So it's been far too long since I've last written about Jaime's and my plans for the gap year and quite a bit has changed. When I last wrote, Argentina was still in the cards. Due to the price of adding another flight and program and time constraints, it no longer is part of the gap year. There is a small chance that I'll go to South America with my family at the end of my gap year, but we'll see if that works out. But while we were still planning on going to Argentina, in doing some research Jaime found a great program called Projects Abroad.
It's an internship program with the most independence of anything we'll be doing. So we both almost immediately agreed to substitue it in for Cross-Cultural Soultions (CCS) China. So instead of doing more international volunteering in Xi'an, we'll be interning in Shanghai for two months. I had my heart set on interning in a law firm, but there was the small matter that in order to actually be able to place interns in a law firm they had to be currently enrolled in law school. I called the program and they said they make exceptions for interns in college, and despite my feeble protests there was no budging.
So instead, I'll be doing journalism which I'm still pretty excited about. Projects Abroad seems to lack a lot of the handholding of CCS, which can be good and bad. I think we placed it in the perfect spot at the end of the year as we become more and more independent. According to the testimonials I solicited from past participants, Proj Abroad staff pretty much shows you to your apartment, or flat as they all called it, shows you how to get to your work and gives you some spending money for food for the month. I'll be in Shanghai, which incidentally I was surprised to learn is more populous than Beijing, from April 1st to June 1st at which point I'll head home. Jaime will head home earlier, May 23rd I believe, to get to a cousin's wedding at Stanford.
To backtrack a bit, the first part of the second half of the gap year has been set as well. Flights have even been booked as of a couple days ago! So now to take this in the proper order, we depart Jan. 17th for Sydney, Australia. We'll be there for 5 weeks (until Feb. 22) organic farming with Worldwide/ Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF for short). We then fly out of Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand to try our hand at some more organic farming until March 27th. The 28th will have us in Jogjakarta, Indonesia for the wedding of a different one of Jaime's cousins. We'll stay there until March 31st when we head to Shanghai for Projects Abroad.
So now for a bit more detail about this WWOOF planning. Jaime bought a copy of the Australian WWOOF book and I bought the NZ one. The book serves as proof of our one year membership and has to be presented upon arrival at any and every organic farm to prove our identities. The NZ one comes with insurance, while Aus seems to have some sort of universal health care. (Jaime investigated a different insurance option that he'll be doing in Aus and he's giving me the details on it and I may choose to use it as well. CCS and Proj Abroad both come with insurance).
The WWOOF books list all the organic farms willing to host volunteer workers in exchange for room and board for that year with details about each farm written by their owners along with ways to contact them. Jaime went through the Auckland region of the NZ WWOOF book and picked out farms he liked. I narrowed that group down to 9 farms and that needs to be narrowed down further. Each farm ranges in the minimum stays required, some only a handful of days, others a few weeks. The highlights of the 9 farms include a farm run by Italian emigrants who also own and run an Italian cooking school. Learning how to cook Italian isn't what one necessarily pictures when thinking of organic farming, but this gap year is all about a wide variety of experiences!
Jaime and I are also intrigued by working on a vineyard, and I am taken with doing some sort of cattle ranching and working with traditional farm animals like chickens, sheep and cows. I think Jaime wants to really stretch himself and go to one of the rural, undeveloped farms with pit toilets and no running water. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It seems interesting to experience for a couple days, but I don't think I'd like to spend a few weeks there. I'd like to stay closer to the bigger cities. Jaime and I plan to meet in the next week to discuss it all further. We leave for Camp Harmony, a community service camp for homeless and transitionally-housed kids, on Monday and we'll be there for about a week.
We leave for Russia in about 6 1/2 weeks on Sept. 27. I got my Russian visa a couple months ago in my passport which is pretty cool! I'll be in Yaroslavl from (9/27 to 11/15) and Cape Town (from 11/16-12/27) with CCS. All the details are hammered out for that first half except for a place to stay in Cape Town from 11/16 to 11/22. We may choose to stay in a hostel, but I'd prefer to stay with someone who knows the area and could show us around a little bit. Of course a full week is quite the burden, so if anyone knows anyone who'd be willing to host us for a couple days, I'd love to hear about it! Finally, prayers go out to Georgia, its people and the Russian and Georgian armies.