Thursday, April 30, 2009

Everest Basecamp Trek 2009

Travelogue to China will be interrupted by a trip to Nepal . . .

I'm leaving tomorrow to do a trek to Everest Base Camp. No, I'm not climbing the mountain - I'm walking to it, though. I'm participating in a photography workshop/trek and you can follow our activities here:

Everest Base Camp Trek 2009

and there's a widget where you can follow information as well.

I think I will have intermittent email access once we're on the trail from Lukla to EBC. Most of the villages have internet cafes. Now that I know how to access my blog via email, I'll make attempts to update the blog from Nepal.

I still have a lot of info to post from my China trip and I intend to resume when I return. I might be going out of sequence for awhile, though. You can navigate the blog by hitting a keyword over there in the right margin.

Please keep us in your thoughts. I'm hoping the experience will be amazing and that I learn a lot.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

China 2009 - 16

16 February 2009 - Kunming, Yunnan Province

This was the fanciest breakfast set-up I experienced during my visit to China. This buffet was stocked with a large variety of foods.

Plus there were chefs at different stations to make omelettes or other specialty items.

Oh, I finally found the picture of the hotel front. We stayed at the Expo Garden Hotel in Kunming. It was a very nice place.

This was Monday morning and the city's workers were commuting to jobs. In addition to bicycles and cars, there are a lot of commuters that use motorcycles and scooters.

We were back at the Kunming Institute of Botany early in the morning for some tours or meetings. Sean Graham and I had a tour of the Millenial Seed Bank Project. It's housed in a very modern facility.

I can't remember the name of our guide, but he gave us a very thorough and informative tour. The guy on the right is processing a voucher specimen - basically a pressed plant that will end up in a herbarium. That gives the identification of the plant from which seed was collected.

The doors at the far end of the room lead to a secure cold store room where the processed seed are kept.

This is a culture room - for seed germination, I think.

There is an area for educational display of fruits and seed in part of the facility. The seed collection is for native plants of China and the idea is to collect seed from every species for future conservation.

I don't know what plants these fruits are from, but the patterns they had in their storage containers were visually interesting to me.

Wow - love those winged fruits.

Seed is processed and cleaned in this area. The sieves are used to separate seed from fruit tissue and other non-seed detritus.

This is a storage area where seeds are awaiting processing.

Winged seeds - a personal favorite of mine.

Seed morphology is fascinating. There are so many adaptations for dispersal that it boggles the mind.

The water content is carefully monitored. I can't remember what the ideal percentage is, but it's highly regulated to ensure seed viability over a long period of time.

Packaging is also important. Sealed jars and vials are used for bulk storage.

Foil packets are used for small seed lots.

Compactor shelving is used for archiving the collections.

In addition to the seed bank, the facility hosts a state-of-the-art molecular technology center, which includes automated sequencers and genetic analyzers. Most of this equipment had not yet been put online as the labs were still under construction.

Once this facility goes online, it's going to be an amazingly productive place, I'm sure.

The bench space is amazing.

It has a nice gel room, too.

The next stop on the tour was the herbarium. I wish we would have had more time here because I would have like to have looked at the collections.

We stopped only long enough to take a quick look. It's very modern and seems to be a really topnotch collection.

This part of the herbarium is for the lichen collection.

I think this is Dr. Hua Peng, the curator of the collection. Maybe he is the director of the herbarium as well. Again, my memory is not so good on the details.

Fungi are usually stored in envelopes such as shown here.

Dr. Hua Peng's office had some interesting art on the wall. He collects artifacts that have lichen growth and makes artistic renderings from them.

I thought these were very beautiful and interesting to see.

After a quick tour of the lichens, we went upstairs to take a quick peek at the vascular plant collection. Before going into the collection, shoes are to be removed and you can borrow some slippers to wear.

Sean's checking out the size.

I guess if you work there, you'd want to have some very comfortable and fashionable slippers. The building was very cold, also, so warm ones would be a good idea, too.

Those are my feet. I have bunions.

We signed the guest book,

and then got a glimpse of the herbarium. It looks like a fantastic place to work. I wish there had been time to explore.

Testing the email function of my blog

If this works there should be text and a picture. The picture is of a recent project that will be on display at the Spoke in Wood exhibit at the Mansfield Art Center, June 7 - July 19, 2009.

Monday, April 27, 2009

China 2009 - 15

15 February 2009 - Kunming, Yunnan Province

After visiting the botanical garden, our driver brought us back to the hotel so we could freshen up before dinner. When we arrived, there was a wedding party waiting for photographs or their ride - don't know which.

I find it very interesting that Chinese couples dress in western fashions for their nuptials. I wonder when that tradition began and if anyone wears traditional costumes for wedding ceremonies?

I loved the use of fresh flowers for celebrations. This sure beats the American tradition of balloons and tin cans tied to the bumper. Pretty!

The hotel lobby was filled with the sound of music played by young ladies. Classy!

Even the ash trays were done up in style. Several times an hour someone comes along, rakes out any cigarette or cigar butts out of the sand and then imprints the hotel logo back onto the pile of sand that was raked into a cone shape.

The wedding couple was still out on the steps when we came back downstairs to catch our ride to dinner.

Sometimes candid shots capture the most amazing moments.

The sun was setting over Kunming as we were whisked away to another hotel where we would have dinner with Professor Li.

Kunming is full of shiny, modern buildings.

There are lots of neon signs, too.

We went to a very upscale hotel for dinner where Professor Li had rented a suite on the third floor to host a banquet for us. We had our own chef and wait staff to serve us through the evening. The decor was very nice.

It was a very intimate setting and it was easy to share conversation around the table.

The place setting was very elaborate and a bit confusing to this westerner. I basically just watched what the Chinese scientists were doing before reaching for any dish, serving utensil or miscellaneous item.

The first thing that happened after we were seated was an elaborate placement of the napkin under the place setting, and draped onto the lap.

This interesting stone sculpture stood watch over the festivities from a perch up on a tall cabinet.

The food was nicely prepared and very flavorful, but I had to start asking about each dish after sampling this one. I'm not used to eating organ meat and this was a dish that nearly made me embarrass myself upon first bite. My "Don't ask, don't tell" culinary policy basically fell apart this evening.

Ummmmm, no chicken feet for me, either, thank you very much..

I did enjoy the variety of fungi dishes.

All of the vegetarian dishes were very tasty.

I'm not sure what all was in this dish. It had some unusual textures on the palate. Hmmm, this was a "don't ask" dish.

I think this was a dish made from lichen, but I could be wrong. I do recall that the lichen dish was delicious.

These were some kind of fish cake that had a dipping sauce - very tasty.

This was the "Do it yourself" course of the meal. The broth was boiling hot and all the ingredients were laid out to be placed into the bowl to make a lovely soup. Flower petals, calamari cut to resemble a ginger flower, raw meats, egg, and a variety of spices and veggies. It was truly a wonderful culinary experience.

I snapped this picture on the way out of the hotel - we had a glimpse of the chef preparing food for the restaurant. I loved the image of squash piled up, waiting for their turn to be sliced and added to a dish.

It had been a very long, but memorable, day in Kunming. This is the hotel where we stayed the night. There were all sorts of social furniture circles tucked away in various niches of the hotel.

This is the hall where my room was located.

You'll have to click on the image to be able to read the sign above the phone. It finally sunk into my jet-lagged brain why there was a phone next to the toilet in each of the hotels. I'm happy to report that I didn't need this service during my visit to China!