We made it to Bolivia! Two countries down and the third one under way. When having unlimited time to travel to only a few places, one really feels jealous of the marathon travelers who are marking country number 8 or 9 to by the end of month six. My consolation is that I actually get to stop and enjoy myself, see all the sights, and really invest myself into each country.
I was there too long (six weeks) and needed to get out, yet something in me wanted to stay. Luckily Aaron was a motivational trigger to get my act together and move on. Upon arriving to La Paz, Aaron headed off for a home stay family to take Spanish classes for a month while I headed to the Wild Rover Hostel to work for a month. Despite being in the same city, we hardly saw each other. This was like a warm-up period for once we split off. La Paz is a giant explosion of a city across a valley. It is busy, unorganized, and enormous. There are nicer parts, as with all cities, but it has not been my favorite. Especially when compared to Cusco in Peru. It does not help that the Wild Rover is not exactly located in the slightly more pristine “tourist” area of La Paz. Despite the city not being high on my list, I never actually had to interact with it on a major scale. This fact is more depressing than fortunate. It shows how little I had needs outside the safety of the hostel walls. It was considered a big day to get out and make it to the pharmacy or to the DVD store around the corner. I cannot even describe how successful it was to spend a day shopping along Calle Comercio and Calle Illampe, or when we went to the giant market in El Alto, or completing Death Road. For all the unproductiveness in the last month or so, a lot has happened. Especially worth noting is Christmas, my 23rd birthday, and New Years! Not to mention all the hilarious times, crazy parties, and magnificent people at the hostel.
Where do I begin? I still do not know.
When I first started working and moved into the staff room, it was like entering No Man´s Land. I meekly set my belongings into a corner and lived out of my pack the first three days until I actually found an empty cupboard to put my clothes away. There were two German girls, Natalie and Teresa, who stopped working shortly after I began. I never really got to know either one. Then there was Hurston, from San Fran in the US, he stayed through New Years. He is a quiet soul, and I do not think the staff room lifestyle was quite right for him. Jonas, also from the US, has been there several months and just became the new bar manager. He is Nadya´s and my big spoon to our frequent group cuddling. The Daniels, Daniel Tobin (nick-named Angry) and Daniel Lamb, two Welsh buddies traveling together, they stayed just through New Years as well. When together (or apart) they always have some hilarious, cheeky comment to lighten the mood. They are really great guys. And Trevor and Alicia, they had already stopped working when I first arrived but stayed through my first week as “guests,” if that is the appropriate term for ex-staff. Since that first day there have been other staff members. Nadya, from Vancouver, currently working her way into month two. She and I have been attached at the hip. It is already strange to put that into the past tense. 😦 Kim and Aisling, from Ireland, stayed through Christmas and New Years. Really fantastic girls and incredibly nice. Salim, England, through Christmas and New Years. Stuart and Chris, the Skinnies, from England, Stu has departed already and Chris left the day after me. We were concerned at first since Stu does not drink, but they were both a riot. It would not have been the same without them. Denzel, England, long term guest, very short term staff. Always giving me a hard time! 🙂 Justin, Australia, leaving shortly. Really funny guy and possibly a closet nerd like me…my nick name was Crossword as I was