I don’t remember how I discovered WWOOFing and I barely remember why I chose Turkey, especially since there were other countries you could volunteer in without having to pay a fee, but there was a girl involved and that pushed it over the line.
Detoxification (detox for short) is the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism. Detox proponents claim to rid the body of accumulated harmful substances that are alleged to exert undesirable effects on individual health.
- Evaluation: Patient is tested to see which substances are circulating in their system.
It was October and I was suddenly 27, low on funds, tired, lonely; purposeless. I’d quit a well-paying job in Sydney, to focus writing and Stand Up, then jumped from city to city on the way to a new home in London, spending 6 months getting drunk every day, as well as frequently smoking pot and eating or snorting anything and everything I could get my hands on, without being too needy about it. Basically, I’d lost all sense of the past or future, and the present was tenuous at best. I needed a detox, so chopping wood, ploughing fields, shovelling shit and hiking up mountains in burning Turkish heat seemed the logical solution.
Buket and Cem were a couple of musicians in their mid-thirties from Istanbul who had a goat farm in the South West mountains. Since it was close to the Mediterranean, I flew into Antalya and spent two days going,
“Oh look, that famous sea. Shit’s so old! Oh look, borderline poverty. What a cute stray dog/cat.”
Buket wasn’t able to pick me up because their car had been damaged in a crash recently, and also she was in Israel at a bigger farm picking up cheese-making tips. As you do. Cem was in Iran on a 3 week motorbike trip. As you do. They did, at least, have a friend minding the farm until Buket came back. Alan was a 68 year old British ex-pat who also had no car, so I got a series of buses (Dolmushes) with drivers who didn’t speak English, then hitch-hiked from the nearest village (7km).
I found a guy who knew Buket and a bit of English. He organised for their neighbour to pick me up and take me to the farm. An hour later, an elderly Turkish man with just a few missing teeth showed up nonplussed, riding a dusty, small motorbike: my ride. It’s times like that, you have to look down at your shorts and the gravel road, fling your rucksack over your shoulder, hug the tiny grips while squeezing your thighs into the ass of an elderly farmer and say,
“What’s death so scary for anyway? Did it just start raining? That’s a steep drop off… look a graveyard! Carpe Fuckin’ Diem”
- Stabilization: Patient is guided through the process with or without the use of medication. Where appropriate, people close to the addict are brought in at this time to become involved and show support.
The girl who motivated my trip (one of the only girls I’ve ever felt anything for), was in Greece, so I’d positioned myself nearby for a convenient hook up. Then I settled in and she mentioned her new ‘boyfriend’, so sex and love were also out.
When I dropped my bag in the cabin I felt extremely happy to be alive and laughed to myself for how things had turned out. Then, alone with Alan, we he talked for hours about the Middle East – where he’d lived most of his life – and his secret trips into Afghanistan with the mujahedeen before the Americans came in to kick out the Soviets and train Osama Bin Laden. Alan was a verbose guy, but charming at first because of his overly enunciated accent, like Attenborough or someone, only with more life-long sunburn etched in his bald scalp.
- Treatment: Ready the patient for recovery through rehabilitation.
The work started at 6am, when I got up to the sounds of the neighbours roosters. We put some coffee and breakfast together in the open air kitchen, which was still frigid with the night, and then we’d scramble 5 standoffish and bickering goats up the mountain into soggy woods for 3 hours. I picked up some blisters from chopping wood and ploughing the field. I felt like a man, and figured I was sweating out the drugs, or at least the booze fat that was pushing out above my belt-line.
After a couple of days alone, we were joined by some old friends of Buket and Cem’s, who were stopping by on a motorbike tour of their own, even though their friends weren’t home. Didem and Ismail didn’t speak English, and Alan had oddly never picked up another language. He did know bits and pieces, so with gestures and body language we got by. Then we used Google Translate (Oh yeah, we still had the internet, no garbage collection, but the internet and TV) and a couple laptops to keep the conversation going. Ultimately, they were very relaxed artistic types, and it was amazing to say good bye to them just a day and a half later feeling very close, while having barely spoke actual words with each other.
In the following weeks, I spent a lot of time trying to meditate and heal my mind through reading, hiking and staring at the mountain views as the call to prayer echoed on all sides of the valley. Then, Bhuket returned with an American Mother and Daughter pair to help out with the volunteer duties. They were all very pleasant, but the dynamic changed and left me alone on a mountain with three women. I did some heavy lifting, but I couldn’t clean or cook anything efficiently enough. Pretty soon, I felt like my old self again i.e. angry, manic depressive, and unable to satisfy my constant urge to make inappropriate and elaborate jokes, so it was time to go.
- Relapse: This aspect of detoxification is not encouraged, but is often seen as the end goal i.e. a refreshed ability to engage in toxic behaviour.
I headed to Istanbul with a few tourist stops and night buses on the way. I saw some cool landscapes, learned about history and saw very old things, and fat Europeans, and fat Americans, and stray dogs and cats. I went drinking with a couple of Australians from the hostel on my first night. We met some Turkish students on the streets, where everyone drinks, smoked rollies, ran away terrified of being arrested because we’d mentioned wanting to get some pot to the wrong people, snuck into a fancy hotel, and I met a girl who said casually in the first two minutes of meeting her that the first time she had sex, it was technically date-rape.
The next day I went to the other side of Istanbul to hang out with Didem at the tattoo parlour she works in. Her co-worker translated for us. We decided to give me a tattoo (mates’ rates). Didem was not as good as I’d hoped i.e. it hurt and bled like a bastard. Her co-worker jumped in and brought it home like a champ. I spent the afternoon being shown around by Didem, with only a pocket dictionary to translate. We met Ismail and went along to a party with half a dozen of their friends, had dinner, drank and watched football. Ismail rolled the biggest blunt I’ve ever seen and we all got very high. Some of their friends spoke some English, but after a little while, they forgot how to translate, or that I didn’t speak Turkish. They passed around a guitar and most could play a little, but singing was too hard. It was hilarious. We got out a fuckload of munchies and watched Avatar. I crashed at Didem and Ismail’s around 3am. We got up a few hours later and had breakfast around the corner before realising I had an hour to get the ferry back to the other side of the city, grab my bag from the hostel and get to the airport. I made it with literally a minute to spare.
N.B. Detox Risks
Some experts believe that detoxing is the answer to our over-fed, over-indulged lifestyles. Others stress there is a lack of evidence…