Leah Biesack

Leah Biesack

I’m Keeping All Your Keepsakes.

 Posted by Leah Biesack at 10:34 am  Uncategorized  Comments Off on I’m Keeping All Your Keepsakes.
Jul 152015
 

I woke up this morning to find all the things I didn’t want to find. Specifically, a sea of 11 dirty socks at rest bedside, one of my braids unraveled (you thought natural, beachy waves came effortlessly in a city far too dirty and inland for anybody’s own good?), my headphones wedged under ribs, the cord cinching my waist like a heartless tailor doing a rush job (  what happened to ‘a stitch in time…’?), and the clock shaming me with 11:53am. All that, along with a mini cookie wrapper tangled in my tank top.

And here’s the thing. Those wrappers? It’s no exaggeration when I say they’re everywhere. I found two in my Spanish workbook just last week. Know what else? They’re not even mine to so liberally litter. The wrappers are from all the mini cookies that accompany every coffee, tea and café con leche I order. It’s a little country tradition. Like how the U.S. thinks it’s cute to ignore climate change, Argentina thinks it’s cute to give complimentary sweets with espresso. (Culture is neat!) They’re fit for a doll’s high-tea, individually wrapped and I’ve been squirreling them away since I first arrived. My plan was to lovingly give them to all my fun friends, but this trip has, in the understatement of the year, been quite a test. And not the rewarding kind that ends in a pizza party and high fives all around.

Leah, hello. Welcome.

Thank you so much! It’s great to be here. I’m ready to get right into it, ready to do the work.

Right. Well, listen. We know you signed up to work in the Gender Equality program for a solid 4 weeks, and paid for the full 4 weeks (thank you for the thousands of dollars, by the way), but we’re actually just going to have you put in 8 days.

Oh. Um. Okay. Well, I can be open and understanding to the schedule and needs of another country, even though it seems..well it seems a little odd to pay for one thing and get another (I’m glad you’re enjoying all the money I gave you, though). But, at least I’ll still be volunteering in the area that brought me here in the first place (women’s rights!)  and not an area which I specifically avoided signing on to (kids!).

About that. We’ve actually gone ahead to change your plan completely and put you in the daycare. It’s an exciting time right now because they all have colds.

Jesus. Okay. This isn’t ideal. At all. I certainly didn’t travel across continents to do a job I’ve been doing since I was 16. But you know what? Let me make the most of this. I’ll try and do my best to help in this new situation.

So adorable, but there’s really not much room for that. You see, we already have two teachers in the daycare, and there are usually only 5 kids (on a busy day). I know they’ve been casually chatting about going through that box of old toys over there, though. Need to pull out anything that looks broken. So if you wanted to get a start on that..

Yikes. All right. I’m minding my manners (barely), but I’m very much unhappy with this situation.  At least I have my health.

Do you, though? You’ve been subsisting on flour and sugar at every meal for 3 1/2 weeks, have seen vegetables 5 times and was told to avoid the meat in your neighborhood. You get headaches every other day, spent a total of 2 weeks in bed due to a mystery box of symptoms and generally function at half mast.

I guess you’re right. Well, thank you for at least being so attentive and helpful when I couldn’t sit up without feeling dizzy. It felt like I really got my money’s worth with the traveler’s insurance you made me buy.

We weren’t. And you didn’t.

All right, already! Fine. But at least I can sit here and be happy about the ring I found for $1.50.

We know you want to be. We do. But look closer. It’s cracked and about to break in half. (And frankly, you’ll lose it the minute you get back to Brooklyn, anyway.)

Because these wrenches were thrown with such incredible aim and accuracy (and frequency), I’d find myself ransacking all my friends’ souvenirs, eating them quickly and quietly, trying to calm down in a dishonest manner. I bought 4 glazed croissants for my roommate. A sort of apology for being too weak and depressed to go out to the barbeques he always wanted to drag me to where he boasted about the grilled intestines. The croissants made it three blocks before being devoured by my hatred and frustration. The walk from the bakery to home was 4 blocks.

