Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Chengdu Round 2

Name: Kelly Jackson
Year: Senior, Class of 2017
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Internship: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding- Animal Behavior Research

            It’s been a little bit since Taryn and I first arrived in China, but we have done a lot since then! This year we are living on the Southwest Jiatong University Julidi Campus. It is very nice! We each have our own room, and share a “kitchen” space and bathroom. It is somewhat like living in the apartments on campus, except there is no actual kitchen or living room. There is air conditioning, hot water, and of course a western toilet!
            The first weekend we were here we went to the Walmart to get some basic supplies and snacks. We also ventured around the mall a little bit, and walked to see different places we could eat and shop. One of the nights we decided to go see the Captain America movie. The people at the movie place were very nice and one of them spoke English very well! Her name was Laven and she helped us find our seats. She then told me I was very beautiful and that she wanted to be my friend. I gave her my WeChat and now we are friends! Hopefully she is there the next time we decide to go see a movie. :)
            Taryn and I also went to the Sichuan Art Museum and the Sichuan Museum of Science and Technology. The nice thing about both of these places is that they were free when we showed our passports. I have been to the art museum before, but this time more of the floors were open for us to see. I absolutely love looking at the Chinese artwork, especially the calligraphy writing they use throughout their pieces. It is very unique the array of colors used in the pictures, and how you can vividly see each brush stroke they use. Granted we could not read any of the artists’ names, it was still very interesting. The science museum was pretty cool tool! It was an interactive museum, where they had lots of stations that you could press buttons to make things light up, or walk through and see various things. There were about four different floors filled with adventures, which definitely pleased my inner scientist. One of my favorite things was the tilted room, where when you walked into the area, the room was slanted! All of the children went nuts and kept falling. I almost tripped and fell too! I also really liked the Zoology section of the museum, naturally. ;)
            Soon the weekend was over, and it was time to start at the panda base again! James came and met us at the gate to bring us in. We then went back to the lab where we set up our ID badges and lunch money. While we were doing this we got the chance to meet three new people, or at least three new people to me. Ju is a graduate student who actually met Dr. Young this past semester! She will be at the panda base just as long as we are conducting her own research on red pandas. J We also met her advisor, Elizabeth, and their friend Caitlyn. Caitlyn has been at the panda base on and off for the past year, doing research on male red panda reproduction. It was cool to meet other Americans our first week there! I also got the chance to say hello again to Songrei, Chen Chou, and Fei Fei!
            After we set everything up it was time to get to work on the project! This time we will be working on collecting data that will help support the theory of kin recognition, and whether or not the pandas are able to identify who their brother or sister is. Therefore, the more frequently they interact together, the more support we have towards this hypothesis. We talked over schematics and decided it is probably going to be the best to ditch scan sampling, and stick with focal sampling with continuous recording. That way we can get an accurate representation of exactly how long each panda is interacting with other pandas or not. However as of now, we are still going to use instantaneous recording when dealing with proximity.
The next step we took was actually identifying the pandas. I thought it was difficult the last time with five pandas, but this time there are nine pandas: 4 sets of twins and 1 singleton! It is great for data collection but very difficult in terms of identification! One of the workers there, Abraham, takes lots of pictures of the cubs and was nice enough to give some to us to look at when we are ID-ing them. They definitely help a lot but the process is still a little rough. Taryn and I believe we have 2/9 pandas successfully matched though which is AMAZING progress compared to what Macie and I had last time! :)
A lot of our week was spent watching the panda cubs, which made it a great week. We also got to help out Songrei with red panda fecal samples. She had already had the samples in the freezer and it was our job to go ahead and help prepare the samples for a PCR reaction. We mashed up the fecal samples and placed them into different test tubes, where Songrei went ahead and labeled them for us. It was pretty fun to do and I am glad we got to help our Songrei a little bit. It was also nice to catch up with her and find out how things were going since I last saw her! We also went out to eat with James, Elizabeth, Caitlyn, and Ju. It was great to get to know them better and explore more of the city. We walked around Tianfu Square at night, which is always so beautiful.
By the time we knew it our first week at the panda base was over. :( It was the weekend and we had some exciting plans! Eldora, my Chinese teacher and friend from last year, asked us if we wanted to spend the day together that Saturday with her friend Harry. We went ahead and ventured off into the city of Chengdu! We first ate hot pot together, which I was very excited about! J I love hot pot! This one in particular was VERY spicey, more spicy than I remember! I loved eating the lotus root though, it was my favorite part! Then we went to one of the two parks in all of Chengdu that you can go and fly a kite. It was a very famous park, where poet statues were displayed throughout. We found a spot in the park where we could fly our kites. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much success with it. ;P We then went to Wide and Narrow Alley, where we walked around and took lots of pictures! Taryn also got a panda ring from Eldora, and now she can match us. J We came back to campus to eat dinner, which we got a large dish with pork, a smaller dish with chicken and egg, and another dish that had prawn…ON FIRE. I was struggling to eat the pork with chopsticks, so Eldora gave me a handy dandy glove. It was quite funny! :P After dinner we went to learn how to play Chinese mahjong. At first it was a little difficult, but after a few practice rounds, we got the hang of it! I actually won the game…twice! It was so awesome and now Taryn and I can teach it to our friends when we return! I am going to download the app on my phone to play! Lastly, we went back to Eldora’s dorm where she taught us how to write in Chinese calligraphy! I wrote out the word for panda on practice paper. Of course, she was much better at it than I was. Overall, it was a super fun day and I loved getting to meet Harry and see Eldora again. :)
The next day Taryn and I went to venture a little around the malls. We went to Chunxi Road where we re-visited the Modern Toilet restaurant! It was a poopy day weather wise, therefore it called for a poopy meal (it was really good actually but the restaurant is toilet themed) ;P. After eating we walked a little bit around the mall, and went to the bookstore. There Taryn got a few books. The book store is huge and there are quite a few American books as well as lots of Chinese books. Next, we hopped back on the metro and went to the Global Center. It is one of the largest malls that I have ever been to, and is pretty equivalent to Mall of America. We walked around and went into a few stores there. We each bought a “I <3 Chengdu shirt” that had a little panda on it. We walked around more, bought more things, and ended the day by eating at Pete’s Tex Mex. Overall, it was a day filled with food and shopping!
Yesterday, Taryn and I were back at the panda base. After work we decided to go hang out with Ju at the Wanda Plaza! We went to a Thai restaurant and had some very delicious food. We also went to a Korean ice cream store! The ice cream is very good there, and it tastes similar to Dip n’ Dots! Afterward, we went to see the Angry Birds movie, which was adorable. We walked with Ju back to her hotel and hopped in a cab back to our room.
I am so grateful I am back in China and getting to see all of my old friends again. The panda base is truly a wonderful place to be and the people there are so amazing to work with (and of course the pandas are adorable). I never thought I would be back again so soon, and getting the chance to is truly amazing and I am very thankful. I cannot wait to see what more adventures are in store for Taryn and I! Until next time. :)