Ten strangers got together one night to make a traditional Thai dish called Massaman curry.
The kitchen filled with the smell of exotic spices and coconut milk. People huddled around the stove to watch the chef in action or were busy slicing, dicing and chopping carrots,onions and sweet potatoes.
When the food was finished everyone sat around the table to eat. The tiny kitchen suddenly felt like a community.
This was Krista Decoste’s first time teaching a Thai cooking class. While nervous at first, she said she can see herself doing it again.
“I really enjoyed that it brought together a group of like-minded people together,” she said. “It was a very pleasant surprise that everybody had the same interests at heart. Everyone was there because they’d eaten Thai food or they were genuinely interested.”
The price of this cooking class? Money wasn’t accepted, but a vegan recipe, some painting supplies or a knitting lesson were.
This is common currency for Trade School Halifax, a bartering organization that provides weekly skill building workshops throughout Halifax.
Jennifer Decoste is Krista Decoste’s sister-in-law and a core team organizer for Trade School Halifax. She’s starting to see more trading and bartering groups pop up throughout the municipality, including online groups such as Bunz Trading Zone Halifax.
“I think it’s a movement that’s organic in Halifax,” said Jennifer Decoste. “It’s not led by anyone thing, but there’s a sense in the community that it’s possible to rely on each other. To have a kind of community where people link together and share resources.”
While this may be an upcoming movement, Halifax isn’t the only community interested in bartering. Trade School is an international organization that has branches in several other countries, including Scotland and South Africa.
Jennifer Decoste said that Trade School Halifax has been becoming increasingly more popular in the last eight months. In 2016 they hosted 50 workshops throughout the year; they’re hoping to do 100 classes for 2017.
The Trade School has partnered with businesses or groups who volunteer their rooms for the workshops. Class sizes range anywhere from eight to 30 people because it depends on the size of the space.
“We’ve never asked for funding from anybody,” said Jennifer Decoste. “We’ve been successful with that model to date. We don’t need a bank account or formal funding from a government agency; it’s very grassroots and it’s been working for us.”
Jennifer Decoste says that bartering is a way for anyone to attend the workshops and allows no one to take the class for granted.
“You give what you can,” she said. “Everyone has something to add. Even if it’s just a smile or a funny joke … it shows that you are valuing the education that you are receiving.”
The Trade School offers a variety of classes. A small sample of their past workshops include Thai cooking, basic plumbing, resume building 101, giant puppet making and learning to build a solar panel.
The organization and classes are all run by volunteers. Anyone can register through Trade School, offer their class idea and teach a workshop. This gives people the opportunity to share their skills, be a teacher or learn something new.
As the Thai cooking class came to an end, people began to leave with their bellies full. But a few people stayed behind to clean dishes and continued chatting.
Jessica Sharp, an environmental engineering technology student as NSCC, was one of those people. She left Krista Decoste with a plant to say thank you and promised to email her a vegan recipe. She felt it was absolutely worth the barter.
“We all live in this one city, but everyone has totally different stories to tell,” she said. “There’s always something new and exciting to share with the group. When that can include a beautiful skill like cooking, travels or incorporating those two together, that’s really something special that Halifax Trade School has to offer.”
The next Trade School workshop in Halifax will be 5 Things You Can Do Today To Save Money. It’s scheduled to take place on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 12-2 p.m.