Things Aren’t Always as They Appear (Part 1 of 2)
In Mark’s first post, he alluded to what would be our first WorkAway experience. In the months prior to leaving for Australia, we read through profile after profile trying to find the host that would be the perfect fit for us. We spent hour after hour reading every word in the hosts profile, reading every review left for them and nothing seemed like the right fit until…
Help at our free range farm in a really beautiful part of Tasmania
As a meat eater who has seriously contemplated the implications of my consumption of animals, I truly value farms who consider the quality of life of their animals prior to butchering them; I don’t want to know an animal has suffered its whole life just to end up on my plate. Right away I was intrigued by the idea of learning more about free range farming practices. On top of that, the host’s profile made the place seem like paradise. The photos included stunning landscapes, beautiful pictures of the farm, and a group of people looking like they were having the time of their lives. In the write up, we were promised fresh, restaurant quality food, plenty of garden fresh produce, and a tight knit community who enjoyed many fun activities together in the downtime. Well…at least one of these promises was fulfilled, even if not quite in the way we expected (more on that in part 2).
After 27 hours of plane travel, a 17 hour time change, a day of staying awake in Melbourne, and an overnight ferry, we finally landed in Tasmania. We were seriously jet lagged but full of hope and excitement about our first help exchange. During our hours of travel we had mused about what the experience would bring and how we both expected we’d want to be there for more than the 2-3 weeks we had committed to. Our host picked us up from a cafe near the ferry and we had a very uncomfortable 30 minute drive to the farm. I chalked up what felt like awkward, off-putting conversation to the jet lag and was sure we’d fall into a rhythm. After all, this host was VERY well reviewed. Then we got to the farm…….
Now, this moment was a lot to take in and I don’t know that I can paint you an adequate picture of our feelings in that moment. I think if you’d have seen our faces they would have communicated something along the lines of, “What the fuck have we gotten ourselves into?!”. The house was FILTHY, the kitchen counter was not visible through the dirty dishes and bread products (a nightmare for someone who can’t have gluten), and the garbage bags we had picked up on our way back from the ferry were apparently filled with bread that was intended for us to eat (during our time at the farm, there were rumours that these bags are pulled out of the dumpster at the bakery, but I like to give him the benefit of the doubt on that one). We were told to throw the bags of bread next to the existing supply (on the floor) and help ourselves to something to eat. This was my first breakfast, of MANY, of nothing but eggs and pork and Mark’s first breakfast of questionable bread products.
Eventually, we were shown to our accommodations, one of the caravans that had been described as “retro” in the host’s profile. He called it retro, I call it unfit to live in, you know, to-may-to, to-mah-to. Our caravan came equipped with a stylish dirt carpet, and the fanciest of mold covered pillows. In keeping up with the latest trends, all the surfaces were sticky and growing their own bacterial cultures, the bedding had previously been used, the interior was falling to pieces, the smashed window had been partially boarded up, and there was no power. So, you know, things were really starting to look up.
We were left to settle in, but with the overwhelm and the jet lag, the only thing we could bring ourselves to do was to change the bedding, including finding pillows that were not infested with mold. I know it’s a radical stance to take, but we prefer not to breathe in mold spores or sleep in previously soiled sheets.
We then met Molly and Adam, fellow volunteers who have become great friends, and they got us set up gardening. The rest of the day was basically what we were expecting, 5 hours of gardening, some time to rest and get our feet under us, and a communal dinner cooked by Molly and Adam (our turn would come shortly, I assumed). When we crawled into bed for the night, I was already certain we’d want to get out of there as soon as possible; Mark wanted to give us a couple of days to adjust before we made any decisions. He really is unfailingly kind. During our first couple days, the farm was short handed and we were all new volunteers (Molly and Adam had arrived only days before us); the other two volunteers and one paid staff had left the morning we arrived for a two day road trip. Thus, our second day on the farm was much the same as the first.
At least we had a few days to get over the jet lag before the real shitstorm began…