Wednesday, August 29, 2018

La Querencia

I have been in Ecuador for about 3 weeks now and I owe you guys a blog.

The farm I stayed at was an interesting experience. The farm is in a little town called Nono, it is about 30 minutes northwest of Quito. Nono is a tiny town of about 300 people and not much else, to get anything you must go to Quito. So, the farm has two ‘sites’ in Nono, the main farm is La Querencia, where the calves are, where the events happen and where I spent most of my time. The second site is La Campiña, it is about 1.5 miles up the mountain and has only a milking parlor. I lived in an ‘apartment’ next to La Campiña. When I arrived, my apartment had a couch, sink, toilet, and shower, nothing else, no real kitchen stuff, no bed. I eventually got a bed, mini fridge and hot plate.  I walked to work every morning about 7 am and the walk took about 45 minutes. In the evenings sometimes I walked, which took over an hour, or sometimes they gave me a ride if I asked.

A typical day for me at the farm was helping with calves in the morning, feeding, cleaning pens, and rebedding. Then I sat around for a little while, and around 1pm I would check on the calves again, refill feed and water. At about 3pm I would help milk, I always put feed in front of the cows while they were being milked. They use a pasture grazing system down here. So, during most of the day I can’t see the cows from the farm, they are far off in a pasture, then at 3 am and 3 pm they come in for milking. The parlor at La Querencia has 8 stalls with 4 milkers, it is a flat barn, so you stand on the same level as you milk the cows (usually in the US farmers stand in a pit behind the cows so they don’t have to bend down to put the milkers on, a lot easier on the farmer). The cows only eat pasture and then while they are getting milked they get a little grain. The milk production is much lower, but labor and feed costs are also lower. After milking, I feed the calves and then I head back to my apartment. My apartment had no tv, no wifi, no radio, nada, so I usually went to bed around 7 or 8 pm. I have never gotten so much sleep in my life! On the weekends I would help with the tourism part of the farm. La Querencia has a shelter house where they can host parties, or cookouts, which they do almost every weekend; they have a putt-putt course (where I mostly helped), a petting zoo area, a restaurant and soccer fields, they are nearly done building a fishing pond.

Some random and interesting things about my time at the farm:
  • Only one person spoke passable English, but she didn’t like to and wasn’t around much. I had to converse mostly in Spanish and hand gestures. I did pick up some Spanish and improved my listening skills, but the language barrier is definitely a challenge.
  • Nono and the farm sit in the valley surrounded by green mountains, I may walk to work but the view really is beautiful. Sometimes in the evenings I can see the cows from my apartment and if it isn’t too foggy, it is a beautiful view to watch the cows grazing with the mountains as a backdrop.
  • One time I was helping milk and one of the workers came up with a baby bottle, bent down, filled it with milk fresh from the cows teat, and then walked over and handed it to a child, who drank the entire bottle of fresh, raw milk. You could say I was stunned.
  • The mornings usually start out really sunny and really quite beautiful, the temperature reaches into the upper 60s, around early afternoon the fog starts to roll in. And the temps drop an bit and can get kind of chilly. In the morning I could see for miles and miles, by 5 pm I could barely see 50 yards into the distance. The nights then got cold, dropping down into the low 40s. They also have no such thing as heaters down here, so my apartment can get really chilly at night.
  • On the weekends when people come to visit and are watching milking, they hand out samples of raw milk, straight from the cow!!! That would never fly in the states.
  • I was on the farm for Ecuador’s Independence Day! The small town had a large parade and party in the streets. I am sure every single person in the town flooded the streets for the parade of dancers, and horse back riders. The party lasted all weekend, from Friday morning until Sunday night, we could here the music playing and the people shouting.

I ended up cutting my time at the farm short and booked a trip for the Galapagos! The Galapagos are a part of Ecuador and were something I definitely wanted to do before I go home.

I arrived in the Galapagos Monday, August 27. The Galapagos Archipelago is made up of four inhabited islands off the coast of Ecuador and are very famous for their wildlife. This is where Charles Darwin made most of his ground-breaking biology discoveries, such as evolution. Did you know that when Darwin first arrived in the Galapagos in 1835, he was 21 years old and had no interest in science? He was just along for the journey with an explorer that made a stop in the Galapagos. It is safe to say that his time in the Galapagos were inspirational, and he returned later to make amazing discoveries in biology.

We hit the ground running on day 1. We started on Island Santa Cruz, the eastern most island, we went to Darwin Bay to go snorkeling. We got in the water (a chilly 72 degrees, on day 2 I will be investing in a wet suit). I have snorkeled a couple times on different cruises in the Caribbean, but this is definitely the best snorkeling I have done. We saw tons of bright colorful fish, a couple sea turtles and even some sea lions!! The sea lions are sneaky and quick and are not scared of you, so they come up to you out of no where and scared the beejeezus out of me a couple of times. We then stopped at a beautiful beach to get a gorgeous sunset and observe a large herd? Clan? Family? Of sea lions. This island has sea lions everywhere you look.

This was just a preview of the Galapagos, I will write about the rest of my week in the next blog so stay tuned!!

