It is Sunday evening, a week since I left The Netherlands and begun my life as a WorkAway volunteer. A week ago, I only had a few images and a short description to go by. I could only imagine how it would be to stay with my first host, Lisa and her son Kini. I could only wonder what the work conditions might be like. And I had no idea how I would manage both meeting my host’s expectations, while also finding time for my own mental and physical stimulation.

It seems (as usual) that any worries I may have had were unfounded. Not only are my host’s expectations completely within the reasonable, but she is also very relaxed and down to earth about most everything. During the week, she works every day except Wednesday, while her mother takes care of bringing Kini to and from school. This leaves me, 4 days of the week, completely on my own to work out my daily schedule. This may be the best part about starting out here in Vichte, Belgium.

For example, this last week, I discovered that the mornings are more of a challenge for me. It is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. If left completely to my own devices, I have the tendency to start the day slow and lethargic, preferring that second cup of coffee so I can stare out the window a little longer, trying to understand life. On the other hand, there is the side of me that wants to be organized and split the day into two parts: work and play. Somehow, I need to get around 4 hours of work done for my host in order to have earn my keep. At the same time, I want to find the time to do my daily stretching and meditation, occasional jogging and the necessary time to practice my guitar or learn Portuguese. This week showed me that, either my expectations are too high, or my schedule needs some tweaking.

Some positive aspects of this week:

  • Every morning, I managed to go for a run or a walk.
  • Here and there, I listened to some Portuguese and played a bit of guitar
  • The weather was bright and sunny almost all week.
  • Although the morning start-ups were slow, I managed to average 4-5 hours of work in the garden.
  • I learned a lot about electric chainsaws

Lisa’s garden is large and overgrown. The downside of such a large garden is that you can hardly keep up with it. The upside (for me) is that I have more than enough to keep me busy. This week I cleared a section of path which was mostly weeds and grass. Once I cleared the weeds, I laid down some cardboard, and on top of that, a layer of mulch. It is a smart solution. The cardboard is bio-degradable, but will take some time to completely disappear. Meanwhile, the weeds, which normally would poke right through the mulch, will die trying to get through the layer of cardboard. Eventually nature will always prevail, but this makes life just a little more difficult for the weeds.

On wednesday, I had planned to do some work with the chainsaw, however almost the whole day was spent taking the chainsaw apart, cleaning it out and putting it back together. The next day, I again planned on working with the chainsaw, but found it wasn’t cutting well at all, and assumed a dull blade. Since the closest tool store was closed on Thursday, I reverted to using the electric trimmer to trim the hedge. And did some more weeding. On Friday, I once again attempted using the chainsaw. This time when the chain needed tightening, I also figured I would try tightening up the flywheel. That was the trick! After that, it cut through the tree trunks with little resistance.

During this weekend, the weather turned somewhat. Now it is quite a bit colder and today there was a steady drizzle. And I realized I need a few extra pieces of warm clothing if I am going to make it through the coming winter. This morning, with coffee in hand, I gazed out at my motorcycle as the rain fell, happy that I had nowhere to go.