This volunteer exchange system that I’m doing is basically set up so that you help out for 4 hours a day in return for accommodation and three meals a day. The first few days were more like 6 hours of work, planting vegetables. In return we got so much more than promised. They pretty much treat us as part of the family, which includes access to their kitchen, laundry stuff, and lightening-fast WiFi. I guess could probably squeeze out a few additional hours of work. The other great part of this volunteer network is that there are loads of farms to choose from in every province of China.
At the farm, we got a chance to cook meals from our countries to show a cultural exchange of food recipes. The two Italians are up first. Staying here longer is getting more and more tempting. They cook three different kinds of pastas that are obviously all amazing. One night we combined nationalities when the Americans made sloppy joe, British guy made chips, and the Hungarian woman made dessert.
So far for work I’ve planted garlic, cleaned old taro plants from a field, planted various green leafy vegetables, carefully extracted roses from one bed and planted them in various other places, and helped with the construction of a wall. The wall construction was my favorite. There’s something really special about touching the earth and planting the beginnings of beauty or food, but getting to really work hard and feel exhausted is the much more rewarding to me. The planting is nice to do between construction days when I’m letting my body repair itself. The construction days are a mandatory 8 hours of work that, once started on a certain day, has to be finished through that day. There are so few hands to help that if one person stops midday, it will really throw off the efficiency. The whole eight hours I was lifting giant rocks with my hands and carrying small cement buckets and lifting them up to the workers on the wall. I made sure to pace myself with the rocks, but the cement buckets were deceptively heavy and ended up almost finishing me off during the last hour. I’m on my second day of rest and think I might just barely be ready for it again on the third.
The family has also taken us out of the farm for different cultural experiences. We sang karaoke one night and another day we visited a Buddhist temple.
I’ve been practicing some Mandarin, but as I said before it’s an uphill battle being around so many foreigners and Chinese people who speak a completely different dialect. The family has been really good about trying to help, but it’s not natural for them and my goal is total immersion. I’ve found that the only way to get the experience I’m looking for is to go to a farm in the rural part of Beijing. So, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time finding new hosts.
I forgot to post this before. Before leaving Laos we went to a friends farm where she showed us her mushroom grow room.
Here we’re on the farm making noodles from scratch. We started by rolling out individual noodles until the grandma came and showed us how to roll a big pizza shaped piece of dough, fold it over, and then cut it with a knife. She did in 5 minutes what four of us did in 30. Thanks grandma.
Here’s the karaoke bar. It’s a small place with individual private rooms where we sit on a comfy couch, snack, and sing our heads off. I didn’t really get into it … Until the queen songs came on, then I was sold on the whole thing.
There were tons of statues that I suppose were different Buddhas. It was fun to compare all the different expressions on their faces.
Despite all the development this piece of nature is still holding on. I’m not even sure how this is possible because we’re very high off the earth.
Throughout the temple there were plenty of stairways like this that lured you around each corner. I could’ve spent another week there poking around the corners of the compound.
I came across some lay people chanting to these two monks, standing on the left.
Apparently even Buddhas are sometimes glued to their phones.