The LETSaholic Twist
Everything you always wanted to know about LETS
... but didn't know who to ask

by JAMES TARIS

 

 


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James Taris
THE LETSAHOLIC TWIST
Everything you always wanted to know about LETS
... but didn't know who to ask


How this book came to be

From 2002-2004 James Taris - dubbed by the international media as The Globetrotting LETSaholic - travelled to 19 countries on 5 continents giving his LETS Favours presentation worldwide. In the process he launched LETS in South Africa and is currently (2005) helping to launch LETS in China. This ebook is the result of many requests to put his LETS philosophy and experiences “down on paper”.

Some things you'll learn are ...

Ch.1 – How I became hooked on LETS

Ch.2 – The LETS philosophy that makes helping others more enjoyable

Ch.3 – What you should offer; world’s largest list of Offers; the matter of cash; how to conquer the fear of rejection; how businesses can benefit through LETS

Ch.4 – Five avenues for getting your needs met (including online trading)

Ch.5 – Four types of LETS events to introduce members to each other

Ch.6 – Four benefits for members who help run the LETS office

Ch.7 – How to revitalise an ailing LETS group

Ch.8 – Three ways to find new members and how to get them trading immediately

Ch.9 – Improving your LETS image with seven LETS literature items; sample artwork you can copy

Ch.10 – Ten committee roles that will make running your LETS group a breeze

Appendix - Six-steps to starting a LETS group; what to include in your LETS Starter Kit

What people are saying ...

"Congratulations on doing such a thorough job ... Much appreciated. It's somewhere I can send people to look up the good oil on the LETS potential." Janet Tough, Maldon LETS, AUSTRALIA

"... have told all our email members that your book is available ... Very interesting and inspiring stuff! I found the idea of ringing around members to check their directory entries particularly helpful, as we've had problems with trying to keep our directory fully up to date." John Jenkins, CyFLe Aberystwyth LETS, WALES, UK

... [I will] put a link to this book on the reinventingmoney web page ... under "Links", "Community Currency and Exchange Development." ... Thomas Greco, Reinventing Money, USA

I didn't read all of it yet, but I think it's great! I said I'd start as soon as you've written it to transfer it into a german edition. It will take a little time. Dirk Wetzel, Tauschring Braunschweig, GERMANY

congratulations !!! another book is done !! I have enjoyed reading the first two parts and learning from your experiences. Haya Hatsav, Machrozet (LETS), ISRAEL

... interesting stuff. Maureen Mallinson, Thames Green Dollar Exchange, NEW ZEALAND

***

Just to let you know that I love your Letsaholic book and I have included an extract in our latest newsletter. You will see that I have credited it accordingly (copy is attached). Many thanks from another letsaholic in Bury st Edmunds, UK. ... Karen

Introducing the Principles of a LETSaholic ... Some of you may already have come across James Taris, a self-confessed "LETSaholic", who has enjoyed a very focused and intense LETS related lifestyle in Australia. He has even managed to travel the world on the basis of LETS favours. On his website: http://www.lets-linkup.com, James has published a free electronic book (ebook), entitled "The LETSAHOLIC TWIST: a guide to improving your lifestyle through LETS". It is a great and inspiring read for both new and existing members. As a growing LETS group, there will be a lot that we can apply from James' experiences. With James' permission, we are pleased to include an extract from the book, as follows:"Chapter 1 - Birth of a LETSaholicMy name is James Taris, and I am a LETSaholic. That is ... " Karen, Bury LETS, UK


Below you will find ...

