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.