Posts Tagged ‘hostel’

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.

I keep having really weird dreams as of late-. Back in the day I used to have lucid dreams, but then I quit my job at Microsoft and ever since I can’t control them. My dreams overtake me and I can’t tell what is fact or fiction anymore. These aren’t the run of the mill “this doesn’t make sense” dream, either… They are always super emotional ones that usually make me feel icky or sad. Nightmares, I suppose.

Last night I had a dream that I was talking to my friend Autumn on Skype. She told me that my grandparents sent her kids xmas cards with checks in them. They wrote a note saying “Hey girls, we know how much you meant to LN, but she’s gone and we don’t know when we’ll get to see her again– but you’re still in this country and we would love to start an exchange. Please accept this gift from us. We would love little hand-written notes from you telling us how you are and how your school is going. Love, Grammy and Grandad.”

I woke up (it was 4:somethingAM) with tears streaming down my face and my nose filled with snot. The overall feeling of guilt and grief of the fact that my grandparents (age 90 and 92) aren’t going to be around much longer and that I’m missing out on seeing them. On the fact that they felt like they had to/wanted to reach out to (no offense, Autumn) strangers because they can’t reach out/contact me. On the fact that all they want is hand-written letters.

Checking my email at that point also didn’t help at all. But that’s a different story.

I have woken up bawling twice since my travels. Both times I learned something just recently and my dream put that lesson to the test. The first time was in Nicaragua when I had that dream of “the sword of truth”. It’s definitely a hippy/spiritual-growth story, so if I didn’t write about here don’t get offended.

Last night I went to a crossfit gym and met this suuuper interesting person named Diego. Beautiful human being, fellow traveler, born/raised in Uruguay, a writer– the whole 9. While giving me a lift back home after class we had this conversation:
“What makes you feel better when you’re sad?”
“Grilled cheese, tomato soup, my big down comforter and my cat. All of which I can’t find here.”
“So- let me give you some advice. When you’re sad– be sad. Be the saddest you can be. Give yourself a time limit and try to see how utterly miserable you can get. Be sad. Be depressed. But don’t, how you say, half-ass it. Because that’ll just make the feeling stick around. We, humans, are supposed to go up and down. We are supposed to have moods. The more you emphasize/focus on those moods, the more you will feel better later. The more you will realize what you are actually sad about. The more you will realize that you can be happy and everything is ok.”

(I’m paraphrasing a little.)

Anyway— so I dreamt last night. I woke up and was sad. Really sad. Instantly (after achieving consciousness) I thought of this conversation. Thought “I need to just be sad! I need to ride this emotion out like the nauseous feeling of a really hard workout. I need to stay sad!

Did I? No. I’m in a hostel with a bunch of dorm beds and sleeping people all around me. HOWEVER! I do have some extra time today and access to one of the most beautiful parks in all of Costa Rica which I plan on spending a lot of time in today. I’ll probably unlock my achievement of “becoming a crazy random foreigner crying by herself in a park” today.

Something to look forward to!

Back story: I’ve been finding volunteer work through a wonderful website called My whole goal, while traveling, was to try all kinds of work/deal with all kinds of bosses (in exchange for room and board). So far, I have worked on farms, in hostels, at people’s houses, teaching, and cooking/cleaning. Light to heavy work, sometimes emotional, sometimes physical, sometimes scams- but I’m learning a lot! Especially about what kind of boss/culture/people I like to surround myself with. Also, in doing this, I’ve managed to stay under budget of 20$ a day. (woot!)

This story is about my volunteer position at a Hostel. My first hostel job! Even though it didn’t provide food, I was actually really excited about it, because working at a hostel could be amazingly fun! You get to converse with fellow (frugal) travelers all day while dreaming about where to go next! What could be so bad? Well, let me tell you…

Scene: 2:30pm- just after waking me up out of my (well deserved) nap. Hostel’s main table, San Jose, Costa Rica.

