…..but not at Ouistreham ferry terminal. Like most transport arrival and departure areas, it’s functional, charmless and full of people….and children. In this instance a coach load of school children, all wearing identical red baseball caps. I guessed that they made it easier to count heads or scan the dockside waters for floating headgear, should your present tally not match with your previous total. These were UK school children, returning from what may be officially described as an ‘educational and cultural exchange’. From what I observed the children were returning brimming over with those celebrated French culinary highlights …..burgers, fries and Coke.
Why were we experiencing such delights on a sunny, warm June day you might wonder. We were collecting Alice, our Kiwi helper for a week. No, she didn’t specialise in soft fruit nor was she disembarking the ferry after an extremely long voyage from New Zealand.
By way of explanation, there are three organizations, Helpx, Workaway and Wwoof, all largely aimed at gap year students (though of late increasingly used by more mature explorers) who wish to exchange their skills and labour for your hospitality and a place to sleep.
I only have experience of Helpx. My late wife and I welcomed our first helper in 2005 and since then over 50 helpers of all ages and abilities and from all over the globe have passed through these doors. Not only do they bring their abilities, enthusiasm and energy but an eagerness to share their experiences and learn from ours.
One overwhelming thought after hosting helpers, is that they arrive as strangers but leave as friends…