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.



Well, a few new things to write about finally happened.

This weekends around 20 new interns, mostly Taiwanese college students, arrived and moved in! It’s nice to not be the only one living here. We also got several Korean students and a girl named Sanju who is originally from Nepal but has studied in Florida the past few years. She’s also in the tomato breeding section but is working on slightly different projects than we are with another girl called Hesper.

Sanju arrived first, and we walked around the campus together over the weekend. She didn’t have a bike so we couldn’t go anywhere, but we found the pool and made plans to go sometime. After the rest of the students arrive, we went to the night market with Hesper, who was dead set on getting us to try as much food as possible. I ended up trying “stinky tofu” and what Hesper called “sweet potato puffs”. Despite the name, the tofu wasn’t that bad. It came with cabbage and I liked it enough that I ate four or five pieces. The sweet potato puffs were these deep fried sweet potatoes that had something else done to them so they were all puffy. They were FANTASTIC. I had to hold off from eating them all when we got back and were sharing.

With the new rush of students, I’ve had to introduce myself all over again, which can vary in levels of awkwardness. Some of the time they want to hear all about what living in America is like. I’m never really sure what to say, but by now I’ve gotten together a photo album of the most popular pictures, which are mostly mountains, snow, the desert, and my friends. I’m pretty bad with names, even when they’re familiar western ones, so I’ve been writing them down in my phone. Apparently, when they learn English at a young age here, they also give themselves new names. I’m occasionally given their “English names” instead of their real ones, like when I met a Tony this weekend, or how I still don’t know what Hank’s real name is.

Besides all of that, work is the same. I am feeling pretty under the weather this week though, So after work, I went straight into my room to lie down, and that’s where I’ve been all afternoon. The ATM is on the fritz. It woke me up at 5:30 this morning blasting an advertisement (or maybe instructions to use it?) in Mandarin. I can still here it going now, but I’m going to turn on my air conditioner soon, and that usually drowns it out. received_10158936399545057.jpeg


So, I’ve decided to stagger my writings a bit, just so I don’t have a bunch of entries that all say “same old same old”. I’ll still write several times a week and if something important happens though.

Yesterday we spent a while labeling and staking over 200 tomato plants. We also cleaned out a growth chamber and turned off its cooling system to kill any leftover bugs. A little time was spent cleaning and reorganizing them too.

Today we cleaned the chamber up some more then booted it back up to load all the tomato plants in. It took two truckloads to move them all. By the time the second load came, it was starting to rain, and we unloaded quickly and spent some time indoors to organize them in the chambers. It dumped quite a bit of rain, but I was really just a cloudburst since it had all but stopped when I left an hour and a half later. I did feel bad because Hank and I had to ride his motorcycle back, and he lent me his coat, so he got pretty wet from the puddles and the little bit that was still coming down.

In other news, it’s now mango season. Apparently, mangos here are like squash and zucchini back home. Everyone’s grows at once so everybody is trying to get rid of a bit. I’ve received 4 mangos, a passion fruit, a banana, and an ear of corn the last few days, all grown locally in my coworker’s gardens. Honestly, I had no idea how to cut or eat the mangos or passion fruit, so mostly I just peeled the skin off or cut them open then ate it over the sink. They’re incredible. If you’re ever offered a ripe mango, never, ever say no. The passion fruit was super weird. I had to look up pictures to make sure the one I had gotten wasn’t sick or infested with something. It was pretty good, but definitely not what I expected.

We have a new intern arriving tonight. All that I’ve heard is that she a grad student from Florida and that she should be in around 11 pm. There have actually been quite a few new faces around as there are a few positions open for an interview. One applicant is a man from Germany named Lutz, who gave a presentation on the gender wage gap in Kenya a few days ago. I’ve heard through the grapevine that most new interns should be coming next week, but besides the one tonight, that was everything I could find out, so I’ll guess we’ll wait and see. 20170628_105748.jpg


Good news today! An entire test group of eggplant came back with high whitefly mortality rates, just shy of 100% actually, and no eggs. Dr. Mohamed had us go back and start a second test on them right away. It will run for 2 days, then we’ll check again.

Besides that, the day went like normal. I tried the Taiwanese version of a snow cone. It was shaved ice that tasted a bit like bubblegum flavoring, with bits of dried fruit and peanuts in it. It was definitely nice since its just been getting steadily hotter here.

The Malaysian Night Herons have started to leave their nests, which is kind of unsettling. Every time I see a clutch of them milling around in the shade it freaks me out for a second. They’re pretty big birds and still have that mangy new baby bird look, so seeing them in the shadows out of the corner of your eye can be startling. I also caught a baby lizard today. I let it go right after, but there are tons of them here. I saw one in my room, and I’m hoping it will eat the mosquitos.



Only a few new things today. When I got to lunch, I found the cafeteria full of American high schoolers! They didn’t stay very long, but apparently, they were just there as part of a tour of Taiwan. Right after lunch they all piled into a bunch of taxis and left.