~Adventure is worthwhile in itself~
Amelia Earhart

*P.S. Wifi is scarce here in the middle of the ocean, so pictures won't upload. Check back later if you want to see pics

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Now, to Ecuador

Some of you may have heard, I’m packing my bags again and heading to Ecuador… for 4 months.
This is where I am going

So how did this come about? A while ago I heard about an international dairy program where you spend time working on a dairy in another country. Ever since, the idea of spending a year abroad on a dairy has been in the back of my mind. I graduated from Purdue this last December, but instead of immediately looking for a job, I got an internship in D.C. to try something new and gain more experience in a new field. When my internship was ending, I got a newsletter about the program Global Cow. They send people to farms all over the world to work and bring people to the US to work on US dairies. The email came at a perfect time, I had nothing lined up, and it is the perfect time for me to take time, explore the world, and figure out what I want to do. I have the rest of my life to find a ‘real’ job and work, but if I don’t do this now, I know I never will.

Around fair time, I put my plans on hold while I explored other options. In the end, the best option for me is to go to Ecuador. On Thursday, August 26th, I called Global cow and said I definitely wanted to go and to start making plans. That Saturday, August 28th, I was standing on the dance floor at Tootsie’s in Nashville, TN when I got the email: “Hello, Kendra.  Just heard back from Ecuador, and the farm has room. They suggested that you arrive on August 7th.  If you get to the airport around 10 PM, the owner himself will be flying in at that time, and could meet you directly at the airport and take you out.” OMG, I was going to Ecuador… in 10 days. I got back home Sunday and immediately started planning, buying plane tickets (not as expensive as you might think), packing, getting my vaccinations (ps. If you ever need a rabies vaccination, you need to know 28 days in advance… soo I’m SOL and hopefully the cows don’t have rabies😊, also only like 1 place in Indiana has the Yellow fever vaccine), and let me tell you, the most expensive and challenging part of this whole thing is the vaccinations. This week has flown by and I can’t believe it is time to leave.
Ecuador is nearly directly south of Indiana

The farm is about 20 miles northwest of  Quito

A lot of people question why I am doing this, and what is the point. For me this is one of the best opportunities for me to combine two of my passions, dairy farming, and travel. I cannot pass on an opportunity like this. Why Ecuador? My first response, why not Ecuador. For all of you worrying, Ecuador is a perfectly safe country with no conflict going on right now. I am also in a very safe area on a well-established farm and event center and will be 100% safe, (and for my overly concerned aunt, I will avoid the big snakes).  Ecuador is a country about the size of Colorado right on the Equator in South America (Quito, the capital, and where I’ll be is in the mountains, 9,000 ft in elevation. So, while it is on the equator it will stay constant temperature all year round, but it is high enough in elevation that it stays pretty much in the 60s. And if you’ve heard of the Galapagos Islands, they are part of Ecuador, (you bet I’ll try my hardest to make it over there.)

Four years ago, this week, I was travelling around Peru and absolutely loved my time in South America, I have been itching to go back. I was talking to the lady from Global Cow, throwing around a couple ideas and she spoke very highly of the farm in Ecuador. She is good friends with the owner and they have a large event center along with the dairy. The farm is Hacienda La Querencia in Nono, Ecuador. Here is the website if your interested in checking out where I am at: and facebook:

Another huge reason I chose Ecuador is because they speak Spanish! I took about 7 years of Spanish in school, but am not fluent, I have never gotten the chance to use it. I am hoping that I will use it and hear it enough, that when I come home in December, I can call myself bilingual. Speaking Spanish is a huge plus in the dairy industry, a lot of dairy employees speak Spanish and employers like to see that on a resume.  

What am I going to be doing there? A lot of different things, the farm is an educational farm that hosts tours and events, I will help with heifer raising, calf care, milking, pasture management and just about every aspect of dairying. Hopefully I will get to do some travelling as well.
The ranch I am staying at

Lately it feels as if I am living out of my suitcases (it doesn’t help that when I do come home, I leave my suitcases on my floor), but I don’t mind, it means more adventure. I am so excited for this next adventure, I will try to keep this blog updated throughout the next 4 months, hopefully I will get to do some interesting things.

~"Twenty years from now you will be more dissapointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sales. Explore. Dream. Discover."~Mark Twain

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Contiki!!! Spain, Morocco, Portugal

So, after Kylie left me I still had about 3 weeks before I was to be back in Aber for my exams. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, so a couple months ago, my flat mate introduced me to Contiki. Contiki is a travel company that does tours all over the world for people ages 18-35. I considered the tours they offered during my break and chose one I was excited about: Morocco and the Iberian Peninsula. I was going to get an in-depth exploration of Spain, spend a few days in Portugal as well as visit Morocco (which is in Africa for all of you not caught up on geography)!

Most of my Spanish spree group in front of
Queen Elizabeth's old palace
When Kylie flew home from Sweden on December 27, I flew to Madrid Spain, Wooo!! I joined a group of about 40 travelers, that have come together from all over the world, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other Americans. Some travelled with a friend while most were travelling solo, like me! We ranged in age from 18-33 from all different backgrounds and we were about to spend the next 21 days travelling together as one big happy family. I am rooming with a girl from Tasmania, Australia who is also studying agriculture (match made in heaven). We all get along well and it has been a fabulous group of people to travel with, I have made friends that hopefully I will be able to visit someday soon, and will have a friend to show me around their country.

