Ruah Swennerfelt's blog

There was a certain poignancy leaving Sweden. Some of my cousins I may never see again since my plan at the moment is not to fly again once I am home. As well, this is true of my cousins in Israel and Scotland. You see, air travel is very damaging to the environment. According to Wikipedia:


You remember how I wrote that my contact in Ireland asked if I wanted to meet at a pub for a pint, and how my contact in England asked if I wanted to meet during a day of volunteering at a farm? Well, my contact in Belgium wanted to know if I wanted a walk in the woods! Louis and I responded with a resounding yes. Marc Van Hummelen is a forest ranger in Tervuren, just outside of Brussels. Tervuren is a municipality in the province of Flemish Brabant, in Flanders, one of the three regions of Belgium.

Upon arriving at the ferry port in Hollyhead, Wales, I boarded a train with my destination to be Chesterfield, England. The train snaked its way through Wales, where all the signs were once again in two languages, English and Welsh (another form of Gaelic). At first we followed the coast, where many off-shore wind turbines were situated. Why do we have such difficulty siting them in Vermont? Believe me, the tourists still come (one of the arguments against them), and clean electricity is generated. It’s a win-win situation.


So far I’ve not stayed in a home with a clothes dryer. It’s really remarkable how different the standards are between Europe and the United States. It’s just commonplace to use drying racks and outdoor lines, sometimes on balconies if one lives in the city. Conservation just seems a norm, not a badge to wear for saving the world. How did our U.S. culture go so awry? I do understand that I’m being hosted by folks who are either involved with Transition or are Quakers. But I see drying racks and clothes lines everywhere, so I bet the statistics are with me on this one.

“The hills are alive with the sound of music, tra la la la...” is what I was singing to myself on the day we were walking through the countryside, laughing and talking and sharing about ourselves. I either felt like Julie Andrews or Heidi. (I know, I know, Julie was in Austria and Heidi was in Switzerland, but it still felt like that.) But I get ahead of myself....

Ruah in France
The French Alps

You might remember my telling you about Kibbutz Lotan’s “Green Apprenticeship Program” in the Arava Desert in Israel. If not, I’ll remind you that it provides an incredible opportunity for young people to learn about permaculture and sustainable living. While visiting Lotan, people told me that the young people go off into the world to do good things. You might ask why I’m reminding you of this blog entry. Well, while sitting in the beauty of the island of Ibiza, Spain at Casita Verde, a young man, Shaul Shaham, was sharing about his experience in the very same program!

The overnight train journey from Milan (after a short train ride to Milan from Bologna) was fun since there were two women sharing the very small cabin who spoke Spanish. Although I slowed the conversation down a bit at times, they were very patient and we had a lot of laughs. I had hoped for a reclining seat on the train, but when I made the reservation, I could only have a sleeper for four. The two women had so much luggage that one more person couldn’t have fit into the compartment.

It was a tiring journey to Italy. I spent the night in the Tel Aviv airport, then took two flights to Italy (via Greece for a cheap flight) and then two trains to Bologna! By the time I got to the hostel and found out they didn’t have food for sale, I was too tired to go find some and instead crawled into my cot and fell into a deep sleep. I felt refreshed the next morning and was excited to see the city and meet new friends. Bologna is an incredibly beautiful city with many in-tact, medieval buildings still being used. It’s home to Europe’s oldest university, established in 1088.

Harvey (my cousin) was nervous about me going into the West Bank on my own. He was also nervous about going in himself, but he did take me there. Even though Murad AlKhufash, my permaculture contact, assured us there was no worry, Harvey’s biggest fear was about young men stoning the car, given the recent border clashes. Plus Harvey is just a worrier. On the other hand, I was excited to go to the West Bank, to meet a Palestinian farmer, and to experience something very new.

Although there are no Transition Initiatives yet in Israel, I add this part of my experiences since permaculture (the inspiration for TT’s) is part of the kibbutz I visited, and because there are some Israelis interested in promoting TT’s. 

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