My Everyday

So since this is different than my past travels in that I’m not studying like in Greece or on an organized weeklong trip like Costa Rica, my days look a little different. It’s summer, so most kids are off at internships or back home at jobs for the summer. That is exactly what I’m doing here.

My internship is at a lab at the University of the Republic (UdelaR– Universidad de la Republica) which is the national public university in Uruguay. I took on my own part of a larger study that’s been going on for more than ten years here. It’s about potato genetics and crop wild relatives. Remember the potato famine? Well that is directly applicable to what I’m doing.

The potato famine happened because there was a lack of genetic diversity in the potato crop planted making it extremely vulnerable to a fungal disease that wiped out the harvest in Ireland. By introducing more diversity, it can withstand different pests and diseases.

*Fore warning: the pictures are a lot cooler than the words in this post lol*

So my schedule goes like this:

Between 8:00 – 8:30am: Wake up.

Leave for work a half an hour before I get there: Walk for 15 minutes, take bus for 15 minutes. I usually run into several stray dogs on my walk. They make me quite nervous as I’m still a person who is afraid of dogs (I know, I know, major character flaw).

gZiWTvdLSNiSznVZPlSPtw
My Uruguayan home… there used to be a butcher shop below the apartment (not anymore), we live on the top floor
1RjcNKCwRWGQoAApHPkbFw
The street I live on

Between 9:30 – 10:30am: Arrive at the university. Yes I know this is late. It seems most things don’t open till around then here. But remember, late start= late end. Cultural note: their greeting is a kiss on one cheek. Even upon meeting someone for the first time, you are expected to kiss them on the cheek (just like a quick peck). While it’s normal for us to just walk in a room and say hello out loud and maybe a wave and a smile, they are accustomed to walking up to everyone. It was hard to adjust to at first! Americans are so afraid of touch lol.

Mornings at the lab: Run a PCR. I have to make a mix and a mix that goes into that mix and then I have to put that mix in a bunch of tiny test tubes and then I have to add DNA to those test tubes. Then I put it in the actual PCR machine which just makes a ton of copies of the DNA. Preparation takes about 45 – 60 minutes. The machine takes 2.5 hours.

While it’s in the machine: Eat lunch. I either grab a to-go sandwich and eat in the lab building or I grab lunch at the cafeteria with Gina, Sandro, Venancio, and Ines (all other students that work or research for their master’s in the same lab as me).  I always have to remember to grab aqua sin gas because carbonated water is more popular than regular water here! I’ve made the mistake many times absentmindedly grabbing bubbly water. The currency here is Uruguayan pesos! It’s about 30 pesos to 1 USD.

sCr5tGEySyqofrrOlzkYlwAlso during this time, I update my projects in our computer database. Everytime I run a PCR, I have to log which DNA samples I used and which primers. I also plan for my next projects. I have to make sure I have all the different ingredients.

Afternoons in the lab: Then, I start preparing another set of samples that I had PCR’d previously to be ran through a gel electrophoresis. This shows us whether the primers worked or not. Now, I take the DNA from the tiny test tubes and mix it with a blue buffer Preparation takes around 45 minutes. Then I put it in the gel. I run the gel for 1.75 hours, it’s slightly magic but the gel is hooked up to electrodes that create an electric current that pull the DNA a certain amount which shows the length of the DNA. I take the gel out and have to stain so that you can see the DNA in the pictures. I stain it in a scary substance that you can’t touch and have to wear two pairs of gloves around for 5 minutes, then I wash it in water for 15 minutes, then I take pictures under a UV light that I can’t look at directly.

Then, I have to go analyze these photos to check if their was amplification. I usually meet with my project supervisor for help with this because sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Everyday, I try to do one PCR and two gels or two PCRs and one gel. That’s about all I have time for because we are limited on machines and the machines take quite a bit of time.

Around 6:00 – 7:30pm: I usually end up leaving the lab somewhere in this time frame. Some days are later and some days are earlier. I have the same routine to get back home. I always have to be careful on my walk because for an extreme klutz like me, these sidewalks are dangerous! They tend to be uneven and missing segments or tiles at times and there’s plenty of spots where tree roots have uplifted parts. It can be an obstacle course.

6:30 – 8:00pm: Arrive home. It’s already dark out (it’s winter here).

