Cabris (first workaway assignment)

Cabris (pronouncing the “s”) is up in the hills. After wearing away half of my clutch to get up there, we found it to be exactly what we were running away from in England. A very rich area, where people live in their boxes and don’t know their neighbours. Everyone drives luxury 4x4s and needs to seem awfully important. Unfortunately we didn’t pick very well for our first workaway hosts.

The house was a building site and the people (two parents with four screaming kids) were very messy. Everything was in different stages of being broken. Some of the more longstanding and useful items, such as the toilet seats, were fully broken, and some of the newer additions were well on their way.

The food situation was dire. A family of part time vegetarians who will lecture you from up high about how healthy they are because of their strict almost vegan diet, and yet the vegans all ate cheese because they’re young and need the protein, and we all had a BBQ on the Friday lunch where everyone indulged in very meaty sausages.

We had very strict duties: we needed to be on duty at 7am, to serve the kids’ breakfast. This was a family that bought into the idea of not disciplining their kids, so throwing things and screaming was to be encouraged. We managed to discover an ancient pack of Weetabix in the back of the cupboard to offer as an alternative to a burnt rice porridge concoction, reheated from the previous day. The kids all revelled in the luxurious Weetabix and we poured their healthy (full of sugar) spelt milk alternative over their breakfasts. Quickly scurrying away into the kitchen, as any servant would, we began to dream of the typical French breakfast where you pop down to your local bakery every morning to pick up fresh bread and croissants.

After breakfast, there was a long list of duties to attend to, in what seemed an impossibly short amount of time (the 2-hour morning shift, 7-9am). To set a good example on our first day we thoroughly cleaned their kitchen and went way over our set hours, primarily to meet our own (very reasonable) hygiene standards but we thought this may also be acknowledged by our masters.

Skip forward to our evening shift (4-hour, 4-8pm) I had the luxury of doing manual labour outside while Verity had to do laundry, cook for eight people, entertain four kids, serve and clean up dinner and dance around someone constantly showing her how to do things properly.

For this we had in return the right to sit at the table (backs straight of course) and awkwardly smile and try not to look too embarrassed during the evening’s argument.

The only positive aspect of this assignment was a little rabbit called Floppy or Flopsy. He was the only friendly person to greet us on arrival, after two full days of driving, he met us on the drive and followed us as we entered the chaos. He was allowed free reign of the house and surrounding area, more like the traits of a dog, he seemed to enjoy our calming influence. Whilst being a little confused and persistently trying to hump your leg, he was a lovely little rabbit and we really miss him.

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Foolishly signing up for two months, we could only stand three days, and had to come up with our escape. Listening to great advice that will stand anyone in good stead “there’s no point arguing with idiots” we decided to just leave. This was not why we came on our European road trip, we wanted to integrate into the family and area we were staying in, not to just serve and obey. We had our campervan and could survive quite comfortably on our own. Workaway was a luxury, a chance to meet awesome people and to make our trip more sustainable as a long-term experience, not to live in a stressful and awkward environment.

The morning of the Great Escape: we waited until everyone was out. This was a Tuesday when the cleaner was in. The family didn’t like the cleaner “She’s a grumpy Italian old bag” who turned out to be really nice. She quickly cottoned on to our escape, so Verity (having conversational French) had to make sure that she wasn’t going to phone it in to the wardens. She was well and truly on our side, she even told us that the previous couple had done the very same thing after three days. This dispelled any misgivings and galvanised our escape.

Verity is a crap accomplice! She forgot to start the washing machine, so we had to sit with the van loaded up for an additional thirty minutes while we waited for the washing machine to finish its cycle. We made it out alive without having to dig a single tunnel, we gave Floppy/Flopsy a hug and “did one”.

We have achieved our first negative feedback. We worked really hard whilst there, but due to us leaving they felt this deserved negative feedback. We will have to take this on the chin, and ensure we learn from every bad experience.

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