Mall Mania… and More

The Philippines is known for their megamalls and after visiting the Mall of Asia in Manila on Saturday, I can understand why. I believe it is the largest mall in Manila and one of the biggest in all of Asia. If anyone in my group was missing the States, they could get their fix here with Krispy Kreme, Coldstone, and IHOP. I enjoyed browsing the Asian stores and restaurants, however. We all were interested in comparing the fashion and chain restaurants to what we are familiar with. After walking my 10,000 steps for the day (plus more), and with shopping bag in hand, the bus took us back to IRRI… through the heavy traffic of rush hour. Being from a small town, I can say I really miss the lack of traffic and being able to drive 80 mph down the interstate.

In lab this week, I have been exclusively working on Southern Blot. Conceptually, it’s a fairly basic technique that has been around for a long time. I severely underestimated the hours required to produce just one image, however. Much of the time spent in lab is simply waiting for something to incubate. Though at two points, the energy of the lab group really spiked. The gel containing DNA for the blot is made to be incredibly fragile, so every transfer became an ordeal with four bodies nervously hunched over, praying that a week or more of work won’t be lost in one misstep. The second moment is the development of film from the blotted membrane. Again, we were all four huddled, this time in a tiny dark room, hoping that we would see the bands we wanted-the bands the this genetic transformation project relies on-through the dim red light.

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I have fallen into quite a routine here at IRRI: breakfast in the cafeteria at 7:30 (a meal I normally skip, but maybe the jetlag is responsible for this new eating schedule?), work until 4 or 5, dinner, gym, and often times the Productivity Cafe in Los Banos. Video and movie streaming is blocked on campus, so I go into town and buy some coffee or tea to access wifi for my Netflix and music fix. While those download, the Cafe is also a great place to plan weekend travel and write blog posts 🙂

By now, it is very evident to me that making connections here in the Philippines is key to getting things done, and for foreigners like me to get around. If you ask around, somebody will surely know someone else who can get what you need. A group for foreign scholars here at IRRI, called AFSTRI, has saved us with last minute transport more than once. AFSTRI arranged a bus for Puerto Galera and luckily we were able to join with the German scholars. A friend and I were able to ride with a group going through Manila to get to the airport for Singapore, and this past weekend at the mall was a monthly AFSTRI planned trip. Our connections to coworkers have also been incredibly helpful. One of the other interns was able to get a driver for the Taal Volcano weekend through her lab, and one of my lab mates has graciously agreed to show us the best restaurants and hangout spots around Los Banos and University of the Philippines.

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