Saturday, January 22, 2022

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Couch Surfing

Lisa from Kansas State


“It’s nice to be in an environment that does not include animal excrement for once.”

Lisa comes from Manhattan, Kansas, to take part in a veterinary externship. Although she was not around much, she had a two-week stay in Des Moines while she visited different farms as part of a research externship through Kansas State University.

When you told me you were coming this way, you also mentioned that you would hardly be around, so my “Things To Do In Des Moines List” serves no purpose for you.

“Well, it was a nice gesture, but Des Moines was just a central place to put my things. I am having to travel to a handful of farms between Missouri and Minnesota. However, I am planning on attending the Des Moines Arts Festival. I get two days off between one trip to northern Missouri and one trip to a farm in western Iowa.”

So you are going to these different farms to study what?

“The farms were not picked at random. We are actually researching poultry, and there are a couple locations that have had sick chickens with similar symptoms. We have been trying to find a connection between these locations and then, of course, we want to try to fix the problem. As a livestock veterinarian, I have two things to think about: the well-being of the animal and the investment of the farmer. We don’t want chickens dying. That is inhumane, and we want to care for them. We also don’t want farmers losing one of their sources of income. Plus, we don’t want any type of disease spreading that could turn into an epidemic. That would be the worst case scenario with disease spreading from one farm to another.”


That seems really intense, and the pressure must be really high.

“There is a team of five or six students along with a professor. We are all working together on this. If there was something super serious, we would need to make a formal report on it to prevent a catastrophe from happening. It is amazing what we don’t know outside of our everyday life. Veterinarians who work with farming operations have a lot to think about. The issues we deal with concern our food supply, animal health and the economic stability of our farmers. We export so much livestock to other countries, one sick animal could spread disease and cause a lot of problems.”

On a lighter note, have you traveled like this before? Couch surfing with strangers in cities you have never been to?

“You make it sound so sinister when you say it that way. I sometimes can’t find a place online, so I start asking around in the nearest town to where we are working out of. Some places have similar student housing programs that put us up, but when I can’t find a place like that, I will do some couch surfing to get by.”

Is this your first time to Des Moines?

“It is. Manhattan, Kansas, is 4.5 hours away. But I have been digging what little I have been able to experience. My first afternoon here I walked up to the Des Moines Arts Center and journeyed down Ingersoll. I saw the name ‘Cheese Bar’ and was sold.”

I assumed that you were coming for the Des Moines Arts Festival. We get a lot of folks looking for hosting around this time — mainly artists who don’t want the price of housing to affect their bottom line.

“Yes, you did, but that is how I found out about the Arts Festival, so I am excited to check it out. I don’t get a lot of time when I am on these externships. They usually have me gone for two or three days at a time. But I am going to check out Arts Fest on Saturday night. There are a few of us scattered in Des Moines (all couch surfing) who are part of this externship group, so we can all go out as a group. It’s nice to be in an environment that does not include animal excrement for once.” ♦

Kristian Day is a filmmaker, musician and writer based in Des Moines. He has couch-surfed across the west coast as well as through the Midwest. He also offers his home up to unknown travelers passing through Des Moines… for free. Follow him on Twitter at @kristianmday.

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