I was informed two days ago that a trip was being organized to gather plant specimens in the Taibai Mountains a few hours away and that Katie and I would be hitching a ride with them. This will be a great opportunity to speak with farmers and to see the Chinese countryside. Like I have said in my previous post the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program governs the cultivation of traditional Chinese plants and herbs. What I have gathered is that mountainous regions are characterized as marginal/poor soil and terrain to plant food or grain crops like they do in the lower lying lands. For farmers in these mountainous areas medicinal herbs are a very important income source. The GAP is supposed to be have increased incomes for farmers in these areas. Research in this biology department is conducted on medicinal plants to increase and stabilize the medicinal components of these plants leading to higher prices received from medicinal/pharmaceutical companies. The impact of the GAP on these communities and farmers is what I intend to investigate. So, I look forward to my journey tomorrow.

On a different note related to food, the food has been delicious. Simply eating on the street from vendors has been an excellent way to nourish myself, eating in common inexpensive stalls that serve mostly soup and noodles with a mix of veggies and spices. Haven’t had a dish i didn’t love. The food seems to be agreeing with me well so far but anticipate that eventually I will hit some rough terrain. The university cafeteria has been the most interesting venue to eat. The campus has approx. 50,000 students and four cafeterias that I know about. The cafeterias are large with rows of McD style seating. Chairs with round seats attached to tables of four made of fibreglass and stainless steel. Colourful ads are the table tops with brilliant colors. The food is inexpensive. A meal could cost 50 cents to one dollar with much variety and flavour. I had no problem eating it. Saint Mary’s and Western students would be so very envious of eating on campus here. I had to explain what it was to eat on campus in Canada to our hosts. They were completely surprised and appalled by the thought of spending that much money on food in the school cafeteria and i couldn’t convey the details about the quality and variety (or lack thereof) of food available.

The campus, where my work space/office is, seems to be located in a more suburban area with little access to food within relatively close/walking distance from the university. This means that I eat a considerable amount at the university cafeteria(s). One of the peculiar incidences was a few days ago when a few of us from the biology department were eating lunch together. We had arrived for lunch at the height of lunch hour. I was lining up for a serving of rice. I watched the machine that students swipe their meal cards also displays the purchase price of the food. It seemed odd that the amount charged for rice was varying from student to student. I realized that women were charged .4 yuan (6 cents) while men were charged .6 yuan (10 cents) for what seemed to be an identical portion of rice. After discussing with some of the lunch group it became apparent that the price of food is not the same for everyone and that the server determines the price subjectively. If s/he thinks that you require more rice or seem to be bigger, then you are charged more or less given the servers assessment. This usually has something to do with your gender.

I will post more when I return from the Taibai Mountains. Hopefully, I will have some pictures to share.