Tag Archives: Volunteering

circus, streets, stars of Woodford

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the flying machine

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mandala dissolution ceremony, Monks of Tibet

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Bamboo installation, Wang Wen-Chih & volunteers

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Imagine the Land, Artisania

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Sideshow Wonderland

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TaikOz

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volunteer butterfly

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girl

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SEED… new beginnings

Richie

There comes a time when even the most devoted travel partners go their separate ways. After 20 months of conjoined aspirations, Richie and I are separating (temporarily!) to pursue individual learning pathways; acquiring skills, gleaning knowledge and shaping up for a abundant and diverse future together here on the Sunshine Coast.

Richie’s bitter complaints that the final leg of our overland journey from England to Australia lacked a permaculture-focus are finally being laid to rest. As the photo attests – Richie’s not only turning Australian but he’s turning Australian in a very perma-way. Today he’s off to experience what may be the most memorable perma-experience of his life: one month WWOOFing with Geoff Lawton at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australian in the Channon, Northern NSW.

While I’m beefsteak-tomato-red with envy, I have my own work cut out for me. It’s application time. Time to put my money where my mouth is. Yep, that writerly PhD that I fled to England (via India) to avoid in 2007 has returned to haunt me and this time, I aint’ gonna turn and flee.

This time, I have a story worth writing: mine and Richie’s story. A travel story. A permaculture story. An earth story. A story about seeds, ideas, social change, friendship and the beauty of the natural world. The encouragement and feedback I’ve received from you, the readers of Typo Traveller, have helped me to believe that the world is ready for SEED: a permaculturee travel memoir, and I’m ready to write it.

I’m currently in the process of writing a proposal and approaching supervisors to oversee the work. While Richie’s digging swales and tweaking irrigation systems, I’ll be writing literature reviews and pawing through old university transcripts for evidence that I’m a hardy, worthy, creative, credible PhD candidate.

In the meantime, if the writing becomes too much, and I find I need a break, there’s my parents’ potato patch to water; an ageing shed to pull down; Augustino corn to hand-pollinate; dill to plant; sourdough starter to feed; kefir to culture; my sisters’ herb garden to cultivate… and the beautiful Sunshine Coast hinterland to re-explore.

Did I mention books to read – Waterlog, Bird Cloud, The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Permaculture Design by Aranya: A step-by-step guide, Do Travel Writers Go to Hell…?

Bon Voyage lover-brother, Richie, go well! ‘I’ll see you soon…’

p.s Sorry about the photo, I couldn’t help myself! 😉

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never miss your water

Now, I-I know that you never miss your water ’til you’re dry…
Diesel

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April in Koh Phangan and my body is a mobile irrigation system. Perspiration seeps unceasingly from pores that never close their eyes on the world. At the slightest sign of exertion – picking up a towel from the floor of the bathroom or tearing a square of paper from the toilet roll – a new response is triggered. I’m wet: perma-wet.

Cotton clothing works overtime in the heat, wicking moisture away from hard-to-reach places. Fresh sarongs, singlets and trousers become sodden in minutes, drooping un-flatteringly from my arms and legs in flaccid pockets that resemble a pelican’s throat pouch. My clothes have a permanent case of tuckshop lady’s arms, or is that just me?

The capacity of my body’s inbuilt sprinkler-system is astounding, if not slightly embarrassing. I’m dishing up salty water all over the place and meanwhile, more than half the island’s households, not to mention their gardens, are screaming out for water. Continue reading

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Breaking crust

The farmhouse, Momavlis Mitsa

Saturday morning in Argokhi. There is work to be done: water butts to fill; pigs to feed; floors to sweep; tea to brew – but there’s no hurry. I sit on the steps cracking hazelnuts, listening to the sounds passing up and down the lane on the opposite side of the above-head-high metal fence. I hear ducks squawking, the lazy turning of cartwheels, neighbours fussing, the crank of the timber grape press, and the occasional sound of apples falling from the tree. It’s mid-autumn. Every warm day between now and Christmas is worth its weight in gold.

Working on Momavlis Mitsa (Future Earth) farm in Argokhi has ameliorated the discomfort of waiting for visas in Tbilisi. Instead of sitting like ghosts in some disembodying hostel, milking the wifi and kicking stones down Marjainishvili on the way to the Metro, we’re working outdoors, using our lungs and hands to lift things, fix things, bake things, grow things.

Creating new raised beds

Richie and Sam adding rotted compost to the soil

In the garden we’re asked to do things we’d never do at home, in our own garden: pull weeds, hoe earth, turn soil, plant monocultures and raise new beds without mulching them. I bite my lip as Inken, the 18-year-old longterm German volunteer, instructs me on how to break the ‘crust’ that has formed on the surface of the soil due to successive phases of watering and sunshine. We work the hoe forward while simultaneously walking backwards down the aisles. I wonder if I’m disturbing the roots of the small plants, and why there are no bugs or worms in the soil.

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Yurts & Olives

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
– Abert Einstein

Every footfall on the scorched bare earth triggers a volley of locusts and cicadas. From the front door of the yurt to the front stairs of the house I march ten abreast with the beasties. I’m confounded by the number of insects the grass harbours: thin on the ground and brittle as ice cream cones though it is, it manages somehow, to provide a perfect launching pad for long-legged insects that ricochet off my head and shoulders. It’s a small frontier to cross. I hop from the shade of one olive tree to the next. I can’t for the life of me get used to the heat, or the sensation of insects bouncing off my flesh.

In the southern Peloponnese a maximum daily temperature of 40 degrees Celsius is predicted for the next ten days. At 8pm it’s 37 degrees. At 10pm, it’s just as hot. Richie, Terry, Sarah, Mark and I eat horta (wild greens), tomatoey green beans, and roast potatoes with lemon and rosemary on the balcony, wearing nothing but singlets, shorts and a gritty film of sweat: wash it off, and two minutes later it reappears. We wake up early and go to bed late, compensating for the lost hours of work between 11am and 7pm when it’s essential to take rest indoors – outside is no man’s land – only the locusts and cicadas can endure it.

Richie and I arrive at Horo Project off the back of 3 lively Greek urban couch surfing experiences. It’s jarring to be back on the land. We’re here to volunteer. Mark, Terry and Sarah have been on site for ten days, and are expecting another 6 people to arrive in as many days. It’s clear upon arrival that they are anxious and het up; not entirely sure what to do with themselves, or us. Within hours of arriving a meeting is called to decide upon house rules and a schedule for the week. The outcome is as follows: 6am rise; minimum 5 hours of work p/day; a small daily financial contribution for food; help in the daily running of the house and the cooking of meals; assistance with the course… and in return, we receive a place to stay and the opportunity to attend a 9-day Eco-Village Design Course for free.

For the following five days Richie and I are kept busy erecting yurts, making meals, tidying the garden, designing shady outdoor spaces, attending meetings, and negotiating a place for ourselves amid the unpredictable milieu of alter-egos, archetypes, and peacekeepers. Personalities emerge; other personalities emerge to keep them in-check; edges are pushed; fuses blow; common ground is found; and time for relaxation and celebration is agreed upon. This is what community-living is all about. It’s hard work, but I don’t know that we have an alternative – at least, not for the next three weeks.

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