WWOOF: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
To WWOOF: to bark; also, to work as a short-term volunteer on a farm for free boarding and food. What English teachers abroad do when they don’t want to teach anymore. Risky for the whole “no money earned” thing. Also, awesome, because you get to live in a quiet, French village and it feels like summer outside right now.
We had no idea what to expect today. What to do about having the wrong pair of shoes? This was the dilemma weighing the most heavily on my mind (and surely Kuba’s, for it was his dilemma). Christian met us at the train station, and though I didn’t know who or what to look for, him standing there left no other option for a stranger to appear as a host. Six-foot-four, in a bright red fleece jacket and cargo pants, Christian caught my eye as soon as me and my 30-pound suitcase rounded the corner. His hand crushed mine as we shook and said our names, and I was put at ease that he looked like a pretty normal guy – a guy that would run his own vineyard – and nothing like Max, our Istanbul roommate, and one of the strangest people I’ve ever met. The nightmare version of our expectation of this experience included a Max-type host. I was glad that this was erased by the reality of Monsieur Rugged.
I was already pleased with what was to come when it took 20 minutes in the car to get away from Carcassonne (a town that I am looking forward to exploring in the coming days). Up, up, up the mountain, I snapped photos of the sunset over the mountains across the valley. Christian talked to us about his background (Austian-French) and his work experiences and appreciating WWOOFers for the opportunity to “explore human landscapes” and I took a deep breath and appreciated the dusty scent of his cluttered station wagon over the aridity and pollution of Istanbul.
Christian’s giant home was built in 1872 and greets a visitor with a grand entryway – lined with tile floors and original crown molding, I was expecting a mansion to be laid out before us. The reality is that only some rooms have been updated since 1960 and our bedroom is not one of them. Oh, well. The bathroom is lovely, which is a huge upgrade from the hole-in-the-floor-no-shower-head that was our bathroom in Istanbul.
Christian prepared a lovely meal for us, consisting of a salad, steamed salmon and spinach, and cod mashed potatoes that were delicious – and we paired it all with a nice white wine. Christian showed us how to “enjoy” wine correctly (notice the color against a white background, swirl, smell, sip, and slurp) and I tried my hardest not to spew my wine across the table as he slurped a mouthful to really get a good taste. I’m sorry – I know it’s a legitimate wino move, but it is ridiculous and hilarious to me.
We washed up and Christian took Kuba out to the storage shed to do some manly maneuvering (that’s surprisingly not a euphemism) and I feared ghosts haunting me before I started fearing that Christian, who seemed like a nice guy thus far, was out there murdering Kuba and chopping his body up into little pieces and was coming for me next. Not to get gruesome or anything, but this house is huge (and certainly haunted) and I have no real reason to trust Christian, and it had been 30 minutes. Where were they? Finally, they came in with used wine glasses and my trust in Christian was restored. I also gave Kuba a “thank God you’re still alive” hug. Christian then took us on a walk around this village of 600 residents. It was lovely. The stars were shining and the wind had just the right amount of chill for a March night.
I’m excited to see what work we will be assigned tomorrow…