In light of the first two-day weekend since I’ve arrived in the Philippines (I’ve been pretty spoiled), I stayed a quite a bit closer to IRRI. A group of interns and I went to Taal Volcano, an active volcano filled with water– and surrounded by water. The sun here in the middle of the day can be quite a force to reckon with, especially if you are trying to hike a dusty path uphill. My group avoided this problem by leaving our dorm at 3 in morning, two and half hours before the sun would even rise. While we were all pretty groggy when we left, we all came to appreciate watching the sun rise over the water as we rode in a small boat to the volcano. After less than an hour hike, we made it to the peak to take in the panoramic views. By 9 am, I made it down Taal and back to the mainland, already feeling pretty accomplished before breakfast.
With a whole day ahead of us still, we went to the neighboring town Tagaytay. City center is perched high up in the hills that surround this area. I’m still amazed that van made it up the immensely steep, tightly winding roads. The group sat down for breakfast, and I ordered a traditional Filipino dish of fried rice, eggs, longsilog (sausage), and tomato. I’ll add that the complimentary brewed coffee was perfection– a rare find in the United States. The view down to the water and volcano we just hiked only enhanced the experience.
This past week in the lab I have continued PCR, but this time for primer optimization and probe synthesis. All of these techniques are classics in the world of molecular biology. By the end of this internship, I think I will have a fairly strong foundation in the type of lab I may work in later down the road. Below is a picture of one of the many cleaning steps in DNA extraction. Check out those flowering trees and mountain views in the reflection of the fume hood…
The longer I stay in the Philippines, I notice more cultural similarities and differences alike. American culture and evidence of Spanish colonialism crop up quite frequently, in the naming of locations, music, food, and religion especially. However, when I walk through the supermarket, one isle that is distinctly different from an isle in America is the “sunblock and whitening” isle, as opposed to the “tanning lotion” isle. As I am strolling around with arms stretched out, desperately trying to absorb the UV rays, locals are walking under an umbrella to shield themselves from the sun. Along with light skin, lighter hair is also a beauty ideal here so sometimes I receive more attention from that alone. Overall, the Philippines strikes me as a blend between Western and Eastern cultures. This is not to discount the numerous traditions that residents take pride in, unique to this country alone.