Friday, 3 August 2012

Pushing ourselves

It's 11.05pm , just as I thought this day was over and I could go to bed after a very full day, I was called in a dorm by my manager to translate something in french. I push myself and go.
I get in and 10 pairs of french eyes are staring at me , expecting me to translate into NORMAL words what this romanian woman from New Zealand was telling them in that strange language called English ( Why can't the whole world speak French?)

Something about a ghost, Oh dear. She was trying to scare the hell out of them. So I translate the story of Claire, the little ghost girl we have in the top room in Kipps. This story has been passed on from kipps generation to kipps generation translated in 222 languages , even in British English.

They don't seem that impressed, the French kids. English ghost... whatever ( I know the French. Inside, they are panicking) My manager goes and the teachers ( the ones I had a conversation with in the garden last night) ask me how we could scare the kids even more.

I had a brilliant idea. What I thought was brilliant ''at the time''.

I get the staff member on shift and asks him to cut the power off in that particular room. We hear shouts from upstairs. They are panicking. I get up , slam the door shut. They are now freaking out.

Scaring the shit out of french teenagers must be my favourite thing to do ( something about revenge being an ex teacher) .

We turn the power off and on a couple of times and we think it's hilarious. The teachers are loving it too.

The manager gets in:

'' WTF are you doing???'' I was having a shower and the power went off and on and off and on . she says , not really impressed.

We did not switch the power off in one of the rooms. We cut half of the hostel off.

Annabelle, 12 years old, works in a hostel.


To prove my serious I went to deep clean the kitchen. I really need to find something else btw because I will have deep cleaned the whole hostel VERY SOON. And I start to love it too much. Something about pushing your limits....

Earlier that day

I get in to work this morning and the Dutch intern was already in the dorm.
'' U okay? '' I ask her
'' I was okay before I was told I was deep cleaning with you AGAIN'' she answers grumpily. She loves it. She just doesn't know it yet.

Hostel work is all about pushing yourself, go beyond your limits , and be a better person.


We don't really like to push ourselves do we?

I had experienced the same thing earlier that day.

'' Annabelle, we 've got to go now''
'' I can't go , I have to finish my article '' I say. I always say that. Like I'm on a dead line and someone is paying me to write or something . Get REAL YOU 're the one who's paying to write. D'oh.

The truth is that I did not want to go. It was pushing my limits too far.

'' Annabelle , NOW'' the manager says.

I wish you could hear her. You would then know that when she says that , you do not have a choice.

10 minutes later I was standing on a scale in Boots pharmacy with a 50p coin that SHE gave me.

Flashback years ago : Me , chain smoking. '' I will NEVER stop smoking. I would not cope with the putting on weight bit''
I quit over a year ago , in Murwillumbah Australia. I forgot to smoke one day. D'oh.

I was now about to face the weight bit for the first time.

I put the money in and expect the machine to yell '' YOU ARE OVERWEIGHT. you big fat cow , but the machine is British and is very discreet. it Just gives you a ticket.


That's okay Annabelle, 2 in each breast is perfect , one of my English male friend would say. His nickname is ''pervert''.

'' You're very sexy she says .I think you are perfect. ''But I'm not a lesbian '' she adds.

She had just crushed my dream of ever sleeping with my manager. D'oh.

It's so easy to let yourself go. She weighs herself too and faces it. Right.Motivation to lose the extra weight 100% . we then go get slimming pills from a health shop. We even swear to the salesman that next time he'll see us ,we'll look like Kate Winslet ( before she put on weight)

We swear fidelity to our dear diet. We get up our road and our 80 something neighbour gets out to say '' come on girls, run faster''


Everyone is supporting us. We will not surrender to temptation.

Flashforward to end of day :

'' Annabelle I had a wine when you were gone..... ''
'' I'm way more sophisticated. I had a Gin and Tonic''
Surrendering : done.

'' Working and living in a hostel is all about pushing yourself. '' I explain to the Dutch intern as we are deep cleaning a dorm . We are now on all fours scraping the dust off the floor with a knife.

Bla bla bla. she thinks. She loves it. She just does not know it yet.

It is true that living and working together with different strangers is pushing yourself everyday a bit further. Everything changes all the time. We say good bye to guests , get to know others , make sure the entertainment keeps going. There is no room for '' crashing on the sofa and being lazy''

We have about a million new experiences everyday , new stories , new people and when you write about it you just wonder '' what story / experience I am going to write down?''

It's like living a full month of ''normal life'' in just One day.

My boundaries are always tested and pushed everyday. So I don't have many left.

2 main ones. My weight and my bank . Oh and I want the world to understand me. But you already knew that huh.
'' Come in you should see that'' the dutch intern says to other staff members and they all gather at reception and start watching ME like a movie. Only the pop corn was missing.