I took a picture of one of those cookies, sent it to my boyfriend and told him I was bringing him back an entire collection.  5 weeks’ worth of tiny biscotti bites. He sent me back a picture of a mason jar he bought that same afternoon with the concerned caption, “I’m worried this won’t be big enough.”

You thought I could go on to handle that situation with ease and aplomb? You continue to give me so much undeserved credit? I went on to turn my phone off, open my suitcase and crack into the jar of dulce de leche reserved for my brother.

Ultimately, it’s a sticky, crumb riddled mess over here and no one’s getting any gifts. No one.

Be The Best At Being Sick.

 Posted by Leah Biesack at 11:00 am  Argentina  Comments Off on Be The Best At Being Sick.
Apr 192015
 

Another middling week in the second-tier city of Córdoba. Writing to you from my favorite café where it’s clear, both to me and everyone else in here, that I’ve ordered the wrong thing. The bloused ladies next to me are eating squash and Roquefort crepes while I’m trying to twirl the strings of American cheese, lying lifeless on my salad, around the tines of my unenthused fork. Those blousies could walk in from the Dust Bowl and look just as salon-fresh as they do now. I know it.

Late Monday afternoon, after learning the word for figs, forgetting it instantly, learning it again only to ultimately forget it forever, I became sick with who the hell knows what (and who really cares?). My symptoms are about as exciting as someone trying to describe their dream from last night that you weren’t even in. So I’ll spare you. Needless to say, I donned a pair of cropped sweats and a ratty tank top like a uniform for the next four days. By the second one, I stopped tying the drawstrings altogether. With the time I saved, I put together a sort of survival guide for you all. Just a system to put in place during a time of chaos, where our current structural models are crumbling into a powder of mayhem, the kind that only spreads as you sweep. I can’t corral that batch of spilled glitter, but I can offer you this glimmer of an organized outline on what to do when sick, in your native country or not even close.

 

Sick, Sad About It and In A Country That Doesn’t Have Soup?  Try This.

* If it’s the day after your symptoms have started, make sure to take 4 naps. Spread them out or take them one right after another! However fits best with your completely open schedule for that day. Just meet the quota.

*Take some time to look up Appendicitis on WebMD. Text seven of your friends all your thoughts and feelings about your appendix potentially bursting. Don’t really acknowledge their responses.

*Pause to wonder why kids are given ice cream when they get an appendectomy. (Trail off from that thought and remember back to two nights ago when you ate ice cream and immediately felt as though you had downed a smoothie of ipecac, razors and chastisement.)

*Hang head.

*Catch your mistake. Tonsillitis and Appendicitis don’t even sound alike.

*Look around in embarrassment.

*Get straight to work on Nap #3.

*You’ll probably be a little hungry when you wake up. You’ll also probably be too weak to leave the house. Head downstairs (slowly!), clutching the railing with both hands and both arms. You’ll surely be out of breath and teetering on the edge of a baby black-out, so feel free to brace yourself; lean against that wall for a spell. I promise it’ll be cooler than your greasy fever forehead.

*Check the fridge. Notice that there’s nothing but a wilted carrot, mayonnaise in a bag and a plate of scrambled eggs that was scrambled four days ago. Fear not. Pull out that bag of white rice you bought when you first moved in. (Skipping any decks, these grains are going straight from dugout to batting stance!)

A Recipe To Reach Both The Down And Out and The Up and Coming:

NEEDS:

– some rice (just fill that I heart NY mug about halfway)

– some water (just fill the same mug to the brim. It won’t pour so well, so definitely get it to the brim.)

– a broken off piece of a vegetable broth cube

*Uh oh! Don’t think you have that? Trust me. You do. Just check the door of the fridge next to that expired bottle of fish oil capsules and your other fleeting good intentions. Find it? Good.

STEPS:

Just put everything in a pot on high heat. Watch the water turn really cloudy since you never rinsed the rice (that’s dust, you know.). Then watch it some more as it boils over.

Should take about 10 minutes.

Look for something to eat while waiting.

Open up that box of empanadas that’s bwen sitting sad and alone on the bottom of the fridge.

Get nauseous.

Put the box back, but be sure to repeat this step 2-3 times a day for the rest of the week.

Your rice is done.

Scoop it into anything, salt it (because it’s white rice for Christ’s sake) and eat it with little to no satisfaction.