Now on to my tour. Since this trip was so long we did so much I will just give the highlights.  The first 9 days I spent travelling all around Spain, I love this trip because we get to see more of Spain than just Madrid or Barcelona, we are going to the smaller towns and seeing the real Spanish culture. We started with a couple nights in Madrid, touring the royal palace and visiting the valley of the fallen, a memorial to all the Spanish citizens lost in the Spanish civil war in the 1930’s. We then made our way through the mountains to the northern coast of Spain. We stopped in multiple little towns to see the sights such as the old Roman Aqueduct in Segovia that was built in the first century AD and still runs through the middle of town, it used to bring fresh water to town from the mountains. We stopped in the cute coastal town of San Sebastian, where the weather was warm and sunny, and we got amazing view of the bay.  We spent a night in Pamplona where we learned about the running of the bulls festival and got to walk 200 meters of the Camino de Santiago (a famous pilgrimage, there is a movie about it with Martin Sheen).  For those of you that do not know, I studied Spanish for 6.5 years, and I learned a lot about the Spanish culture and different parts of Spain. I have absolutely loved exploring Spain because I remember studying about the aqueduct, the running of the bulls, and the Camina. It has been amazing o see these places in person and remember learning about these things.

Roman Aqueduct in Segovia
San Sebastian on he northern coast
We then got a couple days in Barcelona, one of the most unique cities in Europe, that completely transformed after hosting the 1992 Olympics. Barcelona is a part of the Catalonia region which just recently has had protests and is currently fighting for independence from Spain, and Spain is pulling out all the stops to keep them, I’m sure you saw it on the news in October. In Barcelona we got to see the unfinished Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, both amazing masterpieces by the famous architect Antoni Gaudí. I rang in the new year with 22,000 of my closest friends in the Plaza España in Barcelona, and got my fill of Sangria and Tapas. Most dinners in Spain have been tapas, it is where we get small portions of many different dishes. For example, if you go to a tapas bar, you order many different little portions, like a mini wrap, or 1 oyster, or croquette, and you just stand at the bar and eat it before moving on to the next bar. Most of our meals have been this way and I am ready for a sit-down steak and baked potato 😊.  In Barcelona we got to enjoy a traditional flamenco show, flamenco is one of the oldest and most traditional artforms of Spain, it is guitar music and dancing with a lot of clapping and stomping, amazing to see live in a small venue. We also got to ride bikes along the coast in Barcelona which was loads of fun!!

After Barcelona, we made our way down the Mediterranean coastline. We stopped in Valencia where we went to a Master Chef class to learn to make Paella. We split up into groups and mad dinner for all 20ish of us that went. I was on the dessert team, and made a delicious cake. They taught us all how to make the paella and gave us the recipe, it was a bit complicated so don’t expect it when I get home. But it was the most delicious paella we had all trip, so if I do say so myself, we nailed it! One thing to note about dinner in Spain is that no one eats dinner until at least 8:30 or later, most restaurants don’t even open until 8, it is really throwing off my internal clock. In general Spaniards do everything later than we do and usually they get a siesta in the middle of the day. If I was in Spain for a while I could definitely get onboard with it. But since we are only here for a short period of time we still must get up early and it just throws me off.

 We spent a couple days in Granada where we explored an old Muslim palace and visited a cathedral. So, Spain was ruled by Muslims for a couple hundred years at one point and in Granada (where they stayed the longest) they left a significant impact on architecture and left beautiful palaces with intricate engravings.

After Granada we headed south where we jumped on a ferry to take us across the 8-mile wide Strait of Gibraltar. We landed in Morocco and it was a whole different world. Morocco is still a developing country and nothing like the European countries. The entire time we were in Morocco we had cold showers, we couldn’t eat the vegetables (or anything that would have been rinsed in the water), and had to carry around our own toilet paper, since public bathrooms didn’t have any. Morocco was a super interesting and intimidating place, I don’t think it is a place I would want to go alone (especially not the first time you visit) but it is somewhere I am so glad I went.

Medina in Fes, It was quite the rainy
Our first two nights were in Fes and we went to the medina. The medina is the shops area in the city with narrow streets and lots of little market shops. The medina is a labyrinth of alleys and lanes crowded with people and some narrow enough that when you walked through each of your shoulders brushed against a wall. Our group had multiple guides around the group to make sure no one got lost, they say if you get lost in this medina, you’ll stay for years and get married off for camels. The only way to get around is walking, and to move goods they use wheelbarrows or Donkeys. It was crazy, we would see full size donkeys coming at you with 10 cases of water bottles strapped to their back, and there was hardly enough room to pass each other. The medina literally sold anything you can think of. They sold camel meat, shark meat, regular meat, live chickens (not sure if you buy the live chicken or if they kill it for you), live parakeets, fish, produce, scarfs, leather goods, metal goods, and touristy stuff. Morocco is very well known for their carpets, leather and scarves. We were able to visit a carpet cooperative where they try really hard to sell you very expensive carpets (they insinuated that if I didn’t buy a carpet I was not being a good American ally towards morocco). We visited a tannery where they soak the hides and make leather goods, and visited a textile shop where they made scarves and we got a lesson on how to wear a head scarf.

