Sunday, February 24, 2013

Day 62

While I was shoveling horse poop yesterday I realized just how much time I have to think these days. It is a hell of a lot of time. Half the day I spend singing "Bring It On Home" by Sam Cooke in my head, but still I always find my thoughts wandering farther and father away from what's happening in reality; I'm re-living past events, I'm envisioning myself a month from now, a year from now. And the ever expanding green fields, now sprinkled with snow, seem to give my mind all the space it could ever want to run wild. Sometimes it's nice to reminisce or plan, but right now it's frustrating. I've done this great thing for myself, I've taken a gap year with the intention of discovering all that my soul has to offer me. Yet, for some foolish reason, my mind prefers to be elsewhere, while it should be soaking up the present moment as much as it can before this year ends and I'm stuck wishing I could go back. So what to do. I guess first off I need to stop calling my mind "it" and realize that I am my mind, and no one has control over my mind but me. Meaning, only I can solve this problem, no one can do it for me. Abatiwaha, so is life.
I think things started to get weird in my head a few days into being on the farm. Maybe you can tell by now but Europe isn't really for me (at least at this point in my life) and I've been struggling to establish a connection to the cultures, people, etc. As much as I've enjoyed working with Neinke and Auke, the lack of direction that I've felt since being in Europe has started to weigh on me, making me feel even a little anxious (I hate that word) to move on to the next trip. This aimlessness has led me, I think, to distract myself with visions of past events or with grand ideas for the future, and surprisingly, to yearn for structure. Whereas in Nepal, one intense and challenging experience was followed by the next, this semester everything is in my hands, and naturally I decided to sort of plan as I go. So here I am in Holland working on a farm but simultaneously planning out what I'll do in Thailand and where I'll visit and what I'll eat and so on. And as exciting as all of that is, I've been losing sight of the present moment. Even if, at present, I'm not overwhelmed by joy or so in love with my surroundings, the present is where I must dwell and must stay. Past Emily is climbing the Himalayas and exploring the desert, while future Emily is hangin with the gibbons in Thailand and meditating in India (?). So all present Emily needs to do is be on the farm with Neinke and Auke and their dogs and their two-day-old goat babies and their horse poop.
I said to my mom the other day that I'm not feeling challenged enough, and she responded, "You are traveling the world completely on your own, how can you not feel challenged?" And hey she's right, maybe I ought to give myself a little more credit. Challenge won't always come in the form of eating frog in a rural Nepali village. So the challenge that I need to face for now is letting go of my wandering thoughts about the past and the future and just be in the now, and take it a day at a time. I want to leave the farm feeling proud of how hard I worked and feeling at peace with my environment here. So that's exactly what I'll do, I'll keep shoveling poop and making goat cheese and I'll use the simple landscape to calm my mind and reign in my thoughts to the present. And of course the wolf woman in me will always keep howling.

"This is what you shall do: Love the Earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or any number of men, go freely with the powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.."
- from Walt Whitman's introduction to his book "Leaves of Grass"

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day 59

Today was very long. In the morning I shoveled more horse poop (it is endless), fed the animals, and learned how to mold the cheese so that it can be sold tomorrow at the farmer's market in the nearest city, Groningen. To mold the cheese I stuffed it into these various shaped cups that had little holes in them. (If cheese was squeezing out of the holes that meant it was compacted enough.) I would then run the cheese filled cup under hot water, and shake. I would shake and shake and shake for dear life. And 57 cheese molds later, my arms were ready to fall off. I thought I could have started crying at any moment, I don't know why. I think I'm just still adjusting to work life/farm life/dutch life here, and adjusting periods are always the toughest for me. But on the upswing, I learned how to chop wood today and that was thrilling, not to mention very difficult after shaking all those cups of cheese. It took a long time, but eventually I slit the wood right down the middle. I'm a warrior goddess!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Day 58

Well here I am out in the middle of nowhere, on a goat cheese farm in northern Holland. Why the heck am I here? You may ask. For some odd reason, I decided that "hard physical labor" was one of my goals for this gap year, and I'd say there's no better way to get your fill of hard physical labor than working on a farm. So I signed up with the organization WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and found Neinke and Auke, a Dutch couple who live with their five children on a farm in a village called Sebaldeburen. WWOOF is really really groovy because while I offer them my labor, they give me hearty Dutch food and shelter in their Ikea dream house (and I get to play with their dogs!). So it's a win-win-win sort of deal. And here I am at De-Mekkerkast Farm (! Because they're in the goat cheese business, they have lots of sweet little goats, as well as cows, pigs, and horses just for fun. Their home and barns are surrounded by sprawling green fields speckled with leafless trees, and there are no mountains or hills so the land feels like it goes on forever. That being said, it feels good to be out of the city. I have space to breathe again. As much as I soaked up every moment I had with Alex, Paris revealed to me some inner conflicts that I couldn't seem to reconcile. Yeah the city has a lot going for it, the history, the art, an efficient metro system, but I just couldn't get into it. While the other girls gaggled over the Eiffel Tower, after a minute I thought, okay cool I'm ready to move on. Is something wrong with me? I don't know. But I felt like a piece was missing. My surroundings weren't reaching into my soul or making joy flow through my veins (a feeling I've come to know and love on this gap year). I felt like such a hypocrite, I say all the time that I can find joy anywhere no matter what. "So where the hell is it!?" I thought to my self... AH! MY BEST FRIEND ALEX STILLS! All the joy I could ever want is in this beautiful gal I get to call my soul sister! Wow how lucky am I! So who cares where we are, I get to spend time with my best friend and eat a couple baguettes while we're at it.
So that's how Paris went. And now I'm on the farm doing what I do best, shovel things around and play in the dirt. Here's a list of some of the work I've done thus far (it's only been two days mind you).
Package fresh strips of meat into vacuum sealed bags.
Wheel barrow chopped wood across the farm.
Feed the animals their various types of hay and pellets and grains and food scraps.
Shovel horse poop.
Pull all of the dead plants out of the garden and feed them to the goats.
Cut back tree branches and build an absurdly large pile of dried wood, to be burned later.
Go to Neinke and Auke's daughter's horse back riding competition (she got disqualified because the horse pooped while she was competing).
So all is well and fun! Of course it's freezing outside and the weather is predicted to be in the 30s all week, but hey it's only temporary. May I go forth, lech lecha, and shovel all the horse poop I can.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 54

