Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jayadeva, in Gitagovinda

Barbara Stoler Miller writes in her introduction of Jayadeva's Gitagovinda that "the lyrical techniques of Jayadeva’s songs combine with the conventional language of Sanskrit erotic poetry to express the intimate power of divine love."

I think I know what she's talking about; the following is from the beginning of the 12th century epic love poem:

"Like a flowering creeper [Radha wandered] in the forest wilderness,
Seeking Krishna in his many haunts.
The god of love increased her ordeal,
Tormenting her with fevered thoughts,
And her friend sang to heighten the mood..."

And really, it gets much more explicit.
Indian love poetry is awesome.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

אהבה ודת

היה לי כבר את השיחה הזאת
זה לא חדש ואני מכיר טוב את הצדדים
ואפילו את התשובות
אבל כל פעם שהשיחה מגיעה, היא חוזרת עם יותר תשוקה וחשיבות
אם אין כח, אין תורה. נכון?
למה אני מתווכח אם בסוף היום זה לא למשהו יותר גדול..
וזה בעצם בוויכוח: הרגשה נגד רגש נגד הרגשה
[האם באמת יש תשובה?]


Friday, November 5, 2010

שיחה במיטה

ולמה שלא נעוף מפה?
על מה אתה מדבד?
את מבינה למה אני מתכוון: את ואני
אני אפילו לא יודעת מה שם המשפחה שלך!
אל תצחקי עליי, יש מהשהו בינינו, אני יודע שאת מרגישה את זה
אתה חמוד
אני רציני
אתה חיי בעננים
גבוהה איתך
טוב. אז לאן נעוף?
לי לא אכפת. ווניס. או מצפה רמון. רק שנהיה ביחד
חחחחה, אבל אתה עוזב מחר...
אה, זה...
אז נצטרך לעוף עכשיו
את רצינית?
אתה רציני?


Monday, October 25, 2010

Brenner's Existential Zionism

Beautiful passage from Brenner's novella, "Nerves," when the storyteller first sets eyes on the port of Jaffa in Turkish era Palestine:

"And I was forced to acknowledge once again that ancient truth that even though one 'knows' that all things are equally unimportant and ultimately even the same, one cannot, as long as one lives and breathes, ignore the differences between one man and another, one man and another, one place and another, one life and another, and one human condition and another...and that despite my intellectual awareness, I could not help feeling different emotions at different times that might be worlds apart from each other, that might sometimes be of the simplest, most humanly universal variety, and at others of the most mysteriously bizarre...because I tell you, there are mysterious combinations of circumstances in this life, my friend..."

My take:

Yosef Chaim Brenner’s 1910 novella, “Nerves,” is a reflection on his anxious excitement over the Zionist project. The reader sees that Brenner, through the eyes of the storyteller, has traveled through many diasporic lands—Ukraine, New York, London, Berlin, and Cairo, with the hopes “of finding a foothold, any hold” (p.37) in the world. However, the storyteller knows that his circumstances will never allow for him to find such a hold in the diaspora and thus yearns “for a place to call my own, which as a Jew was something I had never had” (p.37). “Nerves” is a classic conflict between head and heart: on the one hand Brenner’s intellect tells him that in the greater scheme of things, on the meta level of the existentialist, there is no such thing as a Jewish homeland—“what on earth do we and the land of Judea really have to do with each other?” (p.51)

At the same time, when Brenner’s character allows his emotions to take over, he confesses that there is something special about the Biblical homeland. As the opening passage confirms, he cannot help himself. Try as he might to deny that special connection, when he sees the Haifa shores for the first time he really does “believe in the beauty of nature…of the cosmos…of something even higher than that” (p.57). That he attempts to diminish this feeling by attributing it to his nerves shows only that his rational side is responding back due to his harsh reality as a pioneer. It is this nervous angst that causes Brenner to splice comments like those about the “bird whose Hebrew name” (p.32) was not yet known throughout the novella. They reflect the same struggle of storyteller: can the Jewish sufferer’s eternal wandering actually end with settlement in Israel? Although life in the Orient is by no means easy, the answer, of course, is unequivocally yes.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Woah, What Just Happened?

