The contrast between my life on the farm during the few weeks a year in Glenburn and my day-job as a “promoter of freedom”, as regional director for Southeast and East Asia in Bangkok could not be more striking.
There is a desk job with extensive travels in Asia on the one hand and a holiday “recreational program” on the farm, under the blue and at times not so blue sky in the fields, paddocks and the vineyard, on the other.
One day I study the Weekly Times, a local farm magazine, and read about farm gate prices, noxious weeds, cattle markets, vegetable growing, the newest farm machinery and the export projections for mutton and lambs. I talk to neighboring farmers about the weather, the hay harvest and beef prices. Vintners and wine-makers tell me about the last vintage and the prospects of the Australian grape and wine industry in the years to come. I learn about the current challenges, the successes and failures, the passions and sorrows of residents in our street, Two Hills Road, as well as the ups and downs of rural life in general.
The next day I am back on my desk in Bangkok and answer e-mails, make phone calls, study various progress reports, regional political analyses, accounts and financial documents. I read about parliaments, parties and policies, about the US influence in the Asia region, economic growth, the China factor and so on. I talk to project officers and partner personal, to political analysts and social activists, to Asian parliamentarians and business people.
My two realities could not be more different, I guess.
It takes some time to get used to either of them. I usually immerse myself in farm work the first few days after my arrival on Two Hills Vineyard, partly to forget the burdens and realities of my bread-winning work in Thailand- partly to experience myself what it means to sweat in the vineyard and concentrate on slashing the grass in the paddocks.
I very much enjoy the physical work, the exhaustion, the pleasure after the completion of a task. I can see the results of my efforts almost immediately. This is very satisfying and it is in stark contrast to my professional work about institutional, political and social change in complex transforming Asian societies in the region I am responsible for. These change processes take time (ages), in fact often much longer than our project planning permits and a very different kind of patience, persuasion and perseverance is required than in farm work.
In both I find conditions which I cannot change: the hail for instance which destroys my grapes or the change in global commodity prices, the fall of a government or the call for early elections. And in both I concentrate my efforts on the issues I can influence. I try to do “a good job”, try to be professional, diligent and hard working.
I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to experience these diverse realities; that I feel the pain and the joy which goes with them, and which reward my efforts – at times – or punish me for the lack of it and/or “bad” judgment.
The time on the farm together with family and friends is invaluable. It clears my mind as a beer clears a wine-makers palate. It refreshes me like a lime soda when I jump of the tractor. It connects me to people I love and treasure. It is proof that life is just beautiful.
Back to work now in Bangkok.