A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: tltisme


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

Posted by tltisme 08:13 Tagged what? Comments (0)

New York. New Year.

sunny 46 °F

Fireworks supermarket in Tennessee. You're one stop shop for all amateur pyrotechnicians. They literally have shopping carts and baskets to fill to the brim as you walk down the aisles. My family often stops on our road trip to procure products for 4th of July celebrations in our firework intolerant state. There always seem to be an abundance of staff who are more than happy to offer recommendations and show footage of each product (I have been told each store has a staff party where one of every firework in the store is lit and observed). I may not be back for my families party this summer but a brought a few to my friend in the city for new years.
World Financial Center on the left and the under construction Freedom Tower on the right
At midnight we saw six different fireworks displays from this vantage point
New York City financial district from the roof of Ian's apartment building
Adios 2011

Posted by tltisme 08:05 Archived in USA Tagged fireworks Comments (0)

Delta is not named after a delta

The Mississippi alluvial flood plain to Faulkner's Home

sunny 56 °F

Mississipians refer to the fertile flood plain of their river as 'The Delta'. Flooding over thousands of years has left behind up to twenty feet of topsoil making the region one of the most fertile in the world. Further known for its jazz and blues tradition, B.B. King and other influential musicians call the Delta home. For the last century the Big Muddy has been contained by levees and farmers have principally grown cotton, corn, wheat, and catfish. The actual Mississippi River delta is hundreds of miles south as the waters now dump much more of its sediment out into the Gulf of Mexico.

It turns out that Delta airlines first began as a crop dusting crew seeking to exterminate the boll weevil infestation of cotton crops in the area. Though widely recognized as the name of the region, it seems a confusing misnomer for Yankees. Regardless, we are flying to Bogotá on vouchers we received from the airline after volunteering to fly out the next day on an overbooked flight. My family was headed to Mississippi in August 2010 for my grandparents 70th wedding anniversary and 90th birthday party (impressive to say the least). After Delta offered $500 in vouchers we (two brothers and gf) jumped at the opportunity and were given our own hotel rooms (w/ king size beds!) meal vouchers and sent out on the first flight in the morning. Not a bad deal. The day before these vouchers expired this past August Amy and I found tickets from New York to Bogotá for $527 each. My younger brother was at soccer camp and unable to redeem his so we bought his off him and ended up having to pay Delta $54 for our pair of one-way tickets!

We drove through Oxford, MS and stopped at William Faulkner's house. I juggled a soccer ball around the grounds and we took a quick self tour through the interesting and beautiful home before getting back on the road north to Tennessee.

Posted by tltisme 19:10 Archived in USA Tagged farming faulkner Comments (0)


get a real job

On the scarce occasions I let myself ponder what would come next after college, I usually contented myself with the simple idea that I would travel. The question of where was not important for a while but in the last three years or so my wanderlust coalesced on two large regions: Australia and New Zealand or Central and South America. Not so focused but a start. Only until after my last collegiate soccer season at the University of Mary Washington did I begin to get slightly more specific. I will go to Australia and New Zealand someday, but both getting there and traveling once there, is considerably more expensive than simply heading south in the Americas. I don't think I needed my economics degree to figure that out but perhaps it helped.

Another thing that helped was the fact that I now had a traveling companion. A very smart, very beautiful woman named Amy who is better than me at just about everything, including Spanish and planning. We had the great fortune of meeting in Jamaica and many things seemed to work out just right so that we could be together and plan this trip.

When you finish college you are supposed to enter the job market: pay off student loans, earn a salary, and begin reaping the returns of your investment in education. I am lucky that I attended a relatively inexpensive university, received scholarships, had parents that valued my education, had a great summer job, and did not have to take out loans to pay my way. Many students have no other option, and many more simply don't know of any other option after graduating, then taking their crisp diploma and marketing themselves to the professional world. Someday I want to work in resource economics, or maybe a sustainable energy or design industry but right now I am trying to take advantage of this very free and open portion of my life. American kids have a clear path delineated for them from an early age: go to school, get into college, get a degree. Then you are an adult and you must figure out how to clothe, shelter, and feed yourself, ideally using the education you spent most of your life obtaining. It is a little frightening to near the end of your undergraduate education and watch the 'real world' come into focus, but its also very exciting. For really the first time in your life there is no road to follow. Your ties to family, friends, places, and obligations may be the fewest you will ever have. So instead of seeking to root myself to a job, company, career, apartment, I have gone home. I am very grateful that I can earn a good hourly wage at home in the family business while doing work that I enjoy. Landscaping, stonework, and forestry encompass most of what I do but the variety of jobs and projects is one of my favorite parts about the work. Working outside is wonderful and ensures a healthy connection and appreciation for the weather and seasons. I greatly value the opportunity to problem solve and figure out ways to make things both practically functional and aesthetically beautiful. Doing such work largely independently and creatively with my mind, body, and hands I find extremely satisfying. I do want to explore the wider world of career options, and hopefully find ways to engage more of my intellect, but for the past eight months I have been entirely busy and content with saving money and planning this trip with Amy.

