A Perfect Weekend

The past few days have been great! On Thursday and Friday I continued collecting cysts and observed Ümit Bay sterilize carrots and then inoculate them with root lesion nematodes (RLN). RLN can be cultured for future use but cereal cyst nematodes (CCN) cannot. That is why we continuously have to wash soil samples and collect the CCN.

With the steady Wi-Fi we have now, I have been able to text and FaceTime friends and family. It is wonderful to stay in-touch with friends at home and abroad, even though I am so far away.

On Saturday I went to the city with Volkan and Özgür (the men from the lab who introduced themselves earlier this week). They took me back to the old city where we went into the hand-crafted bazaar. This time I was allowed to enter a workshop and see a man craft an ornate pipe. It was breath-taking to see his seeming ease in constructing such a masterpiece.

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The mosque we went to next was the one constructed in 1525. They explained to me that the men pray on the main open space on the ground floor while women pray in a smaller area upstairs.

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After seeing these historical sites, we went to Es Park which is one of the largest and most modern malls in Eskisehir. We entered to find several stores with western clothing and found a movie theatre on the top floor. At this point we needed to start heading back so Özgür could continue an experiment at lab. On the way back we stopped at a famous ice cream store where they served the traditional baklava with amazing ice cream. It was interesting to hear American pop songs played (All about that Base by Meghan Trainor) followed by French music.

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Once I got back to my room I spent a couple hours cleaning up and working on my research abstract before heading to the kitchen to have a wonderful pasta dinner made by Joe.

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A few nights ago I found out that Joe had never seen or read any of the Harry Potter series (and he lived in London for two years)! Anyone who knows me understands my obsession with Harry Potter, so after dinner we had a movie night. A couple hours later, Joe had seen his first Harry Potter Movie. At the end of the movie I found out he hasn’t ever seen Frozen…

On Sunday I wanted to make dinner for my “host family” to show my appreciation for everything they have done for me. I tried using google translate to communicate this to Cennet Abla. I wasn’t able to tell if she said “thank you but don’t do this for us” or if she was agreeing so I decided to make the food anyway. Come dinner time, I had prepared a full meal and Cennet Abla had done the same so we had a feast!

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It was a great weekend!

A Project Outline

June 24, 2015

Dr. Amer shared a folder with me on Dropbox this morning with a lot of papers and reading. I look forward to getting through them and getting a better understanding on the back ground of this research. He also provided an outline of what I will be doing here.

Cereal Nematodes:

Cyst nematode (Heterodera species)

  • Extraction from soil
  • Counting and collecting cysts
  • How to enhance hatching
  • Inoculation
  • Harvesting

Root lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus spp):

  • Culture preparation
  • Extraction from both soil and roots
  • Counting under microscope
  • inoculation

Crown rot (Fusarium spp):

  • Observing the spores under the microscope
  • How the inoculum is prepared
  • Inoculation
  • Plant harvesting, symptoms and scoring

Visit other programs

The International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP) and learn about breeding, rust screening etc.

Visit the quality lab and see what traits they are studying in the quality lab

Help Joe in his work to understand some molecular work especially DNA extraction from plants”

As soon as I got to work I got a call from Gul Abla, explaining my work for the day. She is currently on antibiotics and finally took a day off. We are all hoping she gets better soon.

At lab I spent the morning washing soil samples to get cereal cyst nematodes.

Procedure for washing the soil:

1) Place soil sample in a large pot

2) Fill the pot with water and stir the contents

3) Let the mixture settle for 20 seconds

4) Pour the top water into a sieve apparatus (large one on top and finer one underneath)

5) Repeat the washing procedure for the same soil sample five times

6) Dump the contents of the top sieve and the pot and collect what is in the bottom sieve

In the afternoon I collected the cysts. What I collected from the bottom sieve was a mixture of small rocks, soil particles, and cysts so I had to loo under a microscope to pick out each individual cyst. Each cyst contains hundreds of nematode eggs so later on the eggs will hatch and the nematodes will be used to inoculate new plants. This is used to test whether or not the plant is resistant, tolerant, or susceptible to the cereal cyst nematodes.

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Once I came back from lab I got a chance to read through a little bit of the material Dr. Amer shared with me and it is very helpful!

Around seven I went to the kitchen to cut some fruit for a snack and ran into Cennet Abla. She was making Sikma which is a large tortilla filled with a cheese mixture. I watched for a while in fascination and of course had to try it. It was scrumptious. I don’t know what it is about her cooking, but she adds the right amount of love and skill to make each dish delicious.

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Extracting Root Lesion Nematodes

June 23

For the past week Gul Abla hasn’t felt well but has attributed the cough, congestion, and light fever to allergies. Today she came in feeling worse than ever and told us she would go to the doctor as soon as we got situated. It was so kind of her to come all the way to work just to get us set up!

Today Rola and I worked with the other members of the pathology lab to extract root lesion nematodes from soil samples. For the process we had a large petri dish under a plastic plate with large holes that was covered with a filter paper.

First we set up these petri dishes across the entire lab

Second we added a soil sample to each petri dish

Third we used scissors to cut the roots in the sample

Fourth we soaked the samples in water

The idea is that the water will drain into the large Petri dish and the root lesion nematodes will follow the water. In three to five days we should be able to discard the top part of the apparatus with the soil and just have the water containing the nematodes. It was quite a tedious project and even with five of us working on it, we barely finished before the end of the work day.

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I met to new girls at lab today, Toga and Elif. Both of them go to the local university. They studying biotechnology in relation to agriculture and got an internship at CIMMYT for the summer. Toga and Elif are really fun and curious about me. Through broken English, Turkish, and Google Translate we were able to get to know one another.

I came home, my fingers swollen with water. Looking through my fridge I realized that I have potatoes so I can make one of my favorite meals, bangaladumpa vepudu (a potato stir-fry) with rice. An hour later, this is what I came up with.

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I invited Joe to dinner and luckily we both enjoyed the meal. The more I settle in the better this trip is getting!

Wi-Fi and a Scary Ride

June 22

I started out my morning with a jump roping routine followed by hearty oatmeal. Right at 8 I went to Gul Abla’s office with Joe and a Rola, a new trainee. She is in Eskisehir for two days to learn more about nematology. We began with a tour at the pathology lab. Though it was mainly meant for Rola, hearing everything a second time definitely helped me understand a lot more.

Currently the pathology lab I am working in is looking into three different plant disease:

-Cereal Cyst Nematodes

-Root Lesion Nematodes

– Fusarium Culmorum (The fungus that causes Crown Rot disease)

The steps in this process:

  1. Allow the seeds to germinate
  2. Plant them in small tubes
  3. Inoculate the plants
  4. After the plants have grown for a few months, wash the soil samples
  5. For Cereal Cyst Nematodes, pick out the cysts and quantify them
  6. Repeat procedures to test how tolerant or resistant a plant is

Variations of this basic procedure are used for each of the soil borne pathogens

After the tour, Joe and I went to the green house where we continued to harvest wheat.

Throughout the day we continued to meet individuals from nearby labs and it was pleasantly surprising to see how genuinely welcoming they were. They would check up on us every-so-often, making sure we took breaks to rehydrate after being in the scorching sun. As a few men from lab got to know us better, they asked if we had seen much of Eskisehir. Learning that we had only been to a few select locations, they offered to take us out this weekend and show us more of the city. We gladly agreed.

At 5, Joe and I went to the city center again to get Wi-Fi. By some incredible luck, the very first store we went into sold the Wi-Fi hotspot we were looking for and the man working there spoke some English. It took a little longer than expected but both Joe and I walked out of there with our respective hotspots. Deciding this was a success, we walked along the river-front to find a restaurant for dinner. We came across a particular restaurant that was perfect. For $5 dollars, I got a delicious meal of rice, beans, and yogurt. Though it may sound quite rudimentary, the meal was truly fantastic. After strolling next to the river for a little bit, we finally headed back.