Muslim Palace in Morocco

After Fes we went to Marrakech, which is a more developed city, but still developing, if you know what I mean. It was better than Fes but still miles away from developed countries. In Marrakech there was a main square that was a hotspot for people trying to get money from you in anyway possible from selling sunglasses, henna, and the most outrages were the snake charmers, There were groups of men and they each had a couple snakes, yes real live vipers and nasty looking snakes (they’re supposed to have the fangs removed, but not all do). The snake charmers aggravate the snakes and try to get then into their attack stance for the tourists to take pictures and then give them money. I stayed far away, because it is common for them to put a snake over your shoulders and refuse to take it off until you hand over money. The medina in Marrakech was also a bit nicer and less of a labyrinth of alleys. We were able to navigate it without guides and able to do a little shopping. While the medinas could be a bit dirty there were beautiful parts of the country, gorgeous palaces, parks and gardens filled with palm trees and orange trees and fountains. After Marrakech we visited Casablanca, which is only famous for the movie, as well as the capital city of Rabat.

Market in Marrakech
Once we left Morocco we crossed back over the strait into Spain. We went to Gibraltar, which is actually an overseas United Kingdom territory on the Iberian Peninsula, attached to Spain and bordering the strait of Gibraltar (hence the name). There is a distinct border and we had to show our passports and everything. They do as the British do and not the Spaniards. They speak mostly English and they eat plenty of fish and chips (no tapas). The UK has owned this piece of land for more than 300 years, and it became vital during the second world war, keeping German U-boats out of the Mediterranean. If the UK had not had Gibraltar there could have been a very different ending to WWII.
Keeping an eye on the sneaky guy

While in Gibraltar we went up the rock of Gibraltar and found monkeys, his is the only place in Europe where you can find native monkeys. They are so used to tourists, that they really don’t mind people and you can get pretty close to them. After Gibraltar we headed off towards Seville and spent a few days here learning about the history of bull fighting and exploring the nice little town before going to Portugal. We only have a couple days to explore Lisbon (or Lisboa, as they say it here). We went to the mountain town of Sintra, which looks straight out of a fairytale, and the coastal town of Cascais. We visited the most western point of Europe, which people used to believe was the end of the world (that is until, Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492).

I had to fly straight back to Wales from Lisbon on Jan 14th. I have my international marketing exam on the morning of the 15th. I figure international travel is a good way to study for the exam, right? I got back in Wales just in time for 8 hours of sleep before taking my exam at 9:00am the next morning. And I am 90% sure that I passed, and that's all that matters! I am only in Aberystwyth now for 2 nights before heading home!! It is crazy to think that this long adventure is almost over, and I will be back home on Wednesday night! I get about 2 weeks at home before moving to Washington DC for my internship with Animal Agriculture Alliance. No rest for the weary, am I right? 

“To move, to breath, to fly, to float

To gain all while you give

To roam the roads of land remote

To travel is to live.”

-Hans Christian Anderson

Friday, December 29, 2017

Travelling for the Holidays

So, this year my holidays are very different than usual. My exams for university are not until January, and we have a four-week winter break between classes and exams. My dad thought I should just come home, but I figured that I would never again have a month break in Europe and I should make the most of it!! So, I am draining my savings and doing a European holiday tour. I will try to stay updated on my blog and do maybe a week at a time, I’m not sure we’ll see!

This first post is my first ten days travelling. When we realized I would be on my own over here for Christmas, my parents decided to send Kylie over here for 10 days. It worked out perfectly, she flew in 2 days after my last class and we met in London!

My flatmates, Sarah and Kamara, and I all took the train to London on Saturday and had planned to explore London together as one last roomie adventure!! Kylie flew in Sunday morning and after I picked her up from the airport the 4 of us started our adventure. We spent 4 days in London, before Sarah went home, Kamara went on a European tour and Kylie and I moved on.

During our 4 day stint in London we saw what we could of this massive city and learned the ways of the tube (I’m convinced I saw just as much of the London underground that I saw of the city)! The tube/subway system is massive and very elaborate, also very packed on the weekend before Christmas. I have never been so close to that many people in my life!!

Kylie and I visited Windsor Castle, it is just on the edge of London and is the Queen’s favorite weekend retreat. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle today. Queen Elizabeth still likes to host events here and can usually be found at the castle during her free weekends! Unfortunately, the queen must have been busy this weekend because we never saw her.
Windsor Castle

Pictures just don't do it justice, notice Big Ben covered in scaffolding

We explored the city hitting all the hotspots like Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Big Ben (covered in scaffolding), and of course the London Eye. We planned to take a lap on the London Eye around sunset, which over here is about 3:30, hoping for a beautiful London sunset. We were not disappointed, the sky was painted vibrant orange and stretched across the London city scape with the Thames river running down in front. The sunset was an amazing and the view was only obstructed by the fact Big Ben was covered in scaffolding and unidentifiable. Big Ben, the famous clock tower, will be undergoing reconstruction for the next four years to repair the tower and the bell inside. Kylie was really disappointed, you would’ve thought she came all this way just to see Big Ben.

We also got to experience the magic of a London Christmas and spent way too much money at the Christmas Markets. London was decked to the nines in Christmas Lights, Christmas Trees and decorations adorning every street and every square. We spent an evening at London’s Winter Wonderland. Winter Wonderland took over Hyde Park and had more than I ever imagined. There were rides, everything from the carousel to death defying roller coasters. Kylie and I rode the carousel and called it good😊. There was also an outdoor ice rink, a concert hall set up, a hall for ice shows, restaurants and bars (including a carousel bar!!), an oktoberfest style beer tent with live music and about a hundred different little Christmas markets. Man, was Kylie hard to pull away from the markets, she was like a kid in a candy store and found something she wanted to buy at every place. I had to keep coming up with new reasons why we couldn’t buy something.

