Progress in the Lab and in the Kitchen





Wooh, some form of routine is coming back into my life after 3 weeks! Last week was the second full week of classes with real lectures as well as my first Diversity of Life lab on the 26th. I was a bit nervous as I am for all biology labs, but on Monday night I didn’t sleep until I had completed the lab pre-assignment. Completion of the pre-lab wasn’t checked by the professor or the TAs, but I’m still glad I did it because doing the pre-reading really made me feel ready to go the minute I stepped into the lab.

Our lab partner for the semester was the person who sat next to us, and I’m lucky because I think Teri and I are going to work well together. The first lab had 7 exercises in which we looked at various sporophytes, gametophytes, roots, and stems of plants under the microscopes. While the dissection microscope was no different from those in most US schools and colleges, UC’s compound microscope was so cool! It included a camera screen so that the other person could see what was going on under the microscope. Admittedly, it took me a second to remember how to work a microscope, but after playing around for a bit, I surprisingly remembered a lot—thanks public education! Sometimes when Teri had a little trouble getting the focus juuuuust right, I’d show her how to, and then other times when I had trouble answering the lab questions, she would step in and clarify. I always worry about going too quickly or too slowly in lab, but I think our working pace was really good; we completed almost all 7 exercises together.

Look at this super cool Trifolium stem cross-section seen on the compound microscope’s attached display screen!

Later that day, I went to the grocery store and bought actual groceries for the week ahead for the first time! Using my weekly meal plan as a template, I bought the necessary ingredients so last week I made my own pizzas, salads, and quesadillas. I even made brownies for my dessert of the week, and my roommate gave her seal of approval on them! I can’t believe it took me a trip halfway around the world to learn how easy it is to buy weekly groceries and to cook meals for myself.

Then, after classes on Thursday the 28th, I went to the Westfield Riccarton Mall where they have everything—fashion clothing stores, shoe stores, banks, 2-dollar shops, Pac n’ Save, Briscoes Homeware… But my favorite store so far seems to be Kmart. Not the American Kmart that you’re thinking of, but a Kiwi one that is so my aesthetic that I offended my friend back home who is a diehard Target fan! As I shopped for the finishing touches in my room, I was on the phone with my friend Grace, who is also in her last senior semester at her home university in Missouri. Side note, it’s amazing how digital technology lets us keep in touch with friends and family literally thousands of miles away. Nowadays, you don’t even have to have a phone network that lets you make international calls; all you need is WiFi or data, and you can videochat or talk on the phone normally. For example, Grace and I used Facebook Messenger and then Snapchat to call each other that evening. Compared to my parents’ experience of having to buy prepaid long distance phone cards to call their relatives and friends in Vietnam, it’s amazing how many more resources and communication methods we have at our fingertips now.

Anyway, the most exciting thing of last week was the first meeting with the founder of the Refugee Network and a representative of White Elephant, two organizations that are working together to support refugees and immigrants in Christchurch. The initial meeting was a very in-depth history of the Refugee Network’s foundation and growth told by the very accomplished and determined Mr. Ahmed Tani. Mr. Ahmed discussed how the initial refugee community was mainly composed of Somalians and then grew to include people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Iran, and other countries over the years. Facing some internal and bureaucratic resistance, Mr. Ahmed has continued to help all incoming refugees and immigrants, regardless of nationality or religion. He definitely seems very passionate about his organization’s mission, and I am excited to see what opportunities come up this semester. Hopefully I can be of help, and there seems to be already so many talented and motivated volunteers to work with!

Things I Learned this Past Week:

  1. Don’t hate me, but I don’t like fish n’ chips! After eating it for the first time last Monday, I don’t understand how both the fish AND the chips can be deep-fried? Where is the contrast in taste that the side is supposed to offer to the entree?!?!
  2. “Pinging” is “emailing” in Kiwi-speak.

Things I Still Need to Learn:

  1. Portion control…I either need to amend how much I buy in groceries or groceries need to learn how to package for single people sharing a flat.
  2. Where all the spicy food is hidden away in Christchurch.