Priceless Experience : WWOOFing at Joam, Suwon, Gyeonggi-do

After the first experience WWOOFing at Geochang, I was more confidence when I left Seoul alone to Joam. My host this time already been 8 years hosting WWOOFer. Being to Metropolitan Seoul left me startled a little bit when I set foot at Joam terminal bus. It was small, shabby terminal bus in the middle of small Joam town. I forgot most of the time blinded by all beautiful and grand lifestyle Seoul portraying that every country has their own rural site and not that well off peoples.

Mr Keum my host is a middle age man with trace of hard work clearly can be seen on his face when he pick me up with his small pickup truck. Even he claimed that he is not good in english but he is better than other people I met previously. We left the Joam terminal bus that late afternoon and soon my memory here was made.

As Mr Keum house is quite small and has 2 grown up boys , Mr Keum arranged me to stay at girls dormitory near his house. There, I was surrounded with young students preparing for the college entrance just like what I watched in Korean movie.

Again, there is no farm working for me. But I had a chance to work at flower shop belong to Mr Keum’s friend Teacher Lee. After working, Teacher Lee teach me how to make roses using Hanji paper. hahahah … i discovered my hidden artistic talent here. Besides that, I’m too busy at Joam, busy meeting people, busy attending meeting, busy at gathering. I think this is the first time in my life that I meet that many new people in my 5 days. Mr Keum is quite active in several organization such us “Slow Food Organization”, Farming Organization”, helping others in online shopping project, etc. I’ve been introduced to head of Joam bank, Public officer at several government agencies, Professors at University up till farmers and also business man..and also politician. Huh….even I can;t understand most of the conversation between them but I enjoy being the centre of attraction whenever I’m with Mr Keum.

What I impressed with Mr Keum is how well he bring himself in any of the gathering even he is only a farmer. Everyone respect him and he is a person with lots of idea and enthusiasm. Spending time with him, I learned a lot about his dream and his perspective of life. He is like a farther and a teacher of life for me. Still clearly I remember him saying ” A person should have a big and warm heart. Giving out to others without asking for a return coz giving already give you happiness  Life is like onion sprout grow in winter,even how much snow covered and cold it will stand the long winter to wait for spring.  Siha ya, you are a brave girl. Remember that you should go for what your heart wishing to so that you have no regret in life”.  Bidding a goodbye was not easy for me, to Mr Keum  ‘s 2 sons who understand their farther’s hard life and study harder. To Mrs Keum’s   who eager to let me trying and knows lots of new things, and to grandmother whom warmly embraced me and cried when I left.

And from time to time, I sing our favourite song that we used to sing whenever we were on the road, driving on Mr Keum’s pick up truck that has no radio and heater. It was never a silent and cold ride whenever we sang this song.

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Priceless Experiance : WWooFing at TURWOOL, Gyeongsangnamdo

My first experience, their first experience too. Both of us (Host and WWOOFer) are new to this program. I was worried but excited. From the forum wrote by other wwoofers, good things and bad things did happen. To be at unknown place and meet unknown people, i’m glad that my sister, Nor was with me.

We travelled for more than 4 hours by express bus to southern part of South Korea due to New Year long holiday’s traffic jam. We arrived at Geochang Terminal Bus around 9.30 pm and hurriedly i gave a call to our Host. Around 20 minutes later, our host arrived, a women around 45 years old. Our place to stay not that far from Terminal Bus (around 20 – 30 minutes walking). We left our bag in a small Hanok house and again been brought to another house belong to another host. Hahaha ..From the conversation over supper, i got to know that my host is not 1 person or a family but consist of 6 families together under a group call TURWOOL. They called each other by nickname, no real name and i don’t need to use respect term who a younger person or stranger like me should use to address other people which a big NO in Korean society. hahaha .. i still recalled how nervous i am trying to address them just by their name.

Winter when most of people is in hibernating mode especially for farmer, nothing much we done for 7 days staying there. But i learned a lot appreciating time without the buzzling life at big city, without tv, without internet connection. Our routine everyday will be woke up early, walking around 5 – 10 minutes to one of our host second house aka workplace. Having breakfast, helping our host with her chores, lunch, back to our place and touring the village or sometimes went to the town. As our stay fall during festive celebration aka Seollal or in Malaysia, Chinese New Year, we experienced how local celebrate it. Starting with rice cake soup as breakfast, greeting the elders (bow), together with one of the host family to watch movie, we spent the holiday like local did.

The other things that i cannot forget is the experience of managing ondol system using charcoal in a very traditional way and manually. Even my younger korean friends impressed with that coz it’s hardly been used nowadays. Find out more about ONDOL.

Only on the last day, when the weather much more warmer, we managed to work at the farm by cleaning out the previous left over harvest and prepare the land for spring. And at night with 2 of our hosts, we watched an old German movie at Geochang Community Centre.

Even i had not experienced farming activity here, but I enjoying a slow life Geochang offered me. And time spending with my hosts was a memorable one. I’m not sure how Sangi the poet, Param the painter, Yonggam the academician, Hasim and his Pansoori husband and others whom I didn’t had a chance to meet got together at Geochang, But they are here now, to achieve their dreams to be involved with nature and away from busy life at big city. We bid goodbye on the day snow slowly falling at Geochang with a promised to be back when their hotel project finish in 3 years time. Till then, Thank you TURWOOL!!!

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Introduction to WWOOF Program

I’ve been following Budget Travel Korea Blog for a while now. From her blog i found about WWOOF Program which open up a new adventure in   my life.

WWOOF stand for Worldwide Opportunity on Organic Farms operated at 99 countries as for now. WWOOFing aims to provide volunteers with first-hand experience in organic and ecologically sound growing methods, to help the organic movement, and to let volunteers experience life in a rural setting or a different country. WWOOF volunteers (‘WWOOFers’) generally do not receive financial payment. The host provides foodaccommodation, and opportunities to learn, in exchange for assistance with farming or gardening activities.

For me, i can classified it as “Working Holiday”. Sound good for me as i can mingle with the locals, learn more on their life, language, culture and etc.

How to be in WWOOF Program? 

As there are no single organization that control all WWOOF program in each country, you need to register at your preferred WWOOF country. And as for me WWOOF Korea. Fill up a form and pay around 80,000 won (i skip the host book) or around RM250 you will entitle to use the service and start the program for a year. Check this link for more info

After your registration been approved, you will get your id to login the website and start searching for your host. Oh, ya… you need to familiar with this 2 terms, Host and WWOOFer. Host is the family,a person who will host you at their farm. and WWOOFer is you who register to this program.. ahaksss. You can access to all available list of Hosts and start listing out your favourite or wish to stay with based on information given. I basically choose mine based on location,  type of farm and other info that related to sensitivity of religion. such as? if the host own a pig as example, big NO. Send your several choice with date you wish to stay, the organizer will arrange it with the host and find either your chosen hosts are available to accept you.

And my advice to traveller who have this program in mind, you need to have open mind and heart without loosing your belief . It’s a mutual program where both the WWOOFer and Host learn and teach about their own differences. You can’t expect everything goes like you expected it to be. If you can’t do that much, this is not your plate of food.