Sunday, January 8, 2012

Helpers from China

We recently joined a website called Helpx, which links people who need volunteers, to other people who are prepared to offer their help in exchange for board and cultural exchange. Since joining just over one month ago, we have received many requests from travellers visiting Australia from around the world including France, Germany, Italy, Finland, Taiwan, Spain and China. The process involves trying to coordinate dates when we need help with the dates that the helpers are available.  
Jodie, Valencia and Tia having a break

Our very first Helpx friends came from China. Jodie, Valencia and Tia originate in different parts of China but are all students at Hong Kong University. During their term break they decided to see a little bit of Australia and contacted us through Helpx. (

Checking for eggs
After a short stay in Sydney, then Melbourne, they came out to our place. We all got on really well right from the start. Our place must be the complete opposite of Hong Kong. We are relatively isolated, surrounded by bush, and at night time it is very, very quiet (when we are all in bed). It must have also been a bit scary with large and strange insects, the occasional growl from a wombat, croaks from frogs, shrieks from parrots and being surrounded by evidence of our recent terrible wildfires. Then there were our stories about snakes, crocodiles (not around here) and swooping magpies.....

Cooking a barbecue
Most of our meals were typical Aussie meals and the girls happily ate these, even though the food was often different to what they were used to.  However they were not keen on porridge (oats) and that Aussie favourite, vegemite.

Collecting firewood
One of the highlights of the trip for them was seeing our wildlife. We managed to catch a glimpse of a wombat and a couple of kangaroos, but it was not until the night after the girls left that those “devious” animals came out into the open. That night we saw half a dozen kangaroos and two wombats, including one near our house.

The girls spoke English really well, which was fortunate because we have no knowledge of Chinese at all. The only tricky bits were our crazy sayings like “we all got on like a house on fire”, which must sound like a very weird thing to say if you are unfamiliar with Australian idioms.

Tia weeding the celery
The stay was not all play of course. The girls were excellent workers and eager to do whatever jobs needed doing. They helped us get what would take us a week to do, done in two days. They weeded most of our main veggie patch, carted firewood, fed the chooks, decorated the chookpen, cleared a mass of vegetation that was growing over the driveway, helped remove a large fallen tree that we had sawn up and they joined in the preparation of meals.
Jodie weeding the carrots

It must have been a big adventure into the unknown for these three 19 and 20 year old young ladies. Travelling outside of Asia for the first time all the way to the other side of the world to a strange land, dealing with the complexities of a different culture, staying with people they didn’t know and coping with our boisterous dog, Bluey.
Valencia weeding the celery

Apart from benefiting from the work they did for us, we gained a new insight into life in China that is quite different to the view we get in our mass media and most valuable of all we got to spend some time with three wonderful people who we hope to remain in contact with in the future.
Leaving messages on the chookpen wall


romy sai said...

Your property looks magnificent, would love to see it in the flesh. Do you have any tours or open days lined up for this year?

Andrew and Heather said...

Thanks for your kind remarks Romy. If you would like to email us ( ) we will let you know the details of our next tour. We haven't decided on a date yet, but it will be after summer, when the danger of fire and extreme temperatures has passed. Hope to see you then.

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