In the past two weeks, I got to the konooko (farms here are called konookos, not the Spanish word granja as one might have thought; it is a nominal Taino vestigial remain from some 500 years ago. The Taino people were the aboriginal natives who were wiped out by Columbus’ Spanish descendants a 150 years after they conquered the island). My first week I spent working muscles either never used or long forgotten and was incredibly sore and covered in heat and sweat rashes. Then after my first full week, Little Guy died. A day later Cindy’s husband, Jose, left the house at 11pm in a drunken rage with a small duffel and drove off into the night on his motorcycle. Cindy thinks this time he might have left for good. And so my second week was spent bonding with the 27 year old neighbor and day laborer Amaury by day, and helping Cindy cope with her mess of a situation by evening and night. Amaury is a hilarious slacker who is an incredibly skilled and effective worker (when he wants to be). No matter how hard I work in the month that I’m here, I will never be as good at any one farm skill Amaury has, save maybe using a rake. Like all Dominican men, he loves to sing, and we often switch off singing songs while working in the fields. Much to Cindy’s annoyance, he also likes to whistle. His whistling often sets the dogs off barking which drives Cindy mad, causing her to yell at Amaury for all of the things he was supposed to be doing, at which point he will either sulk, destroy something, or just leave. Usually the devil is name-dropped a couple of times, too (on both sides of the arguing). This cycle repeats itself throughout the week and usually the two have reconciled within a day. After all, Amaury needs work and Cindy needs help. For my end of things, I just stand and play shuttle mediator between the two as best I can because I am neither completely a worker nor the employer. As a volunteer on the farm, I even pay a minimal fee to help cover food costs. But because of my situation, sometimes the frustrations of both are unleashed on me—Amaury by cursing incomprehensibly and Cindy by venting what I must admit are a myriad number of difficult and serious problems. By the way, in the past seven minutes that I’ve been writing this, the weather has very quickly turned from hot n hazy to very dark and gray with 40+ mph gusts of wind blowing everywhere and the temperature dropping 20 degrees, oh chill.

Anyways, a bunch of Week Dos was spent clearing parts of the hilly terraces for roads and planting by bettering my machete and macheton (the difference being the rounded and wide edge on the macheton—think Alladin’s little sword), pick, and axe skills. Let me say that using the tripartite combo of pick, axe, and macheton to take out a tree and its much harder to get out root system is f’ing awesome. Weather update: joining the wind is the heavy sleeting rain now, it’s white outside! And my view of the ocean for the first time here looks like the Atlantic Ocean I know: cold, wavy and dark blue, not the light blue and green Caribbean stuff I’ve been looking at for so long. It’s rained hard since I’ve been on the konooko, but never this loud or for this long. Cindy just shouted from the room next door, “Well it’s more than 40mph now!” Shit yeah it is. This past week, I also worked in the pineapple area and got nicked up real good by the plants there, and had an adventure walking through the village to Amaury’s father’s konooko so we could get some banana saplings and plant em on the farm. In high school, Toby, Creight, other people at different times, and I would often sit in corners of the school and just shoot the breeze in peace and quiet. Kup called this The Lime. Walking through that village I immediately thought of the Maimo boys because I saw several generations of Limers chilling together outside their houses with nothing on their minds. [The pessimist and realist in me interposed here and yelled that they are sitting there because they have no work because there is no work. This is the sad and simple truth of the matter, but I was in a good mood so I chose to think happy thoughts of high school instead.] Nothing else significant to report on the farm end except that I am improving daily the necessary skill of opening coconuts with a machete or macheton. When the locals stop laughing at my attempts to open them then I’ll know I’ve really gotten somewhere.

Two weeks in was supposed to be my halfway point, but an internship opportunity back on campus was thrown my way and to apply and take it, I’d have to come back earlier than my original flight in order to attend a training institute at WashU. Then to change the flight would be pretty expensive at the dates I would have wanted to come home, so now I am coming home even earlier on July 29th at only a relatively exorbitant price change fee. Instead of staying here a little over a month, in the end it will be a little under a month, and thus all of a sudden I only have ten days left on the farm. Just as I’m getting into the groove of many things that have happened on the konooko so far, it’s kinda like, ‘Woah, what just happened?’

I am alright with it because it will allow me to live a little more comfortably as the trip winds down. That is to say, I will be able to buy a couple things in town and go out once, mayyybe twice and mayyybe return home with $40 or $50 bucks to my name instead of $5. The storm has passed (Cindy said that this is just the beginning of hurricane season and what just came through was nothing), and though it is still lightly raining, a beautiful rainbow just appeared on the water. And with that I’m out.

