machine decided that it was fed up with us and we had to take it apart. This was definitely an experience as I have never taken apart scientific equipment before. To me, they have always been either working or not working, and it never crossed my mind that I would personally be helping fix or diagnose the issue. Obviously, miracles happen and we managed to collect all our data within the allotted time and finish the presentation.

With hard work comes the need to play hard as well. I would like to start with a list of everything we did in the past two weeks. We went bowling, played basketball and badminton, went to the Zhangzhou campus TWICE, took a sketch village bus to visit the geological park, had “all you can eat” dessert, toured the Xiamen campus and even helped my grad student find an apartment and move into it. Within the last 3 days that we have left, we plan to go karaoke, spend a day in the botanical gardens and go on a sunset cruise around Xiamen Bay. I thoroughly enjoy the fun that I have had and will have with my lab mates. If not for their eagerness to show me around, I probably would not have had the chance to do half the things that I have done within these past two weeks, let alone seen everything that I have had these past 2 months.

Now that everything is said and done, and that our projects are finished. I have to say that I have accomplished what I had initially wanted to come to Xiamen to do. My goal was to figure out if I would be able to work and live in China (which is relatively closer to home). I now realize that there are many aspects of Chinese culture that I didn’t even know I missed after living in the States these past two years. I now realize that I am able to adapt back to the culture here and that working here would definitely be a possibility in the future. However, I also realize how much I will miss the States if I were to come back to Asia after I graduate. There will be a lack of individuality and independence that many people take for granted while in the States. The transition will not be an easy one and honestly, I do not know whether or not I would be willing to make it. However, figuring out the direction of my future was not the point of this internship. My goal was to “figure out if I would be able to work and live in China”, and my answer to that is: “If it comes down to it, I would be able to work and live here. It is an option.”


Seawater Is A Fabulous Conductor.

Mong Kok, Hong Kong on a Monday afternoon before rush hour. And I just climbed out of a 4×2.5 elevator with approximately 20 other people. I only had to do it once, and I was ‘this‘ close to losing it.

Hemingway’s By The Bay. Location: D-Deck, Discovery Bay, Lantau Island. The best nachos, great bartenders, and to my surprise not one person had read one of Hemingway’s works. I actually just read The Sun Also Rises, while I was there. I figured it was only fitting, not that I had anyone to discuss it with.

Pretty high end drink stop in Peng Chau. A very small island with a massive population, I believe it was something like 6,800 people lived on that island. Basically the most traditional Chinese village I’ve been to so far. By ‘traditional’ I mean, families farming and small shops, etc. It is NOT Hong Kong, that is certain.

Nightfall over Kowloon (where I live), but I’m standing on the Central side (where Victoria’s Peak is). The city is brighter at night. In this picture I was at the ferry docks. I have hundreds of pictures I want to upload on here but it takes way too long. SO - I’ll give you a few of the better ones. I just left Hemingway’s and took a ferry over to Central then took the MTR to Kowloon Tong then walk through Festival Walk then walked past bus station up some stairs, around the corner, down some stairs, and vu-ah la.

SHARP PEAK - 30 km hike from the start of Stage 2 MacLehose Trail. This was easily the most amazing hike I’ve ever taken in my life. I will actually do something along the lines of this again shortly. This picture was taken when we were almost to the top of the peak (yes, the pointy tall one). We left to meet at the MTR at 8:30 am and I walked into my bedroom at 9:45 pm. There was actually a point in time where I was fairly certain I was going to never make it home and quite possibly die out there. The trail NEVER ended, but that was the part I liked most I guess. The views made you feel like you could ‘change the world’. Truly breathtaking.

Part of the hike to Sharp Peak. We were working out way down to the ocean/beach at this point. Hello Pacific! What better place to sit and catch a glimpse of everything than right on the edge. Beautiful.

The most remote beach in all of Hong Kong. You can only get there by taking one of the many hikes, such as the one we did that day, or by your half billion dollar yacht. Your choice. It has a flat, smooth profile, shallow waters yet theres enough surf. Amazing - Have I mentioned I love Hong Kong?

Resting. It had been a long day.

Resting. Again. Don’t judge, I had nine bottles of water and never once had to go to the bathroom. I ate a warm cheese sandwich, so bread cheese half melted and bread. My iPod died, that was devastating. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to just…rest.

I also have been exploring, I’m really familiar with TST and Mongkok and Central. Now I’m moving to the outlying islands. There are some even MORE exciting and beautiful sights and places to go and see and things to do and learn. Too much to do in just two months. But I have my corals! SO excited. 6 Lobophytum depressum , 2 large samples and 4 smaller samples. Instead of the 8 tanks, because the divers were only able to get 6 samples, I’ve now re-organized. 4 tanks, 2 filters in each tank (increasing water movement), 2 tanks with 1 large sample, 2 tanks with 2 small samples each. There now on a 12 hour light, 12 hour dark cycle, salinity is almost stabilized 2 tanks are a bit high about 2 ppt too high. So I’ve been adding fresh non-chlorinated water to decrease in 2 tanks but needed to add fresh seawater to the other 2 tanks. Stopped filters for about 10 minutes today to clean the green/brown algae out. Nutrient levels are still high but there isn’t much that can be done. We’re trying to keep the environment as natural as possible. Temperatures are only supposed to fluctuate 1-2 degrees C at the very most. 2 tanks are approximately 26 C which is acceptable, but the other 2 are approximately 27-28 C which is getting rather high. pH is stable, 8.1, and chemical concentrations are stable. I will not be able to conduct physical measurements until Friday so for now I tend to their every need (smile).

It has been thunder-storming all day today - so that influenced me to take a run. It may not seem logical to you, but lets take a minute and asses the situation as it really is. 32 C on a low day, 78% humidity on a low day, 100 % pollution/car fumes/2nd hand smoke….. I went for a run in the rain.

I’ve been reading Sun Jin’s paper (he’s getting it published) to correct any spelling errors or grammar in his English. I’m almost through and as I figured, it is just about perfect. Spelling,grammar, set up, the whole 9. His research is so in depth and so interesting. I cannot wait to see his final results.

Seawater is a fabulous conductor. Take caution when working closely with electricity and seawater.

Soon,

Nikki


Sangria’s Downstairs!

Hong Kong National Geological Parks - there are roughly 8 large parks.
High Island
Double Heaven
Ung Kong Group
North & South Coast of Tolo Channel
Ninepin Islands
Port Island
Sharp Island
Tung Ping Chau

All of which are unique and beautiful in their own way. The parks that I have visited so far include High Island, Sharp Island, and the Ung Kong Group. The Ung Kong Group consists of Wang Chau, Bluff Island, and Basalt Island which all have columnar jointed volcanic rocks. Because of location, intense wave and wind erosion takes place, and the Ung Kong Group has some magnificent landforms such as sea caves, sea arches and steep cliffs. Wang Chau was the smallest of the islands that I visited just 80 meters above sea level and 500 meters wide. There was an amazing sea cliff on the Northern side of the island. Basalt Island had a lot of sea stacks, island reefs, and wave cut bays, it was absolutely beautiful. Bluff Island is a great place to go if you want to study rhyolite with a large sea cave that passes directly through the island, it is big enough for small boats to sail through. We did not get to, obviously, there were 40 of us on this boat. I don’t believe I mentioned it earlier, but Paul, my lab mate got an invite from a chemistry professor here at HKBU and she in turn invited me to join. It was an amazing trip and I got to see some of the most breathtaking geological formations and ate what I thought was amazing seafood. There was only a temple and a restaurant on this island that we stopped, the food was as fresh as it gets. We ate fresh scallops, flash fried octopus, crab, steamed fish, abalone, and a few other things I cannot even remember it all! It was delicious. The sangrias downstairs is in reference to the professor that invited us on the trip - she was a riot. We went with the entire chemistry department and their friends and families. They thought I was a professor and I went with it for the extent of the trip hah! Anyways, an amazing trip to say the least!

My other lab mate Sun Jin is working with some of the undergraduate students teaching them about the apple snail and it’s defense mechanisms. Shortly he is going to be doing some DNA sequencing and hopefully he’ll be allowed to let me observe along with the other students! A bit ago I helped him to check the juvenile snails which were all exposed to different concentrations of heavy metal. It was actually odd and this is what Sun Jin is trying to figure out; the juvenile snails were the most reactive to the low concentrations of copper. Their heart beats would almost diminish completely in 24 hours where the rest of the heavy metals used took more time and greater concentrations. Interesting. I just recently bought some soft coral to run preliminaries. I’ll do two 24 hour observational measurements, taken every 3 hours so LOTS of coffee and LOTS of shirts. I’ll be in the greenhouse as if it isn’t hot enough outside where there may be a breeze. Checking concentrations of chemicals in the water as well as temperature, pH, salinity, changing out the water constantly because the evaporation rates are exceedingly fast in the greenhouse, obviously. Then I’ll do the physical measurements - touch, contract, and measure. There are different techniques for different species and structures of corals. I’ll update as I go!

Geo Parkeating veggie saltines on the boat waiting for snorkeling to start!I have a million pictures that I took from the boat trip but here are a few. Now you can really understand what I am saying when I say truly amazing and beautiful geology & scenery in Hong Kong. Tomorrow I will be hiking the most famous mountain in all of Hong Kong & I’ll do the second portion of this blog when I get them loaded into the computer.

Until Then,
Nikki

….Continued

It is now JULY 4th in Hong Kong and I am in lab working. Today I cleaned the algae out of my tanks (which has to be done daily every day that I am working with them), I went to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) today to get 8 more jugs of fresh seawater because that has to be changed every other day. Took some pH, Temperature, salinity, and chemical concentration readings. Nutrient levels were a bit high causing the excess of green/brown algae, but that is fixable. Right now I have two species of soft coral in the tanks, but they were purchased from the Red Market or “Fish Market” in Mongkok to test water quality and make sure that when it is time for Lobophytum depressum they will survive. I got my underwater camera and materials prepared to run the experiment on the temporary soft corals and I will re-run it again later in the week. Hopefully Sun Jin (lab-mate) will let me know when he does the DNA sequencing so that I can observe/participate. Very interesting stuff.