8:00pm till bedtime: So I usually read my book, write my blogs, or work on my computer job for Iowa State (I work for an agriculture engineering/ agronomy lab that creates a real time soil erosion estimator. I work on ArcGIS and its awesome that I’m able to do this while being abroad). I also eat dinner, sometimes with my host/roommate, Leticia, who is an awesome cook or sometimes I just grab something simple like a sandwich and chips at the nearby store.

That’s an average weekday here! I go to work, eat meals, and hang out. My weekends tend to be the exciting part filled with exploring. Only one week left here, I’ll be home June 26th. Crazy how time flies (as per usual). I’ve learned an immense amount about genetics, lab protocol and techniques, and Uruguayan culture. I’ve also learned how frustrating research is when it doesn’t work and how satisfying it is when it does! I’ll be sure to do a review of my time here as my last blog.

 

 

Advertisements

Arriba Celeste!

The past two weeks have been filled with SPORTS! Luckily, I’m in the minority of Americans who actually really like soccer. I played in high school for four years, having picked up the sport as a way to keep in shape and be with friends. It was a sport that tested my dedication and work ethic. It pushed me to be a better athlete and brought great friendships, I just attended my coaches wedding this spring! And I look forward to playing in our high school alumni game later this summer (although unfortunately for my team, I’m incredibly out of shape).

Pictured: yup, I was #8…. and the back four on defense my junior and senior year of high school with our coach and his wife!

Of course, Uruguayans LOVE futbol. When you walk around the city on the weekends, especially along La Rambla, it is inevitable to see people kicking around a soccer ball. There are also plenty of organized games going on as well for children’s leagues. For adults, they have several levels here, something like semi-pro and pro. Each neighborhood in Montevideo has their own team. The games get a bit rowdy because people are passionate about these divisions, a game even has the potential to end in physical fights between fans.

IMG_1425
Suarez… top scorer on Uruguay’s team.. currently plays for Barcelona

However, the soccer game I attended wasn’t between two neighborhoods, it was Uruguay versus Uzbekistan. It was the farewell game before the World Cup! The game was played in Centenario Stadium, the stadium of the first World Cup! How cool is that? The fans were packed in and excited, of course bringing mate with them to sip on as per usual. It was also a bonus because it was a rather chilly night (remember that whole southern hemisphere thing.. it’s winter here) and the steamy mate really helped keep us warm.

I was amid a sea of sky blue painted faces, flags worn as capes, and crazy hats. As I was told, futbol has the power to overcome all religious and political differences because of the love for the game and the team. Everyone came to cheer for Celeste (literal translation “sky blue” which is the main color of the team).

Uruguay won 3-0 and I think “the wave” went around the stadium twenty times! It was exactly the type of experience I wanted to have when I first thought about going to a match here.

3HafXdzrTKerV4ThSTMWWw

Now, next comes the World Cup (Copa Mundial)! Uruguay (and a lot of other countries) revolve around the games of the World Cup. They adjust work and school schedules just to watch their teams’ games. It’d be like if the Super Bowl mentality was applied to the World Series. They even set up multiple extra TVs around campus, like in the cafeteria, to play the games.

VfXxRhubQ9yRT7ngjRR07w

The World Cup is in Russia this year so obviously there’s a time difference. Our first game was at 9am on Friday. I threw on my team t-shirt and watched at the agronomy faculty in one of the big lecture halls where they projected the game. We won!!! It wasn’t the most exciting game but the ending was fantastic. We won by a header goal off of a corner kick in the last couple minutes of the game! When the goals was scored, the whole run JUMPED up and cheered. Hoping for more good luck in the following games. Since the US isn’t playing, my heart lies with Uruguay this year!

Fun fact: the official song is sung by an Uruguayan singer!

AB0NkQodTVioFigIvBa4Nw

Along with soccer, I’ve gone to a couple basketball games as well! Gina, my closest friend here, has brought me to a couple of her boyfriend’s games. As mentioned above, they have a bunch of different neighborhood teams and he actually gets paid to play. It’s fun to go and support and see the different stadiums around Montevideo.

 

Mate (mah-tay)

Mate is KING. This is one of the most embedded cultural traditions in Uruguay. Everywhere you look, you see people carrying around a giant thermos of hot water and a small wooden (looking but this is deceiving) open cup of tea. I really question how they don’t spill on a bumpy bus or just walking down the street dodging people. It’s really an interesting custom as you never go to a cafe and order it, people sit, chat, and pass it around.

