Having a lot of spare time always gives me the idea of thinking what I actually should do when I have plenty of time to kill. It mostly happened when I am on break with literally nothing to do. One day, after I finished my master study, again I thought what I should have done to kill the time I had. Then I got enlightened: “Why don’t I just volunteer?” while my classmates were looking for a (new and better) job, interning, or even getting back to their old job.
Then I remembered that I have met some people during my previous travels – including a former neighbor in the foyer in Geneva who spent their time WWOOF*-ing. All of them went to a different country. So, I took it also as an opportunity to travel at an affordable price in exchange with lots of experience!
Then, why wwoof-ing?
There are of course plenty of volunteer options! What attracts me to wwoof-ing is the part where I can learn about organic farming. Despite my recurring problems in keeping my plants alive, at least I would like to learn appreciating the work of farmers. It has also been quite popular for people to consume healthier options of foods or even grow them in our very own garden! Also, it does not necessarily relate to plants, some hosts are livestock farmers, guest-house owners or sanctuary managers!
Where to wwoof?
WWOOF basically connects farmers, gardeners and alike to volunteer — called “wwoofer”, who would like to learn about organic farm. Many countries have wwoof network in it. At first, I wanted to go to Bali as they have their own method in growing rice. However, I changed my mind and went to Thailand instead. I mean….Thailand is only a short distance from Jakarta. I could then travel to Indochina after the volunteer was done.
The next thing I knew was I paid a good EUR 45 to be able to access the database and booked my ticket to Bangkok. A few hours after looking around, I found Pom & U, a sweet couple who have organic rice field and organic garden in Suphanburi.
What did you get in return?
In exchange with the voluntary work, the host provides us with three meals a day, accommodation and lots of knowledge! In my case, I had the opportunity to stay in a traditional Thai house by the river in Suphanburi. Pom cooked lunch and dinner for us. Sometimes we had special breakfast too. Fruits are always there, and I have always loved them as they are refreshing.
Pom & U also provided a room which I shared with Anniek, an amazing wwoofer from the Netherlands! Often, we exchanged recipes (well…. I got recipes but I forgot giving any, unfortunately).
How was the experience?
It was a m a z i n g!
Pom & U have paddy fields, vegetable garden, a pond, and a couple of chickens, four cats (whose name I kept on pronouncing wrongly), and a dog named Mam. As the house is facing the river, they also have a small boat to paddle to the (not so-close) market.
The rice was just harvested by the previous wwoofers. Hence, the main work required during my arrival was to “water” and help maintain vegetable garden twice a day – depending on the humidity of the soil. Then I thought to myself, “How hard could it be?”
I took back what I said immediately when I started watering. While it is a garden for their consumption alone, it is pretty big to be watered manually. It would have been easy had the water hoses had not kept on disconnecting. Due to the size of the garden, we need to connect several hoses altogether. At the time, I understood why Pom told me to bring a friend to volunteer when I made inquiry!
Anniek and I divided the watering work. Her jurisdiction was the back yard garden – including a pond, while mine was the one facing the river. Anniek worked really really well and hard! She’s also like one of the kindest persons that I ever met! She would help me ensure my water hose connection did not break whenever she finished her work before me.
Is that all?
Of course NOT! On our spare time, we (or I?) would be helping Pom (or Anniek) baking cakes in the kitchen. As I was the least talented in cooking, I voluntarily washed the dishes or made the table. xD
We also prepared medium to plant seedlings. We had to make sure that the dirt was fertile and moist enough. When the medium was ready, we planted corn and lettuce seeds. I felt so satisfied when I saw the sprout after few days!
Another time, Pom taught us to make fertilizer balls. We had to mix several components including dirt, fermented organic water, banana tree trunks and chicken manure. Knowing the ingredients, you would understand how nice it smelled! Pom told us that the smell would stay on our hands for several days. Never had I become so obsessed with washing hands before then!
Other than that, I also learned how Pom & U had minimum waste at their home! They used organic waste to be fermented as fertilizer.
What I really enjoyed the most would be harvesting the vegetables (as it took me walking without watering xD), staring at the sunset when I (almost) finished watering and playing (well, it was mostly chilling) with the cats! Sometimes, we also accompanied Pom to the traditional market. It is an interesting one for what were sold were something that I never see in the traditional market close to my home in Jakarta. It is even more fun when Pom bought us mango sticky rice and lots of fruits! *drooling*
Really? No more?
Anniek and I also managed to paddle Pom & U’s boat along the river (where Anniek did most of the paddling – sorry!). Our destination was the market as Pom told us. Sadly, we never made it to the market as the river was full of plants hindering us to paddle through. Getting stuck and tired, we decided to go against the river’s flow to get back home. If I were to paddle alone, I would have been still moving the boat in circle.
The next day, we went to the temple close by. While it was closer if we paddle, we thought it would not be a good idea to paddle considering our paddling experience the day before!
When Pom & U were not home, we took over the kitchen and cooked or baked something fancy (at least that was what I thought) as a treat after watering! Also, we treated ourselves with lots and lots and lots of iced coffee to bear the heat!
*WWOOF : World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms