Friday, September 30, 2011

The Goatherd Goes to Deutschland

This is the story of a goatherd who went across the ocean in the hope of seeing German goats.

In late winter of 2011, I learned of the McCloy Fellowship. This is an educational opportunity for young professionals to travel overseas sponsored by the American Council on Germany. Fellowships are offered each year in journalism, urban planning, environmental issues, and agriculture. Farming + education + travel = a very intrigued Goatherd! The American Farm Bureau works with the American Council on Germany to source the four individuals selected each year for the fellowships in agriculture. I was very excited to be named my state’s nominee, but there were 49 other states that had the opportunity to nominate someone as well and only four would be the winners.

My personal philosophy is “big packet good, small letter bad”. This stems from my college application days. I eagerly watched the mailbox for days after the supposed selection date . . . and days, and days. Eventually, hearing nothing, I realized that I wasn’t chosen. One day, while at Starbucks, I was checking my email when I found a message with the subject heading of “McCloy Fellowship” from a staff member at American Farm Bureau. Ugh. If a big packet is good news, and a small letter is bad news, then an email is dismissive! I opened the email, already reading in my mind “Dear Katherine Harrison, Thank you for applying for the McCloy Fellowship. Although we have selected different Fellows for 2011, we hope you will re-apply next year.”

I waited for the email to load . . . the first sentence was absolutely as I expected. But that second sentence . . . I re-read and re-read and re-read again. And then, in the middle of Starbucks, I put my hands over my eyes and started to cry. For those who know me personally, the last few years have been full of some struggles for me. It was a true opportunity to test my mettle and my integrity and my faith. I cried that day sitting in front of my laptop because something that was good -- something that was earned -- was being offered to me. I was profoundly humbled, and exceedingly grateful that God saw me through difficulty so that I could enjoy a monumental blessing. Then, I called my Christopher and tried to tell him the good news without crying some more . . .

Time went on, our travel dates were selected, I became Facebook friends with my fellow Fellows (ha!), and I worked to master my German (in so many ways!) in preparation for the trip. My first overseas trip would also be the longest trip I had taken away from the farm as an adult responsible for goats, and chickens, and cows, and dogs, etc, etc. Thankfully, I have a wonderful gentleman friend and amazing student assistants, not to mention the best farmer friends ever! Chris did his best to prepare me for my time in his ancestral homeland. This included emailing me news articles, giving me helpful hints on travel, and practicing the language with me.

Goatherd Facebook Status: Yet another reason to love Germany: the Pirate Party has won seats in the Berlin state parliament with 8.9% of the local vote! "Pirate Party leader Sebastian Nerz told Deutschlandfunk Radio that his party is prepared to prove it is up to serious politics." ARRR!

My stipend check for my fellowship arrived on a Friday afternoon. And in true Katherine fashion, on Monday I blew it on goats. Honest to God. Personal motto: “I spent all my money on liquor and goats. The rest I just wasted.” They are really nice goats, though!

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