I went to the Hong Kong Museum of History yesterday (July 3rd) and loved it. They had a small but interesting exhibit on the formation of Hong Kong over the last 400,000,000 years. So LOTS of Geology : ), fun stuff. Actually, I went on a 30 kilometer hike on Saturday and discovered that continuous exposure to sun despite the caliber of SPF you are wearing (130) will result in awful sunburns. So I was able to rock climb, hike, walk a breathtakingly beautiful beach (the most secluded and remote beach in all of Hong Kong) and then hike some more, found a freshwater stream coming from a waterfall further up the mountain. I am telling you, the city is amazing here, but there are some absolutely stunning views, you just have to get up higher in elevation. I’m going to post some more of the pictures in a separate blog, most likely tomorrow. So if you are following this, you’ll be able to see a part of what I was able to see on Saturday.

-Nikki


Bicycles and Elevators… Who knew?

Bicycles, the main mode of transportation in Xiamen, and I can officially say that I have experienced it. It was relatively nice evening when we decided to go for a bike ride along the beach. The trail, if it can even be called a trail, was known as “HuanDaoLu” which literally translates to “Road Around Island”. Getting started was one of the easier parts of this adventure. My lab mates called a few friends; we got keys to their bikes and then picked the bikes we were comfortable riding. All the bikes can be described as “falling apart” but still functional. One bike’s wheel was bent making it feel like you were riding a horse instead of a bike. The chain of another was constantly falling off and one didn’t have functional brakes. I think I was the luckiest one out of all the people who went as my bike was only rusty and had loose handle bars which creaked with every turn.

Once we got on the road, things got a little bit trickier. We biked through the campus, and watched a group of guys turn the outside of an auditorium into a skate park. How they manage to have fun while not crashing into people walking to and from class or getting hit by delivery trucks, I will not ever understand. But they made it work and had a lot of fun showing off to the girls watching. To get out of campus, we took a tunnel that led to the male dormitories (female dormitories are on campus, while males are off campus). Most of the tunnel wall was covered in graffiti and filled with memories from graduated previous graduating classes. The culture that the walls illustrated was one of a globalization. There were French words, traditional Chinese poems and even renditions of famous western paintings. Everywhere you look there would be something you failed to notice before. However, most of my lab mates are afraid of walking through the tunnel at night. This could be due to the graffiti as well because you would never know where there would suddenly be a painting staring at you while you walked home at night.

The next interesting event was when we hit the road by the beach. If you had to draw a comparison, biking along that road would be similar to trying to thread a needle with yarn. There were so many cars, bikes and people all trying to get to where they needed to go in a lane that could barely fit two cars. Over the entire trip, I personally almost hit 3 children and 2 adults and nearly got hit by 2 cars. Being one of the most convenient and popular modes of transportation, my personally experience with bicycles here would say that it is also one of the most dangerous.

Elevators are also used frequently here instead of stairs. Thus, the question of the day was, “If you were stuck in an elevator, what would you do?” Today I got stuck in an elevator and I have to say it was the most fun I’ve had all week. We weren’t stuck in the elevator for very long but it was dark and it got stuffy relatively quickly. I now understand why people are claustrophobic and afraid of the dark. But, the story should not be of us in the elevator but rather of us getting out of the elevator. We somehow managed to get in contact with the security guard but not in contact with the emergency numbers in the elevator. Furthermore, we were stuck on the 5th floor and for some reason, the guy with us decided to push the doors a little. This prompted the doors to open and we walked out of the elevator without help from anyone on the outside within 10 minutes of getting stuck. What an interesting turn of events.


Buddhist Beauty

Week 6 in Xiamen started off with an adventure, as it usually does. I decided to take my roommate from Eckerd’s advice and get lost in China. Explore without reason, and discover things you otherwise wouldn’t have. This being the first trip I have taken by myself to a completely different area, I only took her advice to an extent. I got on the bus, paid my 1yuan, and headed into the vast unknown—although on the other side of that unknown, I knew was the SM Mall. I did not know how far it was, what it was close to, or how I would know when to get off the bus, but I was determined to find it. It turns out that the SM Mall is quite unmistakable and just so happens to be the last stop on bus 20. So, sorry Taylor, I kind of cheated. But there will be other times where I truly get on the bus and get off somewhere I have never been. I just figured for the first time, I wouldn’t get too carried away. I feel very comfortable with the bus system now and have realized that no matter where you go, there are bus stops every 200 feet. So, the chances of actually getting lost probably are not as high as I first thought. So, the SM Mall. When we first pulled up, the first thing I noticed besides the biggest sign I have ever seen that said SM was another sign that said Wal-Mart! AHH!!! There is a Wal-Mart in China! Xiamen no less! Yesssss I will indeed check that out I said to myself with a smile. I pulled out my camera and started snapping photos. The first place I went was the bottom floor to the Wal-Mart. I thought it was very interesting that a store that sells so many products made in China would have a store in China. I wonder if they sold products from the United States…wouldn’t that be outlandish?! Sure enough, I did see quite a few products from the US in the Chinese Wal-Mart. I was hoping it would be similar to home, but of course not. The rest of the mall was not too exciting. If you were going there to purchase a new wardrobe, then you would be in heaven, but I was not interested in clothing, so I did not find the rest of the mall too thrilling.

