Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nine to Five, What a Way to Make a Livin'

Name: Kelly Jackson
Class/Year: Class of 2017, Junior
Hometown: Waterford, Wisconsin
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Internship: Animal Behavior Research

            A LOT has happened here the past week! First off last weekend was pretty special here in China because it was a holiday weekend. On Saturday June 20th we celebrated the “Dragon Boat Festival.” We asked the students we learn Chinese from what it was and they told us it was basically a holiday where you get a special treat to eat. Later on we found out they have actual boats that people race on water, but we were not near any of the places they showed on TV. Macie and I ended up finding out a lot of the local bakeries around the area sell the treats in giant boxes, so they can enjoy them with their family and friends. We ended up finding a place that sold them individually. The outside of the special treat was covered in a green seaweed leaf, while the inside has rice and meat covered in a sauce. Macie and I were both expecting it to be sweet, and it ended up not being that at all. But on the plus side it wasn’t even spicy. :)
            We really enjoyed the holiday here too because we ended up getting a day off of work because of it, and we took full advantage of it! We took the wonderful and magical Metro train to what can be referred to as the largest mall in the world. The place had no comparison to the size of Mall of America. IT WAS HUGE. I tried to take a picture of the whole thing and couldn’t fit it, even with a pan. Beating the heat that Monday, we decided to go the waterpark inside the mall. The waterpark was awesome and had the biggest wave pool with an LED screen. You had to wear a life-vest just to go in the wave pool, because it was so massive. 
Displaying IMG_1645.JPGThey also had a few waterslides and water rides there too. Macie and I both really enjoyed the “Abyss” which was a raft ride that could fit up to six people. You would travel together and end up dropping into a giant area that took you back and forth, side to side. We went on it not once, not twice, but three times. Nice part was we didn’t have to carry a tube, or take the stairs. China loves their elevators here!

            Not only was the waterpark really fun, but the whole mall itself was too. They had about four or five floors of various stores. The top floor even had a movie theatre and an ice skating rink. It was interesting to see people not bundling up in their winter jackets and long pants. Instead, people were in short sleeves and shorts! Clearly, everyone there must have been better ice skaters than me. The bottom floor had multiple restaurants, including a place called “Peter’s.” It was a Tex-Mex place; a little bit of Mexico and a little bit of Texas. Perfect place to eat at in China. ;P 
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            The three day weekend was nice but it was back to work on Tuesday. When we arrived, we were greeted with excellent news. There was not just one, but TWO baby pandas born at the facility, the first ones of the year! Macie and I left the cubs a little early to go see the new twins. Unlike most people think, baby pandas are actually very, very small, and hairless. Actually, they kind of look like little worms. By the time we leave in August, they will actually look somewhat like pandas, and have hair on them.
            On Wednesday, when the keepers brought the pandas in from the heat, they had moved the cubs to a different inside area. They divided them up into two separate rooms, one right next to the other. The rooms are much bigger, and have larger climbing structures for them to use. We were a little skeptical on why they did this, but then it all made sense the next few days. On Friday, one of the panda photographer’s, Abraham, informed us they had officially removed four of the nine panda cubs. They were two sets of twins, Xing Yu, Xing Yuen, Maozhu, and Maosun. They took them to the panda facility James’ friend Jake works at, where they will help the pandas towards reintroduction back into the wild. Macie and I were sad to hear they had left, (Xing Yu was one of our favorites and we had finally found out the differences between Maozhu and Maosun) but we were also quite happy, knowing they will potentially be back in the wild someday and that our project just got a little bit easier. ;)
            Because we now are down to five pandas with two observers, focal sampling isn’t the best way to go, especially if they are inside or put in a room all by themselves. Instead, we have circled back to the idea of instantaneous sampling. However, collecting data outside versus inside is going to be quite different, due to space. We are still in the process of determining how we are going to collect the data between the two areas, as well as how we can keep it as random as we can, without sampling one panda more than the others. We have a few more days to run some more test trials and finalize our ethogram, before we collect the actual data for the whole month of July. Figuring out which panda is which has truly been so much easier. Macie and I have it pretty much down now, and can figure out who is who within a matter of minutes. When the public asks us, we can now confidently tell them, “Oh that’s Shanghao.” 
            Speaking of the public, a lot of them have approached us more recently. They ask where we are from, if we work there, what are watching them for, aside from various questions about the pandas. The other day I had a mom from Seattle come up to me and ask what we were doing. I told her the premise of our project, and she stated her little girl loved animals. She was about eight years old, and had a dream of preserving species, and starting her own conservation society. I told her mom about Otterbein, and how we were awarded the opportunity to come all the way to Chengdu through the Zoo and Conservation Science Program. As I continued to tell her all the experiences we can have through our major, the mom seemed dazzled more and more, repeating our school’s name to her husband as well as her daughter. So in ten years down the road, who knows? Otterbein may just have another “zoobie” in their program. ;P
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            Friday night, Macie and I went to see the Sichuan Opera. First off, it’s not like any opera in America (surprise, surprise). It’s more of like a talent show. Several people came out on stage, each performing something different. There was singing of course, but there were other acts too. One girl came out with a puppet, and controlled it using only one hand! Another guy played a trumpet instrument, using various pieces to control pitch. My favorite performance though was definitely the shadow show. A screen came down, with a projector in the background, and a lady was behind the screen. Using her hands, she created various animal figures and put on a performance with them! It was by far one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

            At the mall last week, Macie and I both received fortunes, but they were in Chinese so we couldn’t read them. We brought them to one of the students and she told us what they meant. Mine was very inspirational. It basically said to keep doing what you do, have faith in yourself, and that the best is yet to come. Maybe the fortunes (the ones you get in the fortune cookies, that we have yet to see here in China by the way) in America don’t come true, but I’m hoping the ones from China do! :)

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