This morning, I met Wei in the lobby of my hotel, and we walked first to obtain a Chinese SIM card for my phone and then to the Kunming Botanical Gardens (KIB), where I will work and live (starting Monday) for nearly six weeks. KIB is beautiful, and I plan on taking many photos and uploading them as I take them. I am excited to have a desk in one of the buildings at KIB. The window is now open as I type here, and a gentle breeze is tickling the back of my neck. For lunch Wei took me to his house, where his mother, wife, and two-year old son were expecting me. Before arriving at the apartment, Wei showed me a kudzu patch he found right in front of his hotel. While it was my first native kudzu I had seen, it placed me right back in Missouri, in the patches I studied last year in Imperial. This patch, however, is invested with Megacopta cribraria, the "kudzu bug," which is currently causing problems with our soybean crop in the Southeastern United States. Wei believes this patch is no more than 5 years old, as that is how old the apartment complex is, and that He and his family are terrifically kind and generous, and I felt truly at home there. I presented Wei's son with a picture book of animals, which he seemed to love. He is a loving, happy child, shy at first, with dimples and a great smile. Wei told him to call me "Uncle Steven," which he did to my delight. For lunch I was treated to a fish soup, the leek dish I have enjoyed so much, some watermelon, and the Yunnan potatoes, which, I am told, are the best in China. I don't have anything to compare them to in China, but I heartily agree. Wei was worried that I am not eating as much as I should, given my size, thinking that I do not like Chinese food. After lunch, we walked back to KIB where Wei showed me another patch of kudzu, this time in the garden itself! Now that's my kind of garden! It was just beginning to flower here, as if it knew I was coming, and should be ready to go for some experimenting in the next week or two. I did not see the kudzu bug here, but there was evidence of some herbivory on the leaves. You can see more pictures of kudzu here - http://www.flickr.com/photos/97422460@N08/sets/72157634174217822/
Tonight Wei and I are going to dinner with the sister of my friend Ren Zongxin, a post-doc researcher at St. Louis University, her husband, and some other researchers in this group here at KIB. I am very much looking forward to meeting them and sharing some delicious Yunnan food and drink!