Posts Tagged ‘characters’

I’ve been working in a hostel for 3 weeks. Most backpackers/travelers go to hostels, stay a night, party, sometimes sleep, and leave the next day… Then there are others who stay and begin to embrace the hostel (hostile?) life.

The Big Blue Backpackers building is old and beautiful building with huge archways that greet you at every turn, a big wooden, winding staircase goes up to the rooms upstairs and there is a landing staircase that leads out to private ensuite rooms. There are side stair-cases that you get all turned around in and the walls are all very colorful and bright and plastered with flyers and printouts for the various organizations around Cape Town. Every hostel has it’s charms and uniqueness, but this one is the first that feels like a home.

This isn’t really unusual, but it’s special and certainly celebrated in the backpacker circles.

For example: one night, while at work, a man from the UK called and asked about our rates. This is fairly normal, so I walked him through the whole spiel. He asked how close we were to the convention center, how clean the rooms were, if they had their own bathrooms or if he had to share. I explained the dorms (he asked for lower prices) and he was shocked and confused that adults would share rooms, let alone bunk beds, with other people.


“eh… There are lockers for your valuables, but, really, everyone leaves your stuff alone. I mean, they have their clothes, you have your clothes.”

I wasn’t sure if this was a prank call or not- because what professionals have conventions (or recording sessions) to attend and choose to stay at a backpackers?  (ahem…… besides me, of course).

The dorms give you opportunity to get closer to your fellow dorm-mates! Take Rolando, the Rastafarian from Kenya, who is rockin’ the beer gut and really enjoys sleeping naked…. in a mixed dorm. Others, like Adrian, go out all night and party and wake us (the entire room) up at 4am with stories of the hookers (note plural) that he “gehoereer met tot volgende Dinsdag”. ( is your friend).

Some would find this behavior disgusting. Some would be annoyed. I just can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I mean- who else in the world can say “I woke up to hooker stories and when I rolled my eyes, I saw Rolando’s bare ass hanging off the bed.”

Since it’s halloween as I write this, I’m going to share some of the “Harry Potter” aspects of Big Blue:

1) There are Harry Potter Closets under the stairs

These have been converted to 2 toilets and 2 showers.This is my favorite part of the house, to be honest.

2) We have ghosts (or shoddy electricians).

The electricity has been in a constant state of flux since I got here back in August. Apparently, when I mentioned this, it has been in a state of flux for over 2 years. (“T.I.A, man… This is Africa”). It just means that I need to continue my tradition of always wearing my head-lamp after dark so I can brush my teeth and not stub my toe on something.

Tangent: One day, we were without power for over 25 hours. Partly due to “load shedding*”. It was infuriating telling the guests: “Normally, when we have electricity, we have wifi and here’s the password. And there is the bar, but unless we have electricity, I can’t get you drinks. Here’s the TV room… but it’s pretty empty and boring without electricity.”

Normally I would be all about the adventure of sitting around a candle telling ghost stories and other local urban legends- but it was hard to convince the other guests to do the same thing when we were all frustrated beyond all hell and worried that all our frozen food was going to go bad. (Which it didn’t- but we did end up making a huge smorgasbord/fajitas once electricity came back on).

*According to the paper:

“Consumers have been urged to conserve electricity and also brace themselves for rolling power outages for the rest of the week- this comes after Eskom announced it faced severe constraints to power supply after a silo containing 10,000 stons of coal collapsed on Saturday.” – the kicker is if you ask the locals why the power is going out- and they say that Eskom wants to raise prices, but the government has a cap on it and doesn’t want to raise it, so Eskom, since they have a monopoly, is flexing their muscles trying to squeeze the government to raise the cap. #ConspiracyTheoriesRock

3) We have a Moaning Mrytle

One day, a water main bust down the street- leaving all of Green Point without water. This wasn’t a huge deal (except for staff who was rushing around trying to get enough bottled water for everyone). One guest, however, turned the tap on, nothing came out, gave up and left…. Without turning the tap off. So when the water came back on (at 11am), their room slowly filled up with water, flooding the whole room and ruining the flooring. This wouldn’t be so terrible, except we still had guests that were booked for that room and we could never seem to get a day to fix it.

4) We have Potions class.

The most fun that we have (as long-term guests) is labeling our food. Constantly, guests will help themselves to your food- thinking you won’t notice that “spoonful of honey” (that is really half the jar). So you need to label your food creatively to turn people off from eating it. Before, I simply would write “LN spit in this” on all my packages. But ever since the Ebola outbreak, I’ve been adding “LN spit in this, and I have ebola”. Other things I’ve seen are “Stool Sample”, “Drug Test Urine Sample” and “Durian. DO NOT OPEN!”.

5) We had Kreecher the House Elf!

There was also an old woman who stayed here for a few weeks. She had a laugh like a hyena and didn’t understand sarcasm or empathy. She actually wasn’t mean- but she was crazy and had the delightful habit of talking out loud- which I do as well- except she would do “deliberate action” talking- where every action she took, she announced what she was doing. This is great practice (as David Marquet taught me) on a submarine- where your actions could be disastrous if done improperly. But saying “I’m getting a spoon. I’m dipping my spoon into yogurt and getting some out for my muesli. I think Yogurt and muesli go well together- especially if you mixed it with arsenic. Oh! but this is MY breakfast. I’m very much looking forward to eating this. If I had a bit of raisins, I would put those in, as well. It wonder if it would cover up the taste of rat poison. hmm. Oh! this looks good!”

6) speaking of house elves.. we have Dobby!

Dave, a man who sleeps in a free-standing hut in the back, has 2 little dogs named Booka and Summa. They both look almost identical, but once you get to know them, you can tell the differences. Summa, if you’re holding chicken, will look at you with this dobby-house-elf look. But, if you give it to her, then that’s it… it’s all over. You will be showered in love just like Harry was with Dobby. Except Summa slobbers and her breath smells like dog food.

7) We have ButterBeer!

There was the night when Josh, a bible-thumper who was raised in a very sheltered home, had a bad day and decided to drink whatever was in front of him- which started as a bottle of vodka and ended with a bottle of sambucca. Around 8pm, he couldn’t stand. At 8:15 we hoisted him to the grassy area so he could pee. He failed to do this and instead pissed then vomited on himself, and passed out- head down, butt up, in the grass. We left him like that until 10:30 when we tried to get him to drink some water and sober up enough to drunkenly crawl to the bathroom where we showered him and put him in clean boxers. (Have I mentioned that he has only kissed one girl and he spent the next 3 weeks repenting about it? Now here is a girl- day 2 back in Cape Town- and she’s undressing him and showering him? Yep. I’m a nice person.) We got Josh into bed and went to the bathroom to clean up/collect his crap when all of a sudden the electricity shuts off again. Jay walks out of the dorm and says “Josh just vomited on a power-outlet and it tripped the building.” That was a long night.

8) We have Fred (or George).

Ginger cats (who have owners) will randomly come into the hostel. One, named King Kai, used to have a collar but it keeps… uh… “going missing”. Kai has slept in my bed often and gives me gifts of love (rats… dead ones!). My dorm is on the ground floor and the windows are permanently open. On a daily basis, Kai will make his appearance and be sleeping on my bed, which I love. One day (Oct 19th, to be exact, 90 days after I left home) I was feeling particularly homesick and decided that a nap was in order. I curled up to take a nap and someone placed Kai next to me. We cuddled and slept away my sadness.

Overall, I have enjoyed my time at Big Blue. Highly recommend it for anyone traveling to Cape Town who is up for adventure and good people. But mostly, it was a great educational experience and heaps of good stories.