Tuesday, November 27, 2012

WWOOF babble

Shutting off facebook has created a very specific void in my life. Holy crap did I check it a lot. This has left me with a lot of time on the internet. I have been having one on one conversations on IM at a higher rate than usual this week. That's been nice.

A lot of what I am doing is reading WWOOF ads. I start out looking by continent and then I narrow down by country to see what kind of opportunities exist. I want to spend time in South America, Africa, and Asia. The continents I haven't been on yet.

When I look at what kinds of things exist in the world I feel excited. On one hand I think I need to be very careful about not acting like, "What these people need is a honky" but I do have skills and knowledge that could be useful.

How do I learn how to be (and teach my kids to be) humble about being diversely educated while still offering up the skills I have (and will have way more by then).

I want to learn about farming. I want to go out into remote, rural areas where they live in a climate I can't really wrap my head around and figure out how they survive. I want to learn the skills they know--not all of them. I don't want to act like a year of travel will teach me everything that everyone I encounter knows. Not even close. I want to understand which bugs live where and how they differently impact people. Sure, I could read a book. I'd rather have a ten year old explain it to me.

When you go hunting through the WWOOF sites you find a very high level of English compared to what (at least I) one might expect. Unfortunately you find very very few who are willing to accept a family of four--or children at all. That's because they are smart. Ha. Once you start winnowing down by "must accept a family of four" you actually find less of a concentration of English. Random families who need enough help to be willing to tolerate strangers coming in to help are not necessarily the most progressive, educated people in their country.

The most progressive, educated people speak English but they won't deal with kids. It's a tricksy system.

French scares me because my hearing isn't very good. I have a hard time picking out the morphemes in other languages. I started learning Spanish early enough that I can hear the differences. When I am trying to pick up yet a different language (I half-heartedly try every so often) I find that my sense of inadequacy overwhelms me and I cry and the learning part of my brain shuts off.

I'm going to have to find a way to change my attitude if I want to learn French. Given where we are going in the world it is potentially possible that we could get by with only English. Doing so would handicap us to such a degree that going there is much less useful than it could be.

So of the hosting sites in Africa that accept English and multi-person groups it sounds like mostly what we could do is travel around installing school gardens. On one hand that is a worthy, interesting activity. It's not as interesting as some of the ones that require French.

I'd love to spend a lot of time finding out how the locals deal with large scale growing crops. There are host sites that would hold our whole family and do a lot more rigorous farming--but you have to know French.

Also, several Asian countries (like Vietnam) strongly prefer French to English. Can you get by, yes. But I don't want to get by. I want to go as a student to learn as much as I can. I can only learn as much as possible if I ensure I can ask as many questions as I have. That will require being able to speak to more than just an interpreter.

So far I have done a lot of travel and relied on always being able to find an English speaker. It has worked. I want a different experience with the WWOOF trip. I don't think I want to spend my whole life as a mono-linguistic American who expects everyone in the world to learn my language in order to have the privilege of talking to me.

I really want to learn what is involved in farming in different places in the world. I don't know why I want to know with this intensity. Yes, I visit the U-pick places near my house. Yes, I talk to the local farms near me. I'm getting to know the farmers I buy from. Not quickly because I am shy. Yes, I am. Strangers are scary for me too. No laughing.

I would hate myself forever if I got there and found out that one member of the family we were staying with spoke English and everyone else speaks French and I spend the time learning through gestures, pointing, and grunting. Trying to learn through someone else grunting at me in a French accent would be ridiculous. Just no.

Part of the problem is I can't count on the present WWOOF hosts still being around in eight years. Right now reading the ads is just a way of figuring out what the range of possible activities are.

Like there is this place in Thailand where they welcome kids, want to be actively taught English, they teach organic farming classes, and they really want someone to come teach computer programming. Jackpot. Unfortunately Noah is not always going to have such a welcome situation. I bet you that when people around the world find out he is a computer programmer there will be at least one group of people in each place who wants to ask questions.

He has knowledge in his head that would allow people to completely change the life they have. Sometimes I feel a little weird about that. Hell, I know enough about computers to completely change the life of someone who has grown up in rural destitution.

But they know things about surviving and community that I don't. I want to learn so much I ache with wanting this.

Now I want to transition into Christmas and money. So maybe I should open a different screen. Travel babble is different.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that I'm lazy and delayed writing to your last post, because now I've read this post. Although, my comments would be almost exactly the same as the other Debbie. So your answers are just as relevant.
    Australia's not on your list, otherwise the banana family I stayed with in Queensland would be a good family wwoofing experience, I think.

    I have other thoughts about French / English. Mainly that, yes you would have more opportunities if you spoke French, but my follow up question is: how many more opportunities do you need? How long / how many places do you intend to stay at? There may be fewer places that will accept you, but if you only need 3-8....... right?

    Anyway, let's have a longer talk when I get home. Obviously I had a dif experience & requirements than you will, since I was a single girl in an English speaking (mostly :) ) country. I loved wwoofing in Oz. One of my good life experiences.