Friday, August 10, 2012

Week 1 at Farm Sanctuary

My life was pretty close to perfect. Great friends. Amazing family. Comfy job. 

Two weeks ago I left this life for an adventure over two months long and I wish to share my weekly experiences, thoughts and feelings with you.

I first headed to Santa Monica, California. Aside from seeing the area and relaxing, I did not do much else and this was my intention. I cannot say that Santa Monica is my favourite place in California, but it is still beautiful. It is hard to hate anything that hosts a beach.

On July 31, I made my way to Acton, California…

After a two hour commute on public transit and a really eccentric 40 year old man later, I arrived at my location, Farm Sanctuary Animal Acres. Here, I am volunteering for two months cleaning up after rescued animals. Stepping foot on the sanctuary, filled me with a mess of different thoughts. A lot of I am actually here! ... I am away from home for two monthsWhat did I do? ... This is too long! and I am so excited!

Before I left there was always a looming date of departure, but my mind never comprehended much past that.

It eventually was time to say good-bye to friends and family. Then I began to realize I was leaving everyone for over two months. Some of the goodbyes were more emotional than others, but I do not feel this shows the level of love I feel for someone over another. It is the effect of the embrace, the gesture, what it resonates in the two involved in the good-bye and each of our mindsets at the time.

My life for the next two months

So begins my two month internship on a farm.

I began my internship with a girl named Tanya, who I am sharing a room with. Upon our arrival we were introduced to our intern coordinator Karen and another intern Ceci. After we set down our luggage we were taken to get groceries in the nearest city of Palmdale at a Trader Joes. 

I knew that coming here was going to be a challenge both physically and mentally. Physically because of the work and the heat - which gets up to the 40s and Mentally because I am away from all of the comforts of my life - home, family and friends.

What I can say so far is that it has been more tough mentally than physically - but it is still pretty tough physically.

The farm is in the desert, so it is very secluded and quiet. This is a big change from the area I have come from and I am not complaining! However, you are only able to get anywhere outside of the sanctuary by car, which I am without. Knowing that I would likely be cooped up here for most of my free time, I brought a pen, paper, books and my computer equipped with Netflix. They thankfully have plenty of books here and also wireless internet.

There is no denying with this amount of time to spare and no where to go, one starts to think, a lot.

The ability to think this much is both a blessing and a curse. My thoughts have teetered from excitement to anxiety and contentment to melancholy. I suppose naturally, or depending on the person, a new environment can bring about opposing emotions. Or at least I have come to accept it as such in my case.

My anxiety falls under something that I aim to work on while I am out here. At times, in specific situations especially work performance coupled with a new environment, I carry anxiety. It is not usually visible and it is not as intense an anxiety as others may suffer. Being a calm person, a small amount of anxiety shakes me up and throws me for the biggest loop.

Our training was far from thorough. It is the most frustrating part of my experience so far and I believe a cause for the anxiety. The lack of training makes Tanya and I unsure of what is expected of us and what is a proper way to execute tasks. Our work is directly connected to the animals so, with the welfare of the animals involved, we want to do it right.

This anxiety is thankfully starting to dwindle. I’d say I am beginning to grasp the work I am expected to do. I am also understanding that I am one person and trying the best I can with what I have been given.
I have been keeping in mind that I am donating two months of my life to assist with cleaning up after the animals and that the animals are the most important part.

In an email received from my best friend, without even telling her my thoughts, she told me, “Enjoy every moment, even the tough parts, because before you know it it will all be over.” And it was exactly what I needed to hear and what she said has resonated with me since.

My time here is limited. I will be back in my routine soon and everything here will be a mere memory. So I am trying to grasp and embrace every moment. My focus is taking in all the surroundings and treasuring it. Time will pass and soon it will be time to say goodbye. I try to reiterate this daily, to get my mind in the correct spot.

At the end of one of the toughest days out here so far

I chose to volunteer with Farm Sanctuary because for the five years I have been vegan I have never interacted with a farm animal. Everyday I choose to live my life void of any product or by-product that originates from these beings, but what do I know about them? I had no personal connection to a turkey, cow or pig and I hit a point where I needed that.

So far, I have been able to interact with most of the animals here. I would be lying if I said I knew their names, but it has only been a week. I am just beginning to grasp their personalities.

On this sanctuary, there are cows, horses, pigs, chickens, roosters, turkeys, ducks, goats and sheep. I live with two cats and there are three other shelter cats. The turkeys and other birds intimidate me the most. They have such a high energy and enjoy pecking you. This generally does not hurt, it just catches me off guard every single time.

Most importantly, knowing that the animals were rescued from an early death and are now here to live out their lives, is incredible and I am privileged to be apart of a small portion of their lives

Inferno, one of the cats I live with

I am happy to live this experience, learn new things, get to know animals and people alike and let every moment influence me. Every single human (and non-human) back home and here influence the person I am and will become day to day. 

Some people are meant to be acquaintances, co-workers, close friends, family, and some will just be a passer-by. No matter, we all serve a purpose in each other's life.  I am learning that the people close to me back home and the relationships I have with them are some of the most important things I have acquired in my entire life. Everyone supports me in each of their own ways and even with the distance I feel its sincerity and it warms my heart.

Knowing that I am here to enjoy and experience life and have such a fantastic life to return to is beyond a great feeling.

I am writing on here to share my experiences both good and bad during the next two months. Being human, I know that over the course of my time here I will dabble with both, but it is about trying to embrace the bad as much as the good and living it out. Which I hope to be able to do.

Thanks for reading. Talk to you all in a week.

Much love,


Things I have done:

  • Biked from Santa Monica to Venice Beach and back
  • Played poker with a bunch of strangers (not with real money)
  • Had an incredibly awkward conversation with a 40 year old man from Palmdale, CA
  • Got pecked by a chicken, rooster and turkey
  • Cleaned pigs ears
  • Held a chicken
  • Sun screened pigs ears
  • Rubbed a lot of pigs bellies
  • Cleaned out a barn
  • Brushed cow's hair
  • Finished Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Made a list of 101 Things to do in 1001 days - my deadline is Sunday May 3, 2015

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