London was fun but obviously it is a big city with a ton of people. Kylie and I are more country girls and don’t thrive in the cities. We really loved our time, but we were ready to leave the crowds behind and head for the wilderness. We did just that as we headed to our next destination: Tromsø, Norway.

Tromsø is the north of the arctic circle (to put that into perspective, we are further north than the northern coast of Alaska) and is isolated in the very northern islands of Norway. We decided to come up here in hopes to catch a glimpse of the ever-elusive northern lights. While researching the northern lights, the city of Tromsø kept popping up as a good destination to see the lights. We got up at 4 am to fly out of London and we arrived in Tromsø, the afternoon of Thursday December 21st. We were scheduled to take the northern lights chasing expedition that evening. We layered up in our long johns and heavy winter coats. It wasn’t as cold as we thought it might be, it was probably around 20° F, but I hate the cold and I was freezing. We left our hostel around 7 pm that evening. It was blizzarding in Tromsø and there was no way we would see the sky from there, so we set out in the van searching for clear skies. We continuously got updates from our computer guy back at the hostel and we kept an eye on the skies ourselves. About 5 hours later we were at the border to Finland. After we drove through the mountains (in a blizzard!!! Kylie and I were afraid for our lives a time or two) we found clear skies in Finland. We set up camp and built a little fire. We roasted marshmallows and drank hot chocolate praying for the lights to make an appearance. After a little while we saw what appeared to be white wispy clouds in the sky, our guide, and his camera, informed us they were actually very faint aurora borealis. The camera can pick up the Aurora better than our eyes and to our eyes it was faint and white, but the camera showed the green beautiful lights in the sky. We waited for them to get stronger and they did get a bit stronger, just enough to see the green with our eyes. The weather had finally caught up to us and the clouds blocked our view. So while we did briefly see faint lights, it wasn’t enough to cross off our bucket list. We will try again one day. We piled back into the van for our trip back to the hostel. We got back to our hostel around 4 am in the morning- we had been up for 24 hrs. But no rest for the weary, we had to be up at 8 for our dog sledding adventure.

On Friday morning we boarded a bus to take us out into the Norwegian wilderness to a dog sled facility. We all bundled up in snow suits and boots to head off into the wilderness. After maybe a 2-minute tutorial of hold on tight, don’t let go, and this is the brake, they stuck us on our own sled. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t that we would literally drive the sled our self and be in charge. I drove for the first hour and Kylie rode and then we switched for the second hour. Thankfully, it wasn’t complicated, and the dogs really knew what they were doing. The snow was so fresh, thick and fluffy that it was harder for the dogs, and they couldn’t go as fast. We had a dog team of 6 and were right behind the leader. I pretty much just had to stop the dogs, they did the rest on their own and followed the lead pack. We had to help them a little by pushing off and running and pushing up hills and pushing them through the deeper snow, so when driving it was a bit of a work out. These dogs love to run though, as soon as we would stop they would be barking and howling and trying to go. And they would get so excited when we let of the brake, these dogs are so active and high energy, they really are amazing dogs, they were extremely friendly too and played with us. It was really an amazing experience, we were in the middle of nowhere and all we could see was snow, trees, mountains and the other dog sleds, it was probably the highlight of my semester.

Tromsø is a little island in a fjord surrounded by mountains. We rode a cable car up to the summit of one of the mountains to get an incredible view of Norway. The mountains, snow and trees really made for a magical view. Since Tromsø is so far north, during the summer they experience the midnight sun, where it never gets dark, and in the winter, there is 24 hrs. of dark. When we first landed in Tromsø at 1 pm it was pitch dark outside just like the middle of the night. It kind of set us off kilter at first and was very different, I would have a hard time living here because I would never get motivation to get work done in the winter. We also landed in Tromsø on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, so the darkest it’s going to get and the furthest away from the sun we’ll ever be. For about an hour or maybe two it is almost like sunset, it is twilight and the horizon is painted orange, but the sun never rises. The last time the sun set was the middle of November, and it will not rise again until the end of January. Kind of crazy right?! On Saturday, we headed just a bit back down south to the capital city of Sweden, Stockholm.
Tromso is the city on the island behind us, this
is the lightest it ever got
The beautiful fjord around Tromso,
this was the sunrise and sunset at around 11 am

We are here in Stockholm for Christmas Eve, Christmas and the day after Christmas. We have had some trouble finding attractions that are open as well as restaurants that are open. But we have made the best of it and done everything we can. We visited a museum, took a city tour by boat and bus, and spent a day walking around the old town. We wandered upon the palace at just the right time, they were about to begin the changing of the guard ceremony. We missed this at Buckingham Palace in London and we were glad to see it in Stockholm.  We then went in the palace and got to explore it a bit.

