Flaming hot monkey lips! Let’s start with a disclaimer.
I’m a very lucky person. I’m grateful and I make a conscious effort to complain about less and less. That said, I give to you for the sake of entertainment: The fourth WWOOFing adventure.
The gig was working on a vineyard and we were arriving just in time to harvest grapes. Yay! Lauren and I were genuinely excited… until we arrived and were shown the accommodations.
There was a two-story flat next to the family’s home to house WWOOFers. Only problem was that it was already at capacity and our room was a tent in the yard. A leaky tent that had been pitched circa 1991 with lots of weeds growing around it. The pillows that we were issued looked as though they began their life around the same year I was born and have been sweat upon by a countless number of young farmers since, but no one has ever given them a wash. My olfactory is sure of it. With sincerity, I would have washed this pillow before allowing a pet to use it.
We were shown the flat where most of the other guests were staying. There was a common room with a table, small fridge, sideboard, and a couple of couches. As it accommodates a rotating door of primarily 18-20 year olds who have no incentive to keep the place clean and beautiful, it’s not what I would characterize as “inviting.” You know why public toilets are usually destroyed? Different room, same principle. Speaking of toilets…
The bathroom (singular) was a small room accessible from a roofed, open-air space on the side of the flat. It had a toilet and a small stand up shower. Let’s do some math. 15 WWOOFers, 1 toilet, 1 shower. Moreover, as the toilet faces the shower from two feet away, they can’t be utilized by different people simultaneously. An enumerated commodity only afforded to the very fast or very patient. Queue up!
Did you notice that I didn’t mention a sink in the bathroom? You’re so clever, but not to fret! It’s located immediately outside of the bathroom. Next to the stove where you cook your meals. With dirty dishes in it. So, take a poo, wash your hands, brush your teeth, and knock out that dinner plate while you’re at it. Honestly folks, this is some efficiency I can live without.
There was a list of rules and such tacked to the wall. Lauren and I diligently read through them entirely. It stated that the food was delivered to the guests once per week and that it was our responsibility to ration wisely amongst ourselves. Failing to do so would result in us, “STARVING FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK.” That’s a direct quote and the capitalization and diction are theirs. Whoa, what the fuck is this? Lord of the flies? Am I gonna have to fight the German kid over the last can of beans so Lauren and I don’t go hungry? I signed up to work on a farm. I didn’t sign up to be on Survivor. I envisioned our host playing the role of Jeff Probst with me lamenting the problems of the flat (and tent) because someone wanted too much rice with dinner. Further, all foods were listed and said to arrive on a certain day. Our arrival was two days into this schedule. However, a quick look around the refrigerator and pantry revealed that most of what should have been there wasn’t. I remember the celery looking particularly sad and tired. Alarm bells. They’re ringing. I hear them.
Lauren and I gave each other the patented absolutelynofuckinway look, placed our bags in the tent and asked the only WWOOFer around how to get to the nearest pub. As we set out, we noticed that our tent had been placed perilously close to the flat’s bathroom. Lauren scrunched up her nose to inquire, “Can you smell that?” With my mind still melting from all that I had seen in the first 10 minutes, I sarcastically bemoaned, “Honey, my nose can pick up tomato vine notes in a Sauvignon Blanc. So, yeah, I can smell the sewage.”
We got blackout drunk making plans to leave in the morning either hitchhiking or possibly taking a taxi to the nearest bus station. I was awakened the following morning with the dew dripping through the tent onto my face. Two seconds later, I was visited by an old friend not seen in a while – the I’m-never-drinking-again headbuster. No time for hangovers, though. My bags have never felt so heavy and I don’t recall having to walk so far with them. Without a word, we began putting strides between ourselves and the indentured servant camp.
Bottom line: our 3 previous WWOOF hosts were great. We lived up to our end of the bargain and they lived up to theirs for mutual benefit and enjoyment. What these people are doing is socially rude and technically illegal. WWOOFing is meant for organic homesteading farms, but New Zealand’s labor laws require commercial operations to pay laborers minimum wage or better. I looked the other way on this with the past winery because I’m a consenting adult and they were housing and feeding me well and laws schmaws – no big deal. However, these hosts are cramming people onto their property (into tents if necessary), putting some bread and cheese out for them to fight over, and then putting them to work. They give WWOOFing and its hosts a bad name by completely exploiting the system and those unfortunate souls who cross their path. And for what? A better financial statement?
In the aftermath, we received some scathing text messages from the host. Apparently, while some other WWOOFers were cooking breakfast, they caught me urinating near my tent before we left. In my defense, the bathroom was unsurprisingly occupied. Further, when I’m formally invited to someone’s home, I use the facilities. But when I’m camping in a tent, I piss outdoors.