Lasciatemi cantare
con la chitarra in mano
lasciatemi cantare
una canzone piano piano
lasciatemi cantare
perché ne sono fiero
sono l’italiano
l’italiano vero

Kind of by accident I had my first wwoofing experience here in Australia. I first learned about Wwoofing from my friend Jeff in India. Willing Workers on Organic Farms is what wwoof’ing stands for (http://www.wwoof.org). Basically it’s a work-for-board-and-meals exchange. It’s a great way to get experience working on a farm or getting involved in any of a number of projects that people need some help with. And of course to meet the locals.

Wwoof’ing began in Australia and there are over 1,200 farmers who are listed with wwoof in Australia alone. It is also growing in many other parts of the world. I found a posting from a Bedouin in Jordan who wants someone to help him out with his herd of goats and to help his children learn English. I wrote down his email and I may just write him down the road.

So how I got to wwoof…

After my Vipassana meditation class I pretty much had no plans or place to go. It’s my new way of traveling of not making any plans until I have to and sometimes it works out great. Other times not so great. All I knew was that I wanted to get to an internet café to take care of some travel plans. My well-dressed Italian roommate from Vipassana, Daniele, was going to Brisbane to wwoof at a Yoga studio/ashram for a week. I figured I’d join him and see if they could use an extra hand for a few days. In my mind I kept having this feeling that they would welcome me with open arms saying “Sure Emile! Come on in! We can definitely use your help.”

The answer was No. Someone else was coming in two days and I wouldn’t be needed. So much for my premonitions. I decided I’d find a hostel and just check into there but I was in no rush (10 days of meditation kind of chills you out) so I just hung out in the lobby of the ashram, waiting for Daniele to settle in and then we’d go get something to eat.

My pad at the ashram

My pad at the ashram

And wouldn’t you know it during that time the manager of the ashram came over and said that he had just received an email from the next wwooffers that they were going to be arriving later than expected and so if I could stay and help out for a couple of days that would be great. Perfect!

The studio is called Yoga Studio for Daily Life and it’s on the east side of Brisbane in a more industrial part of town. It’s a non-profit organization started by a Hindu named Swamiji. All the employees and yoga instructors work as volunteers and supposedly they’re quite big and have studios around the world.

I imagine wwoofing at a Yoga ashram is very different to the typical wwoofing on a farm. The closest thing I did to farming was plucking out weeds and watering plants. Our primary responsibility was to get the place cleaned up before the 10 a.m. yoga class and that involved sweeping, mopping and laying out the yoga mats for the first class.

Daniele posting a couple flyers

Daniele posting a couple flyers

We did some gardening one day then the rest of the time we rode bikes all around Brisbane posting flyers for upcoming classes at the ashram. Brisbane’s a great place to ride because it’s pretty much all flat.

But the best part about the ashram was the meals. We had full, 24-hour access to the kitchen, fridge and pantry and we cooked a storm for each meal. It was all healthy vegetarian, organic type foods which means you can eat all you want and it’s still healthy.

Sporting my cool bike helmet

Sporting my cool bike helmet

We were also responsible for making lunch for the couple of people working at the ashram but after the first day’s lunch they told us not to worry about their food. Not sure if they didn’t like it or what.

And another added perk is that we got to join in a yoga class each day and were actually encouraged to. It felt great to get some exercise in after being pretty immobile for the past couple of weeks. Poor Daniele though, who is learning English, has enough trouble understanding people when speaking to them let alone hearing it during a yoga class. So when we’d take the course, most of the time he had no idea what the instructor was telling us to do. And one time I looked over at him and he was peacefully asleep on his yoga mat. The ultimate relaxation.

I left the ashram after four days since I was going back to the Vipassana center to volunteer as a server. Daniele is still at the Yoga ashram, and they’ve asked him to stick around for a couple more weeks. Not a bad gig. Now only if he can understand the yoga class, he’ll be all set.

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