Whenever, Wherever.

August 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

Five of us–one American (that’s me), three Germans, one of whom was actually raised in Costa Rica, and a Brit–cram into a busted-up Audi. This is the “WWOOF-er car,” our primary mode of transportation. We try to ignore the “thud” noise it makes every three minutes or so as we drive to the supermarket. We’re out of soap, tea, cereal, and chocolate. It’s also the German-Costa Rican’s turn to cook dinner. She wants to make Thai food. I personally look forward to finding out if it’s possible to acquire Thai kitchen staples in central Sweden.

We turn on some music. Of the few CDs in the car at the time, we agree on Shakira’s Laundry Service.

The Brit immediately starts belting out all of the lyrics. I snicker.

“You know, you can sing along, too,” she replies.

I continue snickering. I had that CD when I was twelve years old. I’m embarrassed to admit that I still know many of the words.

We wander through the narrow aisles of the supermarket. Yes, ginger root, coconut milk, and mangoes are available in Sweden. But, as with everything in Sweden, they cost twice as much as it would anywhere else in the world.

On our way home, as we make our way up the long, gravel road toward the farm, we pass lawn decorations that can only be described as a crossbreeding of Brothers Grimm and Looney Tunes, rendered in what appears to be modeling clay. We decide they’re quite “Scandinavian.”

Later that evening, the German-Costa Rican prepares a marinade for shrimp while the rest of us sit around the dining room table with mugs of coffee and tea, chatting. We share our views on favorite books and films, contemporary literary phenomenons like Twilight and Hunger Games, and, um, Lord of the Rings-inspired drinking games.

After sitting around with our laptops and magazines, we sit down to dinner: shrimp, swimming in a subtly spicy broth, paired with coconut rice. It’s our first meal without a hint of tomato. When you spend the majority of your working hours picking and sorting tomatoes for sale, and when you must prepare your meals with rejected tomatoes, (we call them “second sort” around here), this is nothing short of a revelation.

We watch one of the only English-language DVDs we can find in our hosts’ meager library–Road to Perdition, featuring a horribly disfigured, balding Jude Law. Before we know it, it’s time to call it a night. A few of us make plans to go on a walk in the nearby forest the following morning.

Oftentimes the work you do as a volunteer is mundane and unsatisfying, and your hosts are absent and indifferent. So you rely on the people around you to make the experience worthwhile. It’s worked for me so far.

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