One Month Too Long

I haven’t hugged a chicken in more than a month.

So much has happened since my last blog post, I have no idea where to start! I trudged through college applications and standardized tests, spent days running back and forth to the mailbox looking for college acceptance (or rejection) letters, and experienced the subsequent joy– and disappointment– upon ripping open said envelopes while standing at the foot of my driveway. I turned 18 in a different country, chose my college on the day of the decision deadline, graduated from high school, interned at a sheep farm, and spent a summer in a strange purgatory of dread and excitement awaiting my first semester of college.

Which brings me here, perched on my Twin XL bed, thinking of my chickens and scrolling through old blog posts.

So many of the unknowns that I was dreading have been solved– I know my roommate, my suite mates, where my classes are, and how to avoid being demolished by skateboarding ruffians. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult transitioning from a school of 500 students to a university twenty times that size. But the more I become accustomed to life here, the more excited I get for my future.

A small farm-camp that I attended in fifth grade began this farm obsession– this desire, and need, to be a part of the farming community in some way. It got me hooked on the local food movement, and gardening, and– most importantly– chicken-keeping. Through my chickens I’ve learned about the responsibilities of animal husbandry. Their injuries and illnesses over the years introduced me to the world of veterinary medicine, and the joy of solving the puzzle to heal the animal.

These past few weeks have been about attempting to solve my own puzzle. What got me started on this passion, that ultimately shaped my college choice? And how do I want to incorporate it into my career?

To be more specific, I’m trying to decide between two pathways to my passion for farming. Ironically, neither of them are to become a farmer!

I am currently on an Animal Science track, with a pre-veterinary concentration. For a long time now I have thought seriously about pursuing large animal veterinary medicine. In theory, it sounds perfect– I’ll get to work within a farming community, traveling to various establishments healing animals and helping farmers raise their creatures responsibly and sustainably. A modern James Herriot, you might say.

But my gaze keeps wandering over to Food Systems, which incorporates several disciplines to study the problems of– and solutions to– the way food is farmed and distributed to society. Within the major there are various concentrations– from animal science, to food insecurity and injustice, to policy. It would allow me to study a little bit of everything that I love. I’d be able to work with farmers to help steer our food system away from industrial agriculture, and towards finding a way to grow food sustainably (and making sure everyone has access to it). In many ways this major is a direct application of all my passions. But I have no clue what I’d do with it.

Animal Science and the Pre-Vet track is neatly laid out for me. I’ll struggle through heavily science-based curriculum, apply to vet school, and– if I get in– get my doctorate in veterinary medicine, with a clear career upon graduation. Food Systems seems more murky, and less practical.

And so these things go back and forth in my head all day. I listen to my parents assure me that it’s only the first semester of freshman year, but I’m a planner. I like to know where I’m going, and what I’m working towards.

Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll know what I’m meant to be studying until I’m shoulder deep in a cow stomach (next week’s lab topic).



I’m back! Part One…

I returned back home to America on Thursday after two very long days of traveling. I thought I’d dedicate a few posts to my trip, to let you know what I did, etc…

July 9th My father and I woke up in a Boston hotel and took a shuttle to the airport. We walked around for a little bit, then I hopped on the plane. I was so nervous about flying- my hands would not stop trembling!

I spent six and a half hours reading, as the little TV wouldn’t work. Finally I arrived in Heathrow, the airport in London.Photo Jul 09, 2 31 08 PM A staff member of British Airways guided me through the building as we retrieved my luggage and went through immigration (where they interrogated me as if I had done something extremely illegal). I figured out that I really dislike airports… Especially the part where they ask you questions. My hands and voice shake violently and I probably look extremely shifty.

Eventually I found my aunt and uncle, patiently waiting for my arrival. We boarded the Heathrow Express train, and suddenly I was standing on the lamplit streets of London. This was rather shocking, as the only city I have ever seen is Boston. The Tube Strike was occurring as well, so everyone was milling about, attempting to find their way home. Each double-decker bus was full of impatient commuters and confused tourists, and we spent a long time just trying to find a bus with enough space to stand.

Once we got on one, my aunt sent me up the stairs, promising to follow after my uncle boarded. I obediently climbed the stairs of the fast moving vehicle and sat down right as I heard the shouting of two fighting men. One fellow pushed the other down the stairs- this guy then threw himself on the other, and a few attempted punches later they separated. Meanwhile I was trying to make myself as small as possible in the seat next to this commotion. My uncle appeared and brought me back down where we waited for forty minutes to get to the hotel.

It was around 9 or 10 when we sat down to eat at an Italian restaurant, and I was very grateful to lie down on my pull-out mattress in the hotel across the street.

July 10th We woke up and after grabbing some coffee and porridge, took the Tube down to Trafalgar Square. It was gorgeous out- hot and sunny! We wandered down the street and found ourselves in St. James’s Park, strolling through the quiet gardens (a relief after the busy traffic filled streets).

When we emerged from the park we decided to check out Buckingham Palace, and noticed a large crowd gathering outside its gates. The red cloth was showing underneath the balcony, which means that something is going to happen. Impulsively we found ourselves searching for a good view point, and settled down on the sidewalk to wait. Thirty minutes later a marching band arrived and disappeared behind the fence and shrubbery. Ten minutes later, mounted policemen and women appeared, and shooed away the people in the middle of the road.