Being in Europe over Christmas is a little weird, I don’t feel like I missed Christmas kinda because I don’t feel like Christmas happened, if you know what I mean. On Christmas day we did facetime home while they opened their presents, this year our family had very few presents to open we kind of all got one big thing. Kylie and I got this trip, Cole got a new computer. Mom was the only one to open a present and she got a Yeti Cooler and then my dad got the best Christmas present ever. I should background this a bit by saying that my dad had ponies growing up and has always talked about them a lot. For the past year or so he has been talking about wanting a pony for our front pasture, that he can pet and watch from his front porch chair. So, we decided that we were going to surprise my 63-year-old dad with a pony for Christmas. He had no idea that we had got him one, thanks to the amazing help of Adam Ulrich, and on Christmas morning he got his Pony! We were pretty excited.

So, after our Christmas adventure in Stockholm it was time for Kylie and I to head our separate ways. We went to the airport together and I got on an Airplane headed for Spain and Kylie headed home. It was nice to have a travel buddy and to see a familiar face again. I will be home in 21 days and will get to see everyone again!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The land of Pasta, Pizza, and Prosecco

This past weekend I made my way down to Venice, Italy. The inspiration for this weekend was to see Hadlee, who has spent the semester just outside of Venice.

I left Aber on the train at 12:30 Thursday afternoon. My flight was scheduled for 6:10 pm but was delayed due to technical difficulties, that’s the worst delay, I mean are they sure it’s fixed?  I had a connection in Frankfurt ,and in Birmingham they told me I would have plenty of time to make my connection. We got delayed on the tarmac and got an even later start, midflight they came over the intercom and told us that they had rescheduled flights for some passengers but the connection to Venice had a ‘good chance’ to make our flight! I had my doubts because by the time we landed my next flight was already boarding and I still had to wait in line to get off the plane and then we were shuffled onto a bus that took us to the terminal. There was a person waiting for us at the terminal with info about connections, she told me my second flight was delayed as well and I could make it if I hurried. I had to go through security again and go through customs and then a quick jog through the terminal I was the last one on the plane, phew I made it just in the nic of time.

Now I put on a brave face but, landing in Italy I was a little uneasy. After 2 delayed flight and a quick jaunt through one of the largest airports in Europe, I landed in a new place, where I didn’t speak the language, at midnight.  But new adventures and new places are what studying abroad is all about. If I never leave my comfort zone, I might as well have stayed in Indiana. You have to embrace the unknown and take life one step at a time!

Now if you know me, I like to fly by the seat of my pants and I hadn’t figured out how to get to my hostel. I was staying on the Island of Guidecca and the only way there was by ferry or water taxi, they said a water taxi would cost me about 100, so ferry it was. Since it was so late, there was no one around to help me figure out public transportation, using google maps I realized I needed to get a bus to the ferry terminal. I followed signs to the bus station and there was a bus sitting there and I figured that must be the one I want… luckily it was😊. It dropped me off at the ferry terminal and according to google maps, I was supposed to catch the night Ferry. There is literally only like 5 other people around and there all tourists as confused as me. I found a ticket machine and bought a 75-minute ticket. I went into the terminal to catch the ferry, after looking at the signs closer I realized I went on the wrong terminal and when I couldn’t find the way out, I climbed over the gate to get out. I finally got in the right terminal and on the ferry headed the right way. I had a 35-minute ride to my hostel and when I got there to check in it was about 1:45 am. They gave me a room and a bed and when I went up there, there was a girl in my bed, I went downstairs and got a new bed, there was someone in that bed, it was really late and I was exhausted and decided to just climb in an empty bed.

Standing in front of St. Mark's Basilica
On Friday I spent most of the day just wondering the alleys and bridges of Venice. I visited Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark’s Basilica. The basilica is a gorgeous church decorated on these beautiful, intricate mosaics that cover the dome ceilings, I couldn’t take pictures, nut I highly recommend that you google it! I wondered around and got lost and ate spaghetti for lunch. At around 6 pm I met Hadlee. She had an exam today and then came down to Venice, Hadlee is now finished with her program and flew home on Saturday. It is crazy to think that she is already home and I have 2 more months over here!! Don’t ask me how that worked out, because I couldn’t tell you. It was great to catch up with Hadlee and see a familiar face! We got dinner and gelato before she headed back to her hotel near the airport.

On Saturday, I visited the Islands of Murano, Burano and Torcelo. They are three islands just a 30-minute boat ride from Venice. Murano is famous for its glass, and we visited a glass master and he demonstrated glass blowing. I then headed over to Burano, famous for its lace making and colorful buildings. This is the most picturesque island with all the color and beautiful canals, I could have walked around here for hours. Lastly, I visited Torcelo, filled with history it is the first island settled by the Venetians and home to the oldest church in the area. After an afternoon island hopping I headed back to Piazza San Marco to go through Doge’s Palace. Fortunately, I got there just before last entry, unfortunately, I only had an hour to see it and was too late to get an audio guide. The museums and writing was all in Italian, so I wasn’t really sure what I was looking at most of the time and didn’t learn much about the place but it was still beautiful. I was exhausted after a long couple days and headed back to my hostel where I got dinner, and went to bed early.
Glass making

On Sunday, I took a day trip to Verona, the birthplace of Romeo and Juliet. Cole took a day trip here when he was in Venice and Hadlee highly recommended it. It was about an hour and half train ride from Venice to this romantic city. I explored a bit on foot and got some amazing pizza. Verona was crowded with tourists, they had a winter fair and a Christmas market happening, so the locals were out along with all the tourists. I took this cute little train around for a quick city tour to see as much as I could in the little time that I had. I then explored the main attractions further, including a castle, and Juliet’s balcony, before hopping back on the train to Venice. In Venice I took a leisurely ride on the back of the waterbus down the main canal stopping for some more Gelato (when in Italy, am I right?) and getting some amazing views of Venice at night. Venice is in the Prosecco region of Italy, they make the most amazing sparkling white wine. And while I’m usually not a wine fan, I had to indulge, and Italy may have turned me into a wine fan (Prosecco at least)!