I found a STARBUCKS on Tuesday! Max and I were talking about how we were both craving iced coffee, so I decided to search for one. My lab told me there were 4 in Xiamen. My reply way: “How did I not know about this 5 weeks ago?” ha! When we got off the bus and saw the sign glowing like a halo of beauty, I almost shed a tear of utter happiness. Needless to say, the caramel frappuccino was incredibly satisfying.

My lab’s weekly meeting was held in the coffee shop this week. I ordered a macchiato since I have never had one before, so why not try it. It was as tiny as a child’s tea set! I had to control my laughter as I drank it. I felt like I was having tea with the characters of Alice in Wonderland. The coffee itself was horrid.

Later that day, I went with Yuan to get her hair cut. I ended up getting bangs and having my hair layered as well. I am quite protective over my hair, so getting it cut from someone who did not speak English and trying to explain the side-sweep bang was challenging. I was terrified he would cut it short. I did not want any length cut off, so every snip was hard. I survived, and my hair looks very nice. I even gave the man (who was 26, but looked like he was 15—making me even more nervous) a tip – which is unheard of in China. He was shocked, so I just smiled and said xia xia (thank you).

After getting stylish and “high fashion” as Yuan says, we went to have dinner. As we were eating our food outside under a large umbrella, it started POURING! We started laughing, and continued to eat our food. The lights went out shortly after that, so not only were we eating in the rain, we were eating in the dark. It was very funny. In one of the previous blogs, I mentioned a dessert made of pineapple, ice, and milk…well at this dinner in the dark and rain; we ate the same dessert with watermelon instead of pineapple. It wasn’t as good, but still very delicious. After dinner, Yuan got a call from her friend who is a very prominent monk at the Nan Putuo temple just outside campus. He asked her if we wanted to see the temple at night when it is closed to the public, and of course we both said yes! We met him at the entrance and he handed me a gift. It was a bracelet made of wood from a rare tree. I was very happy, the bracelet is gorgeous. Yuan explained to me that he thought it was fate that I came to China, met him, and was introduced to the Buddhist religion, and therefore, a gift was an appropriate measure. He showed us around the temple which I had been to during the day, but it was nothing compared to its serenity after dark. Without the 10,000 people surrounding you trying to take photos, the temple is quiet, soothing, and unbelievably beautiful. The amount of detail put into each carving was like nothing I have ever seen. He even brought us up a winding stair case to see the sacred bell marked with Chinese characters they use to wake the monks in the morning and tell them it is time to rest at night. This area was strictly prohibited to the public, so being there was very special. We performed a prayer where we bow with our hands in prayer, kneel down to the bench, touch with our right hand first, put our head to our knees, and relax your hands with your palms facing upward. I felt honored to experience such a personal place for the monks. Her friend also showed us their housing, and a classroom equipped with thousands of books, some teaching English, a chalkboard, and even a projector. As we were leaving, Yuan gasped. The monk master walked out of temple and bowed to us. Seeing him, she said, is very rare. “He is very busy, this is a good night of experiences for you.” Certainly, it was.


“This is SERIOUS! We’re at a buffet! Come on!”

