I think I'm turning Japanese
As a little girl, I used to watch Japanese anime. I dreamt of living, visiting, eating and creating a Hello Kitty bag of unforgettable memories in a culture that for me was so incredibly mysterious and futuristic.
It’s for this reason that I chose Japan as my first stop while mapping out my sabbatical trip and choosing destinations to visit while in Asia. I didn't want to be a typical visitor. I was looking for ways to integrate and somehow immerse myself in their culture. This can prove quite difficult when you’re not particularly great with languages.
I wanted to explore their rituals, hear their noodle-slurping techniques and explore their fashion. I was yearning to see the beautiful geishas walking down the street, ride the Shinkansen (bullet train) and have my turn at singing Karaoke.
With all this excitement, I came across the perfect opportunity that would allow me (for a bit) to integrate myself into this amazing society.
I discovered WWOOF- worldwide opportunities on organic farms. WWOOF is a worldwide movement linking volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange, thereby helping to build a sustainable, global community.
I quickly signed up! I did extensive research about where I could go and based on my interests, and on the experience, I was looking for, I ended up in Hirakata!
Woofing was a life experience. My routine consisted of seeding, planting, weeding and helping here and there. It was particularly arduous since organic farming means doing everything by hand under the imperial Japanese summer.
It was on this farm that I meet Ozeki San; a 74-year-old retired farmer with the patience of a saint and the energy of a teenager. We didn't speak each other’s language, but the silence and signals were enough to understand each other.
We were a wonderful team and he taught me so much with his hard-working nature and earthy smile.
Somehow, planting minuscule seeds of organic onions one-by-one, in the longest field ever under the hottest summer sun; I felt life teaching me a lesson...