it loves without desire

The Marx Brothers, Cirque du Soleil, Woody Allen, apple crisp, and reggae. That’s what I’m becoming accustomed to. That is what these three boys with whom I reside are into. I consider it quite the cultural education. In fact, Cirque in conjunction with the recurrence of semi-insomnia has me stretching extensively again. I feel inspired for all sorts of things, and I quite miss both ballet and my slackline. But simply stretching again feels really good and will suffice temporarily. I hope this explosion of creativity doesn’t fade by the time I return to the US.

Last week Tobias handed small pieces of chocolate to Olivia and myself. Meanwhile, a jug of Vermont maple syrup (courtesy of Olivia) sits promisingly on the table. I commented on the fact that is was Swiss chocolate. ‘Yeah’, says Tobias, ‘from a Wwoofer – what did you bring?’ my instantaneous reply was ‘sunshine’. Jokingly. But really, what is more Floridian? Oranges and tacky gifts, perhaps. But I doubted the oranges would pass customs, and tacky gifts are against my honor. Anyways, despite my clearly jesting intentions, that statement has proven unfortunately true. The sun has been persistent, and the heat, at least in the polytunnels, is the essence of misery. Olivia has acquired a slight sunburn. In Ireland. Who knew?! And here I thought I was escaping oppressive heat (my grandma is so impressed with that term that I’ve coined: ‘oppressive heat’. She uses it as often as possible. This one is for her). So much for being the weather goddess of Ireland, sheesh! Fortunately the cold, grey, rainy weather is expected to return soon.

Mostly I’ve been spending my time gardening, but this past week I did get to assist with making both bath milk and pesto. There is a lot of harvesting and packaging to be done for the weekend markets. I haven’t been yet, but next week I am meant to go along at least to Limerick. My official, consistent duties are caring for the chickens and the coriander. Everything else is subject to change.

My weekends have lacked the motivation for proper exploring, but both Olivia and myself are ready to seek adventure from now on. We’ve done just a bit of exploring the area by foot.

Finian baked a chocolate beetroot cake for us. Yes, you read that correctly. Not only that, but he gave us each spoonfuls of batter while he was preparing it. What a lovely boy! It was a wonderfully moist and chocolatey concoction which we enjoyed over…Cirque Du Soleil! I have extended a permanent invitation for Finian to become a guest or resident baker at my bed & breakfast/cafe/whatever.

Great news! I will almost certainly, likely, probably, maybe (hopefully) not be deported during this six month trip! I’ve finally been able to find a definitive, non-confusing, non-contradictory answer to what exactly the rules are, and it seems as though everything is planned out pretty perfectly as far as the law is concerned. So that’s, you know, anxiety-allaying. Here’s to hoping it actually holds true.

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just backspace until there is nothing left

This morning started off (after a delightful bowl of muesli, that is) with me crouching near bee boxes and observing them buzz about their lives. It was a morning of reveling – in the warmth of the generous rays of sun, in the dull hum of apiary activity, in the hoodie-requiring weather, and in the sweet earthy scents you find when you take time to lower yourself nearer to the ground. What an uneventfully fantastic moment of life.

It got me thinking.

The most difficult thing I’ve ever done is learn to exist outside of busyness. After dropping out of school and not having a job, I had a lot of unoccupied time on my hands. At first I frantically grasped for volunteer positions and anything else that would be a respectable use of my time. I felt an intense need to be able to justify how I spent every moment of every day. I wasn’t doing anything constructive, my life was useless. That was my mindset. But simultaneously, I couldn’t help but feel that there must be occupations besides work and school that are meaningful and good. In fact, I was sure of it. And so I discontinued the hunt for a socially accepted noble use of my time. It is such a counter cultural thing to refuse to fill your schedule with important activities, and I found that difficult to deal with (despite my almost inability to handle following the norm. However, I am also intrinsically a people pleaser, and in this instance these two characteristics were highly contradictory).