Twenty minutes later the doors swung open and I held my breath as the Queen herself stepped out into the daylight. Out followed other members of the royal family, waving to us commoners… They looked to the sky as Spitfires soared past, in memory of the Battle of Britain. After a time they disappeared behind the curtain doors, and I was left in complete awe of what had just happened. I mean… I saw the Queen!

After this spectacle we joined a bus tour and rode to the Tower of London, where we ate lunch and took a ferry ride down the Thames (river) and disembarked by the Parliament buildings and Big Ben. We then got back on the bus tour and rode up to Trafalgar square again, and poked around the National Gallery before grabbing some dinner at Pizza Express.

July 11th We woke up a bit later due to my annoying jet lag, and made our way back to the Tower of London. We spent all morning and afternoon taking a Beefeater tour (a fascinating and entertaining tour led by a retired member of the Royal Army) and looking at the museum, which was full of interesting stories, armor, and weaponry. This experience was one of my favorites in London- especially since I am an avid historical fiction reader, and many scenes from my books took place within these very walls!

We took another bus tour down to the Parliament buildings, and also visited Covent Garden (sort of like the British version of Fanuell Hall in Boston). It is a street lined with a multitude of shops, restaurants, and buskers who entertain everyone with music and performances.

July 12th We began the day by taking the Tube down to Westminster Cathedral, a truly magnificent building that is still being completed. There were several side chapels, each with splendid golden mosaic patterns. Sound reverberated throughout the building, and the delicate smell of incense wafted down the aisles. Marble columns and arched windows led the way to the altar. It was a very peaceful start to a busy day.

Another Tube ride took us to the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) which is a museum filled with just about everything you can think of. A beautiful fashion exhibit, bits and pieces of old buildings, sculptures, epitaphs, jewelry, theatre, and in the center of it all, a lovely tea room.

We poked around the National History Museum- a little less enjoyable thanks to the hundreds of children running around- but still fascinating.

We then took another ride on the subway and a very long walk to the Globe Theatre, a replica of the theatre from  William Shakespeare’s time. As we made our way across the Millennium footbridge the sun hid behind the clouds and it began to drizzle. We found ourselves some dinner and took a short walk across the street to the Globe. Our seats were on the very top and directly overlooked the gilded stage below. The thatched roof just barely sheltered us from the damp precipitation. The actors took their places on the soaking wet stage, and the two hour showing of Richard II began with a flourish. It was amazing. The actors and actresses were the best I’ve ever seen, the music was wonderful, and I was thoroughly engrossed in the events happening below me. This was by far my favorite part of London!

July 13th We spent our last day in London within the British Museum, thoroughly exploring its multiple rooms and exhibits. We began with the Rosetta Stone, then worked our way through Assyrian carvings, Roman and Greek sculptures, essentially taking a walk through history. It was very cool, though I think I preferred the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I was browsing through a gallery full of old books and tomes when I noticed someone standing really close to me. I saw in the corner of my eye that it was a young man holding up his phone on front-facing camera, shooting a video of me. I was extremely confused and started to panic a bit so I tried to step away from him but he got in front of me again and started aggressively telling me to “say hello!” in some sort of accent (not American or British). Now that I think on it- he was probably just messing with me- but at the time I had a whole mental panic attack. My thoughts literally consisted of: OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD MUST GET OUT MUST GET OUT MUST GET OUT. It’s nice to know I can rely on keeping my cool in tough situations….

Anyways, he wouldn’t leave me alone so I finally said “hello?” and he chuckled and exited the room. Of course this happens to me- a socially awkward, timid, shy teenager from America. Needless to say, I was glad to get up to Scotland after this…

Check back for Part Two of my adventure!

Training Myself To Not Worry About Feathered Creatures

I am sitting here, on my family’s leather couch, leaning over my lit computer screen biting my fingernails. Or what used to be my fingernails. In nine days I will be boarding a plane and flying to London, then Scotland, for almost three weeks. I am ecstatic that I get to go on this awesome vacation, an adventure that I am not likely to ever forget. I am so incredibly luck to get the opportunity to visit my aunt and uncle living over there, and cannot put my excitement into coherent words. AHhhhhhhhdhahahahahhagaaaaaaaaah!! That’s all that comes out, honestly.

But what I am worried about, surprise, surprise, is the chickens. It always comes back to them, doesn’t it?

The fact that I will be entrusting their care to someone else for three weeks terrifies me. My father is a very capable and responsible person, but he doesn’t know what sour crop is, or how to look for bumble foot, or what kind of worms cause diarrhea. He doesn’t know how to do the special call that brings them home every time they escape. Everything could go wrong.

You see, this attitude is why it’s a good thing I am leaving them for three weeks. Its borderline obsessive.

I just finished typing a six page guide to their care taking, even though I could tell him in six sentences. Six words, probably.

  1. Feed them
  2. Water them
  3. Clean their poop from the coop and run
  4. Make sure they aren’t eaten
  5. Make sure they aren’t acting weird
  6. If they’re acting weird call the vet

There you go. Six easy steps. I should probably just give him that list instead of the novel-in-progress I am creating in the next tab.

I must teach myself to set aside my fears and enjoy myself. I will. not. let. those little feathered creatures ruin my vacation.

Everything will be fine.

If I say that enough times, hopefully I will believe it.