I handed over a well-worn 10 yuan note (US $1.60) for a ride and approached the yak. Its handler guided me to the side of the hirsute bovine (the name in Chinese, 牦牛, is homophonous with “fur ox”). When I prepared to mount, the yak backed away several paces, presumably apprehensive of such a large foreigner climbing into its saddle. The handler, a young lady of the Qiang 羌 ethnicity that populates this region of Sichuan, told me that her yak was somewhat skittish around strangers. No problem. I had ridden horses before and knew how to get my foot in the stirrup and throw my other leg over the saddle—even if my mount was moving. On my second attempt, the handler suddenly shouted, “no, no, no” as I put my foot in the stirrup. But hadn’t I paid the 10 yuan for a ride? No. The handler told me I was too large for her precious, white yak. So, I only ended up getting a photo op next to the beast.
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I love doing field work — getting outside and observing, seeing and recording what is going on, noticing what most others over the age of ten or so will walk right past without even a glance.
Part of my joy in this trip has been getting to share this with a group of students. These students did not necessarily sign on because they were excited to see what field work was about–I don’t fool myself that a trip to China wasn’t the big draw. (I do have students occassionally who would go anywhere for the field work, but none were in my radar at the genesis of this project.)
In the first days of data collection, I loved watching the transformation of this group, as will usually occur in any group given a similar challenge. As they stopped to watch the flowers and see what visitors arrived, they began to see what was happening on the flower. Some bees flit from flower to flower, spending significant time only when sufficient nectar is there to hold their attention. One little bee, that we could see often in Shenyang, stayed long at each flower, collecting more and more pollen for its significant store on its mid leg. They started to watch not just because they knew that they had to do so, but because they were interested and curious as to what these six-legged creatures, which previously may have held more fear than interest, were really up to. Continue reading ‘Ups and downs of field work’
There are personal costs to going abroad for a long trip. Sometimes, we miss events that we otherwise would not miss for anything. Sometimes, news arrives that can just about break your heart… the latter happened to me this week…
I am still in China.
This morning, 13h ahead of Illinois, I checked my email before leaving for another part of the country. (Woke up early in Shenyang, spent several hours on a bumpy flight, and am now in Chengdu, under cloudy but bright skies, with probably several hours of daylight remaining.) Immediately, I saw notifications of posts in the several IMSA alumni groups to which I belong. Not reminders of coming reunions… but news of the passing of one of the many remarkable leaders of a remarkable place I had the great fortune to attend.
The picture above was taken four years ago: November 2010. It was Veterans’ Day, and I visited IMSA that day because they had invited a classmate, Ron McKenzie, to give the address.
I didn’t know it until later that day, but when I took this picture, Eric McClaren had already received a diagnosis of…
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Our first full day in Shenyang, we took a tour of the Imperial Palace. This was once a capital for the Qing Dynasty, and is apparently the only royal palace outside the Forbidden City in China.
We went with our local contact, Kevin (Xing Wang), his daughter (as it was Children’s Day), and several students from Shenyang Jianzhu University, our hosts while we stayed in Shenyang.
Of course, there are pictures.
Find them below the jump: Continue reading ‘Shenyang, Imperial Palace, photos’
Oops– I haven’t been sharing as many pictures here as I probably should! We have slightly better internet now, so I will try to get some more posted!
We had a couple of days of sightseeing in Beijing before heading off to Shenyang to start research. We will also research in Beijing, but at the end of our trip. While we were there, temperatures were at or near 100F, so it was much too warm to do much.
More below the jump. Continue reading ‘Pictures from Beijing’
I am not a morning person. That is, I am not a morning person until I leave the US and head off to another part of the world. In Beijing, I awoke at 6am daily — at least an hour before any alarms were set. This morning, our first in Shenyang, I awoke at 5am, with the sky already fully lit.
I putzed around the room for a while, with 3 and a half hours before any commitments and no internet with which to waste away the time, or make any alternative plans. Eventually, it was 7am and I was fully clothed and ready to explore. I began by walking around the floor of the campus hotel — the 13th floor. (In China, 4 is an unlucky number, and 13 is just the number between 12 and 14.) Shenyang Jian Zhu University is in the suburbs, so there are not a great number of tall buildings around. But, out one window, I could see what looked like some fields with rows planted. So, I wandered downstairs and outside to see what I could see.
Within ten or fifteen feet of the door, I found what I suspect was Apis mellifera, the same honey bee we see at home. It was inspecting some flowers, and then flew up to a willow tree, which it spent quite a long time inspecting. When it flew off, I looked down and saw lots of weedy flowers — many the same as I had seen in Dalian a year ago. And I saw bees! Several different species, one more common than the others, with very large yellow patches on its midlegs.
So, tomorrow morning, we can begin with some observations right outside of our hotel!
Oh, and I said butterflies, too, didn’t I? Many Pierids are about here, including the cabbage white, Pieris rapae. A few others flitted by, too quickly to be able to identify. Promising start!
What a difference a year makes… it was only a year ago that I took the long flight to the other side of the world and first experienced China in the company of fellow faculty members. A year later, I found myself back on the same flight, this time in the company of five students, all majors in my program area. During the flight, I kept looking up, expecting to see Sue or Zubair on their laps around the plane. But, of course, they weren’t on the flight at all.
When we got off the plane, another reminder of the last trip: Steven was there to greet us, with an iPad “sign” greeting. Tim Goines was also there, having just sent off the students from their short-term study abroad program (they were soon to be getting on the same plane we had just spent 13+ hours on).
One last reminder: the first hotel we stayed in was the last hotel the faculty were in last May. And that’s pretty much the end of the similarities…
More below the jump… Continue reading ‘In China again’