Looking Back at WWOOF after 5 years
Wwoofing has always been something that is very dear at my heart. I owe this farming spirit to my lovely father, Wak Jani and for me being a hard core anak Felda. Angkat buah kelapa sawit, pungut biji sawit itu perkara kecik je hehe.
Hmmm…not really accurate but more or less. Again, I am indebted to Chris, the UK wwoofer who has motivated me to be adventurous and go down this wwoofing route as one of my traveling style.
My first time Wwoofing was on May 2007 in Chiba, Japan – planted Japanese organic paddy, did domestic duties ie taking care of the baby, cleaning the house, making meals, typing the thesis of my host in English about flower oil for therapy (cool right?).
Oopsiee..I wore the same hijab all over the pictures hahah.. Actually the hijab was the only cloth that I had at the time to protect me from the cold. I am pretty hygienic okay..^^
Well, I’m not going to tell you about my Wwoof Japan story and my Wwoof United Kingdom experience but Wwoof Korea it will be. Although Wwoof Japan was my stepping stone to wwoofing in South Korea.
What is Wwoof?
Wwoof stands for Willing Workers Of Organic Farm. By willing workers it means you are not getting paid but in exchange of food and boarding. Organic farm is…hmm..organic like no pesticides, no harmful components on the land and so many other complicated stuff.
If you are interested to wwoof, by all means visit their website: http://koreawwoof.com/
Why do I Wwoof?
Basically because I had no money back then. Not much. But I’m willing to exchange my strength. Not that much too. ^^
Why should you Wwoof?
Warning: It is not for everyone. It’s tough, tiring, depressing and sometimes confusing. You can read all of my wwoofing experience in South Korea here.
But….I got to be so much, much a better person, received so much than what I gave or experienced.
Not…without heartache, fatigue and tears. Yup…tears.
What should you prepare before Wwoofing in South Korea?
Korean language – I know it’s hard to learn a language if you have no interest at all in learning the language. Trust me, if you know at least the survival phrase – you will eliminate at least more than 50% of the confusion, heartache and depression that I went through. Try to learn Korean from KoreanClass101. I started learning with them.
English language – What?!! Another language?? Why can’t you just survive with Malay language?? My dear…this is not the 1900’s. Please please wake up. A bit harsh but it’s the truth. Teach yourself some English. I know that English language got me many Korean friends just because I could speak it. It’s true.
Physical – Do some weight training please. Okay…I’m not asking you to enter a weight lifting world championship competition but at least make yourself fit. Farming work is a demanding job. You are not a professional farmer like your host! Hey…a farmer is a respectful job. We got to eat vegetables and fruits because of them. Now, be good and say your thank you. ^^
Souvenirs – from your country for your host ie, pictures, postcards, fridge magnet..whatever even your countries’ traditional songs. Korean love cultural exchange.
Recipe – cook something from your country at your host’s home to show gratitude. This is a cultural exchange thingy by the way. They are curious about our food too.
Musical instruments – If you know how to play your country’s traditional musical instrument or even singing the old folks tune they will be totally wowed by your culture.
and finally an open mind…^^ after all we are just human.
What can you expect from your host?
I’m being realistic here. Don’t expect them to give you a first-class treatment. This is not a hotel.
I have slept in a freezing container for a few days (I love it though! What an experience…*sigh*), slept in a big and empty school next to the graveyard alone for a week, slept with another Wwoofer be it man or woman in a tiny room (only decent thoughts please..), brought to church every other days for almost two weeks although they know that I am a Muslim, forced to work 7 am to 7 pm for six days straight just because I didn’t understand Korean language and so many unpleasant memories.
Some hosts are really kind and have much exposure about other cultures so your stay will be pleasant. If you want to experience Korean life and culture, this is it with a dash of K-Pop and K-Drama thrown in.
To tell you the truth, the most bitter experience is the one that I still remember till now and it was such a bittersweet experience.
A Muslim’s perspective on Wwoof
Pray, food – two major things that need to be addressed.
If you don’t speak Korean, just pay the extra 30,000 won for the Wwoof Office to assist you. They will connect you to the available hosts and inform them about your situation ie. food limitation and etc.
Pray – Many times, praying is harder than eating. Imagine when you are on the field from 7am to 7pm? Be tough, hang in there and just pray. God will help you so don’t worry. You are not preaching them about Islam so don’t be too hard on yourself.
You can write something like this (there might be some grammar or typo, please pardon me):
저는 무슬림이라 하루에 다섯번 기도를 해야한다.
기도할때 보통 10-15분이 필요하니까 이해 주시면 좋겠습니다.
그리고 농사하는중에 두번만 기도를 할겁니다.
Food – easier. I just eat whatever permissible by Islam. Most of the time I had kimbap, anchovies, rice and kimchi. I avoided ramyun definitely because the soup contains pork bone. If you don’t like what is served, bring your own food from your country, done!
저는 회산물이랑 채소를 밖에 먹지 않습니다.
고기제료, 햄, 돼지고기나 먹지 않습니다.
Hijab – this would definitely attract the Koreans to inquire about your attire. I have been asked the same questions countless.
머리를 가리는거는 종교가 이슬람이라 이렇게 합니다.