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By the time we reached the bus station, it was 8:30 and just beginning to get dark out. 10 minutes later we realized that the last bus going to the institute had left an hour ago. This forced us to find a cab. After a fair deal of walking around the city, we found an empty cab. After 20 minutes of driving through small streets, the cab driver stopped at a cab hub and asked another man for directions. At this point we thought he had figured it out, but again we went back to small alleyways and backstreets that just made it seem like we were going nowhere. This is when I began remembering all the horror stories about girls getting kidnapped and the whole nine-yards. Before my thoughts got too far away, we got onto the highway and finally turned onto the long road that would eventually lead to the institute. After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at the institute. Joe and I quickly thanked the driver, got out of the car, and promised each other that we would make sure to catch the minibus next time.

When I came back to the guest house, my laptop automatically accessed Wi-Fi for the first time. This wasn’t because of the hotspot but rather because of a setting Gul Abla had changed on my laptop earlier today. So maybe I don’t need this hotspot after all. However, if I ever get caught in a situation like the taxi today, a hotspot could become incredibly handy!

An Adventure

June 21, 2015

First off, Happy Father’s Day to the best dad ever 🙂

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This morning I made a stir-fry curry and rice. It truly is so amazing to have basmati rice again. I also attempted to work out. There isn’t a gym facility here so I resorted to using a jump rope. Around 10:30 Joe and I decided to head to the market to find a Wi-Fi hotspot. The institute is on the very outskirts of Eskisehir so we had to take a minibus into the city center. Once we got there we randomly chose a direction to walk in, keeping our eyes peeled for a phone store. After about a 10 minute walk we saw an internet café. Luckily the man in there spoke English and kindly directed us to where we could find phone stores. I think we made one wrong turn so Joe and I wandered around the city for a while. The first few phone stores we saw were all closed because it is Sunday. We figured we wouldn’t be able to do much so we continued exploring the city, going in to small alleys filled with stores. There were a multitude of bakeries and women’s clothing stores with what looked like prom dresses. What’s great about Eskisehir is that if you are willing to walk a little you can get to most places in the city and it is aesthetically beautiful.

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(excuse the bad picture quality, I technically wasn’t allowed to take pictures of their dresses)

Finally we hit an area with several open phone stores. At each one we attempted to explain what we were looking for and eventually got the response that they didn’t carry Wi-Fi hotspots. At one store, a man suggested going to a large shopping mall that may have what we were looking for. The mall was huge with 6 levels, each one housing different merchandise. The basement level had all kinds of pet stores. There were birds, bunnies, fish, etc. The first floor had at least 10 clothing stores, mainly for women. Each store had very grand and elaborate dresses (I can’t imagine why they need so many stores with the same type of fancy clothing). After asking around at different stores for another half hour, we were told to go to the fourth floor. There we saw a techy store. When we asked for a Wi-Fi Hotspot, for the first time all day we got a yes. To use the Wi-Fi Hotspot we need a sim card from Turkey and to get that we need to have our passport. So our plan is to come back tomorrow, hopefully with Gul Abla, and get this Wi-Fi situation figured out. Though we weren’t able to get the hotspot, we got to explore a lot of the city so Joe and I rated the trip an 8 out of 10.

We got back to the Guest House at 2 and I decided to eat the lunch I prepared earlier today. Thanks to the rice, it tasted very good and left me full and satisfied. I am so glad the food situation has worked out!

Later, with Joe’s help I was able to use the washing machine so hopefully my clothes will be clean in about an hour!

Slowly but surely everything is coming together 🙂

The City Center

June 20

I woke up at 9:30 this morning and it felt great to sleep in. I spent the morning catching up with some friends and getting more organized in my room. In the midst of all of this I forgot to eat breakfast. At 12:40 I attempted to eat the eggplant curry and rice I had made the night before. I forced myself to eat the thick slimy food.

So far I have only been in my room and the kitchen so I went to explore the rest of the guest house after lunch. I discovered a living room area on the main floor with couches and a TV. Behind this room is a work space with multiple tables and chairs and a large TV. Next I went to the basement which was a bit sketchy. I went through a door that led me to a bathroom followed by two rooms with green carpet. It wasn’t until I went into the second carpeted room with rosemary beads that I realized it was a prayer room. I felt awful because I was wearing shoes and my hair wasn’t covered (both forbidden in any Mosque or prayer room). I quickly came out and went through a short dark hallway that led to the washing machine room. There is no dryer but clothes-lines stretch across the room.

After this little self-tour, I went back to my room and got a call from Gul Abla. She was on her way back to Eskisehir with Joe and she planned for all of us to meet in the city center and get groceries. I went with Ekrem to the train station to pick both of them up and it was great to see Gul Abla again. She greeted me with a warm hug and took me straight to a currency exchange center where I got Turkish Lira.

Gul Abla, Joe, and I then went to Migros which is like a big Super-Target or Wal-Mart. After discussing the rice situation with my parents I realized that we eat Basmati rice at home so I went on a mission to find it at Migros. It was a huge relief when Joe found Basmati rice and showed me where to find it. Migros also had a lot of spices used in Indian cooking that I did not expect to find here so it was a very pleasant surprise! I came back ready to cook a great dinner but was invited to dinner with Ümit’s family again. Cennet Abla’s cooking is so great I couldn’t deny the offer. They have truly become my adopted family here; Ümit calls me his daughter. Joe joined us for dinner as well. As soon as I figure out how to cook well, I will make dinner for everyone.

After a splendid dinner, I hung out with the kids and Joe before calling it a night. I still don’t have a strong Wi-Fi connection here. I am not able to access internet from my laptop and only a few apps on my phone work with the internet so tomorrow Joe and I will got to the market again to get a Wi-Fi hotspot. I expect it will be quite the adventure because we have no idea where to go. Either way it will be fun!

Friday!

June 19

I arrived at lab this morning ready to harvest more wheat. Sevil Hanim and I went back to the green house, got our system set up and began. The machine, however, was even more inefficient than it had been the previous day. The spikes kept getting stuck forcing me to unscrew the hinges and open it repeatedly. Within half-an-hour we realized the rain from the night before had increased the moisture content and was ruining the machine. So we had to stop. I didn’t have any other official work for the day so I went inside and shadowed other members of the lab. Büşra was busy with what looked like tubes of soil. I soon realized she was planting wheat so I helped her for a few hours.

During lunch Ekrem took me to the mini bus to get cooking supplies. I wrote out a list in Turkish with the help of Google Translate so I didn’t anticipate any issues. I was wrong. It turns out the bus didn’t have any small bottles of oil and it took me a good 10 minutes for me to understand this. Ekrem, the vendor, and another man buying food all tried to patiently explain this in Turkish till I finally understood. I still considered it a success.

I got back to the guest house with about 30 minutes to make and eat lunch. I went with scrambled eggs and had bread with peanut butter. After my sad attempt to eat lunch yesterday, this felt like a feast.

I got back to lab to find Sevil Hanim sleeping in the break room and felt awful that I woke her up. Most people who are fasting use lunch break to sleep because they have a meal at 8:30 pm and then wake up around 3 am to have a second meal.

For the rest of the afternoon I got to put cotton at the bottom of the tubes in preparation for more planting.

Though I don’t understand the language, everyone in lab tries to include me in conversations. Google Translate helps a lot but I now understand why my French teachers ask us not to use it. A lot is lost in translation. For the current purposes, however, it is perfect.

For dinner I attempted to make rice and an eggplant curry. This time Cennet Abla cooked the rice for me. Unfortunately the rice turned out the same way. I guess this rice is just different and is meant to have that wet and sticky consistency. Fortunately I didn’t have to eat it because Ümit invited me to dinner again followed by tea. Today it was a lentil soup with homemade bread and a plain pasta.  The kids taught me a few more words to broaden my vocabulary in Turkish. I learned a few numbers and the words for spoon, fork, and other kitchen utensils.

I went to my room, anticipating to sleep quickly, but ended up on the phone with my parents for an hour. It is great to be able to stay in touch while I am awayJ it is now 12:30 am and I am finally going to bed. I plan to sleep in tomorrow because it is the weekend and I have no plans!