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6/13/2017

This is the post excerpt.

Welcome to TomatoGirl Blog! My name is Hailey, and I’ve created this for keeping a record of my travels, particularly my upcoming trip to Taiwan. Departure to Tainan, Taiwan is this week, and upon arrival, I hope to keep this blog active with photos and details of the internship I’ll be serving with the AVRDC, or World Vegetable Center, under the Global Youth Institute as a Borlaug-Ruan Intern.

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8/14/17

I remember thinking that the way time flowed on my flights to Taiwan was strange, but that was nothing compared to this. I woke up at 4 am Monday morning, departed, and arrived in Tokyo nearly 5 hours later, where I spent over 5 hours on a layover. From there, I had a flight that was almost 9 hours to Vancouver, and am now sitting here in front of a fountain on Monday morning.

Technically, this blog has pretty much ended, since my trip has. But, I guess I’m desperate enough for something to do without many options because I’m pretty glad to be able to write while I wait for my plane. I still have one more stop in L.A. before I make it home to SLC. Honestly, though, I already feel more at home here in Canada than I have for the past two months. I still don’t speak French, but the behaviors and foods are more familar than Taiwan or Tokyo, and English is finally common again.

Airports are like time machines, and not just because of the time zones. I’ve been sitting and people watching for a few hours now, and it’s incredible what you can see people wearing to travel. From formal suits to matching pajama sets, high heels to Heelys, there’s everything. It’s almost noon here, but people are eating breakfast, dessert, and dinner at any time of the day. I actually really like it. It’s interesting, and there’s a lot of stories all in one place. Thousands of people all moving to and from for their own reasons, some of them incredible. Most people look grumpy, but there are kids that are clearly thrilled to be here, tourists taking photos of everything, and huge families rushing to make their connections. I should pack up and move around a bit, but it’s getting increasingly strange to think that this has ended

8/14/17

Well, my time is up. I’m typing this from an airport in Tokyo, on my way home. This last week has been so hectic I’m afraid I’m behind in writing, but since I have about 5 hours on this layover, I figured I could catch up easily enough.

Last weekend, I went for a three day trip with a few coworkers to southeast Taiwan. We toured the beaches and then went to the mountains to see the daylily blossoms. The way down went pretty well, with everyone not driving dozing off to keep from getting carsick. We stopped at 4 separate beaches, taking pictures at each one. The day was hot, but there was a very nice ocean breeze that helped keep it from being unbearable. That night, we drove up 60 rock mountain. We checked into a hostel at the top of the mountain and took a tour of the mountain top in the dark. We found out that the blooming of the daylilies had been delayed for about 11 days, but there were still a few here and there blooming. The next morning we slept in a bit, before walking all over the mountainside. It was a beautiful view of the valley, with lots of butterflies and dragonflies everywhere. Later, we made it to another nearby mountain top, where we got to see a hot air balloon festival. By late afternoon, we had descended and made it to our stop for the night. The last day, we attempted to go up another mountain, but the trails and roads were so narrow, we didn’t dare try to make it farther than about halfway. After that, I had to take some motion sickness pills and dozed the entire way back to worldveg.

On Tuesday we packed up and went to some of the south central mountains to see different hydropic set ups that were growing tomatoes and peppers. The scale was impressive and how they managed to protect them from the huge amounts of insects that live in the mountains. Even though they spoke pretty much exclusively in Mandarin, I still had a great time touring the facilities.

I gave a practice run of my seminar a week before I was due to present it. Dr. Hansen sat in and gave me some tips, which was incredibly helpful. Hank helped my set up some of the slides, but then he took leave to Egypt. I was really nervous about presenting, but I was ready by Friday. I think it went very well, and am glad that I was able to get help before I presented. I talked about my background and told everyone about Mackay and Idaho and my old greenhouse experience. From there I touched briefly on how I helped in the experiment and finished with what I thought of Taiwan and my time there. When I had finished, they presented me with a certificate confirming my time there, and I spent the rest of the day returning my bike and signing out.

