Wednesday, September 30, 2009

¿Como se dice struggle?

When I woke up this morning my first thought was ¨how exactly do you milk a goat?¨. An addendum to said thought was, do we think it´s different in Spain? (Sometimes I refer to myself in the royal we. Just go with it.) Now, it´s not as if I´ve ever had anything against goats, per se, but I have to admit I´ve never been so actively concerned about them until today. Why is that, might you wonder? Well, today was my first offical day as a volunteer on an organic farm in Southern Spain, a space-time paradigm away from not-Yale and all it´s considerable charms. Hope and change indeed, eh, Mister President?

Let´s backtrack. While Monday morning saw me atoning away in Temple, Monday evening saw me seated in the Philadelphia airport, breaking my fast with a glass of Merlot. As I boarded the plane to Madrid I realized a few things. One, it´s worth paying for more leg-room on Trans-Atlantic flights even if you ARE five foot nothing and never growing again. Two, airplane wine is delicious if you can get it in bulk. And three, life altering choices to pack up and move to an organic farm in another country seem a lot less scary when you first chose them 6 months ago. Additionlly, The Proposal? Not worth seeing. I know, your mind, it´s blown.

Figuring I couldn´t actually ask to turn around a fully packed plane halfway through the flight to Europe, I went to sleep. When I woke up, cramped and cranky, we were about to arrive in the Madrid Barajas Airport, which may be a lovely building but appears confusing and uncomforable when you are carrying two bags which way aproximatly twice your body weight around it. After a stressful and frantic subway ride from the airport to the train station (three transfers, 4 flights of stairs, 500 regrets that I wanted to save money and didn´t take a cab) I was seated in Madrid´s Atocha Train Station, a beautiful building with a high arched roof and a giant tropical garden right in the middle of the main concourse. Having asked at least 5 people, all who responded with different advice, you HAVE to love the Spanish, really, I finally figured out where to get my tickets and where my train would arrive, and settled down with a nice cup of coffee and and a heaping pile of anxiety. There really are times in ones life when law school feels like the easier option, I swear.

6 hours later I was being shown around an 88 acre farm by Sue Lust, a charming and frankly hilarious English woman who owns and runs Viva Iberica, a horse stud farm with 45 horses, 20 acres of olive trees, 15 acres of almond trees, 4 square acres of grapes, 8 chickens, 4 dogs, 3 geese, an unknown quantity of peacocks (I have NO idea) and one goat. I met my fellow wwoofers, a cheerful array of German girls who look like they stepped out of an Octoberfest poster, unpacked my things, and feel into a deep sleep unencumbered by bags, planes or anxieties, Itá amazing how your body shuts your brain off when you need it to.

I didn´t have to milk the goat today. I did have to feed all the horses twice, pick almonds, groom and excersize a fair amount of the stallions, muck all the stalls and clean the barn. So all of that I´ve got down pat. If only I could settle this milking issue I´m sure I could be running the farm by the end of the week. After all, what more could there possibly be?

No pictures yet, I will post some as soon as I can access wifi on my computer. I did, however, see a dog kill a rabbit this morning. So I´m sure that´s just as good.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rosh Hastruggle

Call us "alternative" or "weird" or, as many have through history, "mystical banking lawyers with medical degrees", but we of the nation of Israel have our on special New Year which we consider far superior to the regular "get so drunk you can't remember your own name time". Not only do we get to spend any where from a few hours to an entire day praying at temple, depending on our denomination, but a guy with an uncoiled animal horn plays music for us as we communally speak in a language that sounds like it was developed by a tribe of people with serious sinus problems. Jealous? Well, you should be. Because whatever else it is, our New Year comes at a time when I think we need it most.

Think about it. Fall is the time when the days become shorter, light starts to fade from our part of the world and it's no longer really that acceptable to drink white wine. People are putting on clothing as opposed to taking it off (a practice I really can't support) and the golden promise of summer has faded with the realization that you did approximately one eight of what you had planned to do with your time in the sun. If there is any time to reflect and reconsider just what exactly it is you are doing, it's now.