After this, and after getting through Nap #4, we’ve just about made it through the day.

Proceed to stay awake until 4:30 or 5am because you think someone might climb up your third story balcony, because you haven’t really known sleep since you arrived or because you want to dwell on how terrible it is that you didn’t pack that backless sundress.

After that, just repeat all steps for a few days until your body gets so bored, it has no choice but to slowly get better.

Correction from last week: My description of the manners of men on the street here wasn’t accurate. I’m now aware that all visiting women are given a one week grace period before all bets are off the table.

Sweet N’ Sure

 Posted by Leah Biesack at 1:44 am  Argentina  Comments Off on Sweet N’ Sure
Apr 112015
 

Sitting across the way from what I’m now just realizing is Argentina’s version of The Container Store (Hiper Plásticos COLOMBRARO), I’m feeling slightly more settled into this city and country than I did a week ago. Naturally, I suppose. It tends to be simple mathematics;

(time + open mind) – high rate of expectation = {eventually} a sense of acclamation.

And, of course, altering the variables of the formula will only increase/decrease the outcome. Facts are facts. (And while we’re talking them, Hiper Plásticos looks just as nonsensically appealing as the American version).

When I boarded an airliner overbooked of all Brazilians and me, it wasn’t nerves I was feeling. Truthfully, aside from a headache and sincere disappointment in my arsenal of plane snacks, I wasn’t feeling much of anything. Not even excitement. Maybe that’s not the best way to convey. I didn’t know what to feel. Nothing was cemented. And that’s a sensation with which I’m exhaustedly familiar. Despite the research I’d done, the supposed appropriate questions I’d asked, this entire episode, planned out to some kind of make-shift tee, all of a sudden felt sparratic! And (though I loathe the word) random. “Wait! What am I doing?” I was leaving a handful of solid sources behind, and, with nothing to white-knuckle grasp tightly, I put my concern elsewhere

“Where the hell did I lose my ring?”

“Great. That yogurt I ate for breakfast has been expired for two days.”

“Oh. Look. I packed 6 months worth of stationary and zero envelopes.”

Moving to a country 4,300 nautical miles away wasn’t reading on any sensitive meter of mine.

And though I do feel myself slowing down as the sediment settles, the stirring no longer needing to be constant, I have not yet dissolved entirely into this place. I didn’t expect to immediately, knowing the proper curing process takes longer than a week. And this isn’t a total oil and water situation, but it does feel a bit like kids in the kitchen. I’m some spice no one really knows how to use. But we’re all hopeful. Stirring occasionally. Testing as we go.

Though I was originally supposed to begin my Gender Equality project this past Monday, I won’t actually start until the upcoming Tuesday. In the meantime, I’m taking Spanish classes daily, in the center of the city. I’m finding it equal parts frustrating and encouraging, like the well-balanced morsels of morales we all subconsciously crave. And that’s just my make-up; I can see the thing I love, why haven’t I yet mastered it? The percentage of Argentines who speak English is relatively low (aside from at the language school and the places I’ve been staying, I’ve yet to encounter anyone who speaks English), so total immersion is high. Which I’ve been devouring.

500 words in and I’m almost certain this post didn’t say too much. I’ll have more in which you can sink those teeth in a few days, and though this was plenty long, let me do what I do and give you extra words to sift and sort.

[Notes On AR: The First 7 Days]

* Argentines are the only reason clothing companies should continue to make acid-wash.

*Daily snacktime is galletitas con queso de crema y dulce de leche. In other words, crackers with cream cheese and caramel. I said daily, right?

* Sneaker game is real on point.

* What vegetables?

* I don’t believe in things like, ‘by the grace of God,’ but there happen to be two popcorn carts on my way to Spanish class. So. You tell me.

* You can wear cardigans in 85 degree weather and it’s somehow okay.

* The sugar is more sugary?

* I’ve never disputed the science of gluten and how it affects the body and mind of many, but the amount of energy this well put together culture has while subsisting on plates of toast with marmalade is causing me to question everything.

* Bad skin simply does not exist here.

* Neither do greasy bangs.