Oh China, you never cease to amaze me. This past week began with Yuan and I making a trip downtown for dinner. She took me to a restaurant that is “super famous” according to the locals. The menu was in Chinese, so I just simply pointed to the lady sitting across from me and said I’ll have what she’s having. We literally sat down at a table across from two people who were already eating—it was that crowded. That’s something you would NEVER see in America. What I ordered turned out to be pineapple fried rice which was served with this dried meat that looked like the consistency of brown sugar (to best describe it—it was super dry and in somewhat of a powder sugar grain form or flossy—I have no idea). It was pretty good. Yuan surprised me with the most amazing dessert I’ve had here. It is very special to the locals. We had pineapple ice cream—China style. It was ice that was super fine (finer than a snow cone, to the point where it didn’t stick together…like shavings) mixed with milk (ice cream) and then topped with fresh cut pineapple and a pineapple glaze. Talk about incredible. It was quite delicious to say the least. After dinner, we decided to hit the main shopping street-Chong Shan Lu. Man was it packed! There had to be 50,000 people there! We were there just as the sun was going down, so the flashy lights were all on, thousands of people were out, and everyone was happy and laughing-until they saw me…then it was like they had seen an alien. Do I have green skin? Giant eyes? Am I wearing a highlighter orange jumpsuit? No, I am just a foreigner. But the way they stare me down head to toe the entire time I pass by, even turning to watch me until I am gulped up by the crowds and no longer visible, says otherwise.
It is so much cooler at night. The relentless sun is down, the air is a little less moist, and there always seems to be more of a breeze after say 6 o’clock. Night in Xiamen is beautiful. During the day? Not so much. Like I said, the sun is relentless, the humidity is like nothing I have ever experienced-and yes, it is worse than last summer in the Florida heat-much worse. I swear it is as if you are walking through mist, the air is that moist.
Tu and Yuan (the grad students I do the most with) took me to a buffet on Tuesday. What an experience. What was there you ask? Let me list it for you: the first thing that pops into my head is cow tongue–yes, tongue…in the shape of a tongue, like they literally cut it out of the mouth of a cow and cooked it. Pork, shrimp-with the head, tail, and shell still intact, balls of fish meat, the tiniest chicken wings I have ever seen (I am from just outside Buffalo, NY, so I have seen many a chicken wing), turkey off the leg, pig thigh, and that was just the meat. There was corn on the cob, pineapple, dragon fruit, and the most popular-watermelon. The layout was interesting. There were servers who would walk around to each table and offer you the meat (that I just listed off) which they had on a huge stick and if you wanted it, they would shave a few slices off for you. Everything that wasn’t meat was served as a typical buffet style. Chinese people must really love their watermelon. It was the first dish to be emptied by the guests, and when you saw the lady bringing more, it was like a flock of geese heading south for the winter. Swarms of people running, yes, RUNNING for the watermelon—hopping over the sardines and miscellaneous foods that were dropped on the floor. It was gone in less than a minute. But the most memorable thing that happened was Yuan. Yuan is a girl in her mid-20s. She is decently tall, and on the smaller build. This tiny Chinese girl ate at least 12 plates of food! “Where are you putting it!” I asked, “In your legs!!?” She is so small, the food must have been up to her esophagus! So as the night goes on, she says “I’m going to have a rest.” So I’m thinking, wow, after 12 plates, I think she is full. Wrong. As she sits back in her chair, she grabs her bowl of ice cream in one hand and a piece of watermelon in the other (we were some of the lucky ones to have gotten some watermelon in the 60 seconds that there was any) and continues to eat. I was DYING laughing. I was laughing so hard that Tu took out his camera and was taking pictures of us and I had tears running down my face. That’s when she yelled: “This is SERIOUS! We’re at a buffet! Come on!” That made me almost fall out of my chair I was laughing so hard.
We went ice skating this week! I am from one of the coldest states in the Continental United States, that is known for large quantities of snow and ice, and yes, I have never gone ice skating before. Tu and I tagged along with Max’s lab and went to an open air ice rink. 50 feet away from the ice, it was about 95 degrees. When I think about ice skating, I think about people in the middle of winter with gloves, hats, scarves, and mittens wrapped up in their coats and heavy pants skating around an oval and later getting some hot cocoa. Here, I was sweating like I was in a sauna and soaked on my right side from the death grip I had with the wall. It was a miracle that I didn’t fall, but I wish I had the balance to skate around instead of slowly crouching along with such a tight grasp. All in all, besides the scab on my leg from the skate rubbing against it, it was a really fun trip.
The last of my news for the week is that I have seen quite an abundance of foreigners lately. I talked to a girl from Sweden in the elevator on the way to lab yesterday—in English—made my day. And on that topic, I had a Chinese girl about my age stop me on the street the other day as I’m jammin along to Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” on my way to lab. She said hello and asked if she could take a photo with me—all in English. I was so excited to hear someone speak a language I understood that I totally ignored the fact that I had no idea who this girl was and it was a little awkward taking a photo with a complete stranger, and just smiled for the camera. How nice 


A family. Dream VS Reality…

Our lab group does everything together. It really seems like we are one big family, each person has their own little role to play and it wouldn’t be the same if someone left. I will definitely miss them a lot when I finish my internship, just as I will miss the undergraduates in our group that have recently graduated and are leaving.

As a “thank you” to the entire lab group, the graduated individuals invited the lab to dinner. It is tradition and I was glad that I got to witness it. Being the hosts, they would have to toast their lab mates, thanking them for different things. For example, one would toast to helping them calculate statistics, or supervising them in lab work, etc. However, the first person they toast is the professor, for allowing them to work on his research and be in this lab group and for helping them with everything they needed. Similarly, since the professor had to leave early, there was also a toast before he left initiated by him, to everyone at the table, to a safe and fun filled night. Basically, there was a lot of toasting the entire night. It definitely had a concluding feel to it and I hope that they would give me the chance to show them all my appreciation when it is my turn to leave.

Besides eating together, we hiked up the mountain together as well. When they first told me that we were going to climb the mountain, I was very reluctant. It was hot, it was going to be sweaty and I didn’t have the right shoes. However, since everyone was going to go, I really didn’t have much of a say and in the end, I was glad that I went. The city lights were amazing and we could see the entire school from up there. I think that was the best part of the hike, being able to look down at the building that we spent our days and nights, lighted up against the dark sea. We hiked up the mountain at dusk and got scared while hiking down the NanPuTou Temple steps at night. But everything turned out alright because we were all together.

I guess it is the sense of security that makes me associate my lab group to a family. I spend so much time with them, doing things with them, that I even dream about them. Last night, I dreamt that I had a family here and that everyone was worried about me.

Father: He called the doctor and rushed me to the hospital, explained the situation and got me all settled and paid the bill.

Mother: She stayed with me all day; she came to the hospital, walked me back to my hotel room, made sure I took my medication and comforted me when I said that I was afraid of injections. She even called me at night to make sure that everything was alright.

Oldest brother: He bumped into me on the way back and told me to go to bed early. He made sure I knew that it didn’t look too bad and that I should not blame myself for being careless.

Second brother: He got the taxi to send me to the hospital and registered me, making sure all the paper work was done while I went to see the doctor. He stayed with me and Mother the entire day to make sure that nothing went wrong. Most of all, he made sure that I was taking care of myself, eating the right foods so as to not create bigger issues by messing up the balance in my body.

Little brother: When he heard, he said he would come over as soon as he was done with lab work for the day.

Little sister: She was the first one to find out. I comforted her and told her that it was not her fault and that she shouldn’t worry because it didn’t hurt too much and it wouldn’t scar. I hoped that she wouldn’t take it too hard on herself.

The situation was as follows, I was in my lab which is a sealed, clean, dust free area. I was adding concentrated HNO3 to my samples and somehow, it splashed up onto my face. Little sister had just left the lab and did not close the outside door properly meaning that the inside door could not be opened. Thus, I was locked in the lab.

It was nice that everyone cared about me so much even though I was new in the group. Even after I woke up this morning, they made sure I was taking care of myself and that I slept fine. I am lucky to be in such a lab group that is so accepting, willing to care and love.


This Just In From Charlie Brown Cafe -

Charlie Brown Cafe is located in downtown Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon in Kok Pah Mansion, ground floor. It is a great place for an Apple Cinnamon Tea (hot) and even better (cold). I’ve been here since 5 and have had approximately 3 give or take 2. In Hong Kong you can find millions upon billions of Coffee Shops/Cafes to sit and do your work away from the lab & away from your dorm room. Especially when the view from your dorm room is questionable. Today a Typhoon #3 warning was issued, nothing to panic about - just basically extreme winds & rains. Do the world a favor and buy a umbrella before you come to Hong Kong. Actually do yourself a favor and buy at least 3 because it is almost guaranteed that the winds will blow at least one of them away!

It is time for a DID YOU KNOW.

Did you know that it rains in Hong Kong- frequently. Weekly. Daily. Hourly. In mass quantities. It rains SO much in Hong Kong (especially during Typhoon season, so now) that the ‘umbrella’ becomes apart of your fashion statement. If your umbrella doesn’t match your outfit for the day you are totally not ‘IN’. Hah. Also, hold on to not only the handle of your umbrella BUT the actual top part as well. Tropical depression Kiama stole my umbrella today - needless to say.

Research - My research project is on it’s way. I’ve started all my tanks today. Got them cleaned, set up, bought filters at the Red Market in Mongkok (very cool place, pretty much anything you could ever want for extremely cheap- counting puppies, I was devastated. The also have hair ties which pretty much makes it the best place in HK) - on that note, don’t forget your hair ties at home because it’s almost as difficult as finding a CUP to buy. Anyways, the set up of the tanks was fairly straight forward, just very HOT in the greenhouse. And tropical depression Kiama was not letting up so my options were 90 (plus) degree greenhouse OR monsoons outside. Currently, I have four tanks running with fresh seawater and for the 10 gallon tanks (25 mL) of cultured bacteria were added to the circulating water, in the 20 gallon tank (50 mL) cultured bacteria was added. Tomorrow I will go to Sai Kung Pier via van and gather 8 more jugs of fresh seawater (I am not using reverse osmosis water because we’re trying to keep the corals environment as natural as possible) and then take it back to HKBU to the greenhouse and set up the other four tanks. I have 8 tanks total. Sunday Dr. Qiu planned a boat trip with the local fisherman (I’m not invited because I cannot speak Cantonese AND I’d take up room ha ha) so my lab mate Paul is going to take the boat trip and I’ll wait on the pier, then well bring the corals back to the greenhouse and I’ll set them up into their new temporary homes! That following week all of my experiments will start. Measurements and photographs will be taken. At some point I will figure out how to add photos to this blog & you can start to see what I am actually doing and seeing here in Hong Kong!

I was fortunate enough to witness one of my lab mates (Yanan) master defense presentation. She did great! How nerve-wracking. Poor girl, she thought I was going to go in and ask questions during the conversational portion of the presentation! Besides, her presentation was approximately 30 minutes and then it opened for questions in which one of the four individuals on her panel asked majority of them. She did her study the past 2 years on the Phylogeny of Polycheates in the NE-R of Hong Kong. Which is where my samples will be coming from. The NE-R of Hong Kong is the most “oceanic” if you will. The Pearl River pushes a lot of fresh water lowering salinity as well as increased sedimentation which all have negative affects on coral populations. Ultimately, the NE-R has more stable abiotic variables including salinity, temperatures, water clarity,etc. According to somewhat recent research (Fabricius & McCoy 2003) coral cover has declined in Hong Kong due to impaired coral recruitment and erosion by borers and sea urchins. Borers are agents of bioerosion that are located inside dead or live coral making it more susceptible to erosion (Fonseca et al. 2005) (Fonseca, A.C., Dean, H.K., Cortes, J., 2005). This causes azooxanthellate octocoral communities to be the dominant groups found on substrate below 5 meters deep. The octocoral communities include gorgonians and soft corals. These conditions make Hong Kong a favorable place to study soft corals amongst some of the more major reefs in the world, i.e Great Barrier Reef.

