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