When you walk along the coastline, sit outside at a picnic table at the university, shopping downtown, riding in a car or the bus, or seriously anywhere in Uruguay, people are drinking mate.

The cup is actually a hollowed out, dried gourd (yes, similar to the small ones your mom puts next to the pumpkins on your porch around Halloween). The straw is special too as its made out of metal. It has a funny bottom piece that filters out the tea leaves. And the weirdest part (to the average US citizen) is that everyone shares. So you are drinking directly after someone out of the same unsanitized straw. I’m not a germaphobe, but I can think of many people at home that would have a huge issue with this.

About the drink itself: it’s quite bitter! I think it’s an acquired taste. I like it but it’s different than anything I’ve ever tasted before. It also packs the energy punch worse than coffee. Because of the high levels of caffeine, I had my first negative experience with the drink last week. I drank too much of it on top of two cups of coffee in the afternoon… I couldn’t fall asleep until 4 am (FOUR AM) that night.

I enjoy mate mainly with my labmates. They are incredibly welcoming and inviting in a lot of aspects but especially in their mate circles.

Highlights from last week:

Nolan, another Iowa State student who is completing his Global Resource Systems internship in Uruguay, arrived. We went out for dinner and I showed him a few things around the city this week:fullsizeoutput_6307.jpeg

I spent more time at the lab:

+62t26gITz2i3WIpxFBxVA

I planted potatoes! I get to extract their DNA and run tests on them once they’re a bit bigger:

I went to the giant Sunday street market:

OCW8YP9PRd6KuDeYMUFeDQ

I tried more Uruguayan food:

On the 29th of every month, it’s traditional to eat gnocchi’s here. Gnocchi is type of pasta with a potato base. Obviously, I loved it considering mom’s nickname for me is carb queen (;

56d9L4lATBOQDUXNyGMKhw

Colet is a type of super thick chocolate milk. Gina claims she hasn’t found any that lives up to Colet. I really did enjoy it (:

wDjStW29RNayxZTCN42FgQ

On my way to the street market, I needed to break a large bill so I decided to stop in this tiny bakery. Turns out it had the best donuts filled with Dulce de Leche (something that is a spread similar to nutella or peanut butter with a taste kind of like caramel):

M5OHMexATJ+8dlCvIMsfNg

Gina invited Nolan and I her house to eat dinner with her family on Saturday. We ate a traditional food called milanesa. The closest thing I can relate it to is chicken fried steak but better! We had a blast chatting about agriculture, history, and everything in between with her family.

I visited an art museum:

UO9uEDqgTmCpmCGjs6vEug

I worked on homework and devoured this absolutely decadent, caloric, and delicious milkshake:

IMG_1076

 

Checkin’ Off Tourist Boxes

This week was another whirlwind. Last Sunday night, I went with Gina to an indoor market to grab ice cream and then a small amusement park where we rode rides! Having finally overcome my fear of roller coasters and not having ridden any in a couple years, this was a blast!

On Monday it was a national holiday here so I had no work! I bustled around Ciudad Vieja (direct translation- Old City, it is a neighborhood in Montevideo) with Leticia. We enjoyed the street art, hopping in and out of small shops, and delicious food at an open market!

The market is called Mercado Del Puerto (Port Market) and is known for all the grilling it does. We got a sampler platter so I tried grilled chorizo (similar to a brat or sauage), chicken, pork, and two cuts of beef. They are known for their grass-fed beef here because their main form of agriculture is ranches aka pastured cows.

My weekdays were filled with tiny test tubes and my lab coat. I’m getting more independent in the lab and I know my resources to answer any questions that spring up. My labmates are so inviting and I enjoy chatting with them while I work. They even let me join their mate circles (:

AjP75%QhRAG331KWq7O6Sw

IMG_0859
Dorky pic of me in the lab with mate and thermos (:

On Saturday, I feel like I explored the wholeeee country. The professor I’m working under invited me to come with him and two post-docs to collect plants they need for an experiment and then visit the biggest tourist attractions of the country.

