When I wrote last week about nobody wanting to read my bitchy posts about the annoying volunteers, it seems I was wrong. I stand corrected. With no further ado, let me present the irritating habits and attitudes of volunteers we were glad to see the backs of.

  1. Taking orders as suggestions – A lot of people seem to think that when someone explains how to accomplish a task, that’s only an idea for one way to achieve it, rather than the instructions for how they want it done. One volunteer, for example, decided that throwing wet cement at the side of the pond was more effective than smoothing it on with a trowel. Three-quarters of the cement ended up on the floor of the pond, where it dried, hardened, and filled with water before the walls were finished. Now, before we can complete the project, we have to wait for dry season to evaporate the water, unless we’re willing to stand waist-deep in the pond while mixing and applying cement to the walls. This could have been avoided by following instructions.
  2. Disagreeing with or contradicting everyone – Engaging in conversations with other volunteers is normal. Having differences of opinions is also standard in human interactions. Contradicting every statement that your companions make is just freaking annoying. One girl who was here last week was terrible for that. She asked if I wanted to go to Macchu Picchu, and then argued with me when I said I didn’t plan on doing it this trip. She wanted to know if I wanted children, and then tried to change my mind when I said not yet. If I said it was eleven o’clock, she argued it was noon. Another volunteer tried to argue with me about whether education is a valid major – he insisted it was impossible to get a Master’s of Education, WHICH I HAVE. This got irritating fast.
  3. Using resources unwisely – Some volunteers use up every vegetable in the kitchen to make a salad or sauce, leaving nothing for future meals. If we have one tiny jar of honey, you don’t get to put two tablespoons of it in your coffee – use sugar instead. You don’t need fifteen tomatoes to make sauce for one pizza. Nor should it take three hours to make lunch – time is a resource, too.
  4. Wasting time – Many volunteers seem completely unable to stick with a project for longer than fifteen-minute intervals. The guy Ingo asked to leave last week was terrible for that. I was landscaping the pool with him, and five minutes in, he complained about his tool and returned to the house to exchange it. He returned twenty minutes later, only to wander away a moment later to brush his teeth. Half an hour after that, he half-heartedly hoed a bit of earth before needing to pee against a tree. Then he thought the pigs needed water. Then he wanted to check out the plants in the greenhouse. Then he stopped to chat with another volunteer. In a four-hour stretch, I landscaped two-thirds of the pool area, and he did about two square meters.

    New grass and flowers around the hot tub - the results of all my hard work landscaping, and little of his!

    New grass and flowers around the hot tub – the results of all my hard work landscaping, and little of his!

  5. Not listening to people – This same volunteer who was asked to leave didn’t listen to a word anybody said. This didn’t stop him from complaining that people didn’t explain the projects adequately. When Ellen was supposed to teach him how to butcher a chicken, he wandered off halfway through her explanation of what to do, because he wanted a bowl of oatmeal.
  6. Eating more than one’s share – Some people will look at a cake cut into ten pieces and take three for themselves, when there are nine of us. I don’t understand how anybody can think that’s reasonable.
  7. Refusing to do normal tasks – When you’re sharing a household, even as a volunteer, sometimes you have to do dishes. This is fair and reasonable. You also have to do your share of cooking, and you have to keep the place tidy, and take the compost out. Just because you’ve worked today doesn’t mean you’re exempt from household chores.
  8. Borrowing stuff without asking – I understand that most travellers can’t bring everything they’ll need with them in their bags. Here at the farm, Ingo and Genny have rubber boots for volunteers to use. I offered to take one volunteer to the shed to choose a pair of boots, and he said, “No thanks, I tried on Ingo’s hiking boots and they fit me fine, so I’ll just wear them.” I can’t believe anybody would borrow somebody’s shoes without asking.
  9. Generally lacking common sense – Leaving stuff all over the table, thumping through the house when the baby is sleeping, eating from common dishes with one’s fingers, forgetting to put the plug in the hot tub after being told three times in two languages, leaving medicines in reach of the baby… some people just don’t think before they do things.

Ninety percent of the volunteers that come to the farm are awesome. They work hard, they’re enthusiastic, they smile and chat animatedly at the dinner table, and they’re generally a pleasure to be around. Once in a while, though, the farm gets a really annoying volunteer. In the past few weeks, there have been several. I try to keep a positive attitude, but constant low-level irritation led me to be pretty bitchy recently. Luckily, an infusion of good energy and friendly conversation has helped me get over it. Here’s hoping I don’t have to write another grumpy post for a while!

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