This weekend, I spent as much time as possible with the other interns. Anytime we weren’t out exploring or eating, I was cleaning up and packing. We went to Tainan on Friday night to be a part of Taiwan’s nightlife one last time and went to the night market on Sunday to get my favorite street foods and try a few more. Saturday we all just sat around and ate ice cream and listened to music. I said goodbye to most of them on Sunday, but when I woke up at 4:00 am this morning to leave at 5:00, I found Tony waiting to see me off. I’m going to miss them very much. When we said goodbye, we joked that the next time I was in Taiwan, or they came to America, we would have to see each other, but I think most of us knew we would probably never see each other again.

I managed to scrape through security in half an hour, which was good because I arrived just in time to board. I slept for the entirety of the 3-hour 45-minute flight, and straight through breakfast. Once I found my next gate here at the Tokyo airport, I grabbed some food and coffee in an attempt to wake up. I still have quite some time before my flight leaves, so I’m sitting in an empty boarding area, listening to an audiobook, typing up my last entry, and itching dozens of midge bites all over my legs. My next flight will be nearly 9 hours long to Vancouver. From there, I’ll be going to L.A. before finally getting to Salt Lake City.

8/2/17

Well, my time here is starting to come down to the wire, so I’ve been making some plans for the last few weeks. This weekend I’m going out for a few days to Hualien Daylily with a group of coworkers, and I’m still trying to make plans to go swimming.

Monday, work was canceled because of Typhoon Haitang. I was only expecting one, Typhoon Nesat, but it mostly only hit the East side, and all we got from it was a bit of rain. Apparently, its unusual for two typhoons to hit back to back like that. The campus is a little torn up from it all. There are tons of broken tree branches, lots of them larger than me, and all kinds of debris that got knocked around by the wind and rain. It’s been raining almost nonstop since then. It didn’t seem like such a bad storm as it was happening, and I’ve been told it was pretty small for a typhoon. It’s looking unlikely that I’ll see a big storm or an earthquake while I’m here, which honestly I kind of wanted to experience. We’ve been having a bit of trouble with the phones and wifi since a lightning storm earlier last week knocked them out. My phone and computer will randomly get kicked off or redirected, and some peoples’ work phones have had some trouble making connections.

Hank and I have been working on a choice whitefly experiment, which is a little different than what we usually do. Instead of releasing specific amounts of whiteflies into cages on the leaves, we just exposed the plants to a bunch of them in a tent. Then, instead of examining specific leaves, we had to check the entire plant under a microscope for eggs. I wouldn’t mind that much, but we worked in the Entomology Lab, and their microscope has always given me trouble. It refuses to focus correctly and the light randomly falls off, so you have to stop and fix it every few seconds. There was some pretty positive data from the test though, so it was worth it.

Work is slowing down for everyone, especially now that the rain has really started. Usually, in the afternoons we get together with the other interns in each others’ offices and hang out. Yesterday, those of us who weren’t from Taiwan used Google Maps to show what our homes and colleges looked like. We also attended another presentation by a high school student from Puerto Rico. I enjoyed it, but it also reminded me that my presentation is coming up, and I’m pretty nervous. 20590864_1599553906735317_1038852453_o.jpg

 

7/26/17

Today, the Malaysian students who have been here for 6 months gave their seminars. Since Monday marked me at three weeks left, I’m working on my own presentation. Since I’m only here for 2 months, my presentation only needs to be around 10-20 minutes, so I’m currently gathering pictures to put in it.

We went to check to see how the plants I grafted are doing today. Unsurprisingly, most, maybe more than half, died. A few made it through, and one looks great. Last week I helped remove acylsugars from tomato leaves. Acylsugars are chemicals produced by plants to kill or repel pests. We mixed leaf samples with alcohol, then took samples of the solution to test which, if any, acylsugars are present. We also attended a seed storage seminar yesterday, which was interesting as it talked about the various effective ways of drying seeds.

This weekend, we took the train South to tour. We visited a bookshop, saw the ocean, had dinner at a Korean restaurant, and wandered around a few shops. By the time we got on the train back, it was pretty late. I bought two books at the store, and discussed a few words in a classic with another intern called “Chuck”.

