This was Valentina's first workaway experience, and it soon became clear that she was unprepared for the experience and had unrealistic expectations, what I did not expect was the lack of respect for the house and host, the pets and a rude superior attitude.
Valentina asked to volunteer with her friend Marlin who does not have a profile, I would strongly recommend against accepting friends who you are unable to see feedback or review after they leave.
Valentina and Marlin arrived 1 week later than originally expected and agreed to stay 1 week later however on arrival stated that they had changed their plans, which was very inconvenient.
On the first night, I took Marlin & Valentina to a local Pizza restaurant, and paid for the food and wine as I have done with all other volunteers.
At the end of the first week Marlin and Valentina decided to go and spend Friday to Sunday with friends locally but had not told me, just as a new volunteer was arriving.
Not wanting the new arrival to be left alone all weekend, i drove her around and showed her the local villages and sights and during the day we went for lunch.
Unfortunately Valentina and Marlin seemed to have an issue with this and started making unpleasant comments to the other volunteer about her being 'my favourite' simply because we had spent time together when they had chosen not to be here.
I have become friends with many of the people who have stayed here and treat them all exactly the same way, and as I am in a relationship, these friendships are completely platonic.
Valentina asked to work longer hours on 4 days instead of working 5 days, to complete the agreed 25 hours per week. I agreed to this as i have done with previous volunteers on the basis that they get the rest of the week off after 25 hours have been worked.
At the beginning of the second week, Marlin stated that she felt ill, and took 2 days off from working, by Thursday she was feeling ok and worked, but as she had worked less than 10 hours all week, it was not expected for her to have Friday off, and when it was clear that i expected her to work on Friday, Valentina became quite aggressive, so i chose not to argue with them and felt forced to give her the day off.
Marlin asked to bring her dog, I reluctantly accepted but set clear boundaries, which on arrival Marlin completely ignored, despite being asked to keep the dog in a certain part of the house or in the rear outside area, and therefore her dog regularly ate the cats food at feeding time and on one day did so 5 times, the dog also went to toilet in the house at least 3 times and regularly chased the cats, Marlin was not concerned by any of this, never did anything to stop the dog scaring the cats or apologised and had no respect for the host, house or pets.
One evening at dinner, we were all discussing wine and I stated that i found one particular wine 'disgusting' I was then subjected to a very awkward 15 minute lecture from Valentina - who is a elementary school teacher - about how she tells 'her children' not to ever use the work 'disgusting' and how me, her host, a businessman in his 40's should be told by a 20something what words i can and cannot use when giving my opinion of wine.
The evening was completely ruined and is an example of the lack of respect Valentina has for hosts, her immaturity, control issues and authoritarian attitude.
In regard to work, I make clear to all volunteers that the weather can be hot, and the work is physical, gardening, painting, cleaning.
It is not that anyone expects the work to be hard and exhausting, it is just that is the nature of Gardening. When the weather became hot, i found jobs inside for everyone so that they did not have to be outside in the heat.
It is a shame that Valentina doesn't remember that she only did 3 days gardening in 2 weeks for this reason and that most of the gardening work she was given did not get finished.
But for those that work hard they are well rewarded, plenty of good food and wine always available, a luxurious house with a rooftop pool, and trips out and restaurant bills always paid for.
The house is of course rural, this is something that volunteers love about the area and the reason why most people come here, many of the most beautiful villages in France are within walking distance or a bike ride, 3 large towns and a train station are within 15 minutes and Avignon & Aix-en-Provence 45 minutes.
Valentina and Marlin had a car and had the opportunity to go to many places that i recommended and i also offered - as i do with all volunteers - to drive them around but it seems they had already made plans to spend their free time with friend and boyfriends who visited, rather than get involved in the experience.
In the last year, i have had over 600 applications for people to stay here, and accepted around 30 from different websites, this is the first time i have received such comments and insinuation that people should travel as a couple.
I am very choosy over the people I allow to stay here and am careful to make sure that it is a safe environment for female volunteers, particularly solo travellers.
Unfortunately there will always be people like Valentina and Marlin who spoil the experience for the host and other volunteers.
I do not think that Valentina or Marlin are suited to volunteering and feel that they need to grow up and learn some manners and respect when staying in other peoples houses.
Volunteering for Worldpackers is not a free holiday, it is an experience - that is only as good as you make it.