Life on the Japanese Farm

We had expected that working on the farm might be challenging given that we did not speak Japanese, but we quickly settled in. Takao-san’s English was excellent, so our instructions were clear, and he was full of fascinating stories. We learned his English was so good because he had spent two years in Zambia with the Japanese-equivalent of the Peace Corps. He arrived having not spoken English since high school more than ten years before and left fluent. By contrast Hisami-san and Grandpa did not speak much, if any English, but they still made us feel welcome. And little Mi-chan kept us entertained. She was the most animated person we have met… possibly ever! Eric thought she was just like a real-life anime character. She could be hilariously silly, but she could also go from calm to mad in a single second. This was all the more amusing because we never had any idea what she was mad about.

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Integrated Rice and Poultry Farming in Azumino

The Japanese farm on which we had agreed to volunteer was located in Azumino in Nagano prefecture. We had chosen this farm because we liked the description on the WWOOFing website and the bonus that the woman was a chef. Somehow, besides a bullet point that mentioned “meat processing”, the description did not actually say much about what the farm did, so there was little indication of how we were going to spend the next ten days.

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WWOOFing in Abancay

We caught the bus to Abancay for another WWOOFing opportunity without really knowing what we would be arriving to. We’d had a miscommunication with our original intended host, Karol, who now had some French WWOOFers arriving and didn’t have room for us in his house. He felt bad reneging on his “agreement” with us even though it was our fault for not being more responsive, so he offered we could stay in a “tree house” with his friend who also does WWOOFing.

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WWOOFing Is Working

For the last two weeks we have been volunteering on a winery in Valle de la Concepción just outside of Tarija in exchange for free accommodation and lunch. We were expected to work six hours a day, six days a week with Sundays off. March is harvest season, so our timing was perfect and we got to see most of the wine making process. The winery is an artisanal operation where virtually everything is done manually. It’s hard to convey how manual the whole process is.

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