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Addition to my travel bucket list: “Land of Thunder Dragon”

Hiking at Tiger's Nest Monastery.

Here I am hiking and taking in the views at Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

Today’s post comes to us from a guest blogger who has written for us before: Sulav Paudel. Paudel is the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab program coordinator at iDE-Nepal, an NGO in Nepal and a partner organization with our Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab. Paudel has a Master’s degree in entomology and international agriculture from Penn State. He has worked and studied in Brazil, Bangladesh, and Russia. He currently lives and works in Kathmandu.

Long ago, I caught the travel bug and have since spent years compiling a bucket list of dream destinations. Surprisingly, Bhutan never made the list. Perhaps my perception had been colored by stories of refugees. Maybe I had never learned enough about the area to cultivate an interest.

But when my career presented the opportunity to make the trip, I took some time to learn about Bhutanese culture. That’s when my interest was ignited. Eventually, I was so curious that I couldn’t wait to venture into the “Land of Thunder Dragon,” a name honoring local mythology, patriotism and leadership. I was more excited for this trip than I had been for any trip in recent memory. Bhutan did not disappoint. Although the recall of my memories may not do the trip justice, I will try to break down for you the most noteworthy aspects of this rich culture.

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Beach bugs and family traditions viewed through a new lens

Capturing a family pic.

Here we stand on the dock, capturing a quick family pic to commemorate the trip.

Today’s post comes to us from Kendall Livick, who is temporarily stepping in as Communications Coordinator for the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab.

In looking toward fall and bidding warm weather adieu, I long for long lost remnants of beach days. This year’s family beach trip was different from past years. Being a temporary employee at the IPM Innovation Lab and filling my brain with knowledge on agriculture and entomology has changed my worldview. Through my brand-new IPM lens, I viewed sand crabs and farmers markets in a way I never have before.

But that’s not the only reason this year’s trip was special. This occasion marked a family event taking place before several new milestones. It was the last beach trip before the arrival of my first baby and my parents’ first grandchild, and it was my youngest sister’s last family vacation before the coming of age experience of college. How different will life be on future beach trips? That I can’t know. What I’ve learned, though, is that oftentimes new experiences color our perceptions.

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Not always a jolly holiday in South Sudan

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."- Robert Burns

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”- Robert Burns

Today’s post comes to us from Flora Lado, a Ph.D. student within the Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering at Virginia Tech. Her research focus is on “Enhancing Oil Recovery in the Brown Oil Field in the Republic of South Sudan,” under advisor Dr. Nino Ripepi. Her research was initially funded by the Rebuilding Higher Education in Agriculture (RHEA) Project in South Sudan and is currently funded by the Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD) Project. She is thankful for the scholarship to study at Virginia Tech and for the opportunity to use her research to benefit her native homeland in South Sudan. 

An enormous party erupted in South Sudan when I arrived this past July. I found myself thrust into the midst of dancers in the streets, bodies artfully decorated in vibrant paint, and patriotic flags flying every which way — marking the grand Independence Day celebration. You might think this excitement was a joyous homecoming for me.

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South Sudan, a land of undiscovered potential

The future looks bright.

The future looks bright from where I stand…or crouch, rather. Cattle managers hold their hands high above their heads as a sign of pride in being cattle herders.

Today’s post comes to us from Martin Sebit, a Ph.D. student within Agricultural Leadership and Community Education at Virginia Tech. He is also a lecturer of Animal Breeding and Dairy Production and Technology in South Sudan, at the University of Juba. His dissertation in progress is entitled  Cattle Raiding and Strategies to Mitigate it.

There’s only one problem standing in the way of progress in this great country – cattle. Everywhere we look, we see cows, cows and more cows.

As I move around the capital city of Juba, my journey is constantly impeded by cattle. They block me as I attempt to cross the street. They take up residence in my neighborhood. They even use graveyards as their own personal grazing fields. Don’t get me wrong. Some animal lovers enjoy living among cattle. Others are fed up. The cattle system is coming under heavy public criticism and scrutiny. Continue reading »