I’ll tell you more about my experiment when the observational & physical measurements actually start. It’ll be really interesting to see what the variability amongst the different measurement techniques turns out to be if any (even though I know there will be some variability already due to previous research). Manipulating their environmental conditions to see how that affects growth patterns/rates maybe even reproduction and mortality and comparing THAT to the variability between the observational and physical measurements to see WHICH holds the greatest and least variability and maybe giving some reasons as to WHY. Basically, I have a lot of work to do still! : ) Good stuff.

Still sitting in Charlie Brown Cafe - I’ll probably never leave. Where is the waiter? I want some apple cinnamon grande hot ‘mm goy’ (<- this is the not Cantonese spelling but the “english” spelling you’d see under the word to actually pronounce it properly…so mm goy… thank  you or please).

Soon Enough.


Skeptics and True Believers

Not much has happened this past week. I bartered my way into acquiring an “LV” purse (as the locals refer to it), got a little homesick and went for pizza (Chinese style pizza of course), and discovered that there is a light that is right above the windows in my dorm room. Who knew! This past week has been very productive in terms of my research. We are well on our way to analyzing results! Our fragments have been cultured, weighed, and I even got to play around with a little liquid nitrogen. It turns out, if you leave a glass tube in liquid nitrogen for longer than a minute, it will most definitely shatter. My grad student Adam figured that out on Wednesday and lost all of our samples from the first week and had to start from the beginning. That wasn’t all bad for me though because that meant I got to have a pipettor in my hand ALL day yesterday! :D As I mentioned, I felt a little homesick this week. I asked my lab mates if they wouldn’t mind doing “American” food for dinner and they were nice enough to try it out. At dinner, we had an interesting conversation about the differences between China and the United States. Although the differences are great, there were more similarities than I was expecting. So, for this week’s blog, I thought I would bring to light some of the myths and truths about China and local culture here in Xiamen.

Myth 1: Something that I have heard all through growing up from family, friends, and complete strangers. Chinese people eat dogs and cats. Although two of my lab mates admitted to trying dog meat in the past, they both agreed that it was not tasty and would not eat it again. As for cat meat, they also both agreed that eating cats is absolutely disgusting and that they would never dare try it. Now, they also mentioned that there is some truth to this myth. There are a few small provinces in China where people eat what they can and it that so happens to be these two furry friends, then that’s what’s for dinner. They do not lie and tell you it is chicken. There are some weird foods here, but it is normal for the locals, so if it is duck neck, they will tell you it is duck neck. For instance, tonight for dinner, I ate: fish-served with the head and fins attached, duck, beef, chicken, pork, intestine was served-but I passed on that one, and FROG! Which I did try and was not too bad!

Myth 2: All Chinese people wear cheongsams (the fitted dresses with collars). This is completely false although I have seen two women and a small girl wearing them around. On a daily basis, most of the women in China dress very nicely. Almost all of them wear very pretty dresses from just simple sun dresses to high class business dresses. They also sport high heels and carry “sun umbrellas.” Unlike the American use of an umbrella, these are colorful, beautifully designed umbrellas that women carry to keep the sun from hitting their skin. They do nothing in the rain; therefore you must also always carry a small regular umbrella as well. You rarely find anyone here wearing sunglasses. It is common for someone to wear the same outfit multiple days in a row here as well. “When did society decide that we have to change and wash a t-shirt after every individual use? If it’s not dirty, I’m going to wear it.” I have also noticed that Crocs are quite popular here…I see them everywhere, and countless people wear Disney clothes. No matter what age, you can easily find someone wearing anything from Snow White to Donald Duck, although Mickey and Minnie are the most popular.

Myth 3: “You’re going to eat so much rice.” To be honest, I see more noodles and meat than rice. Rice is offered, but it seems like more people eat noodles than rice. Cold noodles, hot noodles, noodles in sauce, noodles in soup, any way you want noodles, you can find it. I was quite surprised when I saw a man making home-made noodles in the cafeteria last night at dinner. My family used to make home-made pasta when I was young, so I was impressed to say the least. He was so fast putting the dough through the machine to flatten it out and then cut it into strips and he stretched them with such ease…nothing stuck together, no clumps. It was neat.

I have been trying to explain the types of foods we eat in America like my favorite snack: peanut butter and bananas. You don’t realize how hard it is to describe what peanut butter is…but I found some in a grocery store down the road and bought some bananas and brought it in to my lab today. I cut the banana up and put a little bit of chunky peanut butter on it for everyone and watched as they ate it and each one of their faces puckered in disgust! I have never met so many people that didn’t like peanut butter! Their faces were priceless. They were nice enough to say that the banana tasted good, the peanut butter, not so much I guess.


