Stories beat stuff. Wwoofing in New Zealand (willing workers on organic farms) is something I’ve really wanted to do since I first learned about it from my awesome vege-growing friends. When I arrived in Auckland though, I thought I might get a job first. Then it dawned on me: I haven’t applied for a job that I wasn’t asked to apply for in over seven years. Plus, now that it comes down to it, I don’t really want to do a cleaning job or work in a bar! I feel like maybe I can find something where I have more to offer. But thinking of selling myself for jobs out of my comfort zone feels daunting, when (in the context of anything practical) I’ve been used to subconsciously thinking of myself as not worth anyone’s time.
So wwoofing is what I decided to do to get a bit of practical experience and see how I felt about it. Wilderland was recommended to me last week but I didn’t do loads of research. It’s in Whitianga (pronounced ‘Fitianga’), in the Coromandel. It’s an organic sustainable community on a big piece of land. It’s a great place and there are lots of genuine, open, interesting and interested people: about twenty. Turns out, it was quite infamous in the ’70s…
Everyone hugs each other. A lot. Which I really like in theory but in practice I’m trying to be more comfortable with. I wasn’t brought up in a huggy family, and I’m not used to it at all with strangers. In addition to that I’ve had to get over the craving for that human contact because I haven’t had it for a really long time. So I’m not sure yet if I want to open that up again!
Ok please be open-minded: they call each other hippies in mock-insult, but there’s no alcohol or drugs allowed, and there are some hippy traits, but they’re more or less my age and just wanting to live a peaceful harmonious life and learn about sustainability and about themselves, though some have strong anti-establishment political views. I arrived on Saturday at the roadside organic shop (on the bus from Auckland, with a lovely girl called Jess who was heading to Whitianga) and waited until closing to be driven to the community space, where I felt pretty comfortable right from the start.
There were only a few people around because it was a big market day. Still, I got given some food and allocated somewhere to sleep, an old people-carrier in my own little patch of green:
Another surprise: there’s no food here except what grows seasonally on the land and some bought-in organic grains, beans and lentils etc. and spices. There’s no communal cooking on a Sunday, and only communal breakfast and lunch on all other days. But nothing to snack on. Not even bread unless you make it yourself. How lovely! Except I don’t know how to cook all that stuff. So in at the deep end! There are individual houses dotted widely across the property, so most of the 20 people were at their homes so not many people to ask for advice and no internet yet to look it up. Just rice and salad for me then! If I’d known, I could’ve come more prepared so that at least I could bring a couple of ingredients that would help.
If I hadn’t been to Jatun Sacha, I’d have been shell-shocked here from the start. On the surface it’s basic but it’s organised chaos. It’s a bit more grown up here; most people are just looking after themselves and filling their own time with useful stuff for the community. It’s also a good job I was in the middle of reading Ruby Wax’s book about mindfulness, as it helped me to cope with the dramatic change from Auckland. It’s another challenge against the critical voices my brain instinctively generates. Culture shock, different from not just Auckland but South America and my city life at home. For example there’s a composting toilet but you have to just pee outside. I feel like a child needing to be taught the basics. I managed to have a genuine panic moment about the cooking thing (it’s pretty fundamental!) and consequently forgot to do my watering job – oops. But I managed to not feel guilty about that (amazing!) and I’ve told people about my worry and lots have said they felt exactly the same when they first arrived, so they’re helping me. 🙂
Sunday I explored a bit and walked down to the estuary.
Monday was gardening all morning and free time in the afternoon (and panicking about dinner).
Tuesday was harvesting plums in the morning, staffing the shop in the afternoon and walking the half hour back, then having a lovely women’s meeting in the evening where everyone listened to each other and really connected.
Wednesday it rained – more gardening in the morning getting progressively more soaked, then cold, and muddy, and almost not being able to deal with that until someone told me to stop working and go look after myself and get warm – hurray! Then I learned how to bake bread in the afternoon – proud! Stories beat stuff. 🙂