Friday, May 21, 2010

Bureaucracy is hardly a friend of volunteerism

So, in a great historical irony, an American, namely me, has been deported from the Republic of Ireland. It appears that to enter Ireland as a WWOOFer, one needs proof of medical insurance, proof of WWOOF membership and a printed return ticket all in hard copy. I didn't have any of those although it took me all of five minutes to print them off. To be fair, the WWOOF website said I needed a return ticket, although I couldn't print mine since Ryanair doesn't let you do that more than three weeks in advance. I didn't need to show anything to enter the UK, just the address where I was staying. So I screwed up a tiny bit, but all these requirements caught me completely off-guard.
The problem appears to be the customs officer at Kerry airport, who doesn't seem to care much for WWOOFers. He gave me a whole spiel about Ireland's financial problems and how he couldn't let me in to do farm work which should go to Irish people. I pointed out the WWOOFing isn't work; it's volunteering, but he didn't seem convinced. Gerard and Claire said that the same officer had given them trouble before.
I got to stay and work on the farm for a day, although I plan to be back tomorrow. Now that I have all my documentation in order, there's no law preventing me from re-entering Ireland. All this amounts to is inconvenience and $500 down the drain.
The farm, for those of you who are wondering, is fantastic. Gerard and Claire are very nice and their daughters, all adopted Vietnamese, are too cute for description. I'll have some pics up within the next few days. The work has been fairly tough, as I expected. Gerard had me powerwash the dairy and help him give liver fluke medicine to the cows. Cows are pretty gross animals all in all. You get over your fear of shit pretty quickly, although cow manure is pretty inoffensive as feces goes and has the virtue of only smelling when fresh. The dried stuff really has no odor.
I'll keep you posted when I get back to the farm. Thanks for all your prayers and concern.

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