We drove two hours to Minas to collect plants and hike up the first hills I saw of the country. Then another hour and a half to something similar to a national park where I just found out they filmed a documentary about vampire bats! I’m just happy we didn’t run into any of those when we were hiking. We collected more plants here and hiked through a natural Uruguayan forest. These two destinations were inland and my first glimpses at the countryside to the East.

We drove through winding hilly roads another two hours and arrived in Punta Del Este, a famous coastal town for lunch. We ate chevitos, a type of Uruguayan hamburger with a thin patty and tons of toppings. Mine had a beef patty, slice of ham, bacon, egg, olives, peppers, onions, cheese, ketchup, and I’m probably forgetting a few. It would fall apart to pick up so it must be eaten with a fork and knife. Needless to say, it was delicious.

zPbtB8XaTdyU1mnxTrOEEw

This town is incredibly popular in the summer (remember its winter here) so we avoided the craziness and enjoyed the lack of tourists. I was told there are three main things I had to do here and we hit them all.

First was driving over the wave bridge: it felt a little bit like a roller coaster!)

2%K6dTCAQeqy5FCC8uHKrA

Second was SEA LIONS:

Third is La Mano (the hand) statue and touching the Atlantic ocean: This town is the spot where the River Plate and the Atlantic Ocean come together

VeI5gC3lRfOatFWDqcJyTg

We finished that in time to race over to a peninsula and watch the sunset over the hills in a beautiful location:

And we made one more tourist stop on our way home. Piriapolis is another popular coastal town and circled a hill driving up and looked at the city light up the night along with the ending of the daylight:

Nzn84D0GQ4a3MGNWJjbtKA

We drove back to Montevideo after a long day and I hung out with Gina and friends:

qgWsjlJOR8+ZRJyF5rFXFw

 

 

Another Layer of Uruguay

The public transportation here is spot-on so far. Preferably, I would walk to the Agronomy Faculty but I’m either too lazy to get up in the morning or it’s already dark in the evening. So I have the choice of taking bus 127 to bus G or walking 15 minutes to a bus stop and taking G. I walk the 15 minutes (instead of 40 it would take to make it all the way there) and hop on G. The busses also take you downtown fairly easily and there are plenty that stop not too far from where I’m living.

Sometimes you’re even lucky enough to have someone hop on the bus with a guitar and sing for the passengers hoping to get a couple coins as they walk off. It’s quite nice and I enjoy listening to them sing, I’ve been lucky to avoid any really obnoxious ones yet.

They also have Uber here!!! Many praises for that!!! After being in Greece where Uber wasn’t allowed and we constantly had to call and wait on taxis to pick us up from school and then search for a taxi line to leave the city, I’m so happy to have Uber again. I’ve only used it a couple times but it’s so simple when you don’t have to worry about paying the driver in cash and they pick you up and drop you off exactly where you need.

fullsizeoutput_6109
I love this quote about saving the environment and beer

So this week, I had a few of my most productive days running PCRs and gel electrophoresis’! Next week I’ll detail work a little more when I have a chance to take some pictures.

On Saturday, Leticia and I rode with one of her friends to Colonia for the day! First, we stopped at a a small farm and museum. This was no ordinary museum though, it was the world’s LARGEST pencil museum! There were 22,000 pencils. There were also collections of keychains, perfume, and pins. Reminded us of an organized hoarder’s… In their shop, they also had tons of types of marmalade! I tried 7 different kinds ranging from peach to blueberry.

Colonia is a historical city where the Spanish and Portuguese fought, split the city in two, and built pretty cobblestone streets and a big lighthouse. Every building was SO colorful too!

 

We also saw a 100 year old bull fighting ring, it was only used a few times before they outlawed bull fighting in Uruguay.

5SoKHH0tSqy4qzML0ZSb6A

Outside of a school, we saw lovely street art, too.

We had a delicious pasta lunch and walked around lots. The weather was windy and chilly as it’s winter here (I’m in the southern hemisphere!).  Luckily, their winter is so much milder than in the Midwest. On our way home it rained a bit but we saw a rainbow!

Una Semana en Uruguay

Lesson number one: When I have kids, I’m putting them on those leashes! They will not run around unattended and crazy in airports and get in everyone’s way. Because I guarantee my children will (unfortunately) take after me when I was a child (as I fully deserve this after the wild child my parents had to put up with), I’m sure they will want to explore, see, and touch everything that is going on around them. So yes, they will be secured to me with a maximum of a five-foot radius at all times. I must be getting to be a grumpy seasoned traveler but I won’t subject the randos around me to my crazy children. Overall, the trip here was long (flight one to Panama City was 5.5 hours and flight two to Montevideo was 7 hours) and I arrived at 6:30am but everything went just fine.

