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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Modicum of Progress

With reference to the previous post, I have ruled out option number 1 (staying in Korea). As is standard with contracts here, schools are supposed to provide the teachers with apartments, so when I visited 영진 (the school I agreed to work for), I got a tour of my future apartment, and it was pretty sweet. Unfortuntely, I can't start living there until February, though I even asked if I could just pay rent to stay in the meantime, since it's going to be empty. The answer was no. Thus: No place to stay, plenty of places to go.

I also had a few other opportunities to work here, but it occurred to me that I've been teaching English in Korea for just over 2 years now and will be doing it again in 5 or 6 months, and there's nothing other than inertia compelling me to do it in the interim as well. Time to do something. Something that fulfills the following Criterions:

1) Must take place in an exotic/exotified foreign land.
2) Must not cost too much money.
3a) Must be more fulfilling than last winter in Southeast Asia. (see future post with another DFW quotation for elaboration and elucidation, perhaps with a counter-post from my temporary host Chris, a "fellow traveler" over on the left there, unless you're reading this upside-down, in which case I guess he's on the right).
3b) Must do somebody, or the environment/everybody, some good.
4) Must somehow contribute to "my development," not that I know what that means.
5) Must be conducive to vegetarianism.

What magic contraption can do all of these things while still being enjoyable? One answer, it appears, is WWOOFing, which stands for WorldWide Opportunity on Organic Farms. It's an organization that facilities communication between fauxbauxs like myself (I suppose realbauxs are also eligible, or perhaps WWOOFing is itself one path to realbauxhood) and hosts, who generally provide accomodation and sustenance in exchange for 4-6 hours of labor each day, either on a farm or some other kind of project.

Over the past few years, thanks to authors like Michael Pollan and Peter Singer and recently betrothed friends like Justin and Anna Horn-Zeide or Zeide-Horn or Zehornide or Hozeidern or whatever surname they have finally settled on, I've become a lot more interested in the processes by which we produce and obtain food nowadays. This probably also has something to do with the widening of my culinary horizon forced upon me by my impromptu move to Korea way back in '06 [3 years in December! Indubitable yet incomprehensible!}. I always used to be a little freaked out that I knew how to use a TV but really had no idea about how iti worked. And even when I started learning to play around with computers in middle and high school, it eventually dawned on me that though I was capable of reinstalling operating systems and installing new hardware, I really knew very little about how stuff worked at more basic levels.

It wasn't until a little more recently, though, that I realized that I face a similar sort of bewilderment about most, if not all, the food I eat. I have no idea where it came from, who caught it or grew it, how they did so, how long they've been doing so, whos' subsidizing them, what they think about what they produce and how they produce it, what they think about their customers, what their goals are, etc. Not to mention conditions on meat farms/CAFOs. I'm sure most people would be equally perplexed if they were in the habit of trying to think thoroughly about their food.

So, at this point, heading to a farm somewhere - maybe even one with solar-powered water heaters and human waste composting toilets - to plant trees and dig ditches and pick fruit and build huts and eat vegan (not vegans) seems like a good way to spend the winter. I don't think I'm particularly compelled by concepts like living in harmony with mother nature or treating the world with respect, but I'm defiinitely interested in trying something a little simpler, a little more self-sufficient, and also, hopefully, delicious.


Metastasis said...

I'll be here for the next ten months: wildernesscollege.com. Right now, I've been working at Samurai under the false pretense that I'm not leaving Sunday to drive to Washington state. Ostensibly a Japanese restaurant, the place is run by Koreans with a Mexican dishwasher. I dig their style and I think of you, knowing you could and would sass them in their native tongue (as I do the dishwasher) while I vibe happily on the sound and feeling. I like your plan. I support you.

me said...

Vegans taste great with ketchup.

I like your WWOOFing idea, though imagining you as a farm laborer is a funny image...

AZ said...

Oh Mike! I've always wanted to be a WWOOFer, and am so excited to see you possibly live out my dreams. The Zehornides are beyond touched at the idea that they might have had some influence in your developing food ways. Ah! It makes me feel like I've done something with my life after all! Photos of our weekly food supplies, minus the Coke and Lay's (so that you don't criticize us!), to be posted shortly. We hug you, we love you.

DCP said...

Seems like a great way to spend several months. Do you have the prospective countries/areas narrowed down yet? Do you choose, or are you placed? I guess I could find this all out on their Web Site.

Mike said...

1) I would someday like to try eating a vegan, but only a free-range vegan with some organic ketchup.

2) Me on a farm is a funny image? Funnier than me in a classroom with 15 Korean toddlers? In any case, what's better than funny?

3) As for where I've going, I've sent emails to 3 farms in India, 1 in Indonesia, and 1 in Malaysia, and all but 1 have said that I can come by any time. I guess hosts are always looking for new volunteers. I'm leaning towards India because I can get a 6 month visa, whereas Indonesia is only 2 and Malaysia is 1. When I settle on a place, I'll put up some info.