Concurrent with all of these contemplations, I was getting very involved in an incredible group of young people in Orlando. My roommates and I were hosting weekly movie/game nights and I took the responsibility of filling people’s stomachs when they filled our apartment. Initially I made things like lasagna and chicken pot pie – things my mom had been making for forever. Group dishes. Easy dishes. But soon my imagination took off. I decided what I wanted to make, and the logistics followed. I became adept at buying the correct amount of groceries, making an appropriate quantity of food, getting everything prepared at the proper time, and dealing with the inevitable problems that arise with cooking, and especially with cooking for multitudes. All of this is highly applicable to want I want to do in life. All of this is highly applicable to what I do.

It just so happened that when I found myself devoid of structured lessons, I became a seeker of learning. My way of intaking information transformed easily to an experiential method. I reckon I became unentangled from a common net of learning what you are taught to learn and overlooking the rest. I by no means think that my choices are the best for everyone, but I am immensely satisfied to have taken that plunge myself. As for using my time in an appropriate manner, I began to realize that most of us (yes, myself included) fail continually in that. And being busy doesn’t solve the problem, but merely masks it. As I heard it put recently:

“The irony is that busy-ness is often a sign of sloth. Constantly pursuing the urgent rather than the important.”

So anyways, you are probably wondering about the purpose of this tangent based on my life two years ago. Well, I’m a twenty-two year old unemployed, homeless, college dropout. None of those are normally positive life situations, but therein lies my point. It’s a spring Sunday in Ireland, and I feel so full of life. I’m grateful for my past, proud of my present, and endlessly hopeful for my future. But I don’t have a lot of the qualifications for being a ‘successful human being’. Why not?

I have some money, food in my stomach (muesli, at that!), numerous places to call home, an incredible network of caring individuals, and a fully functioning mind and body. I am well mannered, well spoken, well traveled, and well liked. I am full of joy, contentment, imagination, health, love, God, and promise. Conversely, I am pretty consistently empty of anger, stress, depression, hate, loneliness, boredom, jealousy, and discontent.

How exactly am I unsuccessful?

What in our society, what in us allows my life situation to be viewed so negatively? Why is the only fruit that we judge from a person’s life in relation to career and academics? Why is success measured only in fame and finance?

And that’s what I was thinking about this morning while watching those ever-productive bees. How I am so glad to be right where I am. The most difficult thing I’ve ever done has allowed me to find satisfaction – with no diploma and no salary – just watching bees work.

But it doesn’t end there. I am dissatisfied with the status quo attitude towards success in our society. I’ve come to terms with it, but I would imagine there are others in the frustrating position in which I found myself two years ago. So here’s the thing: it would be so much easier to differentiate between what is important and meaningful, and what is merely accepted or expected if we were to encourage others in all of their aspects of being, and not merely on what takes them towards financial prosperity. So let’s stop living life as we’ve been told, and let’s stop placing all of our importance in one segment of the life spectrum. How about we seek what is meaningful to us, and encourage others to do the same. Otherwise we can’t spend our mornings observing bees in the Irish countryside. Right? Right.

chicken porn

I apologize for the title, I really do. But it’s irrevocable.

I knew just a few things:
•my host is Tobias and he does wonderfully interesting things with his life.
•he has two youngish sons.
•there will be one other Wwoofer present during my stay.
•location: Co. Clare

Allow me to expound for you what has been expounded for me in the past two days.

Tobias is originally from Germany, but spent a good deal of his life moving about. He has an Irish accent with just an undertone of German. His sons are Finian and Lucas, twelve and ten respectively. I wondered how it would be, seeing as it has taken twenty-two years for my age to catch up to me (and Kylie says that is debatable yet), and typically children and I don’t bother much with interaction. But I am thoroughly taken with these two. Finian is one of the most creatively motivated individuals I’ve encountered (ever met a twelve-year-old who made a nut and currant tort just because?), and Lucas has an infectiously lively spirit. I’m genuinely excited to hang out with them. My co-Wwoofer is Olivia of Vermont. Let me state a few facts about her, and you can guess whether or not we get on well. Olivia loves the outdoors, the cold, and tea. She’s a recent high school graduate who has no intention of going to university. She dislikes cell phones. Yeahhh…typically while traveling, US citizens are honestly the last people I want to encounter (I legitimately avoid them – I simply prefer to be immersed in foreigncy), but, I’ll take Olivia. In fact, all of the US Wwoofers I’ve met have been slowly changing this stance.

