The biggest question I have been getting from friends and family is “What are you doing in Greece?” so allow me to explain: I am working here for about seven weeks facilitated by a website called HelpX. This website is aimed at people who want to work while they travel; saving money and giving you a chance to get get to know a place beyond hitting the tourist highlights. HelpX is similar to World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) but is not limited to organic farms. Non-organic farms, hostels, small businesses, and families are able to post listings offering room and board in exchange for various work. My first placement is as a general farm and house worker, primarily focused on gardening. My second placement, beginning the first week of November on the island of Corfu will be similar, but focused on picking olives. This answers the follow-up question of how I can afford to stay in Greece for seven weeks: my costs are very low as my room and board is covered for the majority of the time.
The second most common question I have encountered is “Why Greece?”. This one is harder to answer, but I’ll try: I’ve always wanted to travel to Greece, partly because of a fascination with lost cultures, history and a love of beautiful scenery. So when I began looking at options, Greece was at the top of the list (along with Italy and Croatia). I soon realized that October/November was olive-picking season so there were lots of opportunities. Thus my decision was made.
After being in Greece for two weeks, life has settled into a bit of a routine. Each morning I get up about 8 am and eat a breakfast of milk and cereal. Work starts about 9 am, and varies by the day. For first week, I spent a day working on removing leaves and pruning grapevines and other jobs have included walking the dog, building a new fence, and helping move furniture and other items. We have a morning break for tea (perk of staying with a British family) and lunch about 1:30. Then it is back to work until about 5:30. I have been attempting to start jogging again (though being in a mountain village makes it difficult since everything is uphill) so I usually go for a quick jog before dinner at 7 pm. Most nights it is early to bed since we are usually exhausted after a long day of physical work.
For the last week, my primary job assignment has been working on the garden. The family I am staying with was in England for about a month before I arrived – so the garden was pretty neglected and overgrown with weeds. The first thing was to clear out these weeds, as well as the summer crops that were past their prime. I spent about three days clearing weeds with a heavy traditional hoe (ulukasu for my Zambian friends). Although heavy, it gets the job done. I also tilled the soil with a roto-tiller to really get it mixed up. Next up was getting some cool season crops into the garden, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce. I planted seeds for kale, radish and corn lettuce. Hopefully over the next two weeks they will become established and in a few weeks start producing.
So that’s work; what about fun? On the weekends, we usually work a half day on Saturday and have Sunday off. Last weekend, my fellow helpers and I went on a hike from our village to the next village over, about eight kilometers away. It was a beautiful hike, although it was pretty steep and difficult at times. We ended at the taverna in the neighboring village, where a couple of Greek beers and some souvalki (Greek meat kebabs) were enjoyed.
On Sunday, we all took a trip to the beach. We headed to the town of Monemvasia, which is a Byzantine town on the top of a huge rock. There are two parts to the town, the upper town, which is the historical part and the lower town, which is modern but still build in the the historical style with authentic materials as much as possible. The town is on an island in the Mediterranean Sea, just off the east coast of the mainland. Unfortunately, the upper town is currently totally closed for restorations until the end of 2015, so we weren’t able to see the ruins up there. We walked around for awhile, enjoying the view of the town and the sea and doing a little shopping. Despite being October, southern Greece is quite warm so we even went for a swim. Movemvasia is a beautiful town full of history, culture and beaches.