There’s someone new living down the hall, I noticed food in the shared fridge tonight. Hopefully, I can figure out who and say hi.

Hank and I helped another co-worker today by examining entire tomato plants for whitefly larvae and molted skins. Besides that, we also examined pepper leaves for eggs and counted mortality. Nothing new to report beyond that.received_1820610697953323.jpeg


Well, I certainly made up for all the nothing I did yesterday! I woke up a little later, but had eaten and was ready to go before 1. Then, I hopped in a car with two coworkers, Tim and Olivia, and Tim’s two daughters. After about an hours drive south, we reached our destination and climbed out. Tim hadn’t mentioned what we were doing, but apparently, we were meeting some others to go to a fish market! I don’t think I’ve felt more out of place since getting here! It was a crowded place with shelves full of fish, eels, crabs, shrimp, snails, and clams of varying aliveness. At one point a large shrimp tried to jump to freedom and hit my leg. I also got spit on by quite a few clams. The smell where the fresh fish was wasn’t so bad. It was only when you got to the dried section that it got very strong. At one point, I was almost grateful to the vendor smoking, since it dispelled it a bit. It was hot and humid, but there was also a breeze, which was nice.

For lunch, we stopped and my hosts had all the fish they had bought cooked. I hadn’t known we were going to be eating and had eaten lunch beforehand, but they seemed concerned that I wasn’t hungry, so I tried some dragon fruit, mango, and rice to ease their minds. Unfortunately, they still noticed I wasn’t eating any seafood. To quote Dr. Sweeny from Atlantis, “I hate fish. Hate the taste, hate the smell, hate all them little bones.” I tried to say fish makes me sick (which is true; the taste and small tend to make me nauseated) but before I knew it I was given a spoonful of sea urchin.

There was no other way out.

It was bad. It was so, so bad. I should have asked if it was cooked, because it wasn’t. Instead, I ended up gagging on a large, cold, mucus like glob of very fishy slime with bits of what might have been sand in it. I tried to be polite about it, but it was clear I was struggling since they offered me a napkin and to pour me a shot. When I declined, they gave me a glass of non-alcoholic beer, which unfortunately still had all the taste of real beer. I was full pretty soon since I hadn’t been hungry to start with, but lunch lasted over an hour, so I nursed my cup and a bowl of fried rice. I felt bad that I hadn’t eaten much since I really didn’t want to appear rude, but after the urchin and several cups of various teas, my stomach was tapping out.

After lunch, we drove a short distance, and stopped at the ocean! It was incredible! there were packs of stray dogs, crabs all over the rocks, and a large breakwater made out of cement bricks. I took off my shoes and socks and tied them to my bag to wade in. It was WARM. I couldn’t believe it. The sand was soft and the water was warm. After wading a bit, we climbed onto the cement wall, and I sat down on one to look at the water and crabs. We stayed for a while, but I honestly hope I can go back again soon, but this time to swim and stay all day.

Driving back, I started feeling really bad. Luckily most people in the car were asleep because I didn’t want them to know I was nauseated and weak. Call it revenge of the sea urchin, but I wanted to throw up anytime I thought about eating or being around fish for the foreseeable future. Before we got back, we stopped at a supermarket so I could grab some food. I ended up buying laundry soap, milk, nuts, and some chips. back in the car, Tim’s daughters surprised me with a bag. They had bought me some KFC from down the road. Honestly, I was really flattered but also extremely embarrassed, since I know they did it because they were worried I didn’t get enough to eat. No matter how many times I tried to tell them I had eaten beforehand, I don’t think they really believed me. Anyway, I’m back in my room now, chasing down what is the spiciest KFC sandwich I have ever eaten with gulps of milk and Pepto Bismol. Despite some embarrassment, I’m glad I got to go today.



Not much to report today since I pretty much took the day off of everything. With no work, I failed to sleep in and then took a walk around to feed the local mosquitos. I grabbed a late breakfast, then alternated considering to work out and actually playing a video game for a while. I did stop to review some of what I learned in Mandarin, but that was the extent of my success. I just grabbed dinner to go, and frankly really enjoyed having a day to do nothing. There are ridiculous numbers of birds here, all singing and screeching and flying around at once. Honestly, though, I like all the noise they make.



Very slow day today. After a morning of working to move more whiteflies to eggplants, all there was left to do was clean some Petri dishes that had been labeled in Sharpie, which took maybe 10 minutes. We also stopped by the greenhouse for a few minutes to collect pollen from tomato plants. The extra time let me get caught up on emails and clean up my computer files, but then there was still about 4 hours left until we were off for the day. To pass the time, Hank and I went out to see the fields and greenhouses so I could learn where they are and what they’re used for.

