Life in hostel #3

After spending two months in Uruguay I crossed the river to Argentina’s capital. I spend almost one week in the house of my Couch Surfing host, in a quiet neighbourhood. It was the first time that I didn’t have a job promise, just a few scheduled interviews. In between interviews I got to know the city a bit.
Argentina is currently facing a severe economic crisis. On the good side, I was able to exchange dollars on the street at a far better rate than the official one, but on the down side I wasn’t able to get a payed job. I like to believe that the crisis is the reason why they are exploiting people, but the truth is that in Buenos Aires I worked at one of the most expensive hostels that was completely full most of the time and still they are offering just B&B in exchange for 24hrs/week. I have to admit that it was the best deal I could get as other hostels will ofer B&B in exchange for 40 hrs/week in reception or 24 hrs as a janitor.
I was also lucky because the hostel has a great location in the microcenter, on one of the main boulevards in a safe zone. Most hostels are located in San Telmo, which isn’t very safe at night, so I was able to walk back home by myself after dark. Sometimes you don’t understand how important some things are for you until you loose them.
Everybody warned me that the porteños (inhabitants of Buenos Aires) aren’t nice people, but I didn’t want to trust the stereotype. I met really nice people and I was lucky enough to work with some of them as the permanent crew was formed of a few porteños and a guy from Columbia. The team of volunteers was a bit more varied.
The hostel occupies a few floors of an old beautiful building. It was a little weird as we had the first and last floor, so people would have to use the elevator in order to access the terraces. On the 2nd and the 3rd floor there was a hostel affiliated to ours, managed by the owner’s relatives. On the 4th floor there was a different hostel and on the 5th a private residence whose inhabitants constantly complained about the noice and threatened to call the police.
The hostel has one reception for each floor. The first floor is a bit more expensive, so obviously the volunteers live on the last one. The breakfast is better downstairs, fact which forced us to start a secret network of narjo-trafico – basically the person who was working the night shift downstairs would steal oranges from breakfast and bring them to a secret place on the 6th floor.
I came to appreciate my room in Montevideo where I was alone most of the time and where I had a wardrobe with hangers and other storage spaces when I started sharing a small room with 5 other people. Our room was the trash room as they would bring there only old mattresses and pillows, as well as broken lockers. Because we didn’t have enough storage space, some people had their backpacks/suitcases in the middle of the room, so it was almost impossible to move around. We didn’t have window covers, so it was difficult to rest after working the night shift, especially as there were people going in and out of the room all the time.
Th good side is that we all became very close after this experience. We would go out together sometimes or cook and eat together and we knew everything about each other. We were all alone in a foreign country, without other friends in the city, so it was expected that we would bond. It’s the first time that I live something like, especialli as it happened in such a short time. Although I’ve been there just for a few weeks I feel that I’ve made friends for life and I’m sure that I will always remember this period.
Even though the staff team was really united, the overall atmosphere was rather cold. It’s that kind of hostel where 90% of the guests aren’t south-american. The same hostel might as well be located in Europe or Australia, it’s missing originality and identity. However, the guests didn’t seem to mind this and they had a lot of fun, so the place has really good reviews. Also, the official language is english, so it would have been difficult for them to socialize with spanish-speakers.
It was always fun for me to watch them buy overpriced drinks from the hostel bar. In Montevideo we would invite people to the bar each night and offer them free drinks and free pool games and they still wouldn’t go, and in Buenos Aires guests would come to the bar by themselves (and sometimes stay there until 6 AM) and buy drinks worth around 100 USD/night.
I enjoyed more being a part of the team from Buenos Aires, but the general atmosphere in Montevideo was a lot better. I’m sure that I’ve made the best choice by working here.

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