Hearing Myself Think: The Pros and Cons of Hostels - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

February 2, 2014

Hearing Myself Think: The Pros and Cons of Hostels

HELLO CHEESE MEAT! That's what a man called out to me on the street this afternoon. Excuse me! That's not my name. "Cheese, Meat" the man repeats. Oh, I see. That is what the pizza topping is, isn't it? The man puts his hand out in a jester to wave me into the pizza-joint. But I didn't want to eat. Is only looking at the strange boat-shaped pizzas on display, because to me they are unusual.

So what are my impression thus far of this city? Do I like it? The food is delicious for one thing. Kebabs, normally junk-food elsewhere, are a nutritious meal using authentic lamb. And if you don't eat meat, there's egg-plant kebabs; that's aubergines for UK-English speakers.

Another thing is, it doesn't seem like a Sunday. There are things like construction-sites working like any other day of the week. This was the first day though, since I arrived, that hasn't been grey and miserable. Today was blue sky and spring-like. So, I've been out and about the immediate city. Starting with a stroll along the Bosphorus, then into one of the main busy squares leading into the heaving bazars.

My usual day is spent between the hostel and Starbucks. The later for coffee of coarse and it's where I jot down my ideas with the power of caffeine. It's a pity the WiFi doesn't work there. It works for others I see tapping and scrolling away on their tablets and phones. But the network has one of those landing pages, where you need to key in a phone-number, which I do not have. It would be a good place for journal updating; because, although the place is packed with people, they seem not to make a lot of noise. They sit in armchairs and at tables in mute conversation, nodding and waving or just looking nice.

The hostel on the other hand, well, where do I start. I may be sat at the netbook trying to do something which needs a lot of concentration and thinking. Meanwhile, there's a boisterous young guy chatting on the phone in deep guttural Arabic next to me. And then he will just happen to be behind me in the common room and his friend will come in and pause in the doorway, which is in front of me, and they'll conduct a loud conversation across the room over my head.

But, I like the hostel here. The other guests are all Arabic or Asian, making it feel like I've left Europe. There's a lot of Koreans as the patron is an expat Korean. He comes in and gives everybody a glass of hot apple-juice midmorning. And there's a big group of young Thai women, one of whom says she'd like to visit Ireland some day. And my two Arabic speaking friends, who are asylum-seekers from Egypt. They describe their homeland as the World's most despotic regimes at the moment. Like the juntas in South America in the 1970s. Hassan, the guy on the phone earlier was a professional film-maker before he had to flee. While his friend in fits of laughter describes himself as a professional womanizer.

Meanwhile, my bike has leant against the wall in the corridor outside my dormitory since I arrived. A sorry mess covered in sandy gunge. The chain stiff. There is no yard or outdoor area where I can wash it.

The cleaner is a nice lady, except when she switches on the vacuum-cleaner. There's no way I can hear myself think above that aeroplane. She's very thorough and takes great pride in keeping the hostel spotless. I see her finish her shift, don her coat and go home. It's early afternoon and it is unlikely anyone will be around up on the second floor where my dorm is.

I steal pass reception and upstairs and enter my dorm where, I pull out a front-pannier from underneath the bed. I open the pannier and reaching inside, take out a rag. I return out into the corridor and along to my bike, where I remove the water-bottles. I wheel the bike into the showers but stop dead, when I notice someone unexpectedly showering. I ponder a moment whether to continue, then decide to go ahead and lift the bike into another shower where it stands upright without having to be held in place. Then take the shower hose and turn on the hot water and set to work.

The hot water softens the dirty gunge and there's a fair amount of pressure when I turn the water on full: flushing out the cassette and chain-rings makes quick work of the sandy grit, rinsing it off and down to create a mess on the shower floor. I rub the tubes down with the rag and use the rag to grip the chain while turning the pedals to run the chain through until it's silver and smooth again. I'm almost done and the person showering is still in there, having a good long soak by the look of things. When I finish, I've a job to do washing the shower before someone comes and sees me.

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