SAMPLE PAGES FROM EBOOK and BOOKS

... CONTENTS PAGE FROM EBOOK...
(Actual size)

HOME < ... > CH.1

C O N T E N T S

 

Chapter 1 – Birth of a LETSaholic

My story

Chapter 2 – LETS Favours

I see the light
Keeping score … nothing more
It’s all about caring and sharing

Chapter 3 – Offers

What should I offer?
List of six Offers
World’s largest list of Offers
LETS gryn
“Try Me” in London
Conquering the fear of rejection
The question of cash
Business members
More on Business Members

Chapter 4 – Wants

Necessities and luxuries
From LETS skills directory
From LETS membership directory
From LETS newsletter
- New member ads
- Keen trader ads
- Wanted ads
From LETS trading days
From LETS online trading

Chapter 5 – Trading

Lifestyles improve with every trade
Frequency of events
Types of events
LETS get-togethers
LETS trading days
LETS auctions
LETS Hit Squads

Chapter 6 – Administration Help

I help to run our LETS group
Earning LETS points
Learning about LETS
Developing new skills
Meeting members

Chapter 7 – Rebuilding

LETS do or die
I contact all members
Jumbo Needs and Wants List

Chapter 8 – Recruiting

Normal attrition
Local newspapers
- What's on section
- Feature article
Street Festivals
Public LETS seminar
What to do with new members
- Registration form
- First trade

Chapter 9 – Image

LETS literature and stationery
LETS registration form
LETS membership card
LETS transaction book
LETS brochure
LETS newsletter
LETS directory
- Skills directory
- Membership directory

Chapter 10 – Committee Roles

The 10 committee roles
Group co-ordinator
- how to avoid Co-ordinator burnout
- how to run LETS meetings
Meeting secretary
Cash treasurer
Promotions co-ordinator
Membership co-ordinator
Events co-ordinator
Newsletter publisher
Directory publisher
Website webmaster
Office co-ordinator (with Office helpers)

APPENDIX

Appendix I - 6-steps to starting a LETS group
Appendix II - LETS Starter Kit
Appendix III - LETS song
Appendix IV - Booking LETS Favours seminar
Appendix V - Samples of LETS literature and stationery

 

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C H A P T E R . 1
Birth of a LETSaholic

"Every generation needs a new revolution."
(Thomas Jefferson)

 

Japan: On my LETS tour in November 2002.

 

MY STORY

My name is James Taris, and I’m a LETSaholic. That is, I can’t get enough of LETS.

For those of you who do not know what LETS is, LETS stands for Local Exchange Trading System. It is a group of people from a small community who all agree to exchange goods and services with each other without the need for cash.

And once you have grasped the LETS philosophy, then trading in LETS points becomes an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

My LETS philosophy is, "Don’t think of LETS points like dollars. Think of them as favours. LETS Favours!"

I became involved with LETS in 1993, and once I understood and accepted the principle of give-and-take with my fellow LETS members, I quickly noticed a sharp rise in the quality of my lifestyle.

Having a limited income meant I could only afford to pay for the essentials in my life: rent, gas, electricity, phone, petrol, food, clothes, and so on; everything else became a luxury, which I either did without, or chose to do myself.

But that all changed with LETS, because I found I could at last enjoy some of the luxuries in life by offering a range of goods and services through my LETS group. Very soon I was mowing lawns, removing rubbish and painting rooms. Later I was also designing business cards, brochures and newsletters; I even traded tiny picture frames, small bookcases and kitchenware.

In return I received massages, piano tuition and restaurant meals; computer support, computer software and web design services; greeting cards, teddy bears and bonsai plants. All of these goods and services would have been reluctantly by-passed by me if I had to pay for them in cash. Thankfully, LETS made them all possible.

So how did I become a LETSaholic?

I was a wedding-portrait photographer for eighteen years, and in mid 1993 I decided I didn’t want to do photography any more, so I closed down my studio and found myself out of work.

I had heard about this “LETS thing”, where people could get goods and services without paying cash, so I found the nearest LETS group to my home, North Melbourne LETS (NM LETS), which was a twenty minute drive away, and I joined.

When I was asked to list the things I could offer other LETS members, I chose commercial photography. After all, I was a professional photographer. Surely I would be a great asset to their group.

After I paid my annual membership fee, which was only five dollars and five “razoos” – a razoo was a NM LETS point – I was given a copy of the group’s newsletter, The Brass Razoo, which also included their LETS directory. It was a detailed and orderly list of all the goods and services offered by its members, and as I skimmed through the pages I saw dozens of items I was sure I could use: books, CDs and software; piano lessons, computer lessons and writing lessons; restaurant meals, bonsai plants and massages.

