I can see the finish line

Monday – Friday, 1 – 5 December

So I only have two weeks left at this point. Oh gosh.

This week was jammed pack with work. My boss was out for conference and he had given me several assignments before he left. And then when I got in on Monday I had two emails waiting for me with two new projects. One was a segment for the Influenza report that was needed that afternoon! The other was to create the rough draft for Animal Health Division’s inputs for Issue 14 of the Early Warning Bulletin (January to March-2015). I had worked a little on Issue 13 on my first week (largely just double checking grammar and spelling since English is not my boss’s first language), but this time I was actually making the rough draft! The very first draft on was all me! Ahhh! Talk about stressful. This bulletin is basically a forecast done by the Animal Heath, Plant Protection, and Food Security divisions on what might be of concern in the next three months in different areas (for example, Avian Influenza in China, Indonesia, and several other Asian countries). Once I had my rough draft I sent it to specialists in our departments, in either diseases or areas or the world, to see if I covered everything. I had a few additions, and then sent it to two of the higher ups in Animal Health to see if they had anything to add. And once they gave me their comments and I made the corrections I had to send it to my boss. Did I mention the final draft was due Monday? So that was a lot of work!

On top of that, one of my best friends here at FAO had her last day on Monday. Ai has been amazing, and I loved hanging out with her. We went to dinner with her coworkers that night and it broke my heart to say goodbye. She is going back to Japan, pretty much as far away from where I will be living the next 6 months as you can get! But she wants to come to the US one day to visit, and I will visit her in Japan one day.

I also had the rough draft for my final paper for my university (I am enrolled in a one hour class on my internship there even though I graduated in May, otherwise I couldn’t receive my scholarship!) and my normal weekly duties.

I worked really hard all week long, and although I became even more sleep deprived then I was before, I managed to get enough done that I could spend my last full weekend here exploring the city and not working! I cannot believe that Sunday (7) marked the start of my last week!!!!!

I am excited to see my family and friends back home but I will miss this complicated city so much.


When it Rains…

Thursday and Friday, 7 & 8 November 2014

A major rainstorm came in on Thursday and it was pandemonium here! In reality, it wasn’t a bad storm- we have worse in Texas all the time. The problem is Rome is old. It’s been old since before old was a thing. And because of that modern systems are hard to put in. It’s why the metro is so small here (only two main lines and one little branch off). According to my host family they have been trying to expand it for years but every time they start digging they uncover more ruins and have to wait for an archeological study! And everything here is laid down with bricks. There is no nice stretch of grass beside the sidewalk. Just more and more rock! What I am getting at is the drainage here is terrible. So the Romans go on high alert during storms. It had only rained a little Wednesday evening but on Thursday all the public schools were canceled. It started to pour like crazy shortly after I arrived for nearly an hour and then stopped. Ok cool right? Wrong. Apparently the main storm hadn’t arrived yet. Again, back home, no big deal. But when you don’t have good drainage and it rains, where does it go… the metro. Considering I use both the metro and a bus to get home I was not excited (taking the bus all the way would add an extra hour to my trip home due the winding roads and horrible traffic).


Thankfully FAO let us all out a few hours early on Thursday and even though I had to cancel my evening plans with my friends I hurried home. Part of Line A was canceled when I got off, but thankfully I take Line B. I got home around 5 and it was already dark. At 7 the skies opened up and just poured down. It lessened a lot after an hour but continued all night. On Friday my bus into work took nearly twice as long as usual because even though the rain had stopped several streets were closed down due to flooding and the bus had to drive slowly through puddles. The metro was still standing, although there were buckets everywhere to catch dripping water! Haha, if I didn’t know any better I just survived the flood. Guess I should go to Church and give thanks this weekend!

On another note anyone want to join me for lunch, haha?


