Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Brazilian Thrills


Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be 18-years-old and travel to another country, fly for the first time, and not know the language? Well, I can give you first-hand account on how this all happened to me.
   
To start off, an agriculture instructor from Hawkeye Community College talked to me about studying abroad in Brazil the first semester of my freshman year. I thought it would be an awesome experience; what a great way to travel and learn! Fast forward to a few short months later and I found myself landing in Brasilia, Brazil.
I was elated by the way everything looked; it was so different from the Iowa scenery. The buildings were all open with no doors; it felt so nice with a little bit of breeze and seventy degree weather. Right away we met people that were so welcoming and friendly.
The first few hours in Brazilia were spent in a mall, a perfect place for a broke, 18-year- old, college student. The mall consisted of shoe, shoe, and more shoe stores! Of course clothing, jewelry food courts, and small coffee shops could also be found.
After taking in a bit of the culture I stopped and rested for a little while, not realizing how hungry I was. This brought me to my first challenge: ordering a meal in another language was easier said than done!  
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Over the next week I experienced so much: museums, churches, government buildings, grocery stores, departments of agriculture and the nightlife. We visited different types of farms and so much more.
What I felt was a whole world of other thrills. It’s so hard to justly describe an experience on paper because how I felt is so much more then words can describe.
Dining out was always a new adventure. One night we walked to a pizza restaurant. On our journey, we walked along the riverside where the culture was alive and thriving. I saw locals going for walks with their kids, groups of runners, and my favorite part, the soccer courts. Many soccer courts were filled with people on hillsides watching.
On our way back we stopped to watch a soccer game. I was thrilled when a younger boy signaled for us to come play! Since I have been playing soccer my whole life and currently for Hawkeye Community College, of course I deep down wanted to play, and here was my chance. My friends were a little hesitant, but the Brazilians were encouraging. The feeling was welcoming, and even though they were speaking another language, a wave, smile, and a soccer ball connected us.
Another connection was the music; so many people were laughing and singing as we went out with friends from Brazil who previously studied at Hawkeye Community College. I saw a live band, and even though I had no clue what the lyrics meant, the presence of people dancing, bouncing around, and enjoying life was inspirational.
Some days, learning and traveling wore me out. At the hotel, it was nice to relax at the top in the pool reviewing the day, cracking some jokes, and kicking our feet up. Another day we were in the hot fields with agronomists from Eres Agrob. They took us out on their boat on the along the same river we played soccer by. It was so fascinating to be on the river on such nice nights. Again, my words fall short of fully detailing my experience, but I hope my Brazilian thrills could give you a glimpse of what life is like in Brazil.            

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Laticínios (Dairy Farming)

March 14th finally arrived! The Hawkeye Community College 2017 Brazil Study Abroad group had the opportunity to tour a dairy farm, Piracanjuba Pro-Campo. Visiting the dairy farm was exciting for me coming from a dairy background. The purpose of this dairy farm was to train new farmers on milking, feeding, breeding, and much more. Piracanjuba Pro-Campo had 480 cows, milking 200 of the cows twice a day. The diary managers taught their milking practices in a parlor, similar to what we have in the United States, but everything was open. The location of Brazil we were visiting does not have much dairy farming, but people are willing to learn and start their own farms.
                                   

The farm was awesome and I am so fortunate that we got to tour it; it felt like home away from home. Some noticeable differences included the way their milk trucks looked, year round heat, and technology. While there were some contrasts to the form of farming I am use to, the fresh smell of grass was still the sweet, summer smell of Iowa.
                                 

I got to share a lot of my stories from my dairy farm with the farm manager. Via live feed, the managers were able to view Holstein cows being milked by a robot. Also, I was able to show them the setup of my dairy barn and other cattle buildings through pictures. The farm workers were very impressed by the modern technology used in Iowa. Showing them my pictures struck up conversations and lots of questions about each other's ways of dairy farming.
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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Soil Testing with the Haitians


