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A Month in the Life: Work Exchange Program at Concordia Eco Resort

For a couple of years now I have been looking at the Employment Opportunities page of Maho Bay Camps. I had heard about them through meeting a few people here and in the life.  They had an interesting Work Exchange Program listed. The program was also happening at their sister resort, Concordia Eco Resort. For a month, either beginning to end or mid to mid, you agree to work 4-hours for each day....a 30-day stay means 120 hours. The program runs from the beginning of June until mid-November.  Maho Bay Camp actually closed this spring...bought out by a private developer.  So Concordia was the choice left.

RVers who sometimes do the workamping scene will grasp the concept easier. They will agree to work so many hours for the spot and hook-ups. In many cases no money changes hands. And that's the case here....just no RV. Instead I have one of their eco tents...think the tent cabins of Yosemite, but twice as large.

Concordia is named after the historical estate that was located here. It's on the southeast tip of the US Virgin Island, St. John. My deck on my eco tent cabin overlooks Ram Head point, to the left is Drunk Bay, where I hear the waves hitting the shore, and to the right of Ram Head is Salt Pond Bay. Salt Pond Bay is rated one of the best snorkeling places on the island. Over 75% of the island is located within the boundaries of the Virgin Islands National Park.

This part of the island has a rich history. Maroons (runaway slaves) came here during the slave days and planned one of the major revolts here. This corner is usually hotter, with little natural drinking water, and buggier too. Add that to the torturous hills to get here and for the most part the maroons did not have to worry about being caught. Well, until the revolt actually happened. When it turned bad for them, many of them chose suicide on Ram Head.

A bit about those hills. Before I arrived here I saw some pictures of the place and noticed that this corner near the shore had some steep hills. I also saw on a map that the Coral Bay area which has some bars-restaurants was about 3 miles away. I saw some pictures of the Coral Bay area which for the most part looked level near the shore. I quickly learned when I arrived that the Coral Bay shore area is the only somewhat level place on the island. There are 13 hills between us. Yep I counted them just in case I wanted to try the insane hike. It's a very narrow road, with almost a hint of a shoulder in a couple of places. The tiny humps I skipped...these are hills like I have only otherwise seen in San Francisco. Top it off with almost no shade, temps around 90, with 90% humidity. I have not walked to many places.  I'm not sure how they would have made it without vehicles and paved roads.

(The Annaberg Sugar Plantation ruins)

There is a bus, that runs usually. There is a schedule...sometimes hourly, sometimes every 2 hours. From what I understand they used to have a second bus, and money to have more drivers and they attempted to do it hourly all day long. It's a hard driving route across the island, and many a times one of the buses would break down. There is a taxi system, but mainly in Cruz Bay and the more popular north-side beaches.

I worked 15 8-hour shifts for my 120 hours. Some people prefer a 6-hour shift, so they work 20 of the days. I'm here mid-Sep to mid-Oct. In September the resort is completely closed...at least this year. There is a possibility that they will remain open in September next year. September and October are considered high hurricane season on the islands and many places are closed.

My work was fairly easy. I painted for the first 8 shifts. I did a little kitchen work for the next 5...mainly washing dishes to set up the kitchen for when they did a small opening for the few guests that arrived the beginning of October. Straightened out a dry-glass-paper storage area. The last two was a mix of maintenance and housekeeping, things like moving mattresses, hauling linens.

The Tourist Trap opened during my first week here. It's a small food stand not far from the long driveway to Concordia. It has major reviews in places like the New York Times and Boston Herald and several travel sites and mags. One time when Larry first opened he was asked by the reporter if that was all there was to the place. He said something like if he was going to open a place it would be a shithole alongside the road. He was quoted verbatim. People still bring him that review from 5 or 6 years ago. During the height of the season I am told there is at least a three hour wait to get in.

Tuesday I fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I'll be there for almost a full day in the Old Town area.  Then it's on to one of my favorite stops, Las Vegas until Sunday the 20th.  This winter season i have not given up on finding a place that will let me explore and expand my service talents outside of the kitchen.  It's taken a bit longer than usual...partly because here the internet is only available in a couple of places, and cell phones sometimes work in Coral Bay, but most likely you have to go all the way into Cruz Bay.

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Comment by Keith Larson on October 27, 2013 at 9:21am

I think they were there a little bit earlier.  It reads like the Tourist Trap was closed, so they were probably there in August

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