94. Volunteering is a made-up word

Written on the 9th of April

The light manual labour we have been exposed to these past weeks are finally starting to pay off – my arms are sore and I can feel my muscles swelling. The work that has been required of us here have been limited to burying our feet in mud which we did with great enthusiasm and satisfaction (a dream come true for our inner children); shaping mud into bricks; hitting beans with sticks with all strength and might we could muster so that the beans jump and dance in the air; and straining sand until we are covered in a thick layer of dust all over and we no longer look our caucasian selves. Fortunately, when the work becomes too tedious, the four (now mysteriously three) most adorable small puppies are not far away and they’ll quickly cheer you up. Beside these simple tasks the parents of our host seem content to do the rest of the work themselves despite our many fruitless efforts to offer a helping hand – whenever we would offer our assistance the mother will wave her hand amiably but dismissive at us, and moments later bark hysterically at her husband. So we retire quietly to our small room to seek shelter from the beating sun and the army of flies that have hegemony over the area. 

Once we set foot outside the grounds and wandered up and down the long dust road which in one end seems to go on indefinitely and is surrounded by fields upon fields of trees and other green things, and in other end stretches by a couple of other houses before it leads onto an actual road. Here, at this intersection, we were spotted (which we easily are – since we left Copenhagen I feel like the world suddenly perceive my skin otherwise pale white skin as being a bright neon green colour that lights up and blinks like a pizzaria sign) and invited to a glass of whiskey by an elder Thai man. He offers us a seat and then starts a mostly one-sided conversation by, almost accusingly, telling us of the greedy West colonising the South-east and then struggles to recount the many evils committed by the US (a topic of conversation I’m normally eager to participate in) before we can make an excuse to leave again.       

Our fellow volunteer and us had a real bonding moment over a game of fem-hundrede the other night – and I totally wiped the floor with those two losers. Despite Niamh continually refusing to play card games, she finally caved in after we’ve spend days without end basically living as vegetables. Being so near the end of our travel in Asia and so close to our arrival in Maputo it is difficult to stay motivated and with no work required of us we repeatedly find ourselves mentally floating away to Africa. Of all the plans we’ve made for the second part of our travels it is the small things I especially look forward to, such as a sink, soap (ironically enough that we are at a farm which produce and sell a great number of different soap but not a single one have we seen or had access to during our stay here) and the absence of frogs and toads – not to mention a real bed!