Monday, 11 December 2017

The adventure actually begins...

By Damon Green

Upon arrival at Fort Lauderdale Airport after many long hours of air travel and layover, myself and the rest of the Workawayers were greeted by a smiling representative from Workaway. The excitement had started getting more and more uncontrollable.
We all hopped onto a bus and drove for, what seemed like forever, was only an hour, to the place that I would be living for the next 6 months, a little neighbourhood called Midtown Delray. Beautiful houses, quiet neighbourhood, greeted with smiles from the neighbours, a beautiful pool and sunbathing area, as well as a braai (BBQ) area and a gym. 

We were given our house keys and told that we would be 6 people staying in each house, like a little family. Once I found the house that I was living in, 2312 Bloods Grove Circle, I was amazed. A 3 storey house with a large garage, garage side room, 4 balconies, a very spacious lounge, dining area, open plan kitchen fitted with all the necessities as well as a few luxuries like a dishwasher and ice maker as well as a coffee machine. 3 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms in the house, 1 being an ensuite to the main bedroom, which I was just too late to call dibs on. The house had air-conditioning and ceiling fans in every room, which I soon realised to be a necessity in Sunny Florida. We were stocked with a little welcome package of noodles, coffee, sugar salt and a bunch of other small things to help us get through the first few days before we could get to Wallmart or Target to do some grocery shopping. Once we did go to the shops though, it was quite the interesting place. Now I didn’t exactly see people wearing strange clothing or people doing funny things at Wallmart, listening to all the different accents. By the way, American tax is very annoying. If something says $1 on the price tag, you don’t pay $1… you forget about the tax that they add on, back home, they do that for you at the shops, so you don’t have to take a calculator with you to make sure that you don’t get to the till looking around for extra change because you slightly miscalculated.

4 of 6 people in my house had arrived at this point, as the 2 Durban guys we were waiting for were held up because of flooding at the Durban embassy and a whole series of unfortunate events. The 4 that were in the house, including myself were all from Cape Town, South Africa, so I never really feel too far from home. We all instantly get on like a house on fire. But it was almost time to start training at Addison Reserve, the whole reason for being in the US of A.

Picked up in a kombi (small bus), organised by Addison Reserve, from the Leasing Office of Midtown Delray and take on the 15 minute drive to work, which would become my daily routine. The bus was buzzing with excitement. We drove through the main entrance, greeted by a giant “AR” logo which was The Addison Reserve logo, obviously. Passing the hundreds of glamorous homes on the massive estate made me realise how important this job actually is. Heading towards the Clubhouse we passed perfectly manicured lawns and hedges, gorgeous fountains and the 3 beautiful golf courses; Redemption, Salvation and Trepidation. “Excellence is our standard”, the club’s motto, was definitely not to be taken lightly.

We were met at the staff break room by a bubbly Addison employee, and then taken to the Bistro, where we were going to be trained to meet the expectations of Addison Reserve and the member base that we were to serve. Walking into the Bistro I met 20 Austrians, Germans and Dutch young people, which I didn’t know at the time, but I would befriend and end up working with every day. The next week and a half was spent perfecting our serving skills, Point Of Sale (POS) system skills and essentially preparing us to dive head first into the work that awaited us. In that time of training, however, we all got together and became friends, learning different things about each other, forming friendships that will last a lifetime. All of the international employees of Addison Reserve brought over by Workaway (South Africans and Irish) and the J1 program (the Austrians, Germans and Dutch) were all living in Midtown Delray, so our friends were all walking distance away, which made things a lot easier.

During our training time all of the clubhouse managers and restaurant managers discussed where we, as new employees, would be placed to work based on the way we responded to certain aspects of the training. The different outlets that we would be put into would be a Server in the Dining Room (a formal dining room that focuses on making the member have a perfect dinner with their friends and family with a full a la carte menu), StYr (a bar/cocktail lounge that is slightly more casual but still pretty formal that allows tapas and sushi orders on lounge seating but a la carte at the bar, on the high tops and outside on the covered terrace), Bistro (a casual grill style restaurant that has outdoor seating near the pool that offers a la carte menus and fast service), Patio (a small area outside the Men’s and Ladies’ Card Rooms where many golfers and card players will go for a quick meal, often cooked by the chef outside on his braai or a sandwich or salad that will be brought from the main kitchen by a food runner) or lastly, being a Food Runner, Server Assistant Hostess or Point Host at any of the aforementioned outlets. I was drafted to StYr to serve on the high tops and terrace. I was very happy with the decision made by management.

During normal service in StYr, on the high tops, I would serve between 50 and 80 covers a night, depending on the night, and events happening in the club. So, I would spin around myself trying to get everything done, but we have a saying that we would constantly say to each other, that has almost become a joke, but we all love the saying that goes “teamwork makes the dream work”. That saying helps us push through double shifts and shifts where it seems like everything is going wrong. We work together and make sure that everything works out while the members stay happy. Fast forward a few weeks and it was time for the season opening party. The theme was Passage to India. The party ran through the entire clubhouse, from the foyer all through the different dining rooms and eating outlets all the way downstairs to the patio. Everything was decorated in bright colours with silk and chiffon drapes. Really was a gorgeous evening. As staff we were even more proud of the way things had turned out because we had spent the entire day before all the way to 4am turning the clubhouse to the Indian Palace that it was by the time the party started.

The next event was the Thanksgiving Party, where similarly, we spent hours, as a team, making the entire clubhouse Thanksgiving themed. We had pumpkins everywhere with hay bales and corn. We put out lots of bright red and orange leaves everywhere to help make the members feel nice and cozy with their families. That day we had just short of 800 people coming in to the different outlets. By the time it was time to break down everything and set up the rooms for the next day we were all exhausted, but “teamwork makes the dream work” so we pushed through and got everything done the Addison way.

In the short amount of time that I have been here in the States I have met some amazing people. From my roommate who has existential discussions with himself in his sleep to an Austrian that has almost exactly the same taste as me for everything. And all the strange people in between. I haven’t been here for a very long time but I have still had many unforgettable experiences. And I know that with this group of people around me there are more to come.

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