On Monday it was time to go home, but I had time for one last walk through of Piazza San Marco and this time, I was there at high tide and the square was nearly completely flooded. Water flowed up through the drains and filled the main square. Now all the platforms in the square made sense, they made a walkway above the water, so people could still mill around without getting wet! I made my way back to the airport for a smooth journey home.

“Life is an adventure! Live it while you can. You can never have today again, tomorrow only comes once and yesterday is gone forever. Make your choice wisely, then live the adventure you create.”

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Obviously Thanksgiving isn't celebrated over here in the UK. So, today I am going about life as usual, going to my classes and working on my assignments. This evening they are having an American Thanksgiving meal for international students, so at least, I will get somewhat of a Thanksgiving meal.

I decided to celebrate thanksgiving by writing this special blog post. Mostly, I just had to write this for a job application and today just happened to be the perfect day to post it. So here you go:

10 things the Farmer's daughter is thankful for this year.

What the farmer’s daughter is thankful for this Thanksgiving:
  1. Her Dad: For showing her to love what you do and do what you love.
He was milking before I ever woke up and was milking when I went to bed. Farming is a way of life and you must love it to work hard 365 days a year.  Thank you dad, for showing me that in your words, “When the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’!”
  1. Her Mom: For showing her balance between work and life.
She would be feeding calves in the morning, delivering dad lunch at noon, and would be there to lead the after school 4-H meeting. She balanced farming, work, extracurriculars and family like a pro. Thank you mom, for always chauffeuring me to all my activities and making sure I got the chance to try everything, even if it meant you had to be the coach or start a 4-H club.
  1. The Early Mornings and Late Nights: For developing her work ethic.
Farming isn’t easy, and it the work is never done. Working alongside my dad every day, baling hay with the guys, spreading fresh straw in the barns, and feeding calves every day created a work ethic that will be valuable no matter where I end up in life. If I can do this, I can do anything. Thank you hard work, for never letting me quit.
  1. The Farm Dog: For never leaving her side and being her best friend growing up.
Doing chores for hours every day is always better with a sidekick, and my trusty farm dog, a collie named Lassie, never let me down. From lapping up the spilt milk in the barn to chasing me around on the 4-wheeler, I could always count on Lassie to keep me company. Thank you Lassie, for making sure I always had a friend.
  1. Saturday Night Milkings: For the quality family time.
While other kids my age were having sleepovers or going out on Saturday night, I spent every Saturday night milking the cows with my family. At the time, I complained, but now I know how valuable that time was. Thank you late night milkings, for showing me that my dad cannot dance.
  1. The Cows: For producing the milk.
Our family made our living off what these amazing animals produced. Not to mention it’s a tasty healthy product too!! There’s something special about spending an hour in the barn with your favorite show cow that puts a smile on your face. Thank you cows, for listening to me singing at the top of my lungs in the barn.
  1. The Indiana Sunset: for always reminding her to see the beauty in everyday things.
A beautiful Indiana sunset over the farm is something that takes your breath away. At the end of a long hard day, taking a minute to look at the sky painted pink and orange reminds you to see the beauty in every day and to ‘stop and smell the roses’. Thank you sunset, for a beautiful end to every summer day.
  1. The 4-H Fair: For friends that will last a lifetime, and the best week of the year.
There is nothing more fun than spending a week in the barn with your best friends. My best friends are the ones I met through 4-H, and I know that years from now, when it's our own kids that are showing animals at the county fair, I will always be able to count on them. The fair was my favorite week of the year, after all the dozens of hours of work I put into getting my projects ready, coming home with the purple banner made it all worth it. Thank you 4-H, for teaching me to win and lose graciously, and that while the banners fade, the friends and memories last forever.
  1. FFA: For developing her skills in leadership and communication
Joining FFA as a shy freshman and building my way up to chapter vice president broke me out of my shell. I know that I owe a lot of my success to the organization that gave me an identity and a vision for my future, and built my confidence to achieve that vision. Thank you FFA, for building my confidence in myself.
  1. The Dirty Boots: For the miles and the memories.
My dirty boots sit on the shelf falling apart at the soles, but they were there for every memory. When my 2000-pound cow Missy stepped on my foot and wouldn’t move, to the next year when Missy won Grand Champion and then years later when Missy took her last breaths. Thank you boots, for keeping my feet dry and keeping me sturdy through every chore, and every challenge, as well as through the tears, both joyful and sorrowful.
As Thanksgiving is upon us, what are you thankful for? I am forever grateful for the fact that I was raised on a dairy farm in southern Indiana. Thankful that I learned the most valuable life lessons and learned the way of life through the eyes of a farmer. I’m thankful that farming gave me a passion for agriculture and a career path, and wherever my life may lead, I am thankful that I always have a place back on the farm.