While in Haiti, the Hawkeye Community College group had the opportunity to check out the UCC University’s garden. We traveled out to the garden by bus with some students from UCC that came back early from their Christmas break. The garden was about a five minute drive away from the university. Once we arrived we had a little bit of a walk to get to the actual garden. The garden was located by a small stream where they had a small canal to help with watering their garden during the dry season. The garden was 156 square meters according to what one of the students told me. The students were growing all sorts of produce such as onions, sweet pepper, cabbage, kale, and a few other things. The Hawkeye Community College group split up into groups with the students so we could collect soil from the student’s specific part of the garden, as well as talk about any concerns or issues they were having with their crop. Tessa Meyer and I were in a group with four UCC students. We collected soil from two different locations of sweet pepper. We explained to the students why we collected the soil and what we would do with it once we returned to the UCC campus. Once all the soil was collected we headed back to UCC. We were unable to test the soil that day so we had to wait until the next day. The next day the Hawkeye Community College group broke into groups again to work with the students to soil test. We had soil testing kits to test the soil but the students were unsure how to use them so we had the opportunity to teach them. While testing the soil, we found that the soil from their garden had a pH of 7.5, the nitrogen level was low, as well as the phosphorus and potassium levels. We then talked in our group how they could improve their soil and what they could do to change the levels they were receiving. Soil testing with the Haitians was a learning experience for both me and them. It was so rewarding knowing I helped teach them something that can improve their lifestyle little by little.



Giggles and Gifts

One of the most heartwarming parts of the Haiti trip was passing out Christmas gifts to local children at feeding centers. The group members from Hawkeye Community College, our translators, and our host daughter, Kerri, all loaded a bus. We drove to a nearby feeding center with a boxes full of gifts for these very deserving children. When we arrived at the feeding center, the children were all seated inside. The smiles on their faces were priceless when we arrived. They were all so excited to see our group, as well as see us bring in boxes after boxes full of presents for them. There were about 60 kids just sitting at the end of their seats waiting to receive their gifts. Before they were able to get their gifts, Kerri decided it would be a good idea to sing songs and play games with them. Our translators led the children in song. They sang songs such as “Jesus Loves Me”, “Father Abraham”, and a few more. Although the kids were singing these songs in Haitian Creole, we could still understand from the beat. It was such an awesome experience to be able to clap, dance, and sing along, despite the language barrier. After we sang a few songs, we went outside to play games with the kids. The Hawkeye Community College group split up so all the kids would be able to hang out with at least one of us. Tessa Meyer, a sophomore at Hawkeye Community College, and Meghan Bond, an Agriculture Professor, and I split up into a group and taught the children how to play “duck, duck, goose”. The children called it “zwa, zwa, goose” which I later found out just meant “goose, goose, goose”. We played “zwa, zwa, goose” for about a half hour and it was nothing but giggles and smiles from the children the whole time. After 30 minutes passed we all went back into the feeding center to pass out the gifts. Each gift had the picture and name of the child in the bag so we knew who the gift went to. Kerri called out the names of the children and then they formed a line outside so we could take a picture of them with their new gifts so send to the person who sponsored them. When they left the feeding center, all the children were so happy and full of excitement and that was so rewarding to see. Passing out gifts to these children who don’t have much to call their own was so rewarding and humbling and it is not something I will soon forget.
 


Education in Agriculture is Feeding the Haitians


While in Haiti, the Hawkeye Community College gang took part in an Agriculture Summit. The summit was put on by the Agriculture students and Agriculture Dean at UCCC. The summit lasted two days and was held at the UCCC campus. Over 200 Haitian farmers attended and some walked over an hour just to be in attendance. The summit started at 9:00am and all the farmers were early because they were so excited, as were we! As the farmers arrived, the students from Hawkeye, including myself put name tags on every person in attendance. It was very difficult for us because the Haitians couldn’t speak English, luckily we had great translators. It was so touching to get to know the Haitians name and get to chat with them a bit before the summit started. At the Ag Summit, many different aspects of agriculture were touched on. Agriculture students from UCCC presented their studies that they have been working very hard on. One study was using in season fertilizer on their crops and the results were amazing. Haitian farmers were shocked that this method worked and the Hawkeye Community College gang was amazed at how well their study worked. Two years ago the students corn was only producing 20 bushels/acre, and now with the help on in season fertilizer, their crops are producing 100 bushels/acre. One of the students thanked the crew from Hawkeye Community College for teaching them about using in season fertilizer saying “This has literally changed our lives”. This concept has now been proven to work in Haiti so local farmers are now considering using this to help with their crop production.  The Agriculture Dean at UCCC and Professors from Hawkeye Community College then had a round table discussion about issues and new concepts in agriculture. This lasted for a very long time due to the fact that the Haitians are so eager to learn and solve hunger in their country. It was rewarding to have Haitian farmers learn from us, as well as learning from them. With enough education in agriculture, Haiti will be able to feed their people.