My bag still hasn’t found its way from the airport. On my way to the guard station to ask, I somehow managed to gain no less than four mosquito bites on my legs. However, today I slew the last of the cockroaches I had seen scurrying around with a quick blast of some Raid I found in the hallway, so I still feel like I’m a step ahead of the bugs.
After a quick breakfast this morning, I met a small but very kind and energetic woman named Aileen. She led me on a rapid tour of the two nearby buildings, which turned out to be offices, auditoriums, and a lab where I will be working. After a maze of hallways, I was shown the library and eventually left with my supervisor, Dr. Mohamed Rakha. He was a very soft-spoken man, almost whispering as he took me through a carefully detailed explanation of their research. He told me about gene selection and how they hoped to combine the pest resistant trait some wild tomato relatives possessed with the large red fruit of domestic varieties. The pests to repel or kill in particular included spider mites, white flies, and the rootworm.
From there I was guided to a lab just down the hall where I was introduced to Hank, one of my new coworkers. I helped him count whiteflies living on eggplant leaves, and we talked about video games, bugs, travel, and the price of college. Later I followed him to lunch, and after a short break began helping count the whitefly eggs under a microscope. I found a thrip on a leaf, and after some maneuvering managed to get a picture of it through the microscope. At one point, he offered me a small candy that said “Durian” on the wrapper. When I tried it, I was completely unable to describe what it tasted like, but still thought it was pretty good. As for Hank, he seemed genuinely surprised I hadn’t spat it out right away. I found out why as the aftertaste began to set in, tasting reminiscent of skunk roadkill. Even now, as I type this one meal and 6 hours later, I can still taste it. Hank offered to help me go to check out a bike for my time here, and we wandered over across the compound to a mechanics shop, where he spoke to four men in Mandarin for about 10 minutes. I smiled and nodded whenever they looked at me, and eventually, I handed them a signed sheet saying that I would take good care of it. They gave me a new looking blue bike and a lock.
I thanked Hank for all of his help, and he told me that as it was 4:15, I was free to go back to my room and try not to fall back asleep. I was pretty successful, until a phone call at 5:30 woke me up to go eat dinner. A quick walk around outside, and now I’m sitting in my room, which stays oddly cool compared to outside even when my air conditioner is turned off. There are some more tours that I’m attending the rest of this week, and I’m looking forward to seeing some more of the surrounding towns and cities.