One mission: Mow the reed and moor grass of a nature reserve (Brunnlust) belonging to Naturschutzbund NÖ and rake up the cut plants to free the area. The main aim: Conserve the balance of this very special eco-system by allowing other plants to grow again.
Learnings and experiences: Learning how to use a traditional scythe and the modern motorised version of a scythe was as tiring as playful. Do you remember how driving the garbage truck or the lawn-tractor was the top of your dreams as a kid? Most of us still have this buried desire to crash and destroy but, for a good reason, we learned how to quiet it as we turned into adults. Here I was allowed to let this desire come back to life as it was for a good cause! Learning about the local beavers and seeing their piece of work was the best way to understand how sustainability also relies on a compromise between and within species, a compromise between different needs and objectives. Interacting with the volunteers outside of the “working hours” was a good opportunity to play games beyond language barriers, to revive childhood memories while sleeping on these thick gymnastics’ mattresses at the local elementary school, to discuss critically about the pros and cons of organic food and which systemic and behavioural changes should accompany the organic products’ movement, etc.
Many surprises: Putting your political convictions aside, it was a pleasant surprise to see the mayor sweat a bit next to us, showing that no matter which party you belong to, you can still have some passions and goals in common. As the only (official) foreigner, I was particularly touched by the efforts of everyone to speak in English, independently from their age. One Austrian volunteer even came to me and said “thanks to you, everybody is asking me if they can speak German to me!” A spontaneous proof of cultural sensitivity!
Coming home with good memories: Besides the muscle pain and the dirty rain boots, I came back home with a wide feeling of satisfaction to have directly participated in a useful project, with memories of laughter while seeing my boots filling with the dark water as I stepped in the wrong place and then helping others wringing their soaked socks as they fell in the same trap.
A final goal: repeat this experience next year!