There’s not much else to write about. I’m still running, now sometimes with a group of other interns. Last week we had around 10. Funnily enough, the fastest is a smaller boy who goes by the name “Rabbit”. I think the name suits him very well. I’m back to feeling a bit under the weather, but it’s not too bad, and I think it will clear up in a few days. Honestly, I’m amazed at how healthy I’ve managed to stay so far.

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7/19/17

The rest of the presentations on grafting wrapped up yesterday. I had some questions on a few things that were discussed, so I was talking to Hank about a few things I wanted to look up on the walk back. Dr. Peter Hansen was walking ahead of us and heard what I was talking about, so he told me to stop by his office when I found the information I was looking for. It took me a few minutes, but I answered most of my questions on grafting and went to his office. After I told him what I had found out, he seemed interested and offered to call Willie, who currently works in grafting here at the AVRDC. Later that afternoon, Hank and I rode our bikes over, and I was given a crash course in grafting tomatoes. They had a tray of unused tomato seedlings,  and after a few demonstrations, had me attempt to graft the entire tray. It was interesting and pretty challenging as you have to get the cut exactly right so you can match the new top of the plant to the new bottom.

Today we went and started to work with backcrossing, which is the process of selectively breeding tomato plants with a parent that has a trait you want. In order to do it, you have to very carefully remove the pollen from inside the petals, without injuring the very delicate stigma, a section of the female reproductive system in plants, inside. After you remove the pollen, you have to gently dip the tip of mature stigma into the pollen of your plant of choice. If done correctly, the plant will be pollinated and the fruit and seeds it produces will hopefully contain the desired traits of both parent plants.

I also went into the Bacteriology lab and helped cultivate new Petri dishes with bacteria strains they’re testing. Using a sterilized loop, you have to gently spread colonies from an old dish in specific patterns. The colonies I was working with mostly affect tomatoes and eggplants and will be inoculated on Friday.

Besides all of that, I went for a run with a group last night. There were snails everywhere from the rain, and I’m pretty sure the lizard eggs have hatched since there are way more babies running around lately. I caught the snake that I had seen in my room. I put it in a cup and showed some people, but since it doesn’t bother me and eats pests, I let it go where I found it. 20170718_135534

7/17/17

Well, I’ve been here for a month now, and am halfway through my internship. I can’t say that the time has flown by or crawled past. With Dr. Mohamed gone, work has slowed down considerably while we contact him via email and wait for confirmation of our schedule. With more people around, time off work seems to go a bit faster.

On Saturday, I went out with Sanju, Hank, and a good sized group of our coworkers. We started by going to get mango ice to cool down from the already baking morning. It also gave everyone a chance to gather and discuss the plans. After that, we went to a fruit market. Besides the thousands of mangos, there were pineapples, guava, dragonfruit, and lots of fruit I had never seen, some of which didn’t even have an English name. While a few of the others went to get the cars, we huddled under the umbrella of a very good duck egg salesman. He gave Sanju and I samples of his product. The first one had somehow been seasoned and salted before cooking. It was a little weird but not too bad. The second one was a bit unwelcome. Because of the language barrier, I couldn’t confirm, but it smelled and tasted like it had been fermented for quite some time. He saw our distress eating the second one, and after teasing us a bit to the amusement of the nearby locals, he gave us some large slices of mango to get rid of the flavor.

Feeling full from the large amounts of mango ice and samples from the market, I was surprised when we went to lunch. Still, I still had enough room to eat a bit at a Taiwanese barbecue restaurant. After eating, I thought we would head back to the AVRDC, but instead, we ended up at a sweet potato museum. Very little of the museum had English, but they had us try samples of different sweet potato products on the way out. By now I was uncomfortably full, and the afternoon rain was starting. We started to head back, stopping for everyone to buy some more food and tea.

Yesterday I met with Aileen, Tim and his family, and two other families who were their friends. We drove to Danei Totoro Station, a small section of town that had large murals of cartoons, children’s stories, and lots of Totoro, a famous Japanese character (If you haven’t seen “My Friend Totoro” I highly recommend it).