Best Advice -

( I have no idea if this image is going to show up or not - wish me luck)

Each day is a gift and not a given right.

Music, food, studies, and boy the stories I have to tell. A few days ago Dr. Qiu asked if I would like to join some of his ‘elite’ undergraduate students to take a boat trip out for the annual Reef Check. Of course I took this opportunity to not only learn some more about the reefs of Hong Kong but also to see some more of the beauty that this region has to offer away from the big city. The group took out a two story boat (the boat was owned by a friend of Dr. Qiu), it was equipped with two flat screens, beds, three wet decks, two dry decks, a kitchen, fridge, freezer, tables, chairs, and a grill for the Chinese version of BBQ. We snorkeled while the professor’s and some of the local experts did dives into the reef to count fish population and check coral, both hard and soft. Then we were able to sit in the “dry deck” with booths and beautiful hardwood floors and a pull out movie screen. The man whose boat we were on was also a expert diver and professional photographer. He talked about the reefs while showing a slide show of his images from the past few years. If you think that the images you see in National Geographic or Discovery Channel are amazing, you have not seen this mans work yet. His photographs are purely for educational purposes but he takes some phenomenal photos. I’m in the process of trying to get his e-mail to see if he would allow me to have some. Even though the whole speech was in Cantonese I still understood just from the reaction of the crowd and the pictures that he took. In just two short years we were able to see the extreme visual changes that took place at just one small location of reef. At first there were just rocks with very small coral formations and no fish species. The next year the coral had almost doubled in size with fish, and that third year the coral was flourishing with several fish in comparison to the first years photographs. He also showed images of several plastic bottles resting on the ocean floor and fishermans nets with more than just turtles caught in them. I’m not sure that anybody or anything could get out of one of those nets. Very sad. But that is what the Reef Check is for, not only to check on the status of the local species of corals and fish, but to educate the youth about what is happening and what will happen if the steady increase in anthropogenic causes continues to rise. After letting anchor down the professors started up the grill and brought out a big pan of rice mixed with pork bones & some seasonings. They cooked ‘hotdogs’ , ‘chicken wings’, and flat sausage on the grills & had some lettuce. So their version of bbq, and it was very good. Actually sitting in the middle of this beautiful little bay area on a very nice boat eating chicken wings and rice after a day of swimming/snorkeling was the most relaxed I have been in a long time. The rock of a boat puts me to sleep instantly, it always has. Very relaxing. Anyways, after we ate we took a dingy to the shore and were able to walk around one of the very secluded beaches on that side of the island. I believe we were close to the New Territories, but don’t take my word for it. We walked across a rock path to one of the several Geo Parks in Hong Kong. That path wouldn’t be there under any other circumstance besides low tide. High tide is about 1.4 meters in that particular area so it covers the path to the Geo Park making it a tombolo.

Yesterday I tried a snack from Macau, I cannot remember what it is called but it was the most conflicting taste that I’ve ever experienced. It was equivalent to a sugar cookie on the outside with dried fibrous pork chunks on the inside. Because I love food and cannot resist to at least try things, I ate one. It was, like I said, a conflicting taste! Also, walking the streets of Mong Kok last night I ran into street performers. One man was shirtless and very sweaty so of course I went to see what was going on. Well he was actually in a state of deep concentration and ‘jumping’ landing with his back on shattered glass. I asked a local and I guess because the glass does not hurt him he is at a state of peace. This is supposed to be very beneficial. He was bleeding and had chunks of glass sticking out of his back but I guess it was not hurting him. Then were was another performer, he was an elder, wearing a white tank top fit for a 5 year old girl, bright pink fiesta style pants and singing karaoke in the streets. I fell in love. Needless to say, I stayed for a song. Amazing.

I helped one of my lab mates finish up some transects for a future project. Basically we cut 3 x 0.05 mm^2 300/300v PVC cable and marked it into sections by meters (1-30) with red tags, and in between each meter 50 cm with blue tags. This would basically constitute an underwater marker/measuring tape for a year long project. The idea is to nail the pvc into the sea floor and form a perimeter around the research area and every time a dive takes place the transects will serve as a marker & a measuring tape to see what and if any movement or activity has taken place. I also was able to observe as one of the students used the SEM or scanning electron microscope. This microscope is actually a really interesting machine. It uses electrons instead of light to form it’s images. It has a lot of advantages over a regular microscope, some including a larger depth of field allowing for more of a specimen to be in focus at one time. It has a much higher resolution so that closely spaced specimens can be magnified at much higher levels and also because electromagnets are used instead of lenses so we have the ability to better control the degree of magnification. And of course, the images are strikingly clear. You have to prepare samples completely differently than you would a regular microscope which is interesting in itself, you have to use something called a “sputter coater”. I won’t get into the whole process but basically it places a very thin layer of gold over a originally non-conductive sample making it conductive, because the SEM requires samples to be conductive. Anyways, hopefully I will get to use the SEM once or twice before the end of my stay!

For now,