Week of Monday, 27 October 2014

This week was the CORDS network meeting! CORDS is the network that unites other Disease Networks. A little confusing I know, but it lets groups like SACIDS (South African Centre for Disease Surveillance) and MBDS (Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance) met and exchange information and develop ideas on Disease prevention/preparation world-wide.  It was wonderful getting the chance to see a group like this in action. They discussed current projects and projects they wanted to implement. Of course Ebola was a huge topic, and I was surprised to learn that CORDS had proposed the creation of an Ebola Surveillance Network in West africa back in 2012 that would monitor for any cases and take immediate action when they arose but couldn’t get the funding. They wanted to mimic how Uganda treats Ebola but over all West africa. Uganda has had several outbreaks over the last few years, however they are prepared, with a laboratory in country that is dedicated to Ebola. During a Glews meeting, a vet on loan from the CDC told me that in Uganda when they have a suspected Ebola patient they immediately quarantined, their contacts are traced, and the results are at the lab within a few hours. Uganda rarely has more than a few cases in their outbreaks (How Uganda Stopped Previous Ebola Outbreaks). One of the representatives at the CORDS meeting who wanted to start the West africa Network back in 2012 seemed to see the current outbreak as a personal failure. He just kept shaking his head and said “this would never have happened.” It was very sobering.

I also had the honor of meeting the governmental official in charge of Ebola in Guinea. He gave a presentation on whats been going on in country and what they still needed to do. It was incredibly fascinating. One thing he talked about was the cultural impact of this disease. Their culture used to be very, for lack of a better word, touchy. You hugged people, kissed the cheeks when greeting (remember they have lot of french influence), and all in all often touched each other. Now, he says, people are afraid to come close to one another, afraid to go to crowded places like markets which hurts the economy. Even though it was in French and it was hard to follow along with the translator it was a really interesting to hear of it from his perspective.

Over this week I made several great contacts and was asked to keep in touch with several people, particularly for when I finished grad school.When they heard my plans, I was told over and over how much they need more medical entomologists and there are too few out there. Several told me to contact them when I was looking for jobs after grad school! Truly this was an incredible and eye-opening experience!


For more information on the CORDS network you can visit them on their webpage at http://www.cordsnetwork.org/

COAG & Ebola in Texas

Monday the 29th to Friday the 3 

Ok, I’m a little behind but they have been keeping me really busy at work! The week of 29 September to 3 October week was the 24th session of the Committee on Agriculture (COAG). I was able to listen as the delegates discussed to pass or not pass several reports. The most important to my department was the report concerning Peste des Petits Ruminants. For those of you unfamiliar with the UN process it would have seem really tedious, but it was really interesting listening to the different county representatives taking about how they saw the report impacting the world and themselves. One really cool thing was that this meeting is held in several different languages- the chair in fact spoke Spanish the entire time! There are 6 official languages of the UN; Arabic, Russian Chinese, English, French, and Spanish. Every delegate spoke in the language they were most comfortable in. That mean that everyone in the hall wore earpieces, and we selected our language of preference on the translator. The UN has many professional translators whose jobs are to translate the speeches while they are given. That sounds like an incredible tough job considering how long-winded some speeches get!


Here is the link to the official COAG website if you want to know more. You can even see some webcasts of the meeting itself. If you are interested in what COAG is doing I would suggest clicking this link to read COAG: Driving FAO’s agricultural agenda. This is a recent publication which talks about COAGs impact and accomplishments since its creation in 1971. The overview contains examples of how COAG guided FAO to give more emphasis to among other things: food standards, the seed sector and sustainable agriculture including livestock. It also covers COAG’s impact on the Organization’s strategic direction. All in all it is a very interesting read, and I was given a paper copy at the beginning of the meeting to help get me through some of the more redundant long-winded speeches. 🙂

Although I came here with just the most basic Italian, I feel that I am picking it up around the office some. Surprisingly my Spanish has been improving, as sometimes I can get away with using Spanish instead of Italian. I am really trying to make time to work on both!