At lunch today I was approached by a coworker who let me know that he and several others will be leaving to southern Taiwan on Sunday and asked me to come with them. I told him it sounded like fun, and later I was contacted by another member of the group going so that she and I could exchange contact information. When Hank found out I’ll be out more, he gave me his number in case of emergencies, which I appreciate very much. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the country, and it will be nice to get out a bit. The heat seems to be getting worse. Today it was sunnier than usual, and the short amount of time I spent out had sweat pouring off of me, so I was glad to get back into the air conditioned office.

I finally identified a very large bird that’s nesting in a tree by the entomology lab and is usually seen wandering around. Its English name is the Malaysian Night Heron. Up until now, my coworkers told me its name was “big, dumb, ugly bird”. I didn’t think it was that ugly, until I saw its nestlings. 3 of them that watch us anytime we get close to the nest. The best way I can describe them is fuzzy, unfinished muppets. It’s more than a little disconcerting to walk by the tree and see three sets of massive eyes peering out from a lump of mangy fluff following you.

This morning at breakfast, I saw the last of our visitor from Thailand, as she said she was leaving just before noon. Even though communication with her was more difficult than it is with most, I’m sad to see her go as it was nice to have someone to eat breakfast with. At least I won’t be the only one for long. I was told this morning that one of the Drs. had approved of more than 23 more interns, all to arrive sometime in the next week! That, plus the many I’ve been assured will arrive in late July are sure to have the place feeling busy and friendly by the time I leave. For now, there are only 2 of us housed in the dormitory behind the cafeteria. The rest are in an apartment complex about 10 minutes by bike away. IMG_5492


I’ve finally started to work on learning a bit of Mandarin. I have a program that my good friend Jack (Hi Jack, thanks again!) downloaded before I left. It has been surprisingly fun to listen too, and I followed along with an entire track while finally unpacking and straightening up. It made me feel really successful to be able to say a full complex sentence in Mandarin, even if it is all that I know, my words are slow, and my inflection is all wrong. Plus, my suitcase finally moved from its spot on the floor and its contents have been stored away, so in all a pretty productive evening.

Today I was gifted a long tube with webbing and cotton blocking one end. Its purpose was to allow me to suck breeding pairs of whiteflies into a tube from the underside of a cabbage leaf. Later, we would attach small bug cages to the leaves of pepper plants, and us the tube to blow the whiteflies into the cage on the underside of the leaf. That way we can test the mortality and egg production of the whiteflies in a nonselective environment, and get a better understanding of which plants contain the ability to repel or poison the insects.

We also disposed of some plants used in spider mite research. That involved putting gloves on and dumping out pots of dead and dying plants covered in webs and mites into a large garbage sack, which was left out in the sun all afternoon. After we were pretty sure the heat had killed anything alive, I jumped on the back of Hank’s motorcycle and we rode about a mile down the road to dump the bags out in a compost pile. There was already a large pile of rotting peppers, and, for some reason, peanuts, so the smell was incentive enough to hurry us along.

I have a small infection on my finger, but the swelling has gone down, so it’s not serious. Besides that and my ever growing number of bug bites (at least 2 new one’s today), I’ve had nearly no problems healthwise. My hosts seem concerned about it though, and frequently ask if the food is alright for me. Barring the fish fried whole and still watching me, I’ve had a great time trying new things. Most of the food is very mild and familiar, but Hank enjoys bringing snacks and candies into the office to share and see my reactions. Most of the things he brings in are strange but good. Today, for example, he brought in Japanese chocolate and what I thought at first was a weird chocolate chip cookie. It turned out to be a rice patty with bits of dried seaweed. I try to be polite in accepting what he offers me, but sometimes I can’t help but stare at him or the food in bewilderment after the first taste or smell.20170622_094328


Today was slower, and even though I’ve only been here a few days, I’m already falling into a routine. Wake up, go to breakfast, go to work, go to lunch, take a break, go back to work, and then go back to my room. I still do things to break it up, like take a walk or read, but things are slower here and it’s easy to slow down with them.

This morning our guest from Thailand was leaving. She met me at breakfast, and the two women who accompanied her added me on Facebook to share photos they had taken. She also asked my permission to take a photo of me. “For my daughter.” She explained, “She’s 18”. I agreed and then smiled and waved them goodbye as I cleaned up to go to the lab.

We went to a greenhouse nearby today to transplant and label hundreds of tomato plants that will eventually be transferred to the entomology department, where we’ll be working tomorrow. Two older women also worked with us, speaking much less English than anyone else I’ve met so far. The only English work they said was my name, to get my attention if I needed to hand them more pots or slow down in moving the seedlings. Still, it was work that was easy to get lost in, and I didn’t realize how much I was sweating until it dripped into my eyes. We eventually finished and went back to counting whitefly eggs and cleaning cages.

I went for a short walk later but went in before the mosquitos could come out. Eight bug bites still itch ferociously on my calfs. Now I’m up, trying to stay awake as long as possible to help myself get over jet lag. I had a small amount of currency exchanged at the cashier’s here at the center, and I keep wanting to re-examine the colorful bills and coins. Besides that, I’m settling in quickly enough. 20170620_100652.jpg