are we doing in South America
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. In fact, the acronym began as Working Weekends on Organic Farms when it was first organized in England in 1971. Demand for longer working periods incurred a change to Willing Workers on Organic Farms which was transformed into the current word choice in 2000 at the first international WWOOF conference. It turns out that immigration authorities were not keen on allowing 'free' migrant worker labor through some borders. "Living, learning, sharing organic lifestyles" is WWOOFs current tagline and it has always been about a meaningful exchange of volunteer help for "food, accommodation, and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles." I don't think the imported labor is enough to cause any significant impacts in macroeconomies, but the organization has grown dramatically so an economic study of micro and macroeconomic effects could be interesting...
I have never before WWOOFed but Amy has at multiple farms in Costa Rica and California. From what I know of her experiences and other friends who have, it can be entirely different depending on where you are and who your hosts are. WWOOF is really a network or simple directory of farms that are interested in hosting volunteers whose contact information is only supplied to members. WWOOF membership fees differ by country and region from free admittance to $50 or more. From my research of South American WWOOF listings there seems to be a wide variety of posts. From an organic commercial shrimp farm in Ecuador, to a design school for sustainable habitats, Organizmo (our first stop outside of Bogotá) interactive learning and dynamic experiences are inevitable. Not to mention all the more traditional sounding, family-run fruit, berry, vegetable, coffee, goat, pig, etc. organic farms, there is no telling what a WWOOFing experience will be like.
Besides the economic advantages of travelling between places where you work for your food and housing, WWOOFing guarantees a different experience altogether from traditional tourism. By staying in one community for two weeks or more at a time I hope to see what life is like there. Not simply 'see the sights' and attractions but witness some of the personal interactions and sub-cultures of this point on the globe. I hope these experiences will be enhanced by learning about the plants and animals that are cared for as well as building and energy practices of the people. Of course I also hope to play some football and though my espanol will not be great perhaps I can make some connections through love of the sport.
The map above shows the extent of our planned itinerary up to this point. It turns out that the father of a friend of mine from college is the US Ambassador to Colombia and she has extended an invitation to us when we first arrive in Bogotá. Thank you Claire! Once we leave the capital city we head to Organizmo, then check out the beautiful city of Medellin (no longer the center of drug trade it is still trying to outgrow its tainted reputation), before heading south to our second volunteer post at Finca Campo Bello. Next it is onward into Ecuador where we have one confirmed WWOOF host in Ecuador at the foot of the Tungurahua Volcano which is active. Apparently it often grumbles and belches ash and molten rock. The local people are used to it and pay little mind, simply sweeping the ash off their steps before going about their day. I also hope to get to the coast of Ecuador and hop on a boat to head to Isla de la Plata, nicknamed the 'Poor Man's Galapagos' it is certainly more in our price range and is said to be indistinguishable from the much farther offshore archipelago. After Ecuador, Amy and I will venture down into Peru where we have three different WWOOF locations lined up and many other things to see and do! The map includes a few details if you zoom in and click on points and when I begin to upload pictures they will be connected to points on the map. After Peru we plan to head into Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Brazil requires a visa but we may go through that paperwork if we get that far, I would love to be there for the World Cup in 2014...
I am getting somewhat impatient to get started on this trip after all this preparation and planning. Five days to go, actually six since Amy called Delta and easily got our first flight from New York to Atlanta changed for no cost. Now instead of a 22 hour layover we leave the 11th and have only a few hours to wait in Atlanta. We were both surprised at how easy it was; it seems everyone at the airline is at the whim of the computer system, sometimes it works in your favor and often it doesn't. Though I have researched and read extensively for this trip there is always more to learn. A few more days left to practice Spanish, read guidebooks and websites, double-check packing lists, and make final preparations for leaving the country for a while. About time.
A good introductory guide to WWOOFing