After a seven hour bus ride out of Amsterdam, my BFF, the one and only Alexandra Stills, and I have made it to France. The land of chocolate crepes and impressionist painting. Though my years of high school French have failed me, Paris doesn't know what it has comin. Wolf women unite!!!!!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Day 46

Ciao from Bologna! Who the hell ever thought I'd be traveling around Europe? Definitely not me! Well here I am in Italy and the food and the architecture and the history and the wine have surprisingly taken my breath away. For some wacky reason I made up this idea that I wouldn't enjoy the culture of Europe, that it wouldn't compare to the chaotic joy of Southeast Asia or the vast beauty of the Israeli desert. But what a crazy idea that is! Of course the bright green rice patty covered mountains of Nepal will always hold the most beautiful place in my soul and my being, but why should I limit my joy to just one section of the world when I know I can find it anywhere! So here I am in one of the oldest cities in the world, visiting my best friend Kate, the Italian goddess.
Bologna is a super groovy city because not only does it have great pizza and tons of archeological finds, but it is full of young rebellious Italians who are passionate about their education and their university. Right now they're teaming together to try and form a department run solely by the students, for the students, how rockin! But it makes sense because the Bologna community was one of the first to break away from the Pope and form a democracy. And what's even more rad about Bologna is that people don't speak English, so my fear of touristy Europe has begun to fade, allowing me to find all the beauty this city has to offer. Thus one of the most important things I've realized is that I don't need to compare this city's beauty to all of the other beauty I've experienced around the world, I can just appreciate each place for all the unique joy it has to offer.
And of course being with my best friend makes it easy to have a good time (I have the best friends in the universe!!). More than absolutely anything, I feel so grateful to get to witness Kate in her element. She's been studying Italian for years and always knew she wanted to study abroad here, so what a gift it is to see it all happen! The Italian goddess isn't taking any classes in English and is living with Italian roommates, so though her brain gets exhausted from all of the translation, it's unbelievable to see her interact with the people of Bologna. I feel so lucky!! And of course I am so endlessly proud of my goddess best friend. May she grow stronger and more beautiful everyday and be blessed with all the bliss in the universe!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 44

The time has arrived to say goodbye to Israel and begin a new and beautiful leg of my journey. And as excited I am for all that is to come, leaving sucks and I think that's just the way it goes. This last week I've been back and forth between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and to be honest it's been a hard transition out of the Kibbutz. Every morning I wake up to screeching rails and honking cars, leaving me homesick for the desert and it's beautiful and expansive simplicity. I never could have imagined I would miss those mountains so much, they've hardly escaped my mind since I've left. But as sad as I know I'll be when I board my 5 AM flight to Rome via Istanbul, I am grateful beyond belief for all these last six weeks have given me. May I remember these days as long as I live and may the lessons I've learned travel with me as a part of my being wherever I go!
And though it sucks to leave, I know I'm leaving on a truly ideal note. Tonight I went to the Western Wall to see Elan's swearing in ceremony and it was undoubtedly the most powerful experience I've had in these last months. There were endless rows of soldiers and even more families squished together to see the ceremony. I yelled for Elan as he walked in and he had the biggest most beautiful smile on his face. I was overwhelmed with so much joy and pride I could have burst into tears at any moment (I did cry just a little). After many speeches in Hebrew followed by a mass of "Amen" the soldiers were sworn in and given their guns. Every soldier seemed to have a radiant glow of happiness around them. What a blessing it was to be there!! I know I've said it before but I am so insanely proud of Elan and all he has done. I am full of gratitude that I've had the joy of witnessing him as he follows his soul's song (keep finding joy in challenge my friend!). And I guess it's time for me to continue following my soul's song too. When I went to the Western Wall when I was 16 I wrote a note asking the infinite universe to let me evolve out of my cocoon into a butterfly. Now I feel like the most beautiful butterfly in the world and this butterfly's gotta keep flyin.

the final falafel