Tuamgraney is one of the lovelier places I’ve been. Nothing compares to the magnificence of Cape, but, for not being a tiny island off the coast of Ireland, Tuamgraney is nice. This weekend Olivia and I are heading into town for the Saint Patrick’s Day parade and whatever other miscellaneous festivities we stumble upon. I’m excited to see the rest of the area.

It has been so satisfying getting back into farm work. Today I weeded a polytunnel during a pretty serious rain. Rain falling on taut plastic is so pleasant. I couldn’t imagine more relaxing work. Maybe being a yoga instructor, but probably not even then. I’ve done a good bit of harvesting already. I’ve also taken the title of slug assassin. Seriously. Olivia and I are charged with the task of slug massacres. Have you ever cut a slug in half? The goo that oozes out looks like something from an unbearably cheesy 90’s horror film.

The weather is great. As much as I appreciated my time back in Florida, I do not miss the weather. Duh. Being around Irish accents and terminology again is obviously wonderful. Tobias has the same peanut butter that I kept buying in Cork. He has multiple tubs. Also, since he makes tea we have a pretty fantastic selection. I had my first enjoyable encounter with echinacea (why didn’t you tell me there was a tea option, and not just an awful mouthful of awfulness option when I was little, mom?!). Anyways, everything food related has been really good, but I haven’t fully regained my appetite, which was completely lost amidst my days of traveling.

I have all weekend off, and the week start promises onion planting and hopefully preparing some herbal products. Life is mighty fine.

highfield

So I’m beginning to realize why everyone decides never to return to the same place. The first twenty-four hours of my re-entry into Ireland were far less lovely and magical than my previous experience. But that’s getting ahead of myself.

“Life is happening and it’s weird.”

My words, on the way to the airport. Planning is an odd phenomenon. You imagine something in your head, make ‘plans’, and then sometime in the future it [ideally] occurs. Despite the fact that time has passed and you are a different person at the point of happening than you were at the point of planning. Anyways, I always find myself surprised when planned events actually get underway.

Thank Jesus (I sure did), the two seats beside me on the airplane were empty. Do you know what that means? I actually got to sleep! On an airplane! How novel! I ate, watched My Week with Marilyn (thank you, Eddie Redmayne, for gracing the presence of cinema), slept for four hours, ate again, and it was over. I don’t really know how that works, as the trip was supposedly eight hours…but I’ll take it. Flights seeming really short are nothing to complain about!

London gave me no trouble landing, but Ireland was less than thrilled about my return. Weren’t you just here? Why don’t you have a return ticket? I’ll give you two months! Basically that’s how it went down. This was not the friendly, grandfatherly immigration officer I encountered last time. Dear Cork, I so prefer you (sorry Neil, but not really.) Soo, my onward travel is still questionable. Surprise.

I meant to hitch from Dublin to Tuamgraney (where my host lives), but that was rather unsuccessful. After two hours of attempt (including loads of conflicting advice and directions), I decided being considerate to my host and arriving on the correct day was more important than not wasting money on a bus ticket. So I took what was supposed to be a ‘two hour’ and ‘fourteen euro round trip’ bus trip (as informed by bus employees of two separate bus lines), but ended up being a five hour and twenty euro one way bus trip. And this only to Limerick, where I was meant to catch a connecting bus to Tuamgraney. Mmm, nope. Sorry, no more connections tonight. So much for consideracy.

