Te Anau, New Zealand
June 7, 2008
“And now… for something completely different”: let’s talk about work! Work. Right work…that thing you came her for?? Oh ya..work! so I had commented in my journal almost exactly 4 months ago: “ I start my training tomorrow…woo! sure that “woo!” won’t be quite so enthusiastic while I’m hunched into the shower scrubbing limp curly hairs from the drain…” but I must say that I am still quite content in working here in the YHA even though I probably have scrubbed a cumulative amount of limp curly hairs to fill a large trash bag, it’s all part of a day’s clean. I’m learning all sorts of helpful skills…like how to perfectly fold sheets, do massive amounts of laundry…make a bed so perfectly that the queen could come and stay…as my fellow staff member commented after I had somewhat sloppily made the bed (the duvet wouldn’t un-clump itself! And I had honestly given up)… “ryan! Don’t you realize??! We’re 4 ½ stars!” well…actually I hadn’t realized…and now I won’t forget it. she was so adamant and proud of this fact in the same moment that every time I go to make a bed that phrase guiltily reverberates in my head “ryyyyyan…” uhhh…ok, ok. And then I re-do it. I’m sure my unkempt appearance most of the time does not scream “neat-freak!” or “tidy bed-keeper!” I honestly haven’t made my own bed in 23 years…apart from putting on clean sheets that is (yes I do this occasionally…jeeesh)…but now after 4 months…I am so pro. And let me tell ya…cleaning is a workout! Sometime’s I work up a good sweat making those beds, vacuuming and mopping the floors, folding the sheets, taking out the recycling, washing the sinks, wiping the toilets and scrubbing the showers…whew. But you just get into the mode…I put on my headphones, rock out and clean, clean, clean. Make look nice! I’ve just discovered that it’s kinda fun to hold the mop like a hockey stick and clean accordingly. I’ve also found that putting on my cleaning gloves while listening to ‘Enter Sandman’ by Metallica is quite a scary thing. And I always have to laugh when I notice that the toilets are American Standard brand. But that’s the best way to do the job…just put your mind somewhere else and don’t forget to admire your hard efforts of cleaning work…really is satisfying to leave a nasty, smelly, messy dorm room, all clean and sparkling for the next lot of nasty, smelly, messy backpackers who come through. Ahh life. but one of the most satisfying things was the award the YHA Te Anau hostel just received! Turns out we wipe, wash, spray, scrub and sanitize better than any other hostel! We won the hostelbookers “Cleanliness Award” which is an international website for…used guessed it…booking hostels. All over the world and we rated the highest on cleanliness! Our obsessive cleaning paid off and under Ange’s strict hand and high standard of cleanliness required we were honoured with the award. Pretty awesome. The sign neatly sits on one of our brochure tables where every day I make sure to wipe it down and keep it shining. Haha.
Of course now I’m also working reception which is a nice change to the ‘cleaning routine’ as I’ve now fondly coined it. Though reception ain’t no stroll through the tussocks…ohh no. During the busy times you’re folding laundry until closing and answering those same damn questions all day long. People are so…hmmm…interesting. The laundry, storage room and weather board are all obviously signed in the reception area yet I answer “where’s the laundry room?” or “what’s the weather going to be tomorrow” about 15 times a day…and that’s when it’s quiet. Some of my other favorites are ‘I have an umbrella. do you think I should take a jacket?” well…it is raining. Do you want to have a jacket? “ohh…ok…thank you”. And every person asking where the supermarket is. If you walk out of our hostel, and turn towards town the supermarket shines at the end of the street. Te anau is tiny…everything is basically on one street!…what happened to just exploring a place on your own. One person asked what there was to do and I suggested a walk. In shocked horror she responded “by myself!!!?” hahahaha. I really had to hold it back. Ohh…there are so many more I could tell you! It’s also interesting that people act as if I am god…in that I know ALL. I have to admit that I’ve done this before as well. You see an information center and think they should have the answer to any and all my questions! But it is humorous sometimes…I swear people ask me detailed questions about places that are hundreds of miles away. I ‘ve definitely learned lessons on how to treat people in the service industry. People are funny…oh yes. But besides answering the questions and giving out internet vouchers, I take calls to book people in, and call out to book our guests on the various fiordland activities. I’ll probably continue to answer calls at home “Te Anau YHA, ryan speaking!”. It was hilarious…once we couldn’t get our security alarm to work and one of the guys had to call our manager and when she picked up he stated with practiced preciseness “hi, this is richard from te anau YH—“ and just started cracking up. Definitely cool to get to know the locals who run the businesses in town and be part of the whole crazy tourism industry that dominates New Zealand. I swear you ask anyone around here what they do and it’s something to do with tourism: hostels, hotels, tourist shops, cruise companies, track guides, fishing guides etc. It’s an interesting job though and I’m definitely learning a lot about all that it takes to run a hostel…a lot of endless work for sure.
I’ve also been first-aid certified so now when you collapse of a heart attack I’ll calmly be able to tell you that in fact what you need is a defibulator and my valiant attempts at CPR won’t actually do too much good. But alas…I can pump a mean compression and blow a full breath with Red Cross certification! And I could definitely save ya if you were choking so that’s a bonus comfort and skill to surely put on the ol’ resume. And after the certification I now have “night manager” duties which means I have a cell phone in case people get locked out and such. although once I had a call at 1am that dragged me out of bed because some kids were “looking for accommodation”…how could they put it so formally at such an hour! When I got up I noticed a whole other group of American kids lingering outside the door…straaaange. Not much night life at the YHA here I must admit. But for the other 2 who had called I was nice enough to get up, open the hostel and book them a room and they were talking as nonchalantly as if it were the middle of the afternoon! “soo…what’s the weather gonna be tomorrow” (and that of all questions of course) and “ohh…where are you from?” I just responded “Irvine” hoping this would display my non-interest for the conversation in my sleepy state. “ohh really! I have friends that go to school there! cool, wow!” “ohh…really…huh…how bout that. Here’s your keys…goodnight.” They were grateful of course but maybe they didn’t see that the sign reads: in emergencies only … then I had to go back outside and pass through the crowd again who decided to ask more ridiculous questions like whether they should make the dangerous, 2 hour swerving drive to milford sound at 1am. or if I knew what time cruises would be leaving from there. seriously?? Seriously! I kindly asked them to come back tomorrow when the hostel would be open and I wasn’t wearing my pyjamas. “oohh…ya…right…cool, cool” Jeeesus. So yes…working in a hostel is definitely a unique experience.
Of course you also meet so many great people coming through. All different kinds…lots of trampers in this area because we are a jumping point for many of the walking tracks and it’s fun to chat with them…see where they’ve been…what they’ve hiked and such. Great when someone comes to reception and you just swap stories for an hour or so…definitely a good way to pass the time when it’s quiet. I know I’ve spoken of the repetitiveness of questions and answers that appear while travelling. And when travelling for an extended period of time, asking them and answering them does get a bit tedious. But even after all the tedium I have to say I still appreciate and enjoy the incredible opportunity to meet and discuss with people from all over the world (besides crazies who arrive at 1am). hear their travel stories, which are always unique to the person, and what it’s like where they’re from. After exchanging so many stories of differing backgrounds and traditions…what better learning opportunity could there be? This is why life is so fascinating…diversity! I never want to cease the exploration of things outside my realm…through music, books, travel, and people of course! What a wonderful decision to stay and have this experience. Definitely down with the kiwi way of life.