Going dutch

Chapter 1 - deciding to woof it for a gap year

Spring of my senior year of high school with a fresh college admissions letter in hand, I was sufficiently self aware that it was not yet my time to start higher education. Although my grades were quite good (I even received a full academic scholarship!) it seemed like another experience first might help make the most of my freshman year. Taking care of our environment mattered a lot to me, and the whole process of farming seemed quite cool. I also thought it would be cool to live in another country. A friend suggested I check out a website called WOOF which is short for World-wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

At the family dinner table, I wanted to tell my parents about this thought. Now dinner at home had always been stressful; I've been a vegan since before high school and my folk found this curious and unhealthy. My Dad's a big guy at a solid six two, and my mom was a chubby 5'10 (her MyFitnessPal said 260.) I've always been skinny, and stopped growing around eighth grade at 5'7. Seriously my friends threw my a party when I hit a buck; I'm now a buck and change. My mom was always trying to get me to eat more, but frankly I did not have much of an appetite. After eating my salad and quinoa, I decided it was the right time to share my dream. Surprisingly, my parents received it quite well. My parents suggested that I look at the Netherlands because our family came from there.

That night I paid the $50 to join WOOF, and started sending out emails. Most farms were already full for the season, and it looked like they were set up for short term guests. I reached out to a few vegan farms, and found they were all full. About a week later, I decided that it was time to broaden my horizons, and look at other farms. I applied to several organic farms and finally received an answer! The Bookma family at the Goudem Bowiem farm could accommodate a visitor for the summer. This was not quite what I wanted, but I figured out that if they liked me and found I was a hard worker, maybe they'd let me stay the winter.

My parents insisted that if I was to do a gap year, I had to pay my way. I found a job at a vegan bakery after school (and on weekends) and was saving money up for a plane ticket. The bakery specialized in cupcakes, and from time to time I did indulge. By the time graduation rolled around, I had about $2,000 in my savings account which was enough for a plane ticket and a little cash to get started. On grad night of high school, our whole class visited a country club to be locked in for the night. Everyone hung out at the hot tub, and a few friends teased me about finally starting to fill out. Not looking at my body much, for the first time I had a tiny tummy. My legs and arms were still skinny, but there was a new softness in my mid-section. Returning home the next day, I stepped on my mom's scale. I had gained ten pounds that spring, which might not seem much but previously I was just 100. A week later I boarded my first flight to Europe, and the adventure began!

I could barely sleep the whole flight; although I had flown before this was my first time on such a big plane. It had cool seats with televisions, and even had a power plug to charge my iPad. Even though a long flight, it seemed like just an hour or two before I could see the green hills of Scotland, and then a few old looking English towns. Before I knew it the ten thousand foot chime came on which made me glued to the window to see the Netherlands. It looked quite flat with canals crisscrossing green pasture. I saw a small town, or two, and then slowly the runway came into view. I quickly passed through immigration at the efficient Schipol airport, and found myself at a train station.

Although I had never taken a train before, my hosts had made a schedule for me before leaving. It would take me about four hours, and a few transfers, to reach the town of Smallebrugge. I had about 30 minutes before my train would leave, so I found a snack in the train station.

A bakery had a variety of tasty looking noms. I had some tompoes and fell in love with one bite. Waiting on the platform, I began looking at the other travellers. Almost everyone was blonde---and I was shorter than many of the women. Although I had never been tall, I definitely felt short for this culture.

Eventually my train pulled in, and I boarded. The seats were surprisingly comfortable, and had lots of leg room. It was exciting watching the countryside pass by. I could not believe how many people travelled by bicycle, or how bike trails seemed to connect every town. Watching this new place was incredibly fascinating, so much so that I almost missed one of my connections. Eventually my train became a bus, and it pulled into Smallebrugge precisely on schedule. Two people about my age held a sign with my name on it!

Alighting the train, I walked all the way down the other end of the platform. The first thing I noticed was that both people towered over me. The family that owned the farm apparently had twins who had also just finished their equivalent of high school and would work the farm until they were ready to go to college. The thought of new friends excited, and the looked forward to practicing their English with me.

Emma waved at me and asked, "Are you Steve from America who wants to WOOF with us?" Responding affirmatively, she said, "The is my brother Jan." I was struggling with carrying my duffel bags; he took them from me with no effort. Jan made a joke about how I was the first American he had ever met who was such a twig, but that I'd have to get stronger working the farm. It sounded like their farm was on an island a short rowboat ride away. Walking next to Emma, I noticed she was at least as tall as my father and Jan was taller still. Neither was fat, but both were robustly strong. Eventually we came to a small shack near a dock. Jan said I could leave my shoes there, as their entire farm was run as environmentally friendly as possible---which meant going barefoot except when it was too snowy outside.

We took a short row boat ride from the mainland to the island. I could see Jans' muscles bulge with every stroke, even though it was clear that he was barely working. Arriving on the island, I was struck at how green and clean everything seemed. The crisp evening air, and journey provided the ideal spice for my appetite.

We walked a short distance to the farmhouse, and met the host parents. Like their children, both were tall and robust. Lucas and Lea were a little younger than my parents, and were significantly larger albeit with great strength. A little taller than her daughter, I'd guess Lea was somewhere north of six feet and Lucas was almost a foot taller than me at 6'6. Walking directly into the kitchen, Lea picked me up and gave me a big bear hug. I could feel her strong arms and soft belly. She said that while I was a little scrawny for farm work, they'd put some muscle on me in no time with hard work. Lucas grabbed my hand and gave me a big shake; he said, "Welcome to the farm. We're happy to have you here."
19 chapters, created StoryListingCard.php 7 years , updated 6 years
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Built4com4t 7 years
Just a nudge in the ribs to encourage you to continue ;-)
Built4com4t 7 years
an enjoyable read that gets better with each chapter
MangaBL 7 years
So wonderful
Built4com4t 7 years
well done! excellent first two chapters