Friday, June 3, 2011

A Week’s Worth of Blogging

Salut! (That means hello/goodbye between friends)
My past few days have been very interesting! Tuesday morning I walked with Nicolas to the office and met several of his colleagues. In the morning, between 7:15 and 7:45, everyone draws out their route (on their maps), stocks the cars with the necessary sperm, and ventures out to their destinations (aka dairy farms). I went with Julian, Nicolas’ “manager” (what I believe him to be), to see exactly what sort of work he does every day. Similar to the other workers, Julian performs AI (artificial insemination) and ensures that fertilization and implantation of the embryo was successful; I feel that he does more “embryo check-ups” than the other employees. The “check-up” occurs between 1 - 2 months and then I believe they monitor the embryo/calf every so often. For AI, the inseminator puts on a really long, pink glove that reaches up to the shoulder. He/she then puts a lubricant on the glove and prepares the sperm “needle”; the sperm needle is simply a slender tube that contains the necessary parts for a proper insemination. (Warning, a bit detailed – rated PG-13 .. I’ll try to make it PG just in case) Soo, the inseminator sticks his/her hand in the back end of the heifer to guide the “sperm needle” (which is injected… in the necessary place). It sounds simple, but as everything there is technique to doing it. The sperm is not cheap either; we are talking about one of the best, if not the best, cattle genetics in the world. Julian also checked for the embryos in wearing a long green glove. The difference between the gloves is that that for the AI is rather a “mitten” whereas that for the embryo check is an actual 5-fingered glove; the latter is necessary to physically search for the proper reproductive part. The way that he performs the check-up is by again sticking his hand in the back end of the cow - I tell you, this job involves a lot of manure. He uses a corded camera to check for the presence of the embryo with a monitor to guide him. He let me hold the monitor every so often and asked me what I thought I saw: vide (empty/no embryo) or plein (full/embryo). I was correct in all but the first J. The embryo looks like a tiny little ball, found in the uterus I believe (since, logically, normal implantation of the embryo occurs in the uterus). We drove around to several farms for several AI’s and embryo check-ups. We finished around 12:15 and met up with Nicolas at his apartment for lunch.
Afterward, we (Nicolas and I) went back to the office and were then off to the laboratory to stock up on a few things. I took a little nap since it was a little under an hour drive. Once we got there and Nicolas stocked up, one of the lab scientists gave us a mini tour of the facility. I followed just about everything that he said until he threw me a few sentences with too many French technical words – Nicolas explained afterward. Basically, the laboratory holds “the world’s best cattle genetics” (quoted by Nicolas). In fact, the US even buys the sperm from these bulls (well, the company… it would be pretty funny to see the bulls literally selling their sperm to … never mind). Anyway, the facility houses the bulls and collects semen by having one bull either mount another bull or an artificial “teaser” cow (I forget the actual term). A tube then collects the semen and is sent over to the lab for dilution, separation, freezing, stocking, and distribution (as well as some steps in between). They either use liquid nitrogen or CO2 for freezing their sperm; something tells me it’s CO2, but don’t quote me. Once we left the lab, we went back to the house to take a nap; since I already had my sieste(nap), I decided to go for a run…
This town has more than I thought; the last one had a Boulangerie/Patisserie, a restaurant or two, a church, and a few other magasins(stores). This town has more Boulangeries/Patisseries, restaurants, bars, clothing stores, a church, and more. Granted, it’s not as big as Rennes, but that doesn’t bother me one bit. After about 12 minutes, I decided to turn back wherein I then went for a walk, then a run, then a walk, then a run – are you catching on? No, I wasn’t necessarily tired. I was kind of lost- turns out my “turning back” was a complete 360 from my starting direction; I was running in the complete opposite direction. Finally deciding I was lost, I remembered I had a landline- God. So I called him up and asked him to guide me back and you know what? Not only did he show me the way back, but his church literally guided me in the right direction and “ironically” the song with the lyrics “you know just how far the East is from the West” was playing on my mp3. (My mini miracle for the day :] ) Once I got back, I hopped in the shower and the shower head was so perfect (know that mine back at home spits and sputters with a limited supply of hot water, so I have a great appreciation for a good shower head. hah). Anyway, the run gave me a bit of a headache. But that soon changed; I could actually feel the pain trickling down my face, washing away. Later on, Anais came home(Nicolas’ girlfriend) and we had dinner and hung out a bit. She is very nice as well and I think is glad to have another girl in the apartment for a little bit (she told me that whenever Nicolas’ friends come over, all they do is talk about cows!) Anais is a part time student and also works with top brand clothing; as a result, she has a very nice wardrobe.
Wednesday, I went with another colleague named David to see what his job entailed. The morning consisted of a two and a half hour meeting for “Table de Pointage en Race Normande”; essentially, it was about how they were to grade/score dairy cattle based on a specific grading system, with different scales and calculations. The employees debated their new grading system, deciding exactly what was best. Accordingly, their grading system was to be put into practice that same day, but not until after lunch (I was famished!). The meal was planned in advance and paid for individually (wherein the company was good for reimbursement); David thankfully paid for me – I didn’t know I should have brought money. (But, in the end the company paid so no worries.) We first had mini amuse-bouches: bread containing salmon and another ham. Once our stomachs were “prepared for our meal”, we received salads with bread baskets and then creamy, buttery mashed potatoes with sausage- they eat a WHOLE lot of sausage over here in Bretagne, France. Then, we had dessert! ---- It consisted of a variety of mini desserts: crème brulee, chocolate mousse, coffee, and a creamy-vanilla-cake-looking-thing.  After lunch, we all headed to the farm where we split into groups of three, for the three stations. Each station contained four cows, which were graded for their udder, skeleton, musculature, locomotion, etc, on a scale of 1-5 or 1-9. I followed maybe half of what they were saying due to all of the foreign anatomical terms. Once that was finished, all of the employees had three last cows to grade except this was for all of the stations put together; this was the final “test”. The goal of the day was to have all the employees think on the same scale, wherein they would have the same grades for each cow. (I think they had it down.) Later on in the day, David dropped me off to Nicolas. Since the next day was a holiday, they invited friends over for dinner. It was a really relaxing, nice time. The thing I like here in France (or what I’ve seen so far) is that, for the most part, people do not drink to get drunk, but rather drink in enjoying the company of others. Bretagne is known for their cidre(fermented apple juice), which I find to have a really good taste. It’s basically sparkling cider, but with a little bit of alcohol? One thing I will never drink (and basically hate anyway) is beer. (No offense to those who drink beer, but I just don’t like it and I’ve made a vow to myself, never to drink it). Nevertheless, the night ended with Nicolas talking about cows with his friends and Anais and I talking about/playing with her cat, Chanel. Turns out, Chanel sucks on her tail as if it was her mother and retracts her front paws as if she were nursing. It was very interesting and adorable.
Yesterday, we went to the beach! Prior to, when we were getting ready to leave, I broke my sunglasses, completely forgetting that I had placed them on my bed. Nicolas superglued them and so far so good. Then, my bathing suit decided to join in on the fun and break as well; the wooden connecting piece broke two years ago and was fixed with gorilla glue- thank you Lake Saranac Young Life staff! I guess its time was up. Good thing I brought another! Once we got to the beach, it was moderately windy, but there was not a cloud in the sky. Following our sun bathing session (since the ocean was too cold), we went to Nicolas’ grandparents house. His grandmother has a Spanish accent when she speaks, but I could still understand her. In fact, the conversation between Nicolas, Anais, Nicho’s grandparents, and me was probably the best heard/understood conversation I’ve had here yet! And during our wonderful conversation, we enjoyed grandma’s homemade crepes with jam/nutella/sugar(our choice) and orange juice. It was a lovely visit – I wish I didn’t live so far away because this family is incredibly nice and I would love to stay in contact with them, other than electronically ;). When it was nearing 7:45, we decided that it was time to leave for dinner; we went to their friend Sebastian’s house. His girlfriend made a salad and shrimp appetizer, lasagna with gruyere cheese, meat, and spices (creamy and satisfying), and then a brownie cake for dessert; turns out I like beets! (I thought I liked every vegetable except beets. It now remains to be seen if an aversion to any vegetable for me exists!)  
As for today, Anais has her day off; other than Sundays and holidays (yesterday), she gets one day of rest away from school and work. Therefore, we went to Rennes to do some shopping and enjoy the French culture; forgot to mention that Nicolas and Anais live about 20 minutes away from Rennes. I’m having such a great time and wonderful experiences here! I hope everyone can live their dreams no matter how big or small they just may be. <3

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