Soooo I checked the weather the day before leaving the USA… In Montevideo, it was rain or thunderstorms forecasted as far as I could see (10 days). I’ve been here for a week now and it only rained one evening! I’ve had terrific luck with the weather thus far.

I found housing through airbnb, I booked a bedroom in a lady’s apartment she shares with two golden retrievers. Leticia has been an extremely helpful roommate. When I first arrived, I rested all morning and then we walked around and she showed me the area around her place. We visited this park with a rose garden and a small art fair. She also took time out of her schedule to take me to get a bus card the following day. We eat dinner together. On Saturday, she took me around the downtown area and we walked along La Rambla for 8 miles. We also ate at a super cute food truck fair called PopUp Montevideo! I tried a classic Uruguayan lunch, choripan which is comparative to a brat, and for dessert me and Leticia both had a not so traditional brownie freshly dipped in chocolate with the toppings of our choice (: Yeah my sweet tooth followed me 5800 miles around the world.

fullsizeoutput_5fa3
At Parque Rodo

I’ve found another little home at the Agronomy Faculty at the university. The professor and grad student I’m working under have welcomed me with open arms. They both have experience teaching English so I’m pretty spoiled and they instruct me in English. I’ve learned something new everyday. I’ve spent time reading articles on potatoes and genetics, met students and faculty that work in the same lab, and got to complete my first PCRs. Catch me in a lab coat and blue gloves in LEDP (Laboratorio de Evolucion y Domesticacion de las plantas) for the next two months.

NJK%xdIXRRmLjAZISuwHKg
View from one side of campus to the other

My biggest worry pre-departure was making friends. I knew I could handle airports/ insane travel itineraries, work being boring or intimidating or hard, a smelly or bad living situation, nasty food, etc etc (luckily none of those have been an issue yet), but I knew I would be miserable if I was lonely. GOOD NEWS: Uruguayos are the friendliest people. When they make a suggestion of something to see and offer to take you there, they actually follow through. On Friday, I got to go to the lab dinner and it was a blast. I may have missed a majority of the conversation in Spanish but it was nice to be invited and hang out and eat delicious food with fun people. On Sunday, one of my lab-mates toured me through their giant street market, an indoor market, and the Old City while enlightening me with Uruguayan culture and history.

Overall, I’m very thankful for the people here. More news coming on my Spanish language improvement and how my research progresses.

Thanks for tuning back in to Annedeventures (:

Trek to South America

FAQs:

Where are you going? Montevideo, Uruguay

Where is that? A small country just south of Brazil, Montevideo is the capital city.

UruguaySouthAmericaMap
uruguaymap.facts.co

What are you doing? Research at a university

What kind of research? Potato genetics

How long will you be gone? Two months, I will be back at the end of June

Why are you going? I’m majoring in Agronomy and Global Resource Systems (Globe for short). Globe requires an international internship so I chose to do it somewhere that I could practice my Spanish and study agronomy.

Doesn’t your time in Greece count for that? You were just gone for four months?? No, I was taking classes in Greece, Uruguay is a work experience.

Will your phone work? Yes, my phone will work just like normal so text, snap, or facetime me.

I’m embarking once again to a country unknown. I’ve been working up to an experience like this. My college career has consisted of quite a few travel opportunities, both abroad and stateside. I’ve gone to conferences and I’ve studied. The difference between those trips and this one, is that I’m going by myself and I organized it all by myself this time.

I do owe a few thanks for making this happen, though. First off, to Gretchen, my academic advisor in Agronomy. She knew I had to complete an international internship this summer and took initiative to put me into contact with people that put me into contact with the professor in Uruguay.

Second to Shelley and Catherine, the internship coordinators for Global Resource Systems. They help facilitate the planning and safety measurements of this process. They prepare all the globies for departure through a mandatory pre-internship class that I just finished and then help us digest and present the information in a post-internship class next semester. I also have to thank Gail, Maggie, Emily, and Kevin, other awesome Globe faculty to their commitment to supporting students in these endeavors.