* Every coffee comes with a mini seltzer water and I just about lose it every time it happens because of how cute it is.

* Being a woman in New York can be like living in such a dog pound that, when the most any man will throw at you is ‘Buen día,’ more to himself than anyone else, you almost take him to coffee out of sheer gratitude.

* A lot of backpack wearing on the front of the torso happening. A giant fanny pack anywhere else, this just seems smart here.

*Squeegeeing the floor after every shower is just about as rewarding as shoveling the driveway before it gets dark.

*Though arguably adorable in almost all parts of the world, old ladies here are as cute as they come.

* Bags of yogurt.

Hush Hush Kills and Cares.

 Posted by Leah Biesack at 5:57 pm  Argentina  Comments Off on Hush Hush Kills and Cares.
Apr 012015
 

Before you get too excited to read the first international post from a South American climate (“you guys, it’s here! It’s out! And it smells like The Andes and superior athleticism!”), let me deflate any (or maybe all) of that energy; I’m writing this from Brooklyn. I didn’t have to take two buses and a train to get to an internet cafe where I have 30 minutes to write in order to not miss any of that transit back. No. I’m instead at one of my former haunts in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. The wireless signal is strong, people know me by name, and it took me 2 1/2 minutes to get here by foot. Have you stopped reading? Are your arms crossed across your chest? I get it. But just give me a second.

I leave for Argentina in two days. Everything from my Oregon home is now boxed and stored, thrown away or pawned off on my niece (“You’ll use this half piece of old wrapping paper, right?”). New York is a stopover for me. It made sense to leave from a place that was once a non-questionable, long-standing home. Six years of character making, built together with a lot of failed attempts, light pollution and all the right people to whom I constantly want to send sequined valentines is my New York. My twenties. My outlined foundation. Or maybe I just prefer to fly from JFK.

So I’m here and it doesn’t feel like vacation, but it doesn’t feel hard. It also doesn’t feel like home. I’ve not really got a place that allows for the title right now. And there’s no need for all the strings in the orchestra to crescendo together at this sentiment; I’ve been packing up and jumping around this country at any sign of dissatisfaction since I was 19. It’s what I’ve done and what I do. I’ve got some baby blue Le Creuset cookware in Crown Heights, two bags of clothes in Williamsburg, 6 boxes of art supplies and books in Corvallis, and, I think, a gold braided belt in Kenosha. The States are speckled with the runoff of my revisions. There’s an addiction there, a craving for the starting stage, the challenge of setting up. I suppose there’s some running, too. But more for a fix than for fear. Adaptation, though something all humans are naturally inclined to be good at, is a skill I have honed. I have all the tools in my kit. I pack up. Head out. Start again. Tourniquet tied, vein coaxed forward, needle slid in.

This upcoming change in timezones is one for which I’ve been preparing over the past 3 months. That said, though I’ll be 4 hours into my flight only 2 days from now, it’s still not yet hit me. I spent this evening in a bookstore in a way I used to on my days off; browsing every single section (do I want to read about what F. Scott Fitzgerald had to say on drinking? Would learning how to make meringue be a good skill to have, even though I haven’t eaten it in over 3 years?), and doing so in a killing time manner. Ultimately, that’s what I’m busy with this week. I’m leisurely slaughtering time in the quietest of ways.

I would have never been afforded such opportunities (both my lackadaisical sauntering around the boroughs as well the very direct and planned episode (or more of a mini-series?) taking place in Cordoba) had it not been for the overwhelming support of all my connections and extensions. It’s hit me where it counts, in one of those uppercut kind of maneuvers. Between fundraising donations, coworkers giving up shifts, friends paying me to play with their dogs, the entirety of Brooklyn swelling up to make sure I’m taken care of this week, many, many encouraging words from my shared blood and my practically shared blood, consider me hit very hard with everything you have. I am truly grateful. And feel very, very cared for. Thank you. To say you’ve been integral wouldn’t be doing due justice.

It’s all lining up with very real start marks. Coaxing the vein.

(Don’t worry. My next post will be lighter. ‘Snacks or Small Meals?’)

First Name

Last Name

Your Email

Join the GVN newsletter

© 2011 Volunteer Journals Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha