Eight o’clock Monday morning found Traphagen 116 full of expectant faces. Normally college students are not super excited to be back behind desks after only a week of summer vacation, but I had the feeling that this was an acceptable reason. WE’RE GOING TO CHINA! I got the feeling that this fact was just starting to hit the group as the real packing began. Finals week had apparently been a mental barrier for most of us, and now that grades are posted and there’s nothing we can do about it we can start thinking about the trip.
Introductions were made around the room. Some of the faces are familiar friends from the Paleontology program at Bozeman, some are familiar only from Facebook, and others are entirely new to me. The group consists of eight undergraduates, one graduate student, and two professors. The students are a mix of paleontology, geology, or biology majors, ranging from sophomore to senior standing. Therefore, a brief overview of dinosaur reproductive biology was in order as well as our research goals and expectations. We also learned about how we classify and identify dinosaur eggs. (More about both of these later.)
The item of the day that spoke loudest to me was the soft-spoken traveling nurse. She told us what to pack, what to eat, and more importantly, what not to eat. Lesson of the Day: Don’t drink the tap water. Or eat fruit that has water on it. Or food that has water on it. Or food that isn’t piping hot. Or eat without washing your hands with disinfectant. Or if the vendor has dirty hands. And if we follow all of these rules, then we will still probably get raging diarrhea at least once, so deal with it. Also, look out for cars, don’t pet dogs, and for the guys, if a girl starts to hit on you it’s probably because it looks like you have money, not because you’re dashingly good looking.
Despite all the precautions, the end of the day found the group looking just as expectant, if not a little more comfortable. Danny and I went on the hunt for permethrin, an insect-repellent that was highly recommended by the traveling nurse. We had no luck on that front, but we managed to pick up some other recommended necessities like iodine tablets, traveler’s belts, and Pepto-Bismol pills.
We ended the day at Frankie Jackson’s backyard for a little barbecue and socializing. Frankie, one of the professors, and her husband Bob put on a great spread with burgers and potato salad. It’s starting to hit me at least that this will be the last American hamburger I’ll be having for a while. Likewise, as I went to sleep, I did so with the knowledge that this will be last time I sleep comfortably in my own bed. Even though we don’t fly out until Wednesday morning, I know will be packing and rechecking the list most of Tuesday night before I take nervous 3-hour nap and then head to the airport.