And thus I was stuck in Limerick, what I have consistently been told is the sketchiest part of Ireland. Lovely. I managed to find a McDonald’s (where a charming Limerick Boy (the likes of which I’ve also been warned about) asked for my number, and when I declined, asked if I would kiss him.) and Skype my host, whose name is Tobias, by the way, so I can stop saying ‘my host’. I immediately joined the Limerick group on couchsurfing and posted an emergency couch request. This request was answered, but unfortunately not until after I left McD’s, and consequently my internet connection. A kind patron of said fine dining pointed me in the direction I would need to go in the morning in order to hitchhike (the bus I needed didn’t leave until late afternoon), and potentially a few hostels as well. Despite walking a very long distance I encountered no hostels, only upscale hotels which I glanced at longingly with sleep-deprived eyes. I became certain there would be no hostel ahead, and I would have rather fought a grizzly than make the trek back into town. Out of lack of sleep, food, and water for the past forever…I made a decision which I’m not exactly proud of. I started looking for a hidden place to sleep. I ended up choosing a spot between a high wall and a ficus with a few branchy trees in between. Since there are no snakes nor giant terrifying animals in the area, and since I was entirely invisible to beings lacking infrared vision and an extremely keen sense of smell – I set up camp under a red-leaved tree. I had a sleeping bag, so I stayed surprisingly warm in the thirty degree weather. But admittedly I slept terribly. I was indeed concerned for my safety (you’re not the only ones, mom and dad!). I ‘went to bed’ at 9pm, and ‘woke up’ at 5am.

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The following day was hardly more successful than the previous. Hitching again failed because the kind McDonalds lady gave me terrible directions (I was warned about getting hitching advice from non-hitchers). So I trudged the still-long walk back to An Lar (Irish for city center) and headed for the bus station. Which I had difficulty finding. Mainly because I asked four different people for directions, and all of them had different answers. Limericks are terrible at giving directions. No offense to those hailing from Limerick, or have loved ones from there. But it’s so true. Anyways, I finally made it. And while I was impressed with their electric wooden sliding doors, I was unimpressed with paying for another ticket and having to wait for five hours to leave. But, there’s life for you. The important part is that I made it. And I wasn’t killed or mugged or anything in the process.

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they can fly anywhere

Despite my adoration for Ireland, after finding that I couldn’t return for the purpose of working, I was going to go to a new place. But since it turned out to be far more practical, and since I do adore Ireland, and since I found a Wwoof host that does something that I really want to learn, I am indeed returning. My upcoming Wwoof host makes tea, he makes oils and other herbal products, he has bees.

I. Am. So. Excited.

This is such a me experience. The bees were unexpected. Initially my host, Tobias, only allotted me two and a half weeks due to other Wwoofers. But, after some back and forth communication, he wrote and said, “by the way, you can stay long enough to become an expert on the subject, and I’m also going to fulfill your longtime desire of working with bees, and you just won a million dollars and a lifetime supply of anti-freeze.” Actually what he said was more like, “by the way, the-inconvenience-to-you-Wwoofer is no longer coming and there is work with bees if you are interested.”

Yes. Why, yes I am interested.

Bees. Herbal Products. Gardening. Ireland. God is so cool.

Following my furthering education/hippieish development/Wwoofing, begins the birthright trip. I have wanted to go backpacking through Europe ever since I can remember. Apparently I never actually consciously expected it to happen. And yet, I have a plane ticket, a strategically packed backpack, fellow journeyers and a skeleton of a plan. The itinerary is as follows:

Ireland >; Scotland >; Wales >; England >; Belgium >; Netherlands >; Luxembourg >; France >; Switzerland >; Germany >; Austria >; Czech Republic >; Poland >; Germany (again) >; Denmark >; Sweden >; Norway.

Sixteen countries in one hundred and twelve days.

We’ll be couchsurfing and hitchhiking, so we’ll be meeting loads of awesome people and also not spending thousands of extra dollars. Euros. Pounds. Whatever. We have potential hosts bookmarked for all of our cities, we have some activities planned, and location-specific food in mind. Despite our quickly accomplished extensiveish planning, I rather expect this trip will be nothing like any of us imagine. And I kind of hope that’s true. During my most recent travels, as a reminder to myself and [invisible] advice to others, I wrote:

“Be overly open to unplanned experiences. Your plans are probably inferior to how life happens naturally.”

Living intentionally is great, it is important. But in the end I am a limited speck of a being, and there is a whole world competing for attention. Why focus solely on my own point of view? I hope we get to all of the places on our itinerary, and I hope we get to do all of the things, and eat all of the foods, but I am thoroughly ecstatic about the unexpected ventures of randomness.

So far my specific aspirations for the trip are as follows:

-stay with a first time CS host
-eat pizza in every country
-experience an Irish lock-in (but really this time)
-camp under the stars
-photobomb people at three major tourist attractions
-find a geocache
-wash my clothes in a stream