When we stopped for some mango ice (I’m starting to sense a theme here), we ran into the mayor. We took some pictures, and he was polite, but finished quickly and left. Tim’s daughters and the girls from the other families, six in all, read me jokes they had been practicing in English and did a dance to K-pop. I played a song on my phone and taught them a few swing dancing moves. Cramming everyone into a few cars, we drove to the Chimei Museum. It had several wings, including several for fine arts, one for animals around the world, and one for instruments. In the animal exhibit, I pointed out the different animals that lived back home. We were in the museum for several hours, and I didn’t notice how late it was getting until we started leaving and I noticed we would get stuck in the afternoon rain. By the time we got to the cars, it was coming down heavily, and we were soaked.

Now I’m sitting back at my desk in the office and its business as usual. There was a seminar this morning, and two more this week for people interviewing for a position with WorldVeg. The seminars are on grafting, with is something I’ve always found really interesting. Grafting is the process of carefully attaching the top of one plant to the base of another and can combine the traits of the two if done carefully. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it as the week goes on.

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7/11/17

Busy weekend! On Saturday it was incredibly hot here, easily in the 90’s with lots of humidity. I went to eat lunch with Hank and his girlfriend, and they took me to a Thai resturant. They ordered red curry, and I was a little nervous since I’m not very good at eating spicy foods, but they assured me it wasn’t “that spicy”. I should know by now, that while for Taiwanese it wasn’t so bad, for me, “not that spicy” leads to a runny nose, red face, and coughing. I finished my cup though, and it did seem less hot by the end (although it might have just been my tongue dying). To beat the heat we also went out to get mango ice. What that is is pieces of mango sliced with fruit juice on shaved ice, along with a scoop of ice cream made from sweetened condensed milk. We also tried a chocolate orange flavored one that had frosted flakes all over it.

On Sunday I made plans with Sanju, Tony, Joy, Hesper, and Irene to go to Tainan’s Flower night market. In order to get there, we had to walk about half a mile, take a train for a few stops, then find a bus to take us within a few blocks. The cost for the train and bus was amazingly cheap and ended up being less than 1 USD. Near the end, the train was crowded, but it was nothing compared to the market. People were packed in the aisles so tightly, If someone ahead of you stopped, you were stuck until they kept moving. The smell of the market changed every few feet. One second you smell something incredible, but the next when you try to get another whiff, all you smell is fish and lots of people. We managed to stick together pretty well though. The group separated a few times, but everyone always had someone. I ended up buying some kind of tea that tasted really similar to lemonade and trying winter gourd tea. So far, winter gourd is my favorite kind I’ve tried. I also bought some chicken on a stick that somehow had rice cooked into it. For desert, Sanju and I bought probably around 5 or 6 bags of those fried sweet potatoes. After a few hours, we took a shuttle back to the train station, narrowly missing our train, and eventually made it back around 11:30.

I walked into my room the other night and found what I thought was a large black worm on my floor, and decided to figure out what it was before touching it. As it turns out, it was a brahminy blind snake. Before I could figure out what to do with it, it had crawled back into a crack in my wall. Luckily they apparently eat ants and termites, so it’s welcome to stay. I’ve also been getting bitten badly on my arms and hands while I sleep by something. The bumps are small, but itch really badly and are often close together. I set off a bug bomb yesterday and am doing laundry tonight, so hopefully, I can get rid of whatever it is.

Yesterday and last Friday we took samples of tomato leaves, and then froze them in liquid nitrogen so they could be sent for chemical analysis. Dr. Mohamed Rakha also left to go to the UK, as well as take home leave back to Egypt. He won’t be back until after I leave, but it was nice working under him.

I fell asleep early last night and ended up waking up early enough that I went for a run. I missed doing little things like going for runs, so I’m hoping that by throwing it into my routine it will help carry me through the next 5 weeks without homesickness. Honestly, I haven’t been too bad as far as culture shock goes, and I’m better now that the other interns are around so it’s not always so quiet. Last night the 3 Korean students ( whose names are apparently Bang, Mango, and Blank(Peach)) even invited a few people to come try the food they’re making tonight. Everyone is settling in after their first week here, so we’ll hopefully be going out more soon.

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