Shavuah tov, Jonah

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

R.I.P., Lil Guy

Two days ago, one of the 8 dogs (named Little Guy because he was the youngest, smallest, and skinniest of the bunch) passed away after two plus days of looking/being horribly sick.

I spent my second Sunday on the farm going back and forth from reading Anna Karenina and holding Lil Guy and helping Cindy administer IV injections and shots to try to help him out.

And then for a couple hours he was just groaning, lying under Cindy's bed (I could hear him from the next room over).

After he died at 4 or so in the afternoon, Cindy and I found a piece of soil that wasn't too rocky and dug a grave and buried him with the other 7 dogs just sitting there watching. It was a pretty shitty afternoon and really the worst part was just holding him when I could feel all of his bones because he hadn't eaten anything in days and that feeling of helplessness because there really was not much we could do (no way to diagnose what he had, no vet around, and even if there was one--no money for a vet).

Dunno this is not a real thought out and formulated post, but I thought I should post in his memory both because even though I only knew him for a week he was really cute and I guess it was definitely an isolated on a farm type of experience...

Say, What’s that Song Called?

Dominican men love to sing.

I first noticed this when good ol Charlie picked me up at the Punta Cana airport and after a couple minutes of conversation started singing to the radio’s tune. But it wasn’t only Charlie. In nearly every situation I have been in this country, there has been a singing man involved. At the resort in Punta Cana, the waiters at breakfast would always be singing (or rapping) love songs (or dirty lyrics) to the ladies at the table. At night when the workers were off and I would occasionally join some of the guys by their trailers for a couple hours of dominoes, often the only noises one could hear were the slamming of the dominoes on the table (I loved this) and the radio playing some bachata. But the silence would only last for so long because someone would start singing along. When our group stopped at a church in Higuey one of the security guards was just sitting there singing. Ditto with the policeman on horse in Santo Domingo who I heard when the cab Ebs, Cita, and I were in stopped at a traffic light our first night. Or how about that bus from Veron to Santo Domingo with the 6 drunk kids in the way back hollering to the songs on the radio (yes, there is always music playing on public transportation in this country which I think is pretty awesome) and shouting at the driver when he changed the station and eventually turned it off because they were so loud (a big dude from the front of the bus gave em a bit of a talking to). And the guys sitting next to me in the guagua from S.D. to Samana who every so often started crooning for everyone to hear. Or Cita’s friend of a friend of a friend at a quiet moment in during dinner, or Leonel and Amaury the two neighbors who work as day laborers for Cindy and Jose start singing bachata or merengue (but never ever reggaeton) and so on and so on. It seriously must be in their blood something. I mean if all Liben men dance (and trust me, we do), then all Dominican men sing.

A Catalan 4th of July

On my first morning (after being woken up super early by everything around me), Cindy told me over coffee that since it was Sunday there was no work. My official work schedule was to comprise of Monday-Fridays from 8am-noon, and then from 2-4pm. Pretty reasonable in my mind. After messing around watering some plants for a couple of hours, we went to David and Marta’s house for Marta’s 33rd birthday party. Marta is smart and beautiful. David and Marta are from Catalan, Spain, and are in the town of Las Galeras (about a ten minute motorcycle ride from the farm) trying to open a hotel—more on foreign (wealthy) people trying to make money in this country to come soon. Speak to David for a mere 30 seconds, and they’re not from Spain. No no, Catalan. [A sentence on Catalan as explained a few weeks prior by my Spanish friend Lisa: it has its own language, history, culture, etc., and under the dictatorship was suppressed. Now there is an uber conscious effort from the current government in Spain to appreciate everything Catalan not as worse, but as different and also part of the Spanish cultural, historical, and current fabric.] It should secede, David says after introducing himself and offering a round of martinis (at 12:45 in the afternoon; yep, it’s gonna be that sort of day...). Everything good about Spain is actually from Catalan. I’m from New York? An incredible city says he, but from where are its best chefs? Catalan. The famous modernist architect Gaudi? From Catalan. Conceding that I’ve never been, he runs excitedly into the house (we’re on the patio) and returns with a coffee table book of Catalan filled with indeed beautiful imagery. He later brought out more books of Catalan, too—one filled with pictures from the castle he built (I repeat, a castle he built), and one of Gaudi’s work. I tell David and his 20 year old son (from his first marriage) all that I really know about Catalan and Spain—that half of the national Spanish world cup squad is from Catalan to which David literally jumps with joy repeats it to Marta. It didn’t matter what I said the rest of the day because boy did win them over with that comment! [This too I knew this courtesy of Lisa so mad props there] While Cindy and I are scanning through it and Jose is starting up the grill, David informs us of a tradition ‘typical in any Catalan household,’ namely pouring whatever alcohol happens to be in a jug (called something awesome but I am forgetting now) from as far as one can into one’s mouth without spilling. A drinking game, hurrah! He passes the jug around the table and while he and his son are quite deft at it, the rest of us are a bit more cautious and sloppy. He repeated this process of jug passing every time new guests came, and I started to get quite good at it :)

Highlights of the afternoon: getting drunk with all the guests, eating great bbq’ed food, getting taught yet another drinking trick by an 80 year old grandpa from Las Galeras, and sounding off 3 different national anthems and 3 rounds of happy birthday.

Now, I noted previously that David and Marta are here for business. Las Galeras has a gorgeous beach that has not really yet been tapped by tourists. If one couldn’t tell by now, David also has a bit of money, to say the least. However, he is pretty frustrated because since he’s been here people have been ripping him off left and right, and the money simply isn’t where it used to be. And time is going by and he is still getting ripped off. And he is obviously a fluent Spanish speaker and a businessman. But, because he is not Dominican it doesn’t matter. As a non-native, it’s like he has a big ‘Gringo’ tattooed on his forehead. Cindy has explicitly stated similar stories time and time again and similar frustrations because she, too, is going broke here. Well, when the incoming mayor of Las Galeras (term starts in August) and his two pals showed up (invited? Uninvited? Unclear) and were given ample food and liquor, David’s already quite toasted Dario, also a Spaniard and hotel hopeful (although Dario is doing everything completely illegally—starting with the land purchase, the walls he’s putting up around his property, the sewage that will flow right into the ocean and so on) and David started railing to the politicians about how it was all unfair, etc. etc.

The point of this side story is simple. My friend Paola complained sometime back about how she hated being treated like a gringa even though her mom is Cuban and she speaks a real good Spanish. She found it offensive and could not believe that as a fellow Spanish speaker she’d be treated like the rest of us kids from the U.S. Apparently, if you’re not Dominican, good luck. Well Paolacita, I hate to say it but I (and really Becca) told ya so.

A second and final anecdote I learned that afternoon that also came from a side discussion about how us gringos always get swindled. Once Marta told a frustrated Cindy that there is one important thing to remember about Dominicans: the men are thieves and women are prostitutes. Lemme tell you, after personally getting robbed in Miches a few weeks ago by some punk with a knife and after seeing enough local bars and joints where the literally all of the women are ‘working,’ I’m starting to think Marta was on to something!

Definitely an entertaining 4th.

Getting to the Farm, and some other things

After Ebs and Cita (dreamily thought about trying for a threesome; a concept that I and probably many a men have oft thought about, probably never gonna happen in my life) both left Santo Domingo for the States, I took a cab to a guagua station and hopped on a 4 hour guagua to the town of Samana not coincidentally on the Samana Peninsula, i.e. the north eastern coast of the country with beautiful beaches, poverty, resorts, motorcycles, and gorgeous green scenery all mixed together. Well to be honest a lot of the country can be described that way...Anyways, from Samana I sat on back of a pickup truck guagua headed toward Las Galeras and since the driver knew the family I was going to, he volunteered to take me all the way to the farm in a little village called Manuel Chiquito himself.

[Important side note: What is a guagua, you ask? Guaguas actually describe many things in this country. For example, like a Sherut in Israel, it can be an intra or intercity mini bus that takes 15-25 people around to general areas and make personalized stops along the way. If it's an intercity guagua, it will be slightly bigger and will take you potentially quite far--like the one I took from Santo Domingo to Samana. If it's intra-city, it's probably a van with an always-open door and some guy hanging out always hollering at walkers by to jump in and go wherever it happens to be heading. If my Spanish was good, then I would love to explore Santo Domingo via guagua routes...

