HelpX in Sydney: Connecting via Building

A trend we have noticed is that we have stayed in strong female households throughout our time in Australia. This has been a welcomed change since we lived and traveled through Asia for the past few years, where most of our hosts were male. 

Margot, a recent HelpX host, is the epitome of a strong woman. She is independent, spunky, assertive, and not to mention hilarious. She is quite knowledgeable in several domains and is not afraid to share her opinion on nearly any topic. Her home has more stuffed bookshelves than nail polishes; more power tools than dresses. 


Renovating Outdoor Bathroom

Adam’s skills radiated because our main job was to put walls up for an outdoor bathroom. Most of the 19th-century homes in the Inner West only have one bathroom, which can be a nuisance in a busy household. With his experience in building houses with Habitat for Humanity, growing up with a super handy father, and having a keen interest in construction and engineering, Adam tackled the task with enthusiasm.

Putting three walls in? Hm, that should only take a few hours, I thought, the girl who couldn’t identify a chisel. 

Shows how little I know about building! The project took a few hours of work per day for several days. At times, I felt useless as Margot and Adam seemed to have a good handle on the situation, so I went off to do some cooking and household cleaning (talk about gender roles, but hey, I enjoy doing those things). I tried to be of use by being the tool-fetcher, cement-dust remover, and scorer (to cut the fiber cement wall). I also used a power drill and worked with cement for the first time! Baby steps. I am interested in learning some basic building skills, but the amount of information to learn is overwhelming.

With the help of volunteers and her builder sister, Margot designed and built a studio in the backyard. Her brain is also behind most of the renovations she did in her home, such as revamping the kitchen, bathroom, installing a deck, and garden. Since she spent a chunk of her life as a chemistry teacher, Margot’s scientific tendencies unveiled when it came to taking measurements. She is precise and extremely detail-oriented, a skill I’d like to improve in myself.  It’s better to take your time cautiously than deal with correcting the mistakes later. As they say, measure twice, cut once! 


About Margot

It’s ironic that we were building walls during our time with Margot as we all had the same opinion of the US’s recent decision on Nov. 8 (Sorry, can’t bring myself to say his name on my blog. Ugh). So we had some good discussion during our off time.

Born in 1947 (I was shocked when I learned she was turning 70!), Margot reminisced when the milkman would deliver freshly bottled milk via horse! She also recalls when female teachers were required to wear dresses among other interesting stories that nobody my age could tell. I loved her confidence and quirkiness. 

She has strong opinions and is an activist in several regards. One of the first things I noticed were the handmade protest signs sitting outside. She is an environmentalist by consuming consciously, using solar panels to heat water, Freecycling, and actively fighting against fracking (Lock the Gate). We learned that the bulldozers waking us up in the morning were from the WestConnex project, a massive and insanely expensive highway that will tear down heritage homes and parks in the Inner West. She is fiercely against this project and certainly not alone. Local groups regularly meet and protest the building of the toll highway that took away dozens of homes already, but unfortunately, their efforts have not blocked the project from happening. Yet.

Margot is not only knowledgeable in politics, sciences, and maths, she is also creative and a historian! One of her endeavors is in film-making. With fellow artists, Margot documented the women’s labor movement in Australia by creating a film as well as coauthoring a book on the same topic. Margot is pretty much an all-arounder, except she hates cooking!


Our task of fitting in the wall is completed, but there is more work to be done with future volunteers. We look forward to seeing updates on her newly revamped Facebook page, Hotel Florence HelpX.

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Thanks for hosting and teaching us, Margot!

And thank you, Adam, for providing several of these photos.

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