My First Workaway Experience!
I've always had an interest in working or helping out on a farm, so I decided to volunteer in the north-eastern part of the Netherlands! I was looking through the hosts on the Workaway.info website and stumbled upon a family who owns Wijngaard Maronesse. I decided to volunteer for a total of nine days. If you want to travel, work, and learn about the culture of the country you are staying in, this is a great way to spend your time! The work can be quite rewarding and you can learn a lot about yourself.
Thursday | Day 1 ~ Getting to Know The Place
I was picked up at a nearby train station and it didn't take me too long to get there, from where I was living in the Netherlands, just under two hours long. On the way to the farm, we picked up some candy for the kids. Apparently there was a ceremony/event going on that evening for all the kids in Elementary school called Avondvierdaagse (evening 4 days). The students walk quite a distance to celebrate the end of their semester/school year, receiving candy and flowers from their parents, relatives and friends.
When I arrived at the farm, there was a family from Norway that had already worked here back in the Fall, but they decided to visit on the way from their trip in Spain. They were all such nice and friendly people! I felt very lucky and grateful to be surrounded by people I could meet and learn new things from. That evening, we all went to the walking ceremony. It was very exciting for the kids and it was extremely new and interesting for me to watch.
It was also the first time staying in a caravan! I wasn't sure if I would be completely comfortable at first, especially with all the random bugs hanging around once in a while. I actually had a mini panic attack, thinking about what the hell I was doing, but everything was fine! I was fine! It's really not the end of the world. At that point, I realized how much of a city girl I really was and after that first night, bugs and all the small things didn't matter to me.
They also had a beautiful, friendly German Shepherd... three cats and one of them had five baby kittens about two weeks old! How adorable, right!?
Friday | Day 2 ~ Driving a Small Tractor
It was officially the first day of volunteer work! I could tell that they knew I wasn't very experienced with agricultural work, but I kept asking for work I could possibly do anyway. The weather was forecasted to be quite bad, so they needed help with putting up the netting for the vineyard. I was asked if I could drive or had a license, and of course I did, so they asked if I could drive the tractor and carry one to two people up into the vineyard.
At first, I was like... um, is the tractor MANUAL? and he said yes, but it's very slow and easy to drive. He was right, it was very easy to drive and I enjoyed it so much, I asked for more work that day, PLUS... I honestly didn't think I worked enough to earn my stay there. Apparently I was only supposed to work up to 4 hours a day. That's quite little in my book, haha. Driving the tractor was also not bad because I had lessons from Ric for driving manual previously in the past for a few times already, so it wasn't completely new to me, but it was still a very new experience, one I would never forget.
I don't have a photo of the actual vineyard I worked on, but here's a photo of a part of my caravan and the small mini vineyard they had growing :) my feet are also quite small, so I borrowed one of the kids' boots, haha.
The family from Norway planned to leave the next day so we had a BBQ. We ate outside every day if the weather is nice and I really enjoyed that. When I was in Canada, we never ate outside, and if we did, it was only if we had a BBQ.
Saturday | Day 3 ~ The Large Family Party BBQ
As an introvert, I really do not react well to meeting so many people at once. I like to talk to people one on one. So, I had to be brave and meet new people that evening. They had a lot of their family over for a BBQ and I had small conversations with some of them. They were all very friendly and understanding. There were also a lot of kids, they were super adorable. I was also asked to help one of them, so that felt nice.
I slept much better in my caravan that night. I felt comfortable enough to wear a mini dress to sleep, haha. My feet are quite sensitive when I sleep, so I had to wear socks, in case I felt anything crawl around me.
Sunday | Day 4 ~ First Biking Experience
I can bike, but it's a little different in the Netherlands. There are bike lanes everywhere and sometimes I get confused as to where to go, since the lanes are usually quite close to the cars. Sometimes the bike lane would break apart and you would need to bike on the road for a bit. I never biked in the city so I was quite scared. I mainly biked up and down the whole bike lane because I wasn't sure how to cross to the other side (into the city I originally wanted to go into, haha). But I was able to see beautiful horses, ponies and cows along the way :)
Monday | Day 5 ~ Visiting Blokzijl
I didn't do too much work today, just cleaned the living room and I think I did the laundry, but I can't quite remember. I also helped out on the smaller vineyard. We had to make sure the vines were put up straight in between the wires. I also had to help remove small stems growing from the bottom. There wasn't too much work for me, but I did finish the required amount of hours. I would always ask for things to do.