So primary guagua meaning: intra or inner city mini bus that makes personal stops on the way to a planned destination. However, I have also heard it defined as a true bus (like when Elena's fam, Ebs, Cita, and I took a bus from Veron to Santo Domingo and a local gal in the city still called it a guagua even though it was a chartered bus) and even as a guy in a pickup truck or sedan driving as many people as he can stuff into his car around town (like the ones Ebs and I took in Caberete or the guy, Lazaro, who took me to the farm when I got to Samana). Good. With that said..]

I arrived at Cindy and Jose's home and farm at dusk on July 3rd and was greeted with the barks and howls of lord knows how many dogs. Actually, there are eight, and their names are: Mimi, Annie, Shiro, M.T., Sherman, Brahma, Reina, and Little Guy. There are also 3 adult cats (Cinco, Xana, and Leo) and Xana’s 3 babies; the cats are quite anti-social compared to the dogs. Jose was in town drinking with some buddies so Cindy welcomed me by her lonesome with some beer and a curried rice n potato dinner she was just putting back in her fridge. To be honest, she had no idea I was coming as she had not checked her email in some two and a half weeks because it was down for a while, and on my end I had no idea what the response would be when I showed up because she wasn't responding to my emails and her farm was my only plan so I was definitely apprehensive. But she was just like yeah, I figured you might show up last week or this week, and if not then I'd figure that you just weren't coming. Alright, in the game!

After eating and chatting with Cindy and the recently arrived Jose, they helped me set up my air mattress on sofa frame and mosquito net, gave me a couple of sheets and a pillow, and I passed out until the dogs started barking in the middle of the night. And then I fell asleep until they woke me up. And then I fell asleep until the night’s heat woke me up. And then the dawn’s light woke me up. And then the dogs started moving around and eventually barking and then Sherman started jumping on my bed to play with me through the mosquito net and then, yes, it was 7:30am on a Sunday morning and I was wide awake for my first day in my new 'home'...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Gil Troy's Jerusalem Post blog entry is almost hammer and nail how I argue my view on campus.

Indeed, in my opinion being Pro-Palestinian and Pro-Zionist is a good thing!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Serious Man?

מה זה להיות בן אדם רציני?

היתה תקופה שהייתי יושב עם הכל החברה באחורי האוטובוס..יושב ומטפנן ומסטלבת בלי רצינות או כבדות, רק צחוקים. לא יודע מתי התחלתי להפוך את התנהגותי או אם זה אפילו היה משהו שהתכוונתי לעשות. אבל בפעמים האחרונות פתאום לא הרגשתי את הצורך או הרצון לשבת איתם ולדבר על כלום. ת'אמת היא שלא אכפת לי כל כך לדבר על שטויות.

אבל זה רק חצי מהסיפור. בצד אחד, בא לי לשבת לבד ולקרוא ספרות או מאמרים אקדאמים שקשורים למזרח תיכון ..יש באמת רגש שאני מבזבז ת'זמן שלי, שחלאס, הגעתי לתקופה שאני כבר לא ילד--שאני גם צריך וגם רוצה ללמוד כדי להיות בן אדם אם השכלה רחבה. בצד שני, אני עדיין גבד שעדיין רוצה להתמזמז עם בחורות.

אז הסיכסוך? למצוא את הבחורה שרואה אותי כאיש אינטלגנטי (היא גם חייבת להיות אינטליגנטית כמובן) שמוכנה לקבל אותי אם רצינותי, וגם רוצה לעשות חיים. יום אחד, אמצא אותה: נקרא ספרים בימים ונצא בלילות...או... אם אני באמת בן אדם רציני, נקרא בלילות גם

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tweet Me Do

I am now on twitter, check it out if that's your style:

Jonah's Twitter Page

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One Day...

...I'll find it in me to write a gem like this little Buena Vista Social Club ditty:

Dos Gardenias

Dos gardenias para ti
con ellas quiero decir
te quiero, te adoro, mi vida.
Ponles toda tu atencion
porque son tu corazon y el mio.

Dos gardenias para ti
que tendran todo el calor de un beso
de esos que te di
y que jamas encontraras
en el calor de otro querer.

A tu lado viviran y te hablaran
como cuando estas conmigo
y hasta creeras
que te diran te quiero.

Pero si un atardecer
las gardenias de mi amor se mueren
es porque han adivinado
que tu amor se ha marchitado
porque existe otro querer.

Dos gardenias...para t

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Today's NY Times Op-Ed by Thomas Friedman is for the most part right on.