Lastly, to my amazing parents, brother, and family. They have dealt with crazy plane itineraries, airport drop-off and pickup, reminders to call credit card companies, grab cash, charge my laptop, and so many other countless things that would have escaped my brain without them. My little bro, Lane, is a sophomore in high school and deals with me blowing into the house in a small storm every couple of months while I take over the bathroom with my scatter of makeup, shower essentials, and an extra car in the way of his truck. I’m extremely appreciative of their patience to my insane schedule, their willingness to let me leave the comfort of the Midwest, and their full support while I’m sitting on the couch next to them or on a plane headed 5,500 miles away.

My extended family shows continuous support, too. On my day of departure, I received multiple texts of well wishes and safety. They check-in and send me the cutest emojis. Even in the shortest of notice they make me a priority. The day I left for Uruguay, I had to give my grandma a last-minute call with a change of plans and she raced up a half an hour earlier than originally planned to take me to the bus by herself because my mom got sick (a huge thanks to my Grandma Carrie).

All in all, I’m blessed with a strong support system, good friends, and silly family. Welcome to the sitcom of my travels, I hope they bring you a laugh or two or a little insight to a new place.

 

RECAP: taking a look in the rearview mirror

My time is Greece is quickly coming to an end, I already leave on Thursday! Many people have asked about all the new places I’ve been. When it comes down to it, I haven’t checked a ton of new countries off the list but that doesn’t mean I didn’t explore. To recap, I started out with Ireland and England, traveling for two weeks by myself. Then I came to Thessaloniki, Greece, where I studied for the semester. I didn’t leave Greece until recently, traveling to Montenegro for a conference.

Before I came, my head was filled with new places and countries I was going to jet-set to every weekend. Reality hit, and plane tickets weren’t as cheap as I had originally thought. On top of that, I really did want to familiarize myself with the place I was actually going to be living in.

IMG_9187

So I only checked a few new countries off the list, but I was able to see most of Greece and get a great understanding of Thessaloniki. Looking back, I’m happy with how I spent my time. With Hannah, Ruby, and Dakota (the other three American study abroad students), we took trips to:

Athens: the capital city

 

Crete: the largest Greek island

 

Meteora: breathtaking ancient religious site with six monasteries situated on giant rock pillars

 

Mount Olympus: home of the gods and goddesses

 

Dion: this was a day trip to this city with ancient historical sites, the waterfalls of Mount Olympus, and a picturesque, tiny mountain village

Nea Kallikratia: The closest beaches to Thessaloniki, this was a day trip with Dakota

Air BnBoat: Rented a yacht in the Thessaloniki harbor

The rest of my weekends were spent trying out amazing restaruants or going to museums for class:

Drinking so much COFFEE:

I met amazing people while I was here from Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, United States, Jordan and more:

And I also had some amazing visitors from home:

I’m thankful for the new friends I made and the ones that supported me from home (: It’s going to be crazy going from spending every waking, sleeping, partying, eating moment with Hannah to being 1000 miles away! It’s going to be weird to show up for classes on time. It’s going to be shocking to see snow. It’s might be a bit boring but comforting to see endless cornfields but no mountains or sea. I’m going to miss these breathtaking sunsets. I am blessed. IMG_0976

 

 

 

Montenegro: EDM 2017

I’ve been apart of IAAS- the International Association of Students in Agriculture and Related Sciences- for three years. We have a local committee at Iowa State University and I was president last year. There are hundreds of committees in countries all over the world. Last year I attended the European Director’s Meeting in Croatia. This year,  because I had such a great time and made many friends that would be there this year, I decided to attend again.

IMG_1907

Getting there was quite the adventure… but luckily I went with some Greeks I met last year! We left from Thessaloniki at 8:00pm and rode the bus for seven hours…. arriving in Tirane, Albania at 3:00am… but we’re not done there. We sat in a cafe for five hours until we decided to take a private van with 8 of us (almost as cheap as taking the regular bus) and we’d arrive earlier than the normal bus. It worked out in our favor because the other bus was cancelled because a storm washed out the road. So then we spent another six hours in a big van and finally arrived in Podgorica (pronounced PodgorEETSA). In total we traveled for SEVENTEEN hours.

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 6.34.04 PM

The week was filled with many activities. We had our General Assembly meetings, the official regional meetings for IAAS, where we elected regional officers and discussed the IAAS constitution. I was secretary for this part and took notes because I couldn’t vote as I’m not in the region.

