How to swing a hammer

by @hjelmroth

WorkaAway is a great concept. It’s like a dating site for hosts and volunteers. Hosts register and state what sort of help they need and the volunteers register and state what sort of help they can provide. The basic rules are that volunteers work for maximum 5 hours a day 5 days a week. For that they get three meals a day and accommodation. It’s brilliant and definitely a win win situation. There are other similar organisations, likeWoofing which is about eco agriculture. The great benefit with WorkAway is that it’s one website for the whole world. As a volunteer you register, pay a small fee and then you can search for hosts all over the world.

This was the last thing I did before leaving Sweden. Very enthusiastically. I browsed the site, found some interesting hosts and sent them a message offering my help. All of them sent me negative replies. One of them wrote me that we weren’t a match. Mmmm….. I never asked him to marry me, I just offered to work for him. And trust me, I ticked all the boxes apart for one, elderly care. Cooking, gardening, carpentering, childcare, teaching, art projects and lots more. I even stated that I’m hard working and don’t mind getting dirty. But no one wanted my help.

Quite disappointed I came to peace that I might not find a workaway host. My second week in Thailand I met a young couple and we talked about workaway. So I told them my story and said that I was beginning to suspect no one wanted my help because I had stated my actual age. 58 years old. And they agreed, that might be a very probable reason. So I asked them which age I should state. One said 37, the other said 45. No, I could never pass for 37 but 45 perhaps. Maybe 47 would be more accurate but we decided to go for 45.

Weeks and months passed and I was so busy traveling and absorbing all the new around me so I sort of, not forgot about it but, decided to put it aside. One day I thought I would check. Asia, where to go, and the name just popped up. Brunei. It turns out there are two hosts, one in the national park and one doing tours to the national park. The latter sounded interesting. So I sent them a message, they replied and we were all set.

I arrived to Brunei and they took me to the office which is situated in Bandar Seri Begawan. So I sit there and in comes a man which is introduced to me as the one who is going to be in charge of the building of the new roof they had told me about and I was introduced as the one helping out. The man looked at me and made a face that told me he didn’t believe I could swing a hammer.

Two weeks have passed. The material finally arrived, we carried it to the premises but still no one who says we are starting to build. Things take time here. So I started another project. The old outdoor showers are really old and run down. I talked to Julia and Leslie about them and suggested we take them down. They are just bad publicity. They agreed and today I took the hammer and the crowbar and took a deep breath.

Deconstructing can be easy but it can also be very hard work. In this case the latter is applicable. Nails are rusty and don’t move easy. The wood have been exposed to water both from the showers but also from rain and is in some places half rotten. Some of the planks were ok and could be reused so the nails had to be taken out.

Anyway, I started at 8 am and worked alone for a while. Then I saw Minah peeking at me. And then came Jeffrey. And Magat came to watch. Next time I turned around there were six men helping out. We had one short break, then another one for lunch and about 3 pm we were all tired. The youngest ones had left the site before lunch. All worn out. Today  we did the female section and tomorrow awaits the same procedure with the male section.

They were all quite impressed by my strength. And by now the whole village probably knows that age and gender is of no consequence when it comes to swinging a hammer.


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