Hello Workawayers! We have grown organic coffee in Ruisui, Hualien, in a region where tea is grown widely, for nearly three years. We grew persimmons in Taichung before my father decided to move back to Wuhe (which means dancing cranes) in Ruisui where he was born. Although Wuhe is famous for its tea (and also pomelos if it comes to that), it was actually in this region that coffee was first introduced in Taiwan, more than a hundred years ago, when the Japanese government ruled the island.
In addition to coffee, there are also passion fruits, pine apples, papayas, guavas and other fruits as well as some veggies of small amount grown on the farm (you will of course eat a lot of them when in season!). Animal-wise, there are chickens roaming about freely (we take only their eggs) and a cat who befriends anyone. Lack of pesticides also means wildlife is abundant here, so it is not uncommon to encounter all kinds of insects (including wasps), birds, eagles, snakes, pheasants, hares, etc., especially in summer.
Before registering on Workaway as a host, our family had already been receiving national volunteers for five years from a Facebook group dedicated solely to working in exchange of food and accommodation in Taiwan. The daughter, Olivia, discovered the international equivalent that was Workaway and used it to find hosts during her trip around the UK in 2016-17. After being a Workawayer first, she became a host along with her family who now welcome travelers from all over the world!
The daughter Olivia is a freelance translator who speaks fluent English and can provide language support, but it’s a great opportunity for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in a total Chinese environment (and lifestyle) to stay with us. You can practice your Chinese and learn how to make authentic Chinese or Taiwanese dishes and desserts. Also, if you are interested in anything related to coffee (growing, roasting, tasting, etc.), you are going to learn a lot and have much fun. We have our own machines for almost every step of coffee processing, from hulling and roasting to grinding and brewing. Of course, you will also learn something about organic farming in general and how to lead a sustainable life.
We can use all kinds of help here, including:
- Hand-picking coffee cherries (from September to mid-March)
- Processing the coffee beans, from hulling to drying and sorting
- Harvesting or planting crops other than coffee
- Pruning coffee trees
- Designing logo, labels, business card etc.
- Tidying up the environment
- Helping out in the kitchen
Mandarin Chinese, English (fluent)
We have another house (not on the farm) with an extra private room sharing a wall with the host's room for the volunteer. If you are coming with a friend and don't mind sleeping on the same bed together, it's a double bed in the room. The house is about 15 minutes' drive from the farm, which means we commute between farm and home every day. Kitchen and bathroom are shared. Meals are included. We have laundry machine.
Hualien is a great place to explore, with all the mountains and the sea. Located in the eastern part of the country, it is one of the most beautiful and pollution-free places in Taiwan. It's good for a road trip both with a car/motorcycle or a bicycle.
Ruisui, where our farm is located, is itself a popular destination in Hualien. Besides Ruisui itself, you can easily take day trips to Yuli, Guangfu, Hualien City, Taroko, Taitung, and so on. Everything listed below is almost all within 30 minutes of driving and can definitely satisfy every type of traveler:
- For the OUTDOORSY type: Hualien is right for you! The Walami Trail in Yuli is easy to reach with a scooter and doesn't take long to complete. The renowned Taroko National Park has numerous trails to offer. There are also several cycling paths in and near Ruisui (wanna cross the boundary between the Eurasian plate and Philippine sea Plate?). Last but not least, you can go rafting on Xiuguluan River, the largest river in eastern Taiwan.
- For those NATURE lovers: The road between the farm and the other house is scenic enough, with the rolling mountains and the paddy fields. There are also Fuyuan National Forest Recreation Area, Ruisui Pasture, several hot spring areas (don't forget to bring your swimsuit!), orange day-lily fields (blossom season from August to September), Danongdafu Forest Park (another great place to ride a bike), Jili Lake, and much more.
- For a bit of HISTORY: The archaeological site Saoba Stone Pillars is only 3 minutes of walking from the farm; in Guangfu, Hualien Tourism Sugary Factory is not only famous for its ice cream, but it also tells you the history of cane sugar manufacturing under Japanese rule; in Yuli, there is the ruins of a 91-year-old jinja (Japanese shrine).
- For FOODIES: The well-known Ruisui Pasture has many different kinds of dairy products on offer, including fresh milk, milk ice cream, cheese cake, nougat, milk pudding, milk buns etc. Every Tuesday, there is a local night market where you can try a lot of traditional street food you may not be able to find at big tourist night markets. In Yuli, there is a popular donut shop. The donut is made from millet, the traditional staple food of aborigines, and thus has a chewy texture. Other must-try food items in Yuli are yokan (an agar-based jellied Japanese dessert with red bean paste filling), stinky tofu and Yuli Noodles. When you go to the Hualien Tourism Sugary Factory in Guangfu, don't forget to try their ice cream or ice pop! Finally, you can visit the traditional outdoor marketplace and buy something very local.
- WHAT ELSE: Our farm lies very close to the Northern Tropic. Within 10 minutes of walking, you can arrive at the mark of Tropic of Cancer, another must-go place in Ruisui. Also, Hualien is rich in aboriginal culture. During Harvest Festival in summer, you might get a chance to join local Amis (one of the officially recognized groups of Taiwanese aborigines) in their dance!
In addition to the above, the farm is right by the main road (Provincial Highway 9) that connects Taipei and Pingtung (the southernmost county in Taiwan), thus covering the entire eastern part of Taiwan, so it's easy to go to places. Maybe you want to travel around the whole island? Our farm can be your starting point.
In regard to transportation, the best way to explore Hualien is by scooter or car, but if you don't have a valid license to drive in Taiwan or don't know how to ride a scooter, there are other options:
- Take a train. The nearest train station is Ruisui Station, 5 kilometers from the farm. You can go to many places around Hualien (or even Taitung) in a reasonably short time because Ruisui is at the center of Hualien.
- Rent an electronic scooter for around 400 NTD per day. You don't need any license for this, international one or another. Electronic scooters are safer than regular ones because they can't go very fast and are easier to control. There are a few scooter rentals near the station.
- Ride a bike! As mentioned above, Hualien is a great place for cycling and there are cyclists passing in front of our farm every day because Provincial Highway 9 is part of the main route to cycle around the island (Cycling Route No.1). You can take a bike with you on board certain trains (we have a bike to lend you) and there are usually bike rentals at major train stations.
- Take a bus. There is a bus stop right in front of the farm which can take you to the sugar factory, the train station near Danongdafu, the train station near Fuyuan and central Yuli. Another bus takes you to the rafting center and central Yuli from the other house. Despite local buses, there are two tourist bus routes operating throughout Hualien County.
If you happen to be a book addict, there is a collection of more than 100 English books and a number of Chinese ones at your disposal. You are very welcome to take or leave some books!
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