Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hot Pots and Pandas

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

            Macie and I definitely got a taste of Chengdu last week. From the food, to the people, to the places, we explored all the wonderful aspects of the city. On Monday, we met two other interns at the panda base. Their names were Fe-Fe and Shelly. Fe-Fe had been here for a whole month, and it was her last week there. Shelly was going to intern there for a week, and recently came back to China after her term at Penn State in America. Both of them are interested in veterinary medicine, and Shelly is even in vet school!
They asked us if we would like to eat at a restaurant with them. In the Sichuan Province, especially Chengdu, “hot pot” is a very famous dish. Some hot pots have raw food and you dip it into the sauce to cook it. This is what dish we had on Monday with our new friends. It was so interesting, and we had A LOT of different foods! There were duck intestines, kidneys, all sorts of vegetables and noodles. It was really good! I especially liked the little sauce Fe-Fe told us to dip it in. :)
On Wednesday, we were invited to also eat dinner. The library director here at Southwest Jiaotong University, asked us to eat dinner with her son and her friend. We went to the mall near us, where we ate a delicious duck meal. Basically, you have the duck and a “pancake,” which is essentially a mini-tortilla. You put the duck sauce on the tortilla, along with cucumbers and other vegetables, add the duck and wa-la! A very tasty meal. I also had chicken heart while we were there too, and it was surprisingly really good!
Macie and I went to see Jurassic World on Wednesday night. The movies here in China are awesome. First off, the tickets are very cheap compared to what you would typically spend in America. When you buy a ticket, you also get a free coupon to have popcorn, two waters, and a little coconut candy treat. You also get to pick what seat you sit in, and the movies are actually in English! We also got the full cinematic experience in the IMAX theatre with 3D glasses. :P
Trying to identify the pandas this week is a little bit easier. Macie and I have a list of different facial features, actions, and traits each of the nine pandas has so we can better know which one is which. The photographers and zookeepers here have also helped us with identifying the pandas, which is very helpful! Macie and I have also started running some test trials of the study. Instead of conducting an instantaneous scan sample, we have come to the conclusion focal sampling would be a better way to capture the behaviors of the cubs. Trying to watch several tuckered out little pandas is easy, but when they are rambunctiously playing it gets very difficult. When running the test trials, we have noted some aspects that need to be added to the ethogram, such as “playing with the keepers.” Sometimes when they come into the enclosure, the pandas will chase them around and try to latch onto their legs! It is funny to watch, but not so funny for the ones being chased!
Friday was especially an exciting day at the panda base, because it was Songrui’s birthday! She is one of the researchers that works in James’ office and they are really good friends. She mainly works with the red pandas, so we don’t see her much throughout the day, as we are at the giant panda exhibit. We helped her out a little bit and did a little work for her though. That morning, we went into the red panda enclosure and collected feces. Yes, panda poop. Songrui, as well as other vets on the base, will use the fecal matter to analyze their hormonal levels, for pregnancy purposes and further research. James and another zookeeper distracted the pandas with treats like squash and apples. Macie and I took plastic bags and once we found our special surprise, we picked it up, put in in the bag, and labeled the bags. Basically it was like Easter, but instead of hunting for plastic eggs filled with candy we were looking for poop. Good old dandy, bamboo filled, red panda poop.
Saturday was truly an adventure though. Macie’s mom is a teacher in her hometown, and had a student that was from Chengdu go to her school a little while back. His mom offered to drive us to Jinli Square, a very popular tourist market in the South part of Chengdu. When we arrived at Jinli, it was so pretty! There were so many little market stations that sold different items. Food, jewelry, you name it, they sold it. Naturally, Macie and I did some shopping there. One of the stores there was devoted to selling all pearl jewelry. If you don’t know me or haven’t seen me, I am ALWAYS wearing my (fake and cheap) pearl earrings. So of course, I had to check out the store and ended up buying a new pair. It was very expensive in Chinese currency, but in U.S. dollars it wasn’t that pricey. I’m still not certain if they are 100% real or not (I’m leaning towards probably not), but at least I’m one step closer of owning my own REAL pearls! :)
The best part of the day was when Macie and I saw this glorious tree. It was covered in hundreds, if not thousands of little red bags with Chinese written on them. There were so many bags you could walk through a tunnel of them underneath the tree. That is when Macie noticed the woman at the stand. We found out all of the bags on the trees were wishes. The different colored bags stood for different wishes, such as good health, fortune, and academic success. Macie and I decided we would make a wish. We bought the bag and wrote out what our wish was. (I can’t tell you or otherwise it won’t come true!) Then on the outside of our bag, we wrote our names and “Otterbein 2015.” We walked through the forest of red wishes and hung our wish in the tree. We figured we would start a tradition; each year Otterbein students come to Chengdu they could travel to Jinli Square, make a wish, and hang their bag next to ours! It would be like having our own little Zoo-bee tree. (:
I am really looking forward to what more the city offers us, and what shenanigans the cubs get into next! ;P 
Putting our wish on the tree :)

Our wish :)

Jinli Street entrance

All of the food we got from the hot pot!

Hot pot! :)

Panda pile! :P

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