In my last post I spoke about our adventures in Cirencester while WWOOF-ing(WWOOF: World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms) . Somewhere in that post I discuss meeting our host and how well I thought we would get on. However, during the course of the week things changed dramatically.
Seeing people for who they really are
My host and I got on well, for the most part. She was very laid back, great with Kai and fed us very well. But she drank most evenings, became quite abrupt and would pass wind unashamedly. During the course of the weekend her behaviour became quite intolerable and on the day before we were due to go she threw a tantrum: slamming doors and shouting. As we only had one more night to go before leaving to visit our next host, I thought we would stick it out until the morning and then be off. At this point I considered going home, feeling very disappointed with the WWOOF experience and especially because my son witnessed her terrible behaviour. Before I descend into negativity I must mention Yasmin, a really kind and sweet soul who worked for Davina. I learnt alot about the uses of different culinary and medicinal herbs from her and I was amazed by her sense of calm. She did her work in a peaceful and orderly fashion: all the plants were ordered according to their function, medicinal or culinary and I sense that she had a very calming affect on the chaos that Davina operated in, she certainly did on me.
We still had two more hosts to visit and perhaps our next visit in Wales would be better; we would never know if we didn’t try and the tickets were already booked. Kai was happy to continue Woofing, so I thought we would give it a chance, with the proviso that we would be on the next train home if the next the host displayed any signs of erratic behaviour.
Llanfair Clydogau village
We spent all day travelling to Llanfair Clydogau village( in Wales) but finally arrived to meet our host, who seemed nice enough. She explained beforehand that she lived about a mile and a half away from the village, but I had absolutely no idea that it was a mile and a half(more like two) up a hill. What little energy Kai and I had we used to literally haul ourselves and our luggage all the way to her house. I cannot describe the strain getting up that hill, but we made it.
Down to work
We settled in well and the next day I was given a list of some of the tasks I would be doing and got to work. My first job was to cut down a comfrey patch to be used for a nitrogen feed( typically for tomatoes) using a sickle; I had never used a sickle before and was glad to be learning something new. After that I weeded her gravel path. 4 hours later I was pretty tired and hungry and looked forward to lunch. When I got to the table I was disappointed to see salad, cheese and bread and some stewed apple with a tiny pot of yogurt( barely enough for one); I was absolutely starving, having worked my butt off and this was all there was to eat! While trying to fill myself up on lettuce, bread and cheese, I sat and listened to my host tell her friend that volunteers should not be treated as guests: “You should not be running around after them, doing things for them as you would a guest.” Okay, that’s fine I thought; no problem with that. And then during a conversation about the London attacks her friend wisely called for tolerance and discussed the imporatance of embracing all different people, “except Christians” my host replied. Really?!?
Time to go home
Things weren’t looking fantastic. I was smoking most of the afternoon to stave off hunger pangs and by now begining to seriously dislike my host. Sensing my suppressed indignation, my host suggested I have the afternoon off. Kai wanted to go for a walk but, I didn’t fancy walking a mile and a half to the village, I was too tired. We did have a little walk in the hills, which were beautiful: every other field was occupied by sheep and we walked through a number of streams which Kai had a lot of fun playing in.
Wales was beautiful but I felt it was time to go home. Sadly, we would not be going to Bridgend to see our third host, I’d had enough. My host didn’t take too kindly to us leaving early. Many hosts are dependant on the help they receive from volunteers and leaving early can be an inconvenience, I understand that. But then, given the shortage of help and the numerous hosts, the onus is then on the host to make sure that they offer a fair deal. It is not okay to simply use the volunteer to fulfill your needs without offering something of subtance in return, especially when you live in a remote location.
That said, it’s all part of the learning experience. It was a real learning curve coordinating the different trips, especially working out the train and bus connections ( village buses leaving once an hour). Kai can pretty much go anywhere and hopefully not be fearful of meeting new people, as he has had to quickly adjust to living with strangers. Simply having the balls to leave home and travel for miles to stay with a complete stranger is a major confidence booster in itself.
First picture credit: Ingo Di Bella