When the Kendall family left Dannevirke in August 2015, they didn't know what would be in store for them in Colombia, Missouri, but they sold up everything and took the plunge.

"It was the right move," Annette and Brendan's son Cameron told the Dannevirke News.

Cameron was 15 when they left, he's now just turned 18 and will finish school in May and head off to college where he will study agri-business. At the moment he is part time at high school and working part-time on a cattle ranch.

"I'm loving it," he said.

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Returning to New Zealand for two short weeks, the first thing the family did when they touched down was grab a pie.

"There are no pies in Colombia, so we've been having one every day since I arrived back in New Zealand,," Cameron said.

Also visiting with the Kendalls is Jay Buckman, Brendan's boss who was also hooked by the daily pie ritual.

"I'd never had a pie before I came here and I'm having one every day too," he said. "Pies where I come from are fruit and if you refer to a meat pie, people are horrified."

Jay is a cropping farmer with 4000 acres and also owns an aviation business and a helicopter spraying company.

For Brendan working on the cropping farm is far removed from his work in the Tararua.

"It's different, no dogs, no sheep or cows. It's a complete turnaround from back here, but I'm still working in agriculture with rural people and they're the same all over the world," he said.

Annette, a research associate at the university, said the family aren't ready to return to New Zealand yet.

"The director of our division at the university has said he wants me to stay," she said.
However, Annette's grandmother, Joy Jones of Dannevirke, would love to have her family home again.

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"I miss them but I can still ring them," she said.

Annette also works part time at the university while studying for her PhD in agricultural applied economics which she will complete this year.

She has just been awarded a Frank Miller graduate scholarship, for her accomplishments, leadership, hard work and dedication. It's worth US$1500.

"I teach two classes of undergraduates and I've also won a contract with the American Cheese Society which has brought money into the university," she said.

"In the States there isn't the Tall Poppy syndrome we have here in New Zealand. Their attitude is very different and it's a case of why wouldn't you try to do your best".

Annette said she believed it was New Zealand's Tall Poppy attitude holding the country back.

"I'm not dissing New Zealand but the opportunities for all three of us in the States are huge."

That same attitude is prevalent in education as Cam has discovered.

"You aim for the highest grade you can get and everyone encourages you," he said.

And despite the coverage of shootings in the United States the Kendalls said they've never felt unsafe where they live.

"The gun thing is something New Zealanders don't understand," Annette said.

"We didn't grow up in fear of the bad guys so we don't understand about guns. Where we live people have guns because they go hunting. It's their way of life."

For Jay living in a rural community, guns have always been part of life.

"I'd much rather have a gun and not need to use it than need one and not have one," he said.

There are old-fashioned values in Colombia, a city of 100,000 people and another 30,000 students.

"It feels like a small town," Annette said. "It's all about the old fashioned way. Men open doors and tip their hats."

Brendan said with small towns not far away with a 5000 population similar to Dannevirke, the area is a lot like home.

But medical insurance is a must for the family, with Annette's paid for by the university.

"Cam has had a broken back, broke his leg and his wrist riding in motorcross," Annette said. "We pay $300 a month for health insurance for him and Brendan, with a maximum of $13,500 a year."

And the quality of care is superior to that in New Zealand, she said.

"You pay for what you get. If you go into the emergency room you are seen straight away."

Annette had a lifesaving liver transplant in Australia in 1993, when she was 19, and was given 10 years to live.

"I did have some health issues and doctors were a little bit wary of me heading overseas," she said.

"But at the Auckland liver transplant unit my doctor said, 'the point of the transplant is to go and live your life'.

''I know I wasn't meant to sit around at home and the doctors have been toying with me needing another transplant in a few years, but they've said go with our blessing."

Annette has had 24 years out of her liver and said in the States she's getting super care.

"Last year I needed an operation and thank goodness they move fast over there. I was within minutes of losing my life. I have a great team of doctors who look after me," she said.

With her research taking across the United States and internationally to Zurich and London, the world is Annette's oyster.

"I'm off to Oslo in June and I've been invited to France in May and I've been invited to present my research in Norway," she said.