And just what am I doing, you ask? Well, I'm about to go do what every young Ivy League graduate with no job prospects or health benefits is doing. I'm going to an organic farm in Spain for 5 months. You know. As one does.

When I told my friends and family about this decision there were mixed reviews. Some people were delighted by my choice, despite the fact that it seems totally unrelated to my interests, college major, television watching schedule and hair care regime. Others were more skeptical. As my friend Jon and I discussed in our post-synagogue brunch and gimlet fest (Hi Jon!), not only will I be missing a large chunk of pilot season, but I wont be back in the US for a good 7 months. Which is, well, terrifying. But frankly, not as terrifying as staying would be.

Look, my friends have been lucky. They have gotten jobs (which in an of itself is just some miracle right there so it seems my praying on Saturday worked, thanks Rabbi!). In fact some of them have gotten jobs that they actually like, which considering how hard that is at any point in time, not just with the economy looking like it just survived a four car pile up, is amazing. But really while some are doing well more are doing poorly, or not doing anything at all. And as cynical as we can all be (hi, self) the truth is that with the new year dawning, at least, according to the Jewish Calender (seriously, can anyone read that thing? I can't.) when it comes down to it I would rather be doing something to help the world then nothing at all. So come Monday, after the wild and crazy day of fasting which Yom Kippur promises to be, I will be heading off to a more shall we say organic way of doing things. What better way to start the new year?

Please stay tuned, for updates from the farm and all my travels about the great struggle we call the world. No matter what I do or where I go, I can guarantee you, I'm embracing the struggle as it comes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quotations from Chairman Struggle

There are a lot of really good reasons to go to New York Struggle. You might have deluded yourself into thinking that you in every way resemble Audrey Hepburn and need to have yourself a day at the original Tiffany's. You may be in need of a laugh and be visiting the derelict clown college formerly known as Wall Street. You may (shudder) be feeling the need to pay ten dollars for a beer. Or you may, as I myself did this past weekend, be there to visit the black circle of death known as the Chinese Consulate.

Now, I am no stranger to the strange, communistic bureaucracy that is the soviet mentality. I mean, I've lived in Russia, I can understand that as part of our unending loyalty to the state and the revolution we must be comfortable with the fact Struggle Embraces US. Nevertheless, the sheer lack of logic that seems to color all interactions with those of the Red persuasion still has the power to baffle and enrage me, especially when it stands between myself and my carefully constructed travel plans.

Let me explain. My friend Lisa has decided that a cuisine not based on soy is no way to live and has abandoned these United States for a more wok-seared life in the far east. And considering the fact that I will be spending the majority of next year traveling, I thought, hey, why not just add China to the list of places in which I can impose on friends and gawk at foreigners. And so I bought a plane ticket and brushed up on my zen teachings and, as one must when one visits Peoples Republic, took a bus to New York, woke up at 7:45 and walked to the Chinese Consulate, miserably chugging coffee in the pouring rain.

My visa application in hand and my best "non-terrorist" look on my face, I presented my papers to the visa officer. "You're going to China in April? Come back here in March." I patiently explained to the officer that this was not a possibility. She therefore placidly directed me to a line twice as long where I would wait for another, more senior officer. Sandwiched between a Hasidic man and two French teenagers I tried to breathe normally and not imagine killing everyone in sight. When I reached this visa official it took me about twenty minutes to carefully explain to the man that as I would be staying in rural Spain for the next five months it might be hard for me to hire a travel agent who could help me plan my trip to China. Though the look on his face made it clear that he couldn't imagine why I would find such a task difficult, he had me wait, sectioned off from all the other customers, until he could contact HIS senior officer. At this point, I must say, I think I blacked out from the effort of holding back my screams.

Eventually, two lines, two hours and 160 dollars (US, mind you) later I was the proud possessor of a one year Chinese Tourist visa. They placed it a page away from my Russian one. I guess to leave some room for Cuba.

Pictures are not encouraged in the Chinese Consulate. And by not encouraged I mean forbidden. You can take the people out the republic....

Later in the weekend I went to the St. Gennaro festival in little Italy where fat Americans ate everything that is possible to fry and people pray to images of the cross eyed patron saint of disasters. No wonder China want to keep us out.