It is the morning after arriving at the International Rice Research Institute, and I am now well rested and ready to start this journey. For a little background, this is only my second time leaving the country and first time being this far away from home. Going into this adventure, there are a lot of unknowns and many new experiences to be had.
For starters, I had never flown on a 15 hour international flight before. It turns out they can be made pretty fun with a little creativity. When I arrived at O’Hare in Chicago and got checked in, I noticed that our boarding passes were decorated with Hello Kitty characters. I thought it was funny and cute, but did not begin to realize until we saw the fully painted plane in the distance that our entire flight carried that same theme. When I boarded, other internees and I all immediately noticed the Hello Kitty pillow, screen backgrounds, and bags. In fact, the flight even had special purple silverware, wet wipes, soap, lotion, and toilet paper!
After getting some, but not a lot of sleep on the flight, I was already pretty exhausted. We had a layover in Taipei, Taiwan, where of course we waited at an impressively decked out Hello Kitty gate. Once some of the shoppes started to open up, I walked up and down the never ending hallway of the airport. I began to perk up and become excited to try new foods and candies from South East Asia. I ended up trying a warm dessert with tofu, tapioca, and peanuts in a sweet sauce. It was a positive start to my summer food journey.
Once the group landed in the Philippines, we met up people who will be helping us with our travel. Upon exiting the terminal, I was hit with a wave of 90 degree humidity and sights of large green leaves, which immediately brought me back to my travels to Costa Rica for a tropical ecology course the year before. I’m hoping my experience there will help me adjust to this very new climate with ease. A couple things struck me on the drive into IRRI. One, almost every sign I saw was in English despite it being the second national language behind Filipino or Tagalog. Second, driving here is very different than what I am used to in the United States. Traffic rules and lane divisions are merely suggestions, and horn usage is common place.
After about a two hour drive from Manila, the capital of the Philippines, I saw big letters I-R-R-I and let out a sigh of relieve knowing we had finally arrived. The campus is absolutely beautiful, filled with lush green and bright-colored flowers, set against the backdrop of rolling mountains. My IRRI intern group grabbed our first dinner of many at the cafeteria and promptly afterwards my exhausted mind and body collapsed in bed- hence why I am writing this blog post the next morning 🙂 That’s all I know for now, but I can’t wait to learn more about where I am staying and take pictures of this spectacular location in the days ahead!