Maria Holland

Group Meeting

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2015 at 10:30 am

I stayed at home a little longer than usual to practice my presentation, and apparently in doing so I missed the weekly seminar. The speaker was from Georgia Tech . . . but he’s Chinese, and the talk was in Chinese.  Probably not a huge loss.

In the afternoon, we had a group meeting. I was scheduled to talk, and was pretty nervous.  Partly because our lab meetings at Stanford are pretty informal and I wasn’t sure what to expect here, and partly because, oh, my presentation was 30-40% Chinese.

One of my labmates introduced me (in English) with some excessively flowery language, something about me being a kind lady and a strong researcher. Also both Ellen and I were referred to as “he” – a common mistake by Chinese speakers, but mainly funny because he was at dinner yesterday when another labmate asked me what mistakes Chinese people make in English, and this was one of the two I mentioned.

I think it went well. I tried to address a lot of the questions I’ve been asked by my labmates, explaining where I’d been in China before and what I was doing; what the EAPSI program is that brought me here; what my research is on and what I hope to do here. I also brought a box of See’s chocolate to pass around, which couldn’t have hurt :)

I got a few questions about my research afterwards (in English, thankfully). Then the next guy presented. He had just sent some time at Georgia Tech and he gave us a talk about “why are frog’s tongues so sticky?”. A weird and confusing moment came when he was showing a video of a frog capturing and eating a cricket in super slow motion, and he turned to me and said “cricket 怎么说?” (“How do you say cricket?”). Ummm 你是问我吗?? Are you asking me?? I did not know the answer.

There were two more presentations, less engaging than the first, during which I tried my best to stay awake in the warm and stuffy room. The first guy was doing something with dry cells? Really the only words I understood were 细胞 (cell) and HeLa (because I just finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks before coming to China). The second guy was studying the mechanics of tumors, considering the role of both stress and nutrition transport on growth. This was actually interesting to me, but he faced the wall the entire time and I could barely hear him.

In the evening, 10 of the 13 EAPSI Beijingers got together for dinner to celebrate our first week of work. We went to a Xinjiang barbecue place, and it was delicious. The taste of fatty lamb roasted on a stick brings me right back to Hunchun, without fail. We also had super delicious spicy “potato chips”. It was all fairly spicy, but one guy reminded us that if we come back in two months it probably wouldn’t be. That would be an interesting barometer, to eat a place every n weeks and see how it feels.

We had the greatest conversations during dinner. About how one guy lived in a tiny village in Africa and had unlimited internet, but here in the capital of China it’s expensive, slow, and limited. About another guy’s 21st birthday, when some other Americans on coke got into a bar fight in China and he barely got them out of there, although they were bleeding heavily. About pack rat middens (not mittens, and not cute), which are piles of junk hoarded by pack rats and cemented with their urine.

And about the prevalence of street vomit in Beijing. I’m not sure if I’ve just never noticed it before in other cities, but it seems very common here. One guy had texted everyone this morning to say that there were four discrete, giant, puddles of vomit on the way to the subway station. I saw a [very drunk] man vomit between his legs while sitting on a bench on my way home from work on Tuesday (like 5pm, dude, get it together) and we saw a woman supporting another woman while she vomited on our way to dinner.

I’ve never vomited on the street. In fact, I can’t think of a time I threw up anywhere but a trash can or toilet. That was the general sentiment in our group. Yet, it seems to be a common enough occurence in China. Is this a physiological thing, a result of lower alcohol tolerance or a quicker vomit reflex in response to eating something that disagrees with you?? Or a behavioral thing, because the street is largely thought of as toilet/trashcan so why bother rushing home to do it inside your house?


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