Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Another true story from Norway

John (not his real name) is from Cyprus. He's 36. He's known the farmer/shaman B___ (I'm at another farm in Norway) for 12 years and so when he offered to take me for a ride to see the forests and lakes and his sled dogs, I said yes, of course. He has a honking way of talking and I understand about 30% of what he says.

Previously, when we were feeding the chickens/ducks/turkeys, he'd said, "Do you like perfume?" He smelled a lot like cologne, especially when he stood near me to show me a hundred grainy cell phone photos of his Cypriot family. "My mom," he said. "My grandma." What did he want me to say? "Sure, I like perfume," I said.

Later in the car he offered me perfume and a heart-shaped pillow as gifts. "No," I said, "I couldn't." They weren't gifts for me, I don't think--they might have been just some feminine junk he'd had around--or I guess it could be that he bought them for the young female wwoofer he knew would be coming to the farm in March. In which case: Great, now my heart is broken.

We went to a thrift store and he insisted on buying me something. I resisted until I saw this watercolor. My (future) life flashed before my eyes. I had to have it.

Outside the thrift store, llamas socialized in a snowy corral. John took me to his children's house, which was very far away. Getting there we briefly crossed the border to Sweden.

The house was so messy I thought, could it be his children live here by themselves? But his wife of 17 years lives there too. She and John have separated. John said that, before they married, she told him she had problems and begged him to find another woman. B___ the shaman said that Louis's wife is bad because she distrusts his magic. B___ the shaman also said that the wife's uncle murdered his small children but he lived so far out in the woods that no one even knew about it to arrest him.

John put the venison on the clothing rack while he did something in the kitchen. A fat rabbit hopped over the snow while the wolflike dogs rattled their chains.

He showed me the children's rooms. His boy had a full-size and knife-sharp metal sword (in ornamental sheath) from China. It leaned in the corner. "You let him have a real sword?" I said. "Isn't that dangerous?" John grinned stupidly.

We went to his current house (two rooms in a larger, uninhabited house) for dinner. I so, so wanted to go back to the shaman's farm but I couldn't figure out how to express it politely other than saying "I'm not hungry," and John didn't understand that. He made pasta (earlier he'd asked my favorite food) and I tried like Persephone to deny it. More than anything else I worried that eating his food would put me in his debt. But he served me ("I'm not hungry," I repeated several more times) so I ate it, mediocre pork and tomato sauce, and flavored water.

The evening devolved into farce when he said, "Let me show you my gun! Upstairs!" I hung back on the stairs. I really didn't want to die. The gun was a heavy and rusty old thing that Louis claimed was 400 years old. He also showed me his Samuari sword. Then he drove me home. "Next week I'll take you shopping in Sweden!" he said.

Dear reader, if you have read this far, please drop me a line about how I should respond to that invitation.


Tonight John showed up at the farm, creeping up behind me as I asked B___ the shaman about the position of the milky way. John poked me in the ribs, shouting "Boo!"

I spun around. "Don't ever, ever do that again," I said. He giggled and B___ the shaman giggled. "I'm serious," I said sullenly.

"Is your heart going boom-boom, boom-boom?" John said.

"Not really," I said.


  1. I am SO GLAD to see that this wasn't your last entry and you escaped and lived to tell the story!

    I stumbled upon your blog while searching for reads about wwoofing experiences and tips and i have to say gurrrrl, you have an amazing blog here! Your writing and photography is beautiful. I love taking film pictures but i'm not so sure about bringing the additional weight in my backpack that i think might already have trouble fitting in most of the things on your list of things to bring. At the same time your stunning photos are screaming to me bring it bring your pentax! (also, film hobby is expensive - at least here in singapore it is)

    Just by reading your few entries regarding wwoofing and seeing the pictures, I think Italy might be my wwoofing heaven. The scenery is breathtaking! Do you think 3 is a big group to go wwoofing and will most hosts allow it? I'm still in the researching stage so any feedback is appreciated.

    Anyway keep doing what you do, and continue taking wonderful photographs! I have followed you on instagram and absolutely can't wait to start seeing your pictures on my feed!!


    1. Thanks so much for this note!! I'm glad you like the blog!!!
      I think Italy is definitely the best country for WWOOFing and I'm sure you'll find some farms willing to take on a group of 3. It's very common for people to WWOOF in pairs, so they're prepared for it. As for fitting stuff in a backpack...I brought a suitcase so I brought multiples of everything, but you could certainly bring fewer pants and shirts and just do laundry more often, plus most WWOOF places have leftover clothes from previous WWOOFers. But yes, film cameras are heavy, clunky, and expensive--I can't argue with that.
      I hope you'll keep me posted on where you end up going! Good luck!!