But first I was going to wait for someone to contact me because I didn’t want to risk being rejected by any of the people I called. I was unsure how they would react if I asked them for something before I had actually done something for them first. I was more comfortable about earning some LETS points before spending them. And I was sure that once the word got out about the professional quality of my photographs, I would soon become a popular choice with the LETS members.

So I waited by the phone, waiting for it to ring; and I waited, and I waited. But the phone did not ring, and nobody came around. Even though the LETS group sent me their newsletter every three months inviting me to their LETS get-togethers – where I could meet other LETS members socially over a meal and drinks – I could not get over my fear of rejection, so I waited and waited some more.

Eleven months later! – on a Thursday night after nine o’clock – I was driving through North Melbourne where I knew there was a LETS get-together taking place, so I decided to drop in, but just for ten minutes or so; I had convinced myself that such a short visit would not be long enough to make me feel uncomfortable, and seeing it was already very late, I guessed it would not be going on for much longer anyway.

The event was happening at the LETS office, and being a warm summer’s night, the LETS gathering was taking place in the rear yard. I made my way through the office and as soon as I got to the back entrance, a short, stocky young guy, about twenty-three, came up to me and shook my hand.

“Hi, my name’s Ross. If you want any heavy lifting done, any manual labour, digging gardens, moving house – that sort of thing – just call me and I’ll come and help you,” and once he finished his introduction he just smiled at me and kept shaking my hand in anticipation.

It took only a couple of seconds for me to realise it was my turn to do some talking, so I said, “My name’s James, and I’m a photographer.”

“A photographer!” he said excitedly. Then he started asking me about my occupation, and I immediately felt welcomed.

After a couple of minutes he took me over to meet some of the other members.

“This is Doone who offers catering … and this is Malcolm who offers labouring … and this is Amy who offers sewing ...”

And Amy said, “If you’ve got any buttons missing from your shirts, or you want anything shortened or taken in, then call me and I’ll fix them for you.”

So in the space of just a few minutes, I already felt like one of the family. In fact, I was getting annoyed with myself for putting off meeting these people for so long.

There were not many people at the tables, so I asked Ross, “How come there’s only seven people here tonight? I thought there were about eighty members in the group.”

“This is only about half the people who came tonight. But you’re late – it’s nearly half past nine and we started at half past six. Some of the members had to leave because they’re working tomorrow morning, and others had to go home because they’ve got baby-sitters waiting for them.”

I was curious about what the other members were offering, so Ross filled me in.

“Now let’s see … Peter was here and he offers gardening … Bev offers ironing … Robert offers massage …”

“Massage!” I interrupted, “I’d love a massage!”

“Well”, Ross said, “Robert’s the best guy to give you a massage, because he runs massage classes. I’m sure he’ll do it for you if you ring him.”

And with that recommendation, I rang Robert the next day, and Robert came over on the following Sunday and gave me the best massage I had ever had. Actually, it was the first massage I had ever had … but it was fantastic.
All the while I couldn’t help thinking that, there I was, unemployed, and enjoying a massage; a luxury I had never experienced while I was working, because I could never justify paying sixty dollars to have it done. However, through LETS it had finally become a reality. That massage, my first LETS trade, made such a huge impact on me, it was as if I had been hit on the head with a sledgehammer.

These people had shown me good old-fashioned help-thy-neighbour values, and it was contagious.

From now on, I thought, I would do whatever I could to help the LETS members get more of what they wanted, because I had experienced how good it felt for someone to help me with my request, and I wanted the other members to have that same wonderful feeling. Then I imagined the Domino Effect would come into play and ensure everyone in the group became more active and helpful. That would impact on their lifestyles, making the group more effective and the members much happier.

In fact, I even thought about starting my own LETS group in my own suburb, Coburg. I imagined the lack of contacts from NM LETS members may have been due to the fact that I lived so far away from them. Whereas I had a car, many of the members had to travel by public transport. Indeed, I was very impressed that Robert rode his bicycle on the day he came and gave me that memorable massage!