It is worthwhile to discuss for a moment his anecdote regarding over-association. People who do not live in/are not from a region and who have no ties to there political situation there, yet also seek to be politically active and liberal often attach themselves to hot-button topics. Don't get me wrong, activism as a principle is extremely important. However, it frequently occurs that some of these activists tend to over attach or associate with one side, leading in turn to extreme views on a topic that tend to be far removed from facts on the ground. I see this all over my college campus, I see it in Israel, and I see it in Palestine. It's very annoying.

The one caveat I would add here is that Friedman conflates American Jewish donors who fund settlement activity with the over-associaters of the U.S. and Europe. While I cannot justify settlement building on what will be a future Palestinian state, there is a definite distinction to be made between religiously motivated right wing moves and extremist left wing liberalism based on chic social trends (everyone knows it's cool to hate Israel, right?) and over-association. Again, although they shouldn't be confused and meshed into one, Friedman is correct that they both often do fuel the worst of both sides--a shame indeed...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Post Flotilla

I have been all over the web over the past few days trying to form an articulate opinion of what went down with the so called Gaza Freedom Flotilla. As most of you know by now, there were 6 boats with some 8oo "activists" heading from the Mediterranean Sea to Gaza with humanitarian aid. Some of these people had pure intentions, namely to deliver basic goods to the citizens of Gaza. However, I write activists in quotes because it is clear from video footage that many of the people on board the biggest ship had sinister, premeditated intentions.

The actions of the militant activists put Israel in a lose-lose situation. As I wrote to Max Finder a couple of days ago: On the one hand, I don't think anybody on the Israeli side wanted to get on that boat, and definitely not in the middle of the night. On the other hand, there was a period of a few hours where the Israeli Navy was contacting the boats telling them not to go to Gaza, that the goods could be processed through legal ways via Israel or Egypt and more. In essence, Israel gave the people on the boat every opportunity to safely deliver the humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. 5 of the 6 boats acquiesced and docked safely in Ashdod, while the infamous 6th one continued heading toward Gaza in the late hours of the night, eventually just stopped responding to the Navy, and all the while had a coordinated a plan of attack for what they knew they were forcing--an Israeli takeover of the ship.

P.R. wise it well done: everyone knows that Israel is never going to win a public relations battle, ever. Obviously it is extremely a) sad that lives were lost and b) frustrating that the whole thing was such a debacle from the get go, but I'm not so sure Israel was in the wrong by commandeering the boat as a last possible option...

Thus, my take on the situation from here on out. I tend to err on the side of Dershowitz when it comes to anything legal: I do truly believe Israel was within its international rights to act the way it did, when it did, in order to enforce the blockade. Indeed, it was not until the soldiers were attacked with knives and metal rods, that pistols were stolen off the soldiers and used to shoot at the soldiers with intent to kill that the Israelis moved from paint-ball guns to live ammunition. Legally speaking, I think Israel will be fine.

Regarding the blockade and what it could mean for Israel's future, check out Haaretz editor Aluf Benn's article. I can't say I've been a big Haaretz reader in the past couple of years, but I agree with almost everything he says because he, unlike most of the other articles written surrounding the topic, writes constructively and most of the time practically. Benn essentially argues that the blockade has not worked. Terrorist regime Hamas is still in complete control of the Strip and has shown no sign of weakening; a new generation of Gazan citizens is growing up to hate Israel (instead of Hamas) because of the despicable hate education Hamas spews, but also because their government blames everything that goes wrong in Gaza, everything they have promised to provide but failed to, on the Israeli blockade.

Benn's proposed solution? Israel should complete the disengagement it began in Summer 2005. It should keep its borders sealed with Gaza and seal them high and wide, it should cut all ties the two countries share (he specifically alludes to target dates for electric, water, and currency severs), and let Gaza freely get its resources via Egypt and sea trade. If the rockets start coming again, and yes they will probably start coming again once Hamas can easily get more weapons in through their newly eased trade routes, Israel will at first show restraint. Israel will be prudent and for a time not respond. Acting completely out of their own volition as the democratically elected government of the people of Gaza, Hamas will be given a true chance to present itself to its people and to the international stage. If they prove themselves to be friendly after all, then no one will be happier than its peace loving neighbors in Israel. However, if they choose to continue to attack Israel's citizens with rockets and terrorist attacks, Israel will have international support if they need to responsively attack the sovereign entity of Gaza. Hamas will finally have run out of excuses to blame Israel, and so will the world.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


