INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE | Re-telling climate change stories

Last Day of Work in Sitancun


Rebecca Safran

To say that today was a frustrating one is an understatement. We took a taxi to a neighboring village (about 3 miles up the road) where Sheela placed 4 tags on birds last summer. As I have explained, it is nearly a miracle to find the birds with tags – literally, a needle in a haystack. Today, we found yet another one and she is sitting on eggs in her nest which means that it would take us no more than 5 minutes to catch her and another 5 to remove her tag. BUT! The owner does not want us to catch her. Liu Yu and another local villager tried to explain how easy and fast this would all be – but nothing doing.

International field work is difficult. We don’t know the language, the culture, the conventions and we are hoping everything will go smoothly. Even in the best cases, fieldwork does not go smoothly: the weather changes, predators attack the birds we are trying to study, batteries die, equipment fails. A lot can go wrong. In this case, we really were so close to another important data point. So close that I could imagine having that tag back in our hands in a few minutes time. Live and learn. The owner said we could come back in 15 days but by then we will be on our long flight home.

Another difficulty is that here, we stand out. Really stand out. People may not have seen humans from our part of the world ever! Still, they are welcoming and giggle and surprised when we greet them in Chinese. And they quickly learn the extent of my Mandarin! Still, they warm up to us quickly and many have accompanied us from house to house to help and watch.

Sam, Noah and Ayla will tell you that these people are friendly and curious – they have said hello to Sam and the kids by skype nearly every day!

The rose bushes are blooming here in Sitancun and a huge rose festival starts tomorrow. We have been enjoying rose petal tea, rose pancakes, rose cookies! This is a beautiful place.

Tonight, we’ll catch two more pairs in a nearby village and head west to Zhangye in the morning by high speed train!