However, after making enquiries at the Coburg City Council offices, I discovered there was already a LETS group near my home: Coburg and District LETS (C&D LETS) – which operated out of a Neighbourhood (Community) House only five minutes from my home. Within minutes I had joined that group as well and volunteered to help them with their newsletter. Even though C&D LETS had been operating for about a year it was still only a small LETS group with just 15 members. Up until then, they were only publishing a single-page newsletter, printed on both sides. I had seen how much more informative The Brass Razoo was, so I wanted to design a newsletter that was as good as that, or maybe even better!

But I had never designed a newsletter before, so I was unsure if C&D LETS would accept me. Fortunately, they were thrilled with my offer – it was not long before I realised that nobody else wanted to do it – and they also agreed to give me the training necessary to do the job properly. Soon I had my own desk space in their office and unlimited access to one of their computers.

The training and supervision was superb, and once I became familiar with the desktop publishing software, I was able to complete my task without further supervision. The result of that caring and nurturing was the group’s first twelve-page newsletter. In fact, I became so good at my newly acquired skill, that very soon, as well as producing the C&D LETS newsletter and directory, I redesigned all the group’s literature and stationery: registration form, membership card, letterhead, leaflets, triple-fold brochure, and LETS transaction book. It was truly a labour of love and I eventually took up desktop publishing as a career; pleased to offload the stigma of being an unemployed photographer.

Over the first few months my involvement with C&D LETS continued harmoniously. Apart from producing the group’s newsletter I also traded quite regularly with the LETS members. Having seen how willing the members were to offer their services to me, I added several more services to my list of Offers – lawn mowing, painting and rubbish removals – and rather than wait idly at home for the phone to ring, this time I took the initiative to contact the members myself. I gave and I gave, as a caring person gives, without thinking about what I would get back in return. And yet, I got back so much more than any other member in the group. Then as the group became more active, the membership also began to grow.

LETS also played a major part in helping me develop a range of new skills including desktop publishing, writing, administration, web design, public speaking and acting.

So all in all, these LETS experiences created a “LETSaholic”. And if giving willingly of my time and skills to people who seek my help is regarded as addictive, then I am proud to be a LETSaholic.

Yet I shudder each time I think back to my first year with LETS. I could still kick myself for waiting eleven months before making my first trade. What would have happened if I had not gone to that LETS get-together? What would have happened if Ross had not encouraged me to phone Robert? What would have happened if I did not ring Robert? The answer is the same for all those questions and it still makes me feel sick. Just like tens of thousands of ex-LETS members around the world (thirty percent never ever trade!) I would have quit LETS at the end of my twelve-month membership, assuring myself that LETS was not such a good idea after all.

The motivation that drove me to enlighten LETS members at every opportunity, was the incredible difference I felt between the ecstasy I experienced after my first LETS trade and the nausea that hit me when I realised I may have missed out on the LETS experience altogether.

Over the last ten years I have been involved with the administration of several LETS groups and been exposed to the operation of dozens of others. I am often asked, “What’s the best way to run a LETS group?” and my answer has always been the same: “Do more of the things that encourage trading and less of the things that discourage trading.”

That’s what I did! I have performed in many LETS committee roles over the years including Co-ordinating, Promotions, Membership, Newsletter, Directory, Web Site and Administration. And in every case I focused on ways to increase trading amongst the members, being ever conscious of pursuing activities that made trading easier and avoiding activities that made trading more difficult. This has become my “twist” – the LETSaholic Twist – on the original LETS concept.

LETS has been a wonderful discovery for me, and it has changed my life. This book gives you a detailed account of how I improved my lifestyle through LETS. I sincerely hope you will glean some useful ideas from the following chapters so LETS can do wonders for you too.

 

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C H A P T E R . 2
LETS Favours

“What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?”
(George Eliot)

 

Canada: I found painting to be one of the most popular services I could trade.

 

I SEE THE LIGHT

I had only been producing the LETS newsletter for a couple of months when I noticed the account balance of one of our members was over a thousand LETS points in debit. That rang warning bells in my head. All the literature I had read about LETS warned of such situations and how “the wealth of the local community” was being sapped by such members who took from the system without giving back.

With those thoughts in mind I rushed to the LETS co-ordinator to let her know how alert I was. She would certainly be very pleased with me.

“Sue, one of our LETS members is now over a thousand LETS points in debit. Do we have a debit limit? … Do you want me to freeze her trading account?”

“Whose account is it, James?”

“It’s Helen’s. She’s over twelve hundred points in debit now.”

The next few minutes forever changed my outlook on LETS and have had an unparalleled impact on me and my LETS life.

“Ah, Helen. Let me tell you a little about Helen, James, but let me precede that with a small observation I’ve made. LETS attracts lots of different people, but they primarily fall into two groups: those who like to help people, and those who really need help. We have a small membership, and most of them are mature-aged. They’re our best helpers because they’re fairly comfortable with their lives, and if LETS didn’t exist, they’d still be inclined to help others: it’s typical of what their generation is used to doing. On the contrary, Helen is a single mother with an eight-year-old child and she recently purchased a house in Brunswick. It’s an old run-down house with much need for renovating. These debits are a result of members helping to make her house more liveable – turning it from a house into a home. Helen’s the other half of the LETS equation: right now she really needs our help.”

Sue noticed I needed a little more persuasion, so she continued.

“Debit balances can be a real problem in a LETS group when it becomes apparent that a member is abusing the system by taking without any intention of giving back. Now let’s take a look at Helen’s offers. First of all she has a piano, and although she doesn’t teach piano lessons, she’s offering the use of her piano for anyone who wants to take piano lessons in her home. Secondly, she’s offering gardening, which is a high-demand service in our group. When she gets settled in her home, I’m sure she’ll be pleased to help other LETS members improve their gardens. And finally, she’s the only member we have who’s offering holiday accommodation. She has a little country house near Ballarat that she’s happy to make available to our LETS members for a couple of days or even a couple of weeks at a time. I’ve already been there myself, and it’s a lovely place to go and just relax for a while. Helen’s not a freeloader. She’s currently a mother with a child who needs our help, and once she’s settled in, you’ll see, she’ll become one of our most active traders.”

Then Sue concluded with a revelation that I have since adopted as my own:

“James, LETS points aren’t dollars. They’re more like favours. And when you can accept these LETS points as just being “favours” from one member to another, you won’t be too concerned about the balances on their accounts; either in debit or in credit. And really, what does it matter if Helen isn’t able to bring her account balance back to zero. I’m sure most of our members, especially our helpers, will take pride in knowing they’ve been able to help one of “us”. These members, you’ll notice, have credit balances – some quite high – and most have never asked other members for any help, and never intend to. They’re Givers and don’t really want anything back in return. They’re just as excited about giving to our members, as those that are helped are excited about receiving. In their minds, they’re simply doing favours for our LETS members, just as they would for their neighbours, families and friends.”

And from that moment on, I knew exactly what LETS was … at least to Sue and to me and to our LETS members. That LETS philosophy has stayed with me for ten years and it has been the key motivation that has driven me to be such an active participant in “all things LETS”.

My understanding of what Sue had shared with me in such a caring way was that the LETS account balances were just a record of how much each member was giving to, or receiving from, the LETS group. It was necessary to keep record of each member’s trading activity so they could then strive to bring their balances back to zero, thereby keeping the system as fair as possible for all.

By far, the biggest improvements I have seen in LETS groups have come about after members have changed their concept of the group’s purpose from that of being a local “employment” or “barter” system to that of being a “self-help” group. Along with that comes a new understanding of what a LETS point really represents: changing it from being an alternative to cold hard “cash” to a much warmer “favour”.

 

KEEPING SCORE … NOTHING MORE

So, my LETS philosophy is …

"Don’t think of LETS points like dollars. Think of them as favours. LETS Favours!"

It was not hard for me to accept this attitude because my first contact with LETS members, at the NM LETS Get-Together, made me feel like they felt the same way. They were offering their services to me without any hint of obligating me to give back to them. Then when Robert cycled all the way to my home – maybe over an hour’s ride! –and gave me a massage which lasted for two long and extremely relaxing hours, I felt he was doing it in the same caring way. I didn’t ask for a two-hour massage, but Robert had noticed my muscles were very tight – due to stress – and needed additional massage, so he did what was best for me. And when I volunteered to design the newsletter for C&D LETS, whenever I was stumped and needed help, it was given to me at once and without hesitation.

I am not so different from most people so I am sure I would have been hesitant to “give” if I had felt the LETS members were just trying to take advantage of me. But it is human nature to treat people as they treat you, so when LETS members gave to me unselfishly, I gave back to them in the same way. This is the LETS attitude I have tried to instil on every LETS member I have come in contact with ever since.

So what is a LETS point to me?

Let me start by saying that the generally accepted view by all LETS people is that a LETS point is not cash, or federal currency, and I agree. However, I do not feel comfortable viewing LETS points as an alternative currency with an equivalent value in cash, so I have stuck with my interpretation of LETS points as being like LETS favours, and that has always made trading very enjoyable for me. I love doing favours for members and they show genuine appreciation for the favour – in LETS points. It doesn’t get any better than that!

I see LETS more like a voluntary self-help group where like-minded people in a local community give of their time and experience to help their fellow members and feel welcomed to ask for the same in return … just as they would from family and friends.

But rather than do all this helping without any recording at all, keeping LETS accounts allows the group to keep track of the members’ activities so they can balance their trading activities fairly, knowing that once their accounts are back to zero, they have given to the group just as much as they have received. Basically it’s just a matter of keeping score and nothing more.

This is how I like to explain LETS accounts to new members:

“The LETS group's function is to act as a bookkeeper for their members' activities; keeping record of these “favours” and putting the members' accounts into debit or credit accordingly. An account which is in credit identifies a member who’s given more favours than he’s received, and an account which is in debit identifies a member who’s received more favours than he’s given. These credits have no value and can’t be exchanged for cash. Their only purpose is to keep track of each member’s involvement in the group so they can aim to bring their accounts back to zero – a sign of fair and equitable participation in the system.”

The presentation I gave to LETS groups around the world was aptly titled, “LETS Favours: Improving your lifestyle through LETS”. I noticed the biggest impact I had on an audience was when they grasped the LETS Favours concept. That mind-shift produced a couple of results I am very proud of: an immediate increase in membership – half the guests in the audience joined on the same night – and an increase in trading for the following month (usually about thirty percent).

The type of feedback I received from audience members, especially from inactive members was, “I feel much happier about trading if I think I’ll be helping people”.

So it seemed that members would rather trade when they thought of LETS points as “favours” rather than “money”.

I also found that focusing on helping members, built a community-spirit within the group, and placed a friendlier tone on each trade. That motivated me so much more than being profit-motivated. After all, as far as I was concerned, LETS points didn’t have any real value, even though they represented the value of appreciation shown by the member who had been assisted.

The LETS members I have helped over the years have known I was not obligated to help them. Trading through LETS, after all, was never compulsory; it was always – and still is – optional. They were grateful to get my help; in fact, any help. It was obvious just how appreciative they were because when I was performing tiring services for members – such as lawn mowing, painting and rubbish removals – I was always being offered snacks and drinks. And the best part was that they never complained if my work was not “spot-on”. Why would they? Would you complain to your neighbour if he agreed to help you with some tedious chore? Wouldn’t you just be grateful that he agreed to be there and help you as best he could? That was how a community-spirit was built within the group. That was how trading became a friendlier and more enjoyable activity. And that was how I saw LETS: a voluntary self-help group of members who were willing to help each other in times of need.

Here is a detailed example of the caring and sharing that took place with my LETS hosts while I was travelling overseas:

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT CARING AND SHARING

In March 2004, Kit, my LETS host in Kitchener (Ontario, Canada) asked, “Can you paint a room for me?”

Now, you had to keep that question in perspective.

My stay in Kitchener was originally supposed to be for only one week, January 11 to 18, but nine and a half weeks later, I was still there! And apart from a couple of weeks spent in Welland, Brantford, Montreal, Granby, Ottawa and Toronto, I had spent the rest of my time in Kitchener, and it looked like I would be there for another seven weeks, making it a total of over three months!

