watch your knickers

the room of doom

I stayed in a hostel for two and a half weeks. It was an experience. To put it mildly. I met a range of people. All a little kooky because, hey, it’s a hostel. It takes a special kind. Let me walk you through the good the bad and the just plain ugly of living in a hostel while working.

There’s a special kind of community in hostel life, particularly among the hostel semi-permanents, a gang to which I still feel I belong. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. In my stay, I was befriended by a Polish guy, a crazy South African, and a Frenchman and have befriended a beautiful Czech boy (he didn’t have much choice in the matter).

The Frenchman lent me his iron every morning. He also once came into our room one night and said he was going to hospital and mysteriously refused to tell me why. I’m still not one hundred percent sure what happened to his hand. But he was lovely and he had an iron. The Czech boy and I tease each other. All the time. He’s sweet and friendly, works at McDonalds and asked me about work and seems to genuinely care about how I’m doing. He used to say it would cost me 5 Pounds to charge my phone next to his bed but that he’d give me a special friend discount. He tells me about Canada. The Polish guy and I bonded when he broke into my bag for me when I got drunk and lost the key. We spoke about ready mix concrete and he claims he’s never met a woman who knows about building. He also invited me out drinking with his friends because “I sit around too much”. He used to come to my bed and ask me to rub cream into his back and was the resident snorer. Really. His snoring is a talent, and Czech boy and I teased him all the time.

Now, the community warms my heart. When I suffered a bit of girl induced heartbreak, a whole range of people asked me if I was okay, and the South African took me out drinking in a park. I was subsequently asked ‘are you alright today love? I heard about your troubles’ countless times. They seemed to genuinely care and offered platitudes such as ‘good riddance’ and ‘you’re better off here, love’. The Polish guy also took me out drinking as a result of said troubles (which never seem to end). But I suspect he might have been trying to hook me up with his sweet, stuttering brother.

There is something to be said about experiencing emotional trauma while sharing a pungent smelling, noisy room with 18 people. You don’t have privacy to cry, or have angry conversations with friends or eat your weight in chocolate. As one fresh arrival put it, you’re experiencing all of these intense feelings, but everyone is on their computers or phones or reading their books and you can’t really cope. It’s interesting to feel isolated when you’re surrounded by people, so we made an effort to talk to each other and ask about life stories. Said new arrival told me about her heart break – I invited her to tell me about her intense emotional experience, since I had just shared my intense emotional experiences with half the hostel a week before. She also told me about finding somewhere to live. She was so enthusiastic that she claims she ‘overhugged’ her potential housemate and, like an over eager date, texted the housemate encouraging her to let her live with them. This kind of excited desperation for an alternative living situation is common. People want homes, as much as they enjoy the community of living in hostel.

Now, the downside to this community is that a lot of the people are do-lally, and you get lulled into a false sense of security. You start thinking all of the goings on are normal. The thought only occasionally crosses your mind as you embark on a spontaneous adventure ‘what if I’m about to be that dumb tourist’. It should be a bigger deal, but hostel life normalises blurring boundaries. I grew to be incredibly fond of these people and the way of life; the camaraderie that comes from sharing a room with 18 people. But then you wake up in the morning to find that someone has pinched the knickers you left to dry in a broken shower. You can leave your laptop lying about, no problem, but leave your knickers to dry for a night and they get lifted.

So, despite missing the sense of people being around who care about you, and the comfort of being surrounded by people when you’re having the hardest time, and meeting new people from different countries constantly and chewing the fat of life with them at all hours, I will not miss the 3 AM farting contests or the pungent people smell of 18 people in confined quarters, or knowing that someone has my knickers under their pillow, or having drunkards come in at 2 AM when you have work in the morning or not having a kettle to make tea. But mostly the bit about the tea.

Now that I’ve moved into a real home, I’m sure not taking my tea for granted. The day I moved in, I just lay on the bed and enjoyed being alone. Sleeping in a room alone for the first time in 3 weeks – I tell you, being alone never felt so good.