Friday, September 17, 2010

Fourth Tip...having friends always helps!

As you know from prior postings, we had many adventures in France.  Sometimes those adventures were challenging.  Looking back, I realize that the key to having a successful home exchange is to make sure you have a good friend (or friends) who are willing to assist the people coming to your home while you are away and vice verse.  (The vice verse is probably even more important for you!)  Also, make sure you leave a list of numbers for emergency a plumber, mechanic and a friendly doctor.

Because we were in a country where we didn't really speak the language, many things were more difficult that they should have been.  When our phone & internet service went out at the house...we didn't know who to call at the phone company.  Even if we did know what number to call, they didn't speak English, so we wouldn't have been able to figure out what was going on.  Because our exchange house had free international calling, we were planning on relying on making calls from the house to home.  We didn't have an international plan on our cell phones.  We had gotten a French sim card for our cell phones and would be using them to make local calls.  When the phone and internet went out, we had to scramble to figure out the best plan on our cell phones and get that activated.  And, we learned, there is just no good data plan for international use.  The prices are exorbitant!  So, we ended up relying on wifi...which wasn't so bad in places like Paris...but out in the countryside it was pretty much non-existent.

When our phone first went out, we spoke with the folks that our exchange family had told us would be able to help with any issues we had.  These folks (the Mopins) would become our saviours over and over again.  From helping us get our phone back up (which took 15 days and multiple calls to the carrier...all conducted in French), to dealing with car troubles, to plumbing issues to finding a doctor for one of us and accompanying us to the doctor and pharmacy...they did it all.  They also had us over to their house for dinner multiple times and introduced us to others who also opened their homes to us.

At our home, our person picked our exchange family up from the airport and took them back at the end of the trip.  She also handled dealing with the pool person when the pool had issues, showing our guests how to work various things when they couldn't figure out the instructions we'd left, and loaning them a Garmin...since our GPS system was on our cells phones and we hadn't thought of leaving one for them.  She also made sure that all the parking tickets got paid in a timely manner, since I wasn't able to set up an auto pay for those (since I didn't realize we'd be having tickets to pay over the summer!)

Whoever you select to be your ombudsman, make sure they like you a lot!  You never know what issues might arise when you leave your home, especially for the first time.  Your ombudsman may be called upon to perform all sorts of duties in your absence.  Also, realize that when you return, you will probably owe this person a lot of favors.  You might want to start doing favors for them before you even leave...this way the karmic scorecard won't be completely one-sided when you return.

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