Now I wasn’t in the habit of staying in the same place for such a long time; my average stay with a host was about one week. But things just turned out that way when my plans to visit South America fell through a couple of months earlier.

Not only that, but Kit also organized: two performances of my play, The Glory of Athens; three speaking engagements with local Toastmasters groups; a Murder-Mystery night; a winter camping weekend with thirty-seven other crazy Canadians; a visit to an Emu farm; a lift to Montreal which was a six hour drive; two lifts to Toronto and back (an hour each way); a cross-country skiing trip; and an ice-hockey game … plus my day-to-day needs, as was originally requested when I first made contact with KW Barterworks, the LETS group Kit belonged to.

My commitment to the LETS group, and their commitment to me, ended after my first week, so all those extras had been provided by Kit.

And when the visits to the South American countries had to be cancelled, Kit immediately offered to host me a while longer, because I was the ideal travel guest!

And here’s why: I washed the dishes every day; I regularly shovelled snow from the paths and driveway around the house; I registered a domain name for a business web site; I also provided the web hosting; I gave web page design tuition; and I was good company to have around, always having something positive to say.

And the more I did for my host, the more my host did for me. You see, it was all about caring and sharing, and having said that, I wasn’t going to paint a room … I was going to paint the whole freakin' ground floor! That was four rooms and a staircase which meant stripping paint off all the woodwork – doors, windows, skirting boards, and staircase; filling in cracks in the plaster; then painting the ceilings and floors.

I mean, why wouldn’t I?

On my travels, there were many times when I had “given more” or “received more” than our original agreement had stipulated. To be quite honest, I found my hosts exceeded their obligations on almost every single occasion. Here’s a few examples I recall from my European and African LETS Speaking Tour in 2002:

In England, I had use of a bicycle for a week and repaid the favour by doing a few hours of house renovating for another member.

Also in England, I cleaned a kitchen, bathroom and toilet. I got no extras in return, but I knew my host was expecting a visitor for the next couple of days, and because he was working all day, he wouldn’t have enough time to clean those rooms. So I did it for him, and when he got home he couldn’t believe his eyes!

In Spain, I washed the dishes one morning while my hosts were sleeping in. I just wanted to be helpful.

In Norway, I was given a Polynesian Massage and repaid the favour by helping out in a couple of ways before I left.

In South Africa, I got my first taste of working my butt off for LETS. I was giving upto three presentations each day for four days, and by the fifth day I’d lost my voice!

So as you can see, we just helped each other out where it became necessary.

But I digress, so back to painting those four rooms for Kit …

When was the last time you stripped? … paint, that is.

Well, I only allowed two days for paint stripping, meanwhile, six days later I was still stripping!

Then I had a couple of agonizing days sanding the woodwork to a neat finish. Why agonizing? Because I didn’t use sandpaper; I used steel wool soaked in mineral turpentine. Very soon I found that applying pressure with my thumbs gave the best results. Unfortunately, it made them ache so much that I couldn’t snap my fingers for six days! Just as well I was not performing my play during that period because when I took on the role of Archimedes, snapping my fingers was an essential part of my act!

So what started out as a simple weekend paint job, turned out to be a self-inflicted sentence lasting about three weeks. But the results were very much worthwhile and I never regretted it for a moment.

So how did I go about my work? In a very organized fashion … just like everything else I did.

Here’s how long it took: one day of planning and re-organising four rooms; one day of emptying three rooms of all furniture; one day of removing a wallpaper strip, filling wall cracks and seventy-nine holes, repairing a door handle, removing loose plaster off the kitchen ceiling, buying paints and painting equipment; six days of stripping paint off the woodwork; two days of sanding; two days of painting; and one day of replacing furniture in rooms and stacking books and CDs back into shelves.

That completed three rooms of painting before I had to leave on my Ottawa LETS trip. However, on my return I completed the job by painting the kitchen as well. That took another two days of stripping paint; one day of filling cracks; one day of sanding; and two days of painting. A grand total of twenty days!

But what a great job! I was very neat and considerate, cleaning up after myself at the end of each day. In fact, it was very reassuring to know that if I ever ran out of audiences to speak to, and web sites to design, I could always offer to renovate houses!

 

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