We had a few different small discussion times. My group focused on “no food waste” which is one of the values of IAAS. We talked about the problem and came up with a plan on how to spread awareness and reduce food waste. Others discussed our alumni network, women in agriculture, development fund, and community improvement projects.

We went on tours to a winery. It was the largest in the country with over 2,300 hectares, around 5,750 acres. That is giant for a winery in the US, so imagine how large it is in a tiny country like Montenegro. We also visited a bee hive co-op. It was incredibly interesting to me. We saw how to wax for the hives and the bee food was made. We also got to taste the honey.

So we stayed in the capital city of Podgorica, but we also visited Kotor and Cetinje. Kotor is a city on the coast with a UNESCO protected old town. It was an absolutely beautiful drive there and such a cute town. Cetinje is a very historical town with an old monastery and a couple museums.

There are also a few traditional events that happen at every large IAAS conference: trade fair and development fund. For trade fair every country brings their flag and food and drink that is traditional or represents their country. I brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Chicago style popcorn, and jungle juice. I got to try a ton of different meats, sauces, dishes, and drinks from around Europe. For development fund, every country brings a few things to auction off. I bought rose essence from Bulgaria and a t-shirt from one of the other committees. The money that is raised goes to scholarships for other IAAS members to attend events.

My booth and traditional Montenegrin food we ate throughout the week

Lastly, we also had soft skill trainings. These are four hour long sessions that include discussion and interactive activities to improve skills that aren’t learned during college classes. I attended project management and storytelling. We learned a lot and played funny games. One of them was a teamwork game where we were given four straws, 20 sheets of paper, 8 inches of tape, and a marker. These were the only supplies we had to protect a raw egg when dropped from 10 feet in the air!

IMG_1978

I learned that this tiny country on the Adriatic Sea is absolutely beautiful and completely overlooked. It’s so great to come together with students with similar passions, it spurred tons of random conversations about GMOs, different farming methods, cultural norms, food processing, and so much more.

 

 

 

More Visitors

My roomies came to see me!!! Since Iowa State had the week off of classes for Thanksgiving, Julia, Kristen, and Hannah came to Thessaloniki. Fun fact: they actually bought their plane tickets before I bought mine.

We toured the city, my school, and a vineyard.

IMG_1207

Kristen, Anne, Hannah, Julia

IMG_1216

Outside Saint Demetrius Church

It’s a typical Greek Orthodox church but its has amazing crypts in the bottom where Saint Demetrius is buried.

IMG_1271

They stayed in an Air BnB in downtown in the city, it was in a perfect location in the middle of all the different sights and things to see. This is outside Aghia Sophia, that they used as a landmark to return to their apartment.

IMG_1257

This was taken before we grabbed drinks and dinner and watched the sunset in the Upper City- Ano Poli.

IMG_1269

From the cafe where we grabbed drinks.

On Wednesday, I didn’t have class so I took them to a friend’s vineyard. We took the bus a half hour away into Nea Kallikratia, it’s the northwestern-most part of Halkidiki (Halkidiki is the three peninsulas of Greece). Because agrotourism isn’t a very big industry here, their were very limited options for vineyard tours. They either stopped doing them because it was past the tourist season or they were incredibly expensive. So I asked Nikos if he would show us his fields and facilities. He was an amazing tour guide and answered allllllll questions, whether science or agriculture related.

IMG_1359Then we watched the sunset on the beach after a sea food dinner in town. This was different than in Thessaloniki’s harbor because Nea Kallikratia has sandy beaches.

IMG_1391

Because so much of the ancient sites are sprinkled throughout the city, we stumbled upon many of them! This is one I’d been wanting to show them but couldn’t remember where exactly it was but we found it while taking it a new way.

For Thanksgiving, our school arranged for us to go to an Irish restaurant that serves a traditional American dinner. There was a total of 20 people, all Americans that are faculty or students at Perrotis plus my friends. We had tomato soup, salad, turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie! They even put American flags around the restaurant. It may not have been the same as home but it was AMAZING.

IMG_1477IMG_1458

I’m so thankful for friends that are willing to step out of their comfort zone, support me in all that I do, and put up with taking tons of pictures. I’m lucky that I had a piece of home here during Thanksgiving!