• Sami Bakaitis

Why I worked on a farm on top of a volcano

No this is not clickbait, this title is real.


In the summer of 2019, I worked on a farm at the base of Mt Etna in Sicily. I had done this through the program Work-away that connects enthusiastic workers with amazing hosts.


I chose to work on a farm as it is something that I always wanted to do. It was also a bonus as I was giving back to the earth and learning awesome agricultural techniques to use at home!

So here is my journey of how I joined a circus, created a shower with a Coca-Cola bottle and saw my first volcano eruption!

 

Part 1- Acclimatising


It began with a quick flight to Catania and a train ride to the central station.


Farmer Bob greeted me at the station with a big smile and a firm handshake. We excitedly traveled off to his farm where he explained to me what he grows and the kind of work I will be doing in particular.


The first night was absolutely terrifying and was one of the most anxious states I have ever been in. I was lying on my hammock with my walking boots on trying to fall asleep but miserably failing. There was a thunderstorm brewing which brought on light rain and heavy winds. Not the best weather for being on a hammock!


Leaves would rustle as though someone was sneaking around you and weird animal noises echoed in the distance.


Then the volcano started rumbling. You could feel the ground rumble beneath you. It then started to erupt...


A photo of the Volcano erupting at a later date while driving back to the farm

Not the best first night in my opinion.

 

Now let's talk about the shower situation...


There was one! But in the worst spot. The bath was right on top of a paper wasp nest.


Therefore, every time the water started running a swarm of territorial wasps would angrily come and greet me.


I myself was not happy to see them.


After some discussions with farmer Bob, we agreed to build a standing shower outside of the van. This consisted of wooden logs for structure and sugar canes for privacy.

Also, the showerhead was a Coca-Cola bottle cut in half with holes at the bottom. No. I am not lying

It was refreshing :)

 

Part 2- The work


The work was simple. Water the plants, pick ripe fruits and rip out any weeds. However, it was the Sicilian sun that made the whole experience tough.


My average day consisted of waking early in the morning and having a light breakfast which would usually be picking up a fresh plum from a tree and some freshly squeezed orange juice.


I would then help Bob water the whole farm which would take about an hour or more.


Then I would get to work weeding. It was actually quite therapeutic as my mind would wander.



After, lunch would be provided and I would help by preparing and cleaning up after.


Freshly made pesto pasta with homemade beer from a neighbour!

A siesta would then occur in the middle of the day. Something completely new to me. For those of you that don't know, a siesta is when you take a nap in the middle of the day to escape the scorching heat.


During siesta, I would read short stories by Haruki Murakami and then fall asleep. Amazing I know!


At around 3 I would then help Bob with cement work until sunset.


Here we would fill this segment with cement to create a platform where Bob's family would sunbathe!


Here it is almost finished!

 

Part 3- Circus?


Let me tell you about farmer Bob. As well as being a farmer, he is also part of the group Batarnu.


Batarnu is a circus group of people who perform juggling and various other acts with fire!


I first heard of this when I walked out into the courtyard and saw Bob doing this...

Safe to say I was surprised! He then proceeded to tell me that he helps out the group Batarnu once in a while. By either performing or welding some new materials to set alight!


Bob welding a swinging fire mace for a show
That old yellow van you saw earlier was actually the van the original Batarnu group used to travel to one of the Glastonbury festivals to perform! You can still see the old logo on the side of the van.

So, twice a week I would join Bob, Ciccio and the other Batarnu members and travel to small medieval cities to perform at. It would either be done in the streets or in a castle courtyard!


The atmosphere was electrifying. Batons set alight and thrown 20ft into the air as well as swords being juggled! It was an amazing spectacle that wowed all ages. I would help out by holding the container of lighter fluid and refill the team when needed. An important job indeed.



In their spare time, they taught me how to juggle which is a great party trick and keeps your reflexes sharp!


All together, traveling around with Batarnu made my trip that extra bit special and memorable. I definitely recommend to anyone that they join a circus, even if it's just for a month!

 

Conclusion


Doing something out of your comfort zone is what builds you as a character. Even though working on a farm had its ups and downs, I definitely don't regret it.


Use https://www.workaway.info/ as a way of connecting yourself to a host and have unforgettable experiences! I know I will never forget the outdoor shower and the fire circus nights!


The website is really easy to use and you can go anywhere in the world and find a host! My old housemate did this and worked in a French mansion with lots of cats!


The possibilities are literally endless!


So change it up next summer when you decide to go on holiday and try to see something entirely unique instead of booking a hotel and visiting museums.


Thank you for reading and have a productive week!

The Productive Pilgrim

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