Then I FINALLY BIKED INTO BLOKZIJL! haha. I was checking out the path on Google Maps. Then I noticed that I had actually missed the bike path to cross to the other side the last time -.- So I biked into the city and let me tell you, it was very rewarding and I freaking love their self-locking bikes. Well you need a key, but it's just smart compared to what I am used to in Canada. I parked my bike at the bus station in front of the town/village and took a stroll inside, not expecting much, but WOW.
I mean, look at this beautiful view!? There was also free wifi at the exact spot I was sitting, taking this panorama. All the shops were pretty much closed and there were barely any people walking around. It felt great, I love peace and quiet. I also saw a girl riding a white horse around... like what!? I decided to explore the town and just went wherever I wanted to. Then I decided to walk into the path where they park the boats, and boy was it a sight to see.
Tuesday | Day 6 ~ Designing Wine Labels
There was literally not much for me to do on the farm today, so I was able to help them redesign some wine labels! They recently printed out new labels, so they won't be using my ideas any time soon, but it was still nice to be able to contribute my design work to their vineyard. Then I decided to visit Blokzijl again, but there were more people this time, which made it just a tad bit weird, since I am literally the only Asian there :p It doesn't bother me, but I do get stares once in a while which can make me feel a little uncomfortable, especially since I'm alone.
Wednesday | Day 7 ~ Killing Potatoes!
Okay, so I had a lot of work to do on the farm. I had to help kill the potato leaves, growing from the ground from last winter. They needed the field for their growing onions, so we had to spray a chemical on the potato leaves, so that they can die. It's quite time consuming and this photo is literally one fifth of the field. It took all day for us to work on the field, yet we didn't finish the whole field, so we had to continue the next morning.
Then I got pretty bad sun burns on my lower arms, chest, neck, a bit on my ears, and a bit on my scalp >< I didn't know I would be out in the sun for that long. I should have worn sunscreen. But then again, I wanted to work the extra hours, so I should have been smart about that, haha. I'm a weather girl after all. I check the weather like every hour =\
Thursday | Day 8 ~ Visiting Giethoorn
We continued working on the potato/onion field in the morning until noon. Then I was given a tour around the city. We also dropped by Giethoorn, which is a small town with no roads! There are canals everywhere for boats to pass by. Apparently, a lot of their tourists come from China. My host drove me around many different parts of the city and shared many interesting facts.
Friday | Day 9 ~ Ric Sleeps Over!
It was my last night here on the farm. I mainly cleaned the front of the shop and house. There wasn't much for me to do. I did my laundry and hung out around the house, played with their dog and kittens. I also enjoy being around their children. I like to listen to them talk, while picking up a few words or phrases.
The family also invited Ric to sleep over for the night! That was really sweet of them. He came by around eight in the evening. I showed him around the house, where I worked and where I was living. It was important for me to show him my home for the last week or so.
Saturday | Day 10 ~ Leaving
We decided to leave around 11am? I picked up a bottle of their sweet white wine, black pepper crackers which were delicious, grapes, raspberries, their Italian cheese, a bottle of pure apple/strawberry juice and Blokzijler Brok, which can only be found in Blokzijl. It tastes like a soft gingerbread cookie! It's delicious. Then we said our farewell... I was kind of sad to leave.
I just took this photo today, so some of the stuff I mentioned may have already been consumed :)
I wanted Ric to see Blokzijl, so we drove into the town. The restaurants were not open for lunch until noon, so we decided to walk around and sit by the water, watching boats pass by. There were some German tourists and one elderly German man kept appearing, so we thought he was lost. He was just looking to buy food and was not sure where to go, haha.
We ate at Sluiszicht for lunch :) Apparently we could have sat by the water, but we were on the opposite side of the restaurant and did not know. Ric found out when going to the toilet/washroom. We both ordered sparkling iced tea. I ordered an open baguette with brie, honey and walnuts. Ric ordered a chicken panini and we decided to share a Dutch apple/raisin pancake (pannenkoeken). My dish was just missing some grilled pears! but it was delicious. Ric also enjoyed his meal. The pancake was not very good, so I would not recommend it :)
Then we just went home! It was a little weird being back home, but felt nice. We were both pretty tired. I hope you enjoyed this post!