When explaining to people what I plan to do this winter I have been surprised at how excited the reactions are and how encouraging family friends, peers, and community members have been. Why don't more people do something of this sort if so many think it is such a good idea. The biggest reactions seem to have come from middle aged people who perhaps never had the chance to travel when they were young or did travel and had great experiences. I suppose the thing that has perplexed me the most is the disconnect between the general sentiment I have received about traveling and the lack of encouragement there is for people my age to gain such experiences. It seems like no one will tell you to go somewhere else, see how other people live, and perhaps gain more insight into what you may want to do with your life, until you tell them you are planning something of the sort. Then they will gush with "now is the time to do it!", "good for you, that sounds great!", or "I wish I had done that at your age". I am not suggesting that all college graduates should go to another continent to get some more perspective but I do think many more would benefit from it than actually do consider it. Everyone understands and interprets the world around them through the lens of their own experiences, beliefs, and overarching culture they were raised in. Individually this creates bubbles of comfort and understanding around people who feel secure and justified of their life within. Some peoples bubbles are large and relatively transparent so that they are able to glimpse other ways of life, while many are small and tinted so only similar bubbles can be seen. It seems to me that one of the easiest ways to broaden your own bubble is to leave the environment where it formed and find other expressions of life. There are countless ways that humans live, determined by some combination of choice, constraints, incentives, environment, and a myriad of other factors. I hope that by experiencing others I may discover how to better live my own life, as one human among billions.

I have been to Belize on a family vacation when I was 8, Honduras as a member of the microfinance organization La Ceiba in January 2011, and Jamaica in February 2010, not to mention a few trips to Canada. My father had the amazing opportunity to be awarded a Fulbright teacher exchange post in South Africa in 2005. My family switched houses with Ngubo Ndaba; while my dad inserted himself into the Herschel Village school outside of Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape, Ngubo took up his post at Islesboro Central School. I lived and went to school in South Africa for six months, overwhelmed and in awe of the languages, landcapes, animals, and people. Constantly friendly and overwhelmingly happy people. Whether wealthy Africaans hunters, or impoverished Xhosa soccer players, my family and I were welcomed by all. My biggest difficulties were the embarrassment over only knowing English (everyone knew 3 languages and many knew over 5) and handling the fantastical views people had of America (the imported media, entertainment, and culture from the U.S. was bizarre at best). My time there seems to be a separate chapter of my life. Perhaps with this trip I am looking to find common threads between life there and life here. Both common ground and alternative options, between the life I have known and life in other families, on other islands, in other countries or continents. Bogotá, Colombia seemed to be the best value for a plain ticket south. I did a research report on Colombia in 4th grade and always remembered the capitol city. It seems fitting to start there.

Posted by tltisme 15:04 Tagged why? Comments (0)

Crunch time for Christmas consumers

Meridian, Mississippi

semi-overcast 50 °F

Made it to Meridian. Long trip with family in confined spaces. I was ready to leave the country before the holidays and I certainly will be ready to after this. Anyways, I am glad to make it to Mississippi and get out of the car. We stopped at a state park for our picnic lunch, warm and sunny, got some touches on a soccer ball for the first time in a while which felt great. I am excited to be around football all the time in South America. My grandparents are over ninety, seem a little more frail than last year, but still going and as sweet and funny as ever. My grandfather still gets out on the golf course a few times a week despite not being able to see much and my grandmother is still quite sharp and bright eyed despite not being able to hear much.

Christmas Eve eve in the south, many backed up exits to huge malls off the highway. I can't imagine what it was like in one of those malls...a madhouse of Christmas consumers feeling the crunch.

Posted by tltisme 23:41 Archived in USA Comments (0)

(Entries 21 - 25 of 27) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 »