Saturday, March 1, 2014

WORKAWAY.INFO - A REVIEW

Before I get to workaway...

Miles Barrington runs a properly registered business in the Languedoc called Languedoc Property Service. He provides most all of the services that an Anglo property owner in the region might need from security checks, key holding and pool maintenance to arranging for electrical or roof work to accompanying you as a friendly interpreter when you're buying a car. The friends who first turned us onto Miles a few years ago called him a standup guy. We have always found him to be. And so we've tasked him to supervise the preparation of our house in Quarante for our arrival. More about that in a subsequent post.

Miles bought an impressive but poorly maintained old winegrower's house that a realtor would say has potential. Lots of work to do but once the work is finished, the house will be a showcase. Coincidentally, and fortunately for us, Miles' house is in Quarante just a few hundred yards from ours. During a conversation about his progress on fitting out our kitchen, Miles mentioned that things were a bit slow because he had a crew in from workaway to do some work on his place. When I asked him what he was talking about, Miles sent me to the workaway site. And that's the connection between Miles and workaway.

workaway.info combines the age-old premise that work can be fairly exchanged for room and board with the modern technology that can facilitate such exchanges worldwide.You can register as a host or as a workawayer. Hosts post the work that needs to be done and a calendar. Workawayers post their skills and their travel plans. Jobs/skills can be as varied as animal care, construction, computer work or language practice. Both hosts and workawayers can post pictures. Either can get in touch with the other through the website's messaging service without revealing their personal contact information. Each can rate the other at the end of the visit.

We registered as hosts, needing general help picking and carrying, sorting and packing as we broke down our house, prepared what we were planning to ship to France, and disposed of the rest. It would also be nice to practice our French. We received responses from around the world, from Maryland to France to South Africa. Miles suggested that we only invite people who had done workaway before and were rated, that we invite no one younger than their mid 20s, and that we manage expectations carefully. Good advice. For providing room and board, you have a right to expect value for dollar. If you wanted to host a lazy teenager on vacation, you probably have a niece, nephew or cousin that would do nicely.

Our first workawayers were a married French couple from the Languedoc. The husband was on an extended sabbatical/vacation and the wife owned a marketing firm that she'd sold to her employees. They'd never been workawayers before but they were seasoned travelers in their early 40s and had sufficient web footprints for me to determine that they were responsible, professional adults. And they'd just sold their house in France not far from our place, so they sympathized with our situation. After several email exchanges, we invited them for the month of February and they accepted. They would work four hours a day, five days a week. We'd provide the makings for breakfast and lunch. Cathey would cook dinner for us all. They'd have a private bedroom and share a bathroom with us. We'd pick them up at the airport in Philly and deliver them to Philly or New York when it was time for them to leave.

Patrick and Benedicte are wonderful, a cheerful and obviously loving couple, willing and flexible. Patrick had practically no English at all but Benedicte was fluent if not idiomatic. They worked for more hours than we thought that they would. They seemed disappointed when we ran out of work for the day. In Patrick's case, that may have been because Benedicte required him to study his English in his spare time. As a possible result, Patrick offered to draw on skills that hadn't been mentioned in their profile and proceeded to strip wallpaper, apply a skinny layer of plaster, and along with Benedicte paint two rooms. They even seemed to enjoy shoveling snow. They'd had no need to learn that particular skill while living along the Med. Given the horrid winter weather, they put in plenty of practice. We were grateful.

We have another workawayer coming in soon to finish out our sorting in  advance of the arrival of the movers. We've even decided to try for a workawayer who is a carpenter to help me build bookshelves and such after we arrive in Quarante. It's been a great deal for us so far. Check it out.



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