6/18/18

Well, I’m out and about and behind on my writing yet again. This time I’m a little closer to home at Hobart and Williams college in Geneva, New York! I’ve been here for about 3 weeks, so there’s a lot to sum up, but I’ll give it my best shot.

So, having successfully traveled halfway around the world on my own, I figured across the country would be a piece of cake. However, I proved to be a bit too cocky and waited at the wrong terminal, missing my last flight in Detroit to Ithica. I was scrambling to find a flight to at least get me into the correct state without having to wait 20 hours for the next one. I was pleading with customer service in the terminal when suddenly the desk agents for a different flight shouted for me to come over. Apparently, the flight was to a place called Binghamton about an hour south of Ithica, and there was an empty seat. They told me they had 8 minutes to transfer my ticket, but they thought I could make it. With two people working the computer while I gave my information and desperately tried to work out how I could get to Ithica upon landing, I barely managed to slide into my seat before departure. The flight was stressful, but I decided that if I could get an Uber or taxi, I wouldn’t need a hotel room. When we landed I had no baggage to collect since my one duffle bag was in Ithica, but I managed to find an uber who was willing to pick me up and was on the road in half an hour. It was about 60 miles through dark and winding roads, but the driver was polite and I was so worn out from the stress and travel it passed quickly. He dropped me off at the Ithica airport, where some very nice agents who were closing for the night helped me get my bag, and my boss and his wife, the Fazios, picked me up to take me the rest of the way.

My first few days working with Cornell Agritech at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station were slow since I first had to learn what I would be working with as well as some of the site’s history and current projects. What that means is I basically had a giant binder of info to read. It was pretty straightforward, but I needed to learn a whole new set of jargon since I’ve never worked with trees before. After that, I worked out all my information and toured around to see what my projects would be. I was assigned 3 tasks; To perform my own experiment in drought testing aeroponic trees, to assemble a much larger aeroponics tank with another intern, and to assist Abby in the lab. For those who are unfamiliar, aeroponics is an alternative to soil farming, much like aquaponics and hydroponics. The difference is that instead of being grown with the roots suspended in water, roots hang free and unanchored while being regularly misted to keep wet.

Since that first week its been a whirlwind of being bounced around to anywhere I can help. I have my experiment set up and am now just waiting for my trees to grow a bit before starting the procedure. The internal pipes for the large system have been assembled, and now we’re waiting for shipments of supplies to come in. Out of all the projects I’ve learned the most working with Abby. She’s in charge of micropropagation, which involves taking tiny buds off of desirable trees, and growing them into independent plants. There’s a lot of steps to it, and lots of them are very precise and time-consuming as the buds are extremely delicate. The buds are first sorted and carefully placed in sterile plates of specialized agar, which are sealed and left to incubate. After to cuttings have begun to develop and grow, they’re removed, sorted again, and carefully placed in soil containers to be sealed and kept carefully temperature, light, and moisture controlled. Eventually, they can be transported to larger containers and shifted to a general greenhouse, where they stay until they’re able to survive outside in the heat. There’s a lot of work to do for this, including careful sterilization of equipment, transporting plants and materials, filling pots with soil, watering and fertilizing, record keeping, sorting the buds, and of course planting them. One thing is for certain, work keeps me busy.

But outside of work, I have found that I really enjoy New York. The heat and humidity can be a pain, but after Taiwan, I can handle it easily enough. The buildings are old and usually beautiful brick Victorians. The people have all been kind and the lake and town offer lots of things to do. I’ve rented a bike this summer that I use to travel over 3 miles of hilly streets to and from work, but I also sometimes go to the store or downtown to look around. My apartment is extremely nice. Built for 4 housemates, each with a single room, it’s just me and a girl from BYU, Sarah, who have 2 bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen, 4 rooms, and a porch all set up over two stories to ourselves. It’s settled right next to Odell’s pond, which is a gorgeous little body of water overrun with wildlife. Already I’ve seen whitetails, gophers, squirrels, chipmunks, frogs, songbirds, herons, and have heard lots of creatures I don’t recognize. I have met a few neighbors, one who has pitbull puppies with a standing invite to play with them whenever. I even got to bike down to the lake and attend Pride fest, which was busy with people and vendors and a ton of fun.

Well, with that lengthy summary out of the way, I’ll probably be better able to keep up. My internet is on the fritz at home, but hopefully, they’ll have it fixed by the weekend.

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