'' I hate it I hate it. Yes , I hate banks. Why would they have 2 million damn passwords . Like people will steal my money , I don't care , it's THE BANK's money anyway. I don't have money. I never do. This thing is pissing me off now''
I'm on the computer, talking to myself trying to buy phone top up to my friend and my bank won't let me do it. I'm really agitated now. It just does not work. And I ve got the money on the account. I think..........

It finally works and I throw myself into my friend's arms like I just won an Olympic medal.

Me and my bank. A love story. I get over it , the next experience is coming right now.

My friend who works at the other hostel posted by mistake pictures on OUR facebook page. I realise as I see the pictures that my friend from Canada, who had been with me and supported me through my management time in  the Brighton hostel  was leaving the next day forever and I will not see her again.

Tears. '' can't let go of the past'' tears. The hardest ones in this lifestyle that is constantly changing.

'' What's wrong now?'' a workmate asks.

'' She saw pictures of her friend and she's devastated she can't go to Brighton to say good bye''
this is SO UNFAIR. I wanna go.

Annabelle, 15 years old, works in a hostel

It's 8pm and I hear the guests waiting for their guide in the lounge. We organize guided tours of Canterbury.
Who's the guide?
I'm in reception , devastated.

Right. Transformation. I've been doing this for years now. No matter how you feel in the inside , you have to give a good time to the guests. It's all about pushing yourself.

Breathe in , breathe out , check the year the Cathedral was built ( I check every week and forget every week)

'' Hey guyyyyyyys'' I say , faking it.

10 minutes later I was no longer faking anything . I had forgotten all about my pain. I was doing my favourite thing in the WHOLE world. Talking to strangers from different cultures.

I learnt that the South African guy learnt Zulu at school , the Aussie girl is fluent in Indonesian , the Kiwi bloke thinks Mamite is too thick over here. the Brits show off their London 2012 tee shirts.
I am showing them around Canterbury telling them about English culture. That makes the Brit smile. A girl with a Made in France tattoo who knows so much and is so passionate about taking the piss out of Britain with a very British humour.. No there is no one like me ( thank God or whoever)

I forget all my worries. I'm living the dream again. MYdream. We visit the cathedral , I take them to the Pub. There is nothing more hilarious than a bunch of strangers from different countries chatting together The Aussie girl is now showing Australian money to the rest of them. She does not know why the 2 dollar coin is smaller than the one dollar coin ( mystery)
The german intern asks the Kiwi guy about the population of New Zealand.
'' Wrong question that 'll upset him'' I tell her, discreetly.
He answers. The Aussie girl is laughing at and he hates it. I love the way I understand the Kiwi vs Aussie rivalry. Because I lived there.

'' I'd like to go to Australia one day too but how can I get the money?'' the german intern asks.

'' Darling ,don't be silly , go on your credit card! '' I answer. Everyone laughs. Because everyone here can relate to that. It makes us all feel safe.

What were the odds of us ever meeting in this world? This job for me is like a daily miracle. I meet and speak to REAL people from REAL countries EVERYDAY . Together, everyday we push the frontier of ignorance a little further and we have a good laugh.

That's what makes you want to go travelling on your credit card. You want to experience it for yourself so you can bring it back and be even better at understanding travellers. No one feels stupid around this table right now. We've all been there, done that and got a London 2012 tee shirt.

We walk home talking about the Kipps Hostel Lifestyle with the German intern. She tells me she loves it and will love it for the next 3 months. But, how can you live like this for a long period of time?

How about the things everyone does that you no longer do in this life? Like going to work and get back , take your shoes off and lie on the sofa in your underwear, get some private time with a boyfriend, get married , have a '' real'' family....
I can relate to what she's saying too . I crave for this normality too sometimes. I crave for big arms around me and someone teling me '' You'll be ok Annabelle, I'm here to protect you now''
I can't lie. I ALSO want that too sometimes. When everything is changing so fast and you constantly push yourself , you feel so unsafe too sometimes. WTF is going to happen tomorrow??

It is really true that in a hostel , you have to push yourself every minute of the day. Always under scrutiny , your private time means a walk in the countryside and your friends are your family.

It challenges what you ve always been told about how Life should be lived and how you should see the world. We go back to the hostel and we catch up with the latest gossip sipping a camomille tea . So much happened in 2 hours. One guest refused to sign the registration card because it was not clear what we meant by '' if room left untidy charges will apply''

( What a pain in the *** )

the light in the bathroom was not working and they had to jump on the bath to fix it, the french kids went shopping in Ashford and their room is a mess, the manager has listened to a guests moan over his recent divorce for the past hour.

I look around me and I realise that this is my world. No matter how much it challenges what I've always been told about life and how much I think I need a ''normal life'' sometimes and I know that one day , I will find this balance between private and public, that there will be no need to sacrifice any aspect of Life for this Life. This will just become '' my nornal Life''.

In the end , there are no so many ways to achieve your dreams. PUSH YOURSELF.

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