Sunday, July 7, 2013

Risks of workaway, or boy, I had one hell of a week.

I afford traveling by working for hosts in exchange for room and board. I find the hosts on the workaway and wwoof websites. There are other, similar websites, but as they all charge a fee, I stick with the first two I've discovered.

I've had decent luck finding hosts so far. Aside from the crazy French lady that accused me of breaking my arm on purpose so I could have a vacation, my hosts have all been pretty decent. I've had a few minor complaints over the past year, like the farmer's wife who can't cook, but no serious problems. I've had great luck in the Riogordo area, spending most of my time with a British - er sorry, English family helping them get a couple of casitas ready for rental. They are good folk, and spent some time teaching me the Queen's English. Whatthefuckever.

But, there is always a risk that one could arrive at a gig and find it all a bit off.

My time with the English came to an end, and I had to move on. I had recently met a girl on some online dating site, so I narrowed my search to her vicinity, so I would have a chance to meet her. I got lucky and found a gig with a woman who struck me as a back-to-the-lander, hippie sort. Sounded good to me. I get along real well with aging hippies. We made a plan for me to arrive on Wednesday

Saturday, I boarded the 5:00 bus from Riogordo and headed up near Catalonia. Two buses and far too many hours later, I disembarked in the town of that girl I met, who had been nicknamed Sex Mad Girl, or SMG, by a friend of mine, and I headed towards her place. We had an amazing few days, and I'm not giving any details except to say she fucks like a champ. Yay.

Wednesday, I boarded yet another bus off to Santa Barbara (no, not California, Catalonia), home of the hippie lady. My first impression was that I was correct in my assumptions of her. Second impression was that she should stop scratching her bug bites so much. She looked like a junkie.

But, she was nice enough, though a bit of a flake. She gave me a tour of her finca, and I was both dismayed and hopeful. Dismayed because the over-grown, ramshackled, run- down place needed a huge amount of work, and the living quarters for workawayers was somewhat sub-par. My room was clean and large, but the windows had no screens, and this is a buggy land. The roof was uninsulated metal, and the place turned into an oven by midday. The bathroom had no running water, requiring a bucket to flush the toilet. Shower was inoperable. The kitchen and living area had their doors left open to let air in, along with the chickens. The floor was covered in chicken shit. The fridge, stove, counter-tops, sink, everything was dusty and filthy and in need of a massive cleaning effort.

I was hopeful because SMG lived less than fifty kilometers (I'm in Europe, I use the metric system now. Deal) south, and I could visit her now and then while working on this farm for perhaps many months. Many, many months. I started formulating a plan to be useful to this flaky hippie lady and have her want to keep me around.

After the tour, we sat and chatted for a few hours, and I realized that she is a lonely woman, lost in her over-grown finca, looking for something. I also realized that she liked her white wine. That's okay by me, I enjoy drinking myself.

We built a fire outside, and cooked dinner on it. She was shocked to hear that I haven't cooked on a campfire since my youth. Whilst eating burnt meat and undercooked potatoes, I realized why Americans go for those fancy gas grills. They are easier.

The next day was a bit of work, a tour of Santa Barbara, and another dinner cooked over an open fire. This time, the meat wasn't quite as charred. She was blitzed on her wine again, but that's okay. I enjoy drinking myself.

After dinner, I borrowed the hippie's internet stick, as she called it, a USB, 3G plugin thingy. She told me it was "limited, very slow." I took that to mean that the speeds were limited and slow because it's only 3G. turns out she meant it had a limit of one gig, or jeega as she called it, of download available. Anything over that, the connection speed would be throttled down. Something that we should have been clear on. Oops.

Cause SMG and I spent some time video chatting. The speed was fast enough for that, though a bit blurry. The next day, though, the hippie lady mentioned that I used up the whole jeega, and I was confused. She said she was taking her siesta. I went back to work.

Later, I had a question about the work, so I sought her out. She was very drunk, and still angry about the missing jeega. Eventually, I figured out the reason for her ire and attempted an apology. She told me she was pissed, not working, and staggered inside. I quit for the day.

Later, I realized that she would not be preparing dinner, and I raided the fridge, getting enough food for breakfast at the same time. I was in the midst of spreading peanut butter on bread when she stopped by to complain about my stealing food from her fridge, and I attempted to explain that feeding me was part of the workaway deal. She slurred something about her missing jeega and stomped off.

Next morning, Saturday, she was already drunk at nine, when I first saw her. She glared at me and wandered back into her house. I quit work by ten, something about not getting fed makes me lazy, and gave myself a sponge bath in the chicken shit covered workers kitchen. 

By afternoon, I was sitting in a cafe in Santa Barbara, drinking cafe con leche, chatting with SMG, and emailing potential hosts for work. I found a few maybe decent hosts, and sent off four emails. SMG was kind and offered me her place until I could find a new gig. I said that I would try to work things out with the hippie lady. I mean, two days drunk should be enough for a bender.

But, no she stretched it into three. I had just finished washing my hair in a bucket of cold water (damn that pony-tail) when she yelled at me through the window that she doesn't run a hotel and that she hates that I was there. I decided to leave.

Five hours later, I found myself back at SMG's, peaceful and content. I was lucky that I have a friend nearby that could take me in, but what of others? College kids traveling around who may be stuck, desperately searching for a new host, while a crazy, drunken hippie is yelling that they need to leave? Workaway is designed to help people travel on a budget. I have 70 euros in my pocket, so a hostel for even a night would have been a big expense for me. Workaway does allow the leaving of feedback on profiles, and I left one on the hippie's, for other travelers deserve to know that the lady is an unstable drunk. Such are the risks of workaway.

And, for what it's worth, Santa Barbara is an ugly ass town.

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