Asshat: “you aren’t doing what you are supposed to do”
me: “I don’t understand.”
“It is very clear. It is written here in English. You speak and read English, yes?”
“Then- it should be very simple for you to understand. We want you to hand out fliers.”
“Ok. On the sheet it says to hand out fliers on Monday and Thursday, when the maid is here to do the big-cleaning. I have done that. The other days I clean- as per what the sheet says.”
“You only cleaned 2 hours today.”
“It’s not my fault I’m efficient. Is there anything else that isn’t clean? Is there anything you want me to do over? Are you upset because something isn’t clean enough?”
“No. But you are supposed to work 4 hours.”
“But you’re punishing me for being efficient. Should I be inefficient? That’s not how Americans work.”
“Ever since we woke you up, you’ve had a bad attitude! Why do you have attitude?”

…..(I just blink a lot… What is the proper reply to that?)

Then- he says/screams “You come to MY country, TO MY HOUSE (business), and you don’t treat ME with RESPECT! I DEMAND RESPECT!!! You’re a woman! You are supposed to do the woman work, but you’re also a volunteer! You’re SUPPOSED to hand out flyers and get people into our hostel! This is what you have to do!”

When I (tried to) explain to him what he said was just super sexist and very insulting, he screamed at me more (getting up and throwing the chair at the table), saying how he is my boss and how he deserves respect because he has given me this opportunity and I should be grateful.

I then asked him:
“Ok- let’s shift. What did went to school for?”
“Did you finish?”
“That is no concern of yours.”(no)
“How many bosses have you had?
“How many jobs have you had?”
“How much volunteer work have you done?”
“That’s no concern of yours!” (zero)
“Have you ever gone down and handed out fliers? Have you ever cleaned?”
“That’s what we have you to do!”
“Hmm. Well, I’ve never been screamed at like this- especially when I’m working for free. And I’ve had some asshole bosses in my day…..”
This is when he slammed his hands on the table screamed “I WILL NOT BE CALLED AN ASSHOLE BY SOME GRINGA!” and threw me out. (While watching me pack and stewing because I was smirking the whole time).

With this said, I love volunteering! (Really! Honestly!) But I also get a kick out of cultural exchanges that take unexpected turns. It amuses me to no end. I actually feel like I’m learning something (business 101?) that my (mostly useless) college degree didn’t give me.

I’m also mentally adding “strong women that are allowed/expected to speak their mind” to my “things I take for granted” list.

Now excuse me- I’m watching the sunrise from my balcony suite at


EDIT: Some have asked me what the name of the hostel was– I won’t reveal the name– but it translates to “The Demon” or something like that. (Look! A lesson in foreshadowing, too!)

Brick! (LA) Crossfit

Posted: March 26, 2012 in Ex-er...size?, TRAVEL
Tags: , ,

I’m staying in a hostel in West Hollywood. The hostel is AMAZING—but they have mixed-dorm rooms. (something I haven’t done since Vienna). At first I thought this was awesome. (The room was filled with a bunch of really hot australians!) Who doesn’t love hot men who have sexy accents?

I woke up at 2am to a knock on the door from a roommate who forgot their key.

Then I woke up at 3:30am to another roommate bringing a girl home.

Then was kept up… yea. anyway!

Woke up at 7am and decided I was going to go workout! The Brick (crossfit gym) was right down the street, so I got up/dressed and went walking (in the rain).

The box is super secret/hidden. If I didn’t see other people in knee-socks walking towards it, I would have missed it entirely–but once I was in there, the smell of hardwork and effort overtook me and I was home again.

I originally signed up for the crossfit class, but someone I was talking to convinced me to go early and attend the “Speed-X” class.

Apparently Speed-X was created at this gym and is like crossfit—but a bunch of aerobic exercises (instead of a mix of weight-lifting and aerobic).

So today, my WOD was the following:
6 rounds of 4min amrap.
1a) 5 traveling wallball
1b) 20sec pullup hold

2a) 10 cal row
2b) 10 55lb kb swings

3a) 20 overhead weight lunge (55lbs)
3b) run 150m

4a) 5 hurdle jumps
4b) 30 single-unders

5a) 10 toes-through-rings
5b) 10 24″ box jumps

6a) tire flips down
6b) tire roll back.

phew! 🙂 I worked hard– and it felt amazing.