The end of my summer holidays was marked by a visit to Lisinia, an organic farm and wildlife rehabilitation centre in Burdur, south east Turkey. I had been looking for ways to extend my ‘holidays’ and needed a reality check after my outrageously expensive stay in Dubai. This is when I came across workaway.info, probably was the most amazing discovery I had ever made.
Workaway offers a great opportunity to travellers who don’t want to just snap a few pictures and move to the next place. On the contrary, it allows you to meet locals as well as other travellers and immerse in the country and culture. At first glance, it is simply a platform which allows travellers to volunteer on different projects from teaching in East Asia to working in hostels in the heart of Europe or even somewhere in Latin America in return for food and accommodation. Yep, it is that amazing! The signup fee was about €22 for a membership of two years and I know that two years down the line, I’d probably be renewing my membership.
My time at Lisinia, as a first workaway experience, was mind-blowing. Given I already knew a lot about Turkey and its culture but I knew nothing about life on a farm on Turkey. I’m not one to wince at getting dirty (although I’d take clean any day, of course), but I still had some reservations but those disappeared as soon as I got my bearings around the farm and met the other “workawayers”, whom I tend to call friends now, as well as the locals – speaking Turkish definitely came in handy.
I came to the farm at the end of the season, so harvest time was nearly over and it was time for the little (unpleasant) odd jobs to prepare for the off-season as well as the next harvesting season. The farm gets its revenue from its rose and lavender yields from which it makes oil. I reached there just in time for the last batch of lavender harvesting, after which we moved to a minefield of onions. Despite the onion stench, it still was heavenly to be in the middle of nowhere with no care in the world – other than digging out those bloody onions. Or getting pricked by thorns while weeding the rose bushes; I’ve still got scars to prove that it actually happened.
We were quite spoiled with the variety of fruits available on and around the farm. Hungry? Okay, I’ll just hop to the grape section for some yummy goodness. We did end up (involuntarily) stealing some fruits since we couldn’t very well when this farm ended and where the other started. It was just… some figs, I promise.
I also spent some time with one of the locals in the kitchen garden, picking fruits and vegetables for breakfast and dinner. There was not much variety when it came to the meals but it still was good to know that none of what we were eating came out of a box or a can – unlike life in Ankara. When it wasn’t courgettes, we had aubergines, or both together with some tomatoes and peppers. One definitely had to be creative with food. The unlimited access to melons and watermelons made up for everything – I even learned how to tell a good watermelon/melon from a bad one.
While most of the work was focused on the farming aspect of Lisinia, I also got to go on a night vet tour with the Ozturk, the owner of whole place and also the vet of the farmers in the nearby village. Amongst our patients were a cow with calcium deficiency and a calf with bronchitis. I even witnessed a cow’s placenta being manually removed which was, lack of any other words, gross. Thank god, I had my sandwich much much later, else something else would have joined the mess on the ground.
We had a little patient joining us at Lisinia around the end of my stay – a mean-looking waterbird which could barely move when we first saved it. Part of the farm had a section for rescued wild animals – mostly birds –which while, in my opinion was too small, was still more than anyone else was doing. It did offer us the fun of finding worms during the weeding of our rose bushes, which was much needed entertainment.
During our only off-day, which happened to be a Tuesday as it was also market day, and hence shopping day, we went to town in a small dolmuş, which had small stools as additional seatings, still not enough for all of us. The town itself was like any other Turkish town I had been and I ended up going to the museum which had artifacts from an excavation site nearby.
Well, that was quite some adventure.