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Helen: Friendship Force (house visits)
Listen to Helen, a Canadian woman, talking about her travels and why she so enjoys staying in people’s houses.
|This transcript will help you to understand the podcast. Many of the “ums” and “ers” have been removed to make for easier reading.|
Sue: Hello Helen.
Helen: Hi Sue.
Sue: So I know that you’re a great traveller, you’ve been to so many countries. Can you just give me a few countries you’ve been to?
Helen: Well, I’ve been to pretty well all over the world, on most continents, everywhere except the Far East. I’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, South America, Europe many times.
Sue: And the list goes on!
Helen: Yes it does.
Sue: Ok and I know you have a particular way of travelling. Can you tell us, not really how you travel but all about the sort of accommodation?
Helen: Yes, well for the past 10-12 years I’ve been a member of the group called the Friendship Force and it’s an international organisation and it comes out of Atlanta, Georgia and it was started many years ago by Jimmy Carter and his idea was a world of friends is a world of peace. So what we do is we spend a week being hosted in a city somewhere or a village, we stay in people’s homes and they prepare programmes so that we get to understand their way of life and their culture and eat lots of food.
Sue: Yes, that’s true.
Helen: Some people even say that Friendship Force means Force Feeding!
Sue: Well, it seems like a very good deal to me. And so you travel to stay in other people’s homes and do they come back to your homes?
Helen: Mostly no. What happens is that the organisation in Atlanta arranges, every year we have to request a country we want to visit and then they match up with people.
Sue: Right, so it’s not a direct exchange.
Sue: But you have people in your house from other countries.
Helen: Yes, it’s like one year we went to Brazil and we had people from England.
Sue: Ok, so it’s an exchange like this. So after 10 years I presume you like it a lot, this way to travel.
Sue: So what do you like about it?
Helen: Well, what I really like is people, I’m a people person, I love to meet people and see how they live, see their homes, sometimes even cooking their kitchens.
Sue: You can come to my house any time, right. So I imagine you’ve seen so many different homes, so many different experiences, have there been some highs and some lows or should I say some, I don’t know, comfortable houses and some not so comfortable.
Helen: Yes we’ve, I’ve been to South Africa and I was quite surprised because we were teamed up with a family who are classified coloured, they’re not black, they’re not white, there are a mix of colours and we lived in their home and it was well, well it had everything in it but it was mixed and matched and little bits of pieces here and there, so the kitchen had lovely marble but the kitchen had three pieces of lovely marble all around, and there was a home-made mosaic shower in the home, so that was great.
Helen: But the one country I had the high and the low, I went to Russia in 2013 and the first place I stayed the family was a millionaire and it was a humongous house and it had absolutely everything in it, six flat full TV screens.
Sue: Goodness me!
Helen: So it was great, but I had finished reading a couple, I’ve read a lot about Russia and I read a book about, it was called A Mountain of Crumbs. It was a wonderful story, it was about a woman who had lived in Soviet times and she had a boyfriend from America and she was always embarrassed to take him to her home because they had such horrible stairways, and I really wanted to see a place like that and I did, I got to live in a place like that.
Sue: Goodness me.
Helen: And we had to walk up three flights of stairs and very dark, dingy stairwell and we got into a lovely flat, everything modern or new, everything new, so the people own their homes and if they have the money they can spend and fix it up but they didn’t,
Sue: They don’t do stairwell.
Helen: Or the outside.
Sue: Right, ok, so that’s, so do you also travel, do you also stay in hotels in your other travels?
Helen: Well, yes, when we go on a Friendship Force trip we usually combine it with a regular type of tourist trip, so for example this year we’re, a group of us are going on to Scotland and we’ve arranged a private tour for nine people and then four of us have decided to stay on and go on a regular tour on a tour bus. In the past when I was very young I spent nine weeks in Europe travelling everywhere in Western Europe, and my husband and I, we bought a Volkswagen square back.
Sue: Goodness me! I know somebody who will be very jealous of that.
Helen: Well anyway, we slept most of the time and the on the other half, well we went to campsites. But there were occasions when we couldn’t find a campsite, so we just had to pull over and do it, we pulled over in Spain on a beach and we pulled over in England in Dartmoor and just camped. But the other times we were in established campsites.
Sue: Ok, so you’ve done people’s homes, you’ve done hotels, you’ve done sleeping in the Volkswagen in the wild, does anything else exist?
Helen: Well, we’ve done the cruises as well.
Sue: I knew you’d say something like that! So you’ve done roads and sea and everything. Good thank you very much Helen for that and I’m sure other people will have other comments to make on that, thank you very much.
Helen: You’re welcome.
You can also download the transcript for ease of working. Friendship Force Transcript