After hitting up the happy hour on Playa Blanca from 6-7:30pm and dinner back in Punta Cana at 8:15, Lisa, Amital, Eric, Pat, and I were walking back to the Fundacion in a jolly good mood. No quiz in the morning, great meal, high spirits after the happy hour (pun intended), etc. Often when taking the ten and a half minute walk from the Fundacion to La Tortuguita and back, we spot several resort workers loudly jeering and playing a game with each other by the worker's trailers. One of us usually remarks, 'hey we should go hang out with them and see what they're up to, it always sounds like they're having such a fun time,' and after tonight's usual blase comment, I just started walking over there cause let's be honest what else were we gonna do at that hour? With Pat and Eric by my side, the three of us strolled over to the lit tent and amiably introduced ourselves: Patricio, Eric, y Pepe. There were 5 men, 4 of whom were sitting around a table playing Dominoes and the 5th sitting by their side with a pad and pen keeping tally for the others. We pulled up chairs and watched.

To be perfectly frank, I do not know the rules of Dominoes. But after after drunkenly watching Miguel, Juan, Naranja, and Charlie duke it out for 15 minutes, I started to learn.

Miguel I vaguely recognized from around the resort, but Juan and Naranja I had never seen before. I have no idea what Naranja's real name was--he told me once while introducing himself and I promptly forgot. Naranja sported an orange shirt that covered half his belly. Because I forgot his name but was constantly seeing his round, orange peel covered belly, I called him Naranja the rest of the night. Unclear whether he understood this at all. The 4th and final player at the table was my main man Charlie, the 35 year old braces rocking Punta Cana shuttle van driver who picked me up from the airport my first day and gave me my first tour of the resort on the way to the Fundacion. I secretly rooted for Charlie to win every game. And if not Charlie then Naranja.

The rules of Dominoes, still not completely clear to me, are generally quite simple. Each player has seven dominoes, and going in counterclockwise order, each player tries to get rid of his dominoes by playing them on a table--first one out of dominoes wins. For example, after the first game, taken by Miguel, was completed, Eric and I jumped on the table. I had the unfortunate position of following Miguel, who often won rounds and thus started the next ones. Miguel would put down his domino of choice, for example a 4:4. I then had to put down a domino that had a 4 as one of its numbers, too. Very simple. If I couldn't go, I checked and it went to the next person until someone won. After a few rounds, some things became pretty clear to me strategy wise, like trying to get rid of your double numbered dominoes early because they are less valuable odds wise. Other things remained quite murky, which I attribute to the language barrier. Anyways, I never won even a single round. Some guy who came up and peeped a few rounds said it best, "Yu nee to play evry day to be goo, amigo."

And he's right. By the end of this trip, I will be good. Nay, I will dominate Dominoes. Miguel and Naranja better watch their backs.

In the meantime, I get up in 6+ hours to prepare the soil for 4 different batches of lettuce I will be planting in the next couple of days. Yes, believe it or not I am working and researching and experimenting for my personal project, too. More to come on this soon, I promise. In the meantime just think liquid compost and lettuce.

Mucho ahava,

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Night in Veron

After our first week of classes in the Fundacion Ecologica Punta Cana, much of the crew was feeling varying degrees of anciness ranging from 'let's go to the mini-mall and get Wendy's' to 'We're gonna pregame in the common room, then hit the happy hour at Playa Blanca, and from there hit the clubs,' and everything in between.

8 of our lil group of 12 decided while en route to the mini-mall in the free resort shuttle to have the driver take us to Veron, the closest town next to Punta Cana. It's too small to be on google maps which already makes it legit. For a small fee he'll take us to a bar he says is legit by the locals' standards and everyone agrees to go for it.

After several minutes of driving on Veron's main street, passing innumerable mini-marts all blasting either bachata, merengue, or salsa and one dope looking Harlem style lit up Basketball court along the way, he drops us off at Veron Tropical. Immediately a waiter whisks us over to a table. I was very down with the looks of the place. Open area but with a thatch covered roof, lots of tables all surrounding the nice dance floor in the middle, some strobe lights and a smoke machine..and yes, lot's of beautiful women. I should mention that of the 8 of us, Patrick and I were the only male reps (seen in picture above, waiting in Punta Cana for the shuttle to show up). We all sit down at our table and I order a Presidente (THE Dominican beer), Pat orders a vodka cranberry, and the waiter comes back with 3 tall boy Presidentes, a handle of Absolut, and a small oceanspray cranberry juice. Naturally the men were ordering for the whole table, how silly of us to forget this!

Looking around, I was catching the eyes of a few of these local ladies. And they were smiling right at me. Add to the fact that the Celtics were looking real good against Orlando on the slightly banged up big screen tv and the night looked pretty promising. So as I'm drinking my beer and assessing the situation of the dance floor and watching the C's pour it on the Magic, I'm getting pumped up and start a conversation with a dude who works there who was also watching the game. Pierce hit a dagger three so I was talking my man The Truth up to this dude. The guy is more interested in the ladies Pat and I are sitting with and wants to know which of them is my wife. I say 'nah man I have no wife, no lady friend. Pretty single. Como se dice single?' Libre, he says. 'Word, soy libre. Viva la revolucion!' And we both give a fist pump in the air. I ask him how many of the ladies in the bar/dance hall/club he thinks are libre, and this is where I hit reality. He shakes his head and says, "no, no..por dinero." And lemme tell ya, reality bites. We're in a de facto whore house. All the women in the place. Oh, man! And here I am thinking that a few of these women are giving me looks and smiles because I'm fresh blood in small town Veron, because I'm a silly gringo, because who knows why. But now it all makes sense--these girls are interested in one thing and one thing only, mi dinero..caramba!

I guess it was good that I found out sooner rather than later. On one level, a man's ego should never get too high--it's not healthy. So it put me right back down on earth to realize these ladies didn't like me for me. On a much more practical level, though, it probably saved me from some possible trouble because I undoubtedly would have tried dancing with one of the mistresses and there's no way things would have ended well. With my newly acquired knowledge and dashed hopes of getting to know the locals in a more naive and honest way, I still decided to dance with one the women who had been eying me. After all, I figured, I am finally in a real situation to try some latin dancing and I have nothing to lose because I'm a silly white boy in a whorehouse who can't really keep up either way, so what the hell? I tell the woman, "no puede bailar por que soy gringo de estados unidos, ensename a bailar por favor!" We dance and I lead her pretty horrifically offbeat while also trying to talk to her in whatever Spanish I can come up with. Even though I didn't really know what I was doing, I succeeded in twirling and spinning her a few times, enough that she more than once gave me a surprised smile. After the dance ended though, she claimed it was too hot so we parted ways. I thought that was gonna be it...

Sometime later we were getting our cash out to pay the bill and something like the 5th dude of the night comes up to me and asks what the deal with all the American girls is, if we need a ride anywhere let him know, if we need drinks let him know, which of the girls are single etc etc. Like we were the pimps or something--it was pretty ridiculous. As he is talking to me, the woman I danced with comes over and interrupts and with the help of his translation gets the message across that she wants to come home with me. I am flattered, and I do crush on that smile of hers, but I am skeptical because of her profession. "Lo siento, no tengo dinero..." He explains that she doesn't want money, that she'll go home with me for free. "I looove you!" she exclaims with a coy smile. Ok, soI am admittedly very unsure of what to do at this point. I try not to over think in this sort of situation so I decide to take a chance and go with it. "Vamos, lady!" The two of us take deck outta there and grab the first taxi we see back to the resort. This was last night, and she is still with me right now, sitting next to me as I type this. As ridiculous as it sounds, I think I've finally found the one! Listen, Ellenas might be a prostitute, but it's not her fault. With no education, money, or other options...I mean, everyone's gotta make a living...right...? Whatever you're thinking right now, get used to it people, she ain't goin anywhere anytime soon.

Anyways, everything happened up through the part of me being unsure of what my next move should be. In reality, I decided there was no way taking this woman home could end well no matter how pretty the smile. Instead I distanced myself and the 8 of us piled into our waiter's sedan with all six girls in the back seat and Pat and me up front.

It was only the next morning at breakfast that after relaying the story to our T.A. she informed us that indeed Veron was pretty well known for its prostitution. Great, thanks for the heads up on that one! All in all, it was a pretty fun night. Big C's win, funny experience all around, nice bonding moment with the group.

I'll post again in a couple of days max with an update on my research project. I just emailed in a 6 page proposal a couple of hours ago so we'll see how things are shaping up when I hear some feedback on it.

Much love to everyone and shavuah tov
Love, Jonah