My favorite thing this week however was being able to attend the Ebola Outbreak: Impact on Agriculture and Food Security in West Africa side meeting where the FAO representatives from Senegal and Liberia spoke along with the Minister of Agriculture from Sierra Leone. It was webcasted, however I do not know where you could find it if it is still up. The only information I can find right now on public domain is the agenda. It was a really interesting meeting because we were able to hear about the Ebola crisis from people who lived there and have been a part of it from day one.

So, on that note, the whole Ebola case in Texas… I am from Texas and have several friends and family who still live there so of course I have heard all about it. Part of my research does entail work with Ebola, as it has become a threat to food security in West Africa for the farmers have been badly hit and people are unable to work due to the quarantine. If you are interested on the impact of Ebola on the W African economy (I suggest being interested!!) this is a good video to watch, Ebola crisis: Toll on regional economies, and this is a good article to read, Ebola could wreck W Africa economies, warns World Bank. I even spent an entire day this week researching Ebola trends. If you yourself don’t know too much about this disease I would suggest watching this short video from BBC, In 60 seconds: What is Ebola?

Ebola is a crisis in W Africa, and the WHO estimates the number of cases may hit 40,000 before it is contained. This is horrible. There is no other way to describe it. Ebola has a 40-90% mortality rate depending on the strain and care and the death toll has been staggering. The heath care system in these developing counties just cannot handle the amount of patients they receive and have to send many home with their families, which increases the risk of infecting others, adding to the problem (See this video Ebola: UK medic on ‘mind-blowing’ deaths for more information). One of the reasons this disease has had such a hard impact is the amount of healthcare workers affected. According to the most recent WHO Situation Reports published on 3 October there have been a total of 382 health care workers infected in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia and 216 of them have died so far (for more information read this article, Health Care workers face Ebola Risks). The impact on the health care workers is neatly summarized in this Time magazine article, Ebola Healthcare Workers Are Dying Faster Than Their Patients. This people though are risking their lives every day. But still they fight on. These are our Heroes

Figure 1: Distribution of Ebola virus disease cases in countries with intense transmission from the 3 October 2014 Ebola WHO Situation Report.


“Data are based on official information reported by Ministries of Health up to the end of 1 October 2014 for Guinea and Sierra Leone, and 30 September 2014 for Liberia. The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do   not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the World Health Organization concerning the legal status of  any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. Dotted and   dashed lines on maps represent approximate border lines for which there may not yet be full agreement” 3 October 2014 Ebola WHO Situation Report.

At least while I was still in the US this was not treated as seriously as it should be by Americans. However, it is my personal option, and that of the CDC, that Americans really do not need to worry about a real Ebola outbreak in the US. Unlike Africa we are coming into this situation aware (before Ebola was diagnosed no safely precautions were being taken, which quickly spread the disease) and we have the infrastructure to handle this situation. Although there were several mistakes in the initial handling of this case, everything is under control. There were bound to be mistakes because it is the first time dealing with a case like this. All of the patients close contacts are under a 21 day quarantine and we can only hope for their sake that none of them come down with the disease (although it is highly likely at least his family members will). I would personally say that it is unlikely that this disease, due to the quickness and efficiently of the CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services, will spread past those initial contacts. I would however recommend that you regularly check the CDC Ebola website and the Texas Department of State Health Services websites for updates.

For the interested:

A new book is being published about ebola— Ebola & Poverty

Coliseum and Palintine Hill

Saturday, September 27th 


The weekend! Time to explore Rome! Ok, first I did sleep in, haha. Jet lag finally kicked in. But once I was up I went to meet one of my co-workers at the Coliseum. Although I see the Coliseum everyday on my way to and from work this was my first chance to actually go in! Talk about huge! The Coliseum was built back in AD 80 and it amazes me that it still stands today. It is so large too; it has an estimated carrying capacity of 50,000 to 80,000 people back when it was in good shape. Sometime in the medieval era it ceased to be used for entertainment purposes. During the centuries that followed it was used as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine. Now of course, it’s a huge tourist attraction and is a World Heritage site!


The Constantine Arch


Ruins from Palatine Hill across the street


Then we went to Palatine Hill which is just down the road. Its right between Circo Massimo, the FAO, and the Coliseum. Roman myth is that this is the hill that housed the cave which Lupa the she-wolf feed the babies Romulus and Remus. According to the myth Romulus later went on to found the city of Rome. Ancient Rome had 7 hills, of which Palatine Hill was one, and during ancient times the affluent lived on this hill. The most famous of these residences would probably be the Flavian Palace. In fact, it is believed that we derived the world ‘Palace’ from Palatine. Here is a nifty map to help!


There are so many diffrent things on Palatine Hill! I will do my best to identify the spots correctly! (they are in order of taking)

Ruins of the Aquiduct


Looking to the Exhedra


By the baths, part of the Antiquarium


The entrance to the Schola Praeconum


The view from the Schola Praeconum, back twords the Baths


The view of Rome by the Temple of Victory and Great Mother


The Arch of Titus


A temple near the arch (name unkown)


After Palintine Hill, we wandered around Rome and took in the sights. Had some real Italian food and gelato, and window shopped. All in all it was a great day!




Thursday & Friday, September 25th & 26th

Thursday, September 25th

Today I was able to meet Paul Vantomme! He is a senior Forestry Officer here at the FAO and one of the primary organizers of the FAO’s Entomophagy work! Entomophagy is the use of Insects as Food and Feed, and although you may go yuck, it’s actually a very old concept that never really caught on in Europe and the US. Seriously though, you may be repulsed by the idea of consuming a dish of insects, but how would you feel about a chicken being fed a diet based off of insects? It’s a fascinating concept and I really do think that insects are one of several methods that will need to be implemented in the coming food crisis. High estimates by the UN put the world’s population at 10 billion by 2030 (UN-World Population). Realize that is nearly a 3 billion increase in the next 16 years! Figuring out how to feed everyone is a big concern to the FAO. I suggest you take a look, even if you are queasy. Just click this link —-> FAO- Edible Insects.

When I applied for this internship I actually wrote my essay on the lack of regulations surrounding Entomophagy, and used many of the FAO’s reports of which Paul Vantomme was a primary author on. On my first day I emailed him to tell him how much I admire his work and he asked if I would like to get coffee sometime! So that was today. He is so crazy intelligent and it was really interesting to pick his brain. Entomophagy is something he has been learning in the last few years and was really interested in hearing how I became interested/involved. After our talk he even took me to his office and gave me physically copies of his last report!!! How wonderful right?! He also gave me some other pamphlets and posters they have created for distribution. It was so incredible meeting him and I hope we get the chance to talk again!



After my meeting I went on a new intern tour of the FAO. This is such a huge building and it was nice to find out where everything is! We got to see the Plenary Hall and even the Flag Room!

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After that it was lunch with other interns! It was really nice, and I was able to meet and exchange information with several other interns. It is definitely a weird feeling moving somewhere all by yourself, especially to a different country. Honestly it can be a bit depressing, because even when you are having fun you keep thinking how you wish your family or friends could be there to share it with you. On Wednesday I actually had lunch with another intern from the US, and she also came for the Intern lunch today! All together meeting new people who are going through the same experience is great.


Friday, September 26th

Today was pretty normal at work, still learning the ropes so I wasn’t given a ton to do. However I was informed that starting Monday I would be leading the Daily Updates for the AGA department! Yikes! Way to put on the pressure!

After work I went to dinner with two of the other interns who are just down the hall from me. The intern who picked where we ate is from the Netherlands and she took us to this place called Topside Bar… Which is American themed, haha! As the other intern and I are from the US we thought it was to fun, especially since this was my first time eating in the City proper. We both ended up getting burgers because they were actual burgers on a bun! The Italian burger is just a patty, normally made from chicken or turkey with lettuce on the side. The other intern has been here from three weeks and had been craving a burger for a while, while I had been a little homesick and it sounded nice.


It didn’t taste like an American burger however, and although it wasn’t bad I will stick to pasta and pizza as the Italians know how to make that right. During dinner we made plans to sight see tomorrow and Sunday! I am very excited!

One more thing to add. The dogs here in Rome are so well-behaved! Even though many of the apartments near me have them, they almost never bark. Many dogs are walked without a leash and some are left to wander during the day. They won’t come up to strangers either, which makes me a little sad as I miss my parents dog. Today I saw a couple on the metro with both their dogs, who were both perfectly behaved, the boxer even fell asleep!


Real Work and the Italian Supermarke​t

Tuesday, September 23th

So today at work I got participate in three different meetings, and work on two official announcements. One of the main writers of a newsletter is out of office for family reasons so I assigned to make the updates! Yikes! Thankfully it was only a few paragraphs long. Hopefully I get good feedback! A lot of the stuff I see and work on is confidential so realize I will rarely mention specific projects unless I know for sure they are public domain.

After work I went to the supermarket and totally didn’t get lost! Whoop! It was close to my bus route on the way home so I just stopped early and then got back in with my groceries. Pam’s is the closest they have to a Kroger or HEB back home but my mom would love it as it’s more like Trader’s Joe. Even though to me this is a smaller store (about the size of the Kroger in College Station, half the size of the Kroger by my parents’ house) it’s their version of a Supermarket. There is nothing like a Super Wal-Mart or even a HEB here.


Everything is really clean, and one thing I love is how little packaging they use. Did you know that in 2012 30% of trash in the US was Containers & Packaging (EPA)? That’s terrible! Most of Europe limits the amount of packaging material. Germany is a major leader in waste management and they passed a Packaging Ordinance in 1991, which requires all manufacturers to collect and then recycle or reuse their packaging after it is disposed of by consumers (Earth 911). Pretty neat huh? I don’t know about you but I sure could use less packaging on my stuff, it took me nearly 10 minutes and a lot of effort to open my converter from Target.

Anyhow the store was really cool. Food there is different. At the FAO cafeteria they regularly serve veal, pasta with octopus, and other things that I see as expensive fancy food back in the US. The grocery story definitely reflected that, specially in the meat aisle. There was a whole aisle of pasta haha! And another that was half oils. It wasn’t as hard to find my stuff as I thought because the store was so small.

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As a treat I bought myself some Kinder Eggs, because why not! For those of you who don’t know Kinder Eggs are the best! They have a little toy inside them that you get to put together! My mother’s friends from when she lived in Germany used to send them to us for Easter. Guess what! I GOT TWO DINOSAURS! Whoop!



Wednesday, September 24th

I figured I would show you a little around my office. I have an excellent view! I love it. There are apartment complexes all around and a basketball and tennis court that nearly always has playing kids. I can hear them in my office even when the window is closed and I really like that.

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My desk is pretty sparse even though I have tons of room. The only decorations I have is a movie ticket from when I saw Guardians of the Galaxy with my friend and boyfriend, a picture of me and my boyfriend, a camel that was left there by the last person, and the 3 Kinder Toys (yes I opened all three to get the toys right away haha). But I like it 🙂 The background of my computer is of three of the children I used to babysit and me at my good-bye party. I do miss everyone but I am really happy I came here.

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So yesterday I worked on compiling information from the twice weekly updates into the Quarterly Bulletin, and updates for the Newsletter. All these are about diseases that affect food security and livestock health. Did you know nearly all diseases threaten food security? Because when people are sick or quarantined they can’t work and make or earn food. Ebola in Africa is considered a threat to food security because people are quarantined. Anyway I wrote several paragraphs for the newsletter and several bulletins for the Quarterly Bulletin. Well today I got feed back on both! On the Newsletter only one word was changed and a comma was added! For my additions to the Bulletin only a few were omitted because they  weren’t considered high enough priority. Yeah me! I feel like that’s the indication of a good start!

I made a friend today! She is also from America and is also here temporary as part of her vet school program. She only has two weeks left, but we made plans to go sight-seeing this weekend!