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Posts Tagged ‘Reality TV’

An "art-short-story" I adore, created by Brian Andreas. I keep this above my bed.

‘Twas yesterday.  My birthday.  31 on the 31st.  My golden birthday, gone in a flash.  Shared another birthday with Harry Potter (and his creator JK Rowling), and now an anniversary with Chelsea Clinton, apparently.  Went swimming in the sea, had a lovely Italian breakfast with my mother at Rustico Basel, a leisurely soy ice coffee with my sister at Loveat, and had a little wine and cheese night up on the roof garden with dear friends and family (some of the best Camembert on record!).  Besides the detour of picking up party supplies, cleaning house, and baking my own cake, it was very relaxing.

Harry turned 30 yesterday

I am absolutely thrilled that I had a wonderful birthday – and that it was like almost any other good day. What I mean by that is for the first time in my life, I didn’t put my birthday up on a pedestal.  I didn’t stress out.  I didn’t have high hopes or low hopes.  I didn’t have hopes.  And it was marvelous.  Not too different than other marvelous days, but just a little more special.  I am looking forward to future birthdays just like this.  Fun, but without grandiose expectations.

Birthdays are always a good chance to take stock.  In recent years I feel like I haven’t accomplished much.  When you’re young, in school, working your first jobs, achieving demonstrable things is what’s expected.  School plays, good grades, choir concerts, varsity letters, diplomas, certificates of honor, promotions, etc, etc.  Now, it’s not so noticeable; life seems to grind on. A lot.  And it’s not so clear what you or the world would consider an accomplishment.  So, without further ado, an attempt at listing this years’ (potential) accomplishments, in no particular order:

  • Forging a new career as a freelance virtual assistant , writing/blogging consultant, and editor.
  • A trip to Provence with good friends for good food, good wine, good culture, good Scrabble, and good conversation.
  • Lots of organic veg, lots of cooking and eating, and lots of blogging about it.
  • Wine work – huge expos, weekend wine tastings, a couple trips to wineries, and my first actual (I guess, professional, ee gad!) presentation.
  • Yoga! Lots and lots of Yoga. Every Thursday. Come rain or shine.
  • Sommelier course – or the closest you can get to it in Israel. So much fun, for so many reasons.
  • Got into grad school (MA in Creative Writing). Starting in 2 weeks. We’ll see how that goes…
  • Buddhist meditation – life-changing practice. It’s saved me, for so many reasons.
  • Vipassana retreat – silence and meditation 24/7 for 7
  • Leadership, again – helped form a Sangha (meditation community), 10th college reunion committee recruitment chair (12 new members in less than 2 weeks!), and potentially volunteering to organize an alumni event for the U of C Israel Alumni Club.
  • Reality TV show – my sister and I (and our lovely apartment) starred in a house hunting show.
  • Almost a month in the States – spent quality time with old friends and family by way of an east coast whistle-stop tour, a mid-west road trip blasting Hemingway on the speakers, and an Iowa wedding. The best of times.
  • Read some good books, made a couple good friends, drank some good wine, and at brief moments, felt good and knew it.

Not a bad year if you look at it empirically.  I know that I diminish my accomplishments and experiences because the negative and what I perceive as missing, overshadow the good. Namely, the never-ending battle to achieve work-life balance, and the never-ending battle to get out of dodge (aka single-dom).  Luckily, I’m much less paranoid about both.

My hope is that I (and all of us) will continue to become grounded, perceive the here-and-now as much as possible, be in a position to recognize moments of happiness when they come, explore our world, explore the paradox, create beauty, and take some risks.  Some good big risks.  Onward and upward!

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In SE Asia, the best jobs pay $0.40 per hour

I saw parts of an interesting British documentary/reality series this past week on Channel 8.  The BBC series was called Blood, Sweat, and Takeaways, and followed 6 young Brit food consumers (one a picky eater, one a fast food junkie, one a rich gourmet foods enthusiast, etc, etc) as they were taken to Southeast Asia to:

“live and work alongside the millions of people in south east Asia’s food production industries. They must catch, harvest and process food products that we eat every day, seeing behind the scenes of the tuna, prawns, rice and chicken industries for the very first time.”

It was fascinating to see how our ultra-cheap chicken and seafood are caught and processed, and it was equally devastating to see how the people who caught and processed this food lived, how little they were paid, how hard they worked, and how much they sacrificed in order to even procure these “lucky” jobs.  Even the underworld of the sex trade, so rampant in Asia, has many direct connections to the food processing industry.

The series was also incredibly annoying due to these exceptionally obnoxious British 19-22 year-olds constant complaining, whining, and getting grossed out at every other job they were demanded to do.

What I found poignant is that despite their whinging, each were changed, as we saw in the concluding “follow up” portion of the film.  Some were simply more respectful in their eating habits, more open to trying new things, and were adamant about buying fair-trade products.  One girl even went back to try and help some of the women separated from their families, and was writing to newspapers and magazines with pitches on the subject.

The real eye-opener, and the question this documentary raised, is what this says about locally grown food products.  It seems common sense to buy from your local farmer, sign up for the local organic veg box, visit the farmers’ market, etc.  How can supporting and getting involved in your local agriculture be wrong?  In the US and Britain there have been what seem to be nationalist campaigns to buy British meat, or buy American beef (or cheese, or corn, or whatever).

One young man in the series was a young farmer, his family farm going generations back.  A very nice guy, he was one of the few that made the show tolerable.  He and he alone never complained, worked harder than the rest, and was often the only one working when others refused (e.g. gutting fish on top of one of the smelliest sewer-rivers imaginable and picking, packing, and lugging hundreds of kilos of rice).

Before the experience, he had been a staunch “Buy British” supporter.  Being a farmer, this makes perfect sense.  No complaints here.  But upon his return, he had changed his mind and was educating his friends on the matter.  Why?  The food industry in Asia supports millions of people.  Maybe more.  There would be no big Western food companies, whether they be MacDonald’s or Lean Cuisine, without ultra cheap foodstuffs.  Even fancy restaurants are affected.  Not every eatery can afford locally caught fresh fish and shellfish.  I know from experience at having to defrost and clean hundreds of prawns and scallops and mussels every day at a very high-end restaurant in Tel Aviv – one that specialized in seafood.

Now more than ever before we live in a global economy.  Our smallest of choices can and do affect economics in other countries.  Do the workers suffer?  Yes.  Do we want to pay less for our food?  Most of the world doesn’t.  But even for the idealist, does stopping to buy these “sweat shop” foods help anyone?

I don’t know the answers yet, but I will be seriously looking into this.  I think that the best I can personally do right now is to look for “Fair Trade” products.  This ensures good treatment and good pay for the workers.  I like my local organic veg box, for the time being.  And I have ALWAYS wanted to know who harvested the supermarket fruit and veg, where it all came from, what the names of the (potential) migrant workers were, pesticides used, genetic modifications made, how long it all even took to get here, etc, etc.  Maybe it’s time to finally find out.

We owe it to ourselves (if not the world) to know where the nourishment we put into our bodies comes from, and who was involved in bringing it to us.

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