Monday, November 20, 2017


So I got back from Bath late on Monday night, Wednesday I was looking at my schedule for the rest of my 2 months (!!!) over here. I realized my time is flying and I am running out of weekends for my adventures. I knew I still really wanted to go to Scotland, and this weekend was my best shot. I tossed it around in my head, I have 2 papers due soon, I had just gotten back from Bath, and no one would be able to go with me. At about 8 pm Wednesday I decided to go for it (I mean when else am I going to be able to go to Scotland for a weekend) I booked a hostel and found a train ride that would work, I left Thursday at 3:00 pm.

The train journey was 7 hours long, and it was mostly in the dark. I tried to get some work done on the train, and actually managed to start an essay!! I arrived at Edinburgh Waverly train station at 10:30 Thursday night and walked the 15 minutes to my hostel (the hardest part is trying to orient yourself in the train station and go out the right exit, thankfully there are nice policemen to help!).

On Friday morning I ate breakfast at a cute little café and had the thickest piece of French toast I’ve ever seen, I’m serious it was like 2 inches thick. I then booked a city tour to see what the town had to offer. Edinburgh is unlike any other city I’ve visited, it is very mid-evil feeling, and has a clear divide through the center of town, with Old town being at the top of the hill, and new town at the bottom (mind you it’s called new town, but it was built in the 1700s). At the very top of the hill in the middle of town was the Edinburgh castle, the castle is probably not what you’re thinking. It’s a newer castle (in terms of castles) and is built more like its own village other than one large ominous structure. A lot of the buildings have been turned into museums for the tourists. I got to see the Crown Jewels of Scotland, which was really cool, even though they’re not needed anymore and haven’t been used since Queen Mary II was crowned in 1692. Since Scotland is a part of the UK it no longer has its own royalty. The castle is so huge I spent most of my afternoon here.
The castle sits on the top of this large rock hill

I’m not really sure how I found out about it or why I didn’t do more research, but I bought a ticket to La Clique Noël, it was a show being put on by Edinburgh Christmas market, so I was expecting a Christmas musical or something along those lines. Well, that is not what I got. It ended up being some sort of variety show, it started off with singing and dancing, but then it got a little weird. A self-proclaimed gay man came out in a blue skintight bunny suit, not really sure what the act was but it was amusing. The rest of the show included a sword swallower/fire breather, a hula-hoop man, and acrobats. I wasn’t quite sure whether to be entertained or confused most of the time, but it was quite the experience, at least the band was really good.

Well I’m a country girl at heart and can only spend so much time in the city, so, I booked a day tour to see the Scottish Highlands. I had to get up at 7 am to walk to the meeting point, and our bus left promptly at 8. We drove about 1.5 hours through the lowlands/farming country to a small town on the edge of the highlands where we got breakfast. Afterward we drove over a fault line to a new tectonic plate and entered the highlands, it is amazing how quickly the scenery and roads changed. We drove about another 1.5 hours with many pictures stops along the way to the valley of Glencoe (Glen means narrow valley in Gaelic). Glencoe is considered one of the most picturesque valleys in all of Scotland, and Scotland was just recently voted the most beautiful place in the world, so that’s saying something. It was a gorgeous view, with snowcapped mountains on either side. It is late fall, so only the tallest mountains have a layer of snow. We stopped at Glencoe visitor site before travelling about another 1.5 hours (with picture stops) to Fort Augustus. We had 1.5 hrs. here and I opted to go on the Loch Ness boat tour, a simple boat ride just a way around the Loch Ness (Loch=Lake in Gaelic. There are 39,000 Lochs in Scotland) Loch Ness is the largest Loch in Scotland and of course famous for the tales of its monster. Unfortunately, the scariest thing we saw was a wild goat. We then got back on the bus to head back toward Edinburgh. We had 2 quick stops along the way home, but it was dark now so it was a quick trip back to Edinburgh, and by quick I mean like 4 hours. The day was a lot of car time, but I’ve learned that’s the best way to see a lot. I wasn’t so bad our guide, Nick, was a great story teller and kept us entertained. We heard stories about the history of Scotland and important battles and Kings. We heard a lot about the highland Clans of Scotland as well.

The Perfect Mountain                                                     Searching for Nessie
 When I got back to Edinburgh, the Christmas market was open, I just did a quick walk through and decided I would go back tomorrow when it was less crowded. In Edinburgh today, there was a Scotland vs New Zealand Rugby match. I hear it was a really exciting game and the closest Scotland has ever come to beating New Zealand (for us Americans that don’t follow rugby, New Zealand is the best rugby team in the world). Every time we stopped on the way home our driver would turn on the game on the radio to get updates.
These 2 little boys were the most popular musicians of the day

I spent most of Sunday wandering around the cobbled streets of old town and just taking it all in, stopping occasionally to hear street musicians play the bagpipes. I walked around the Christmas market. This market is huge, it is known as one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, and most major European cities have Christmas markets. This weekend was opening weekend and they go for 7 weeks, I came the right time. They have the main market on Princes street in front of the castle, here they have all the shops, food stands, rides, and Santa Land for the kids with a Christmas tree maze. On George street, a couple streets over, they have an ice skating circle, a bunch of stages set up for shows, and Ice Land (not sure what this was) and some more shops. I walked around for a while taking it all in, getting a French lunch of potatoes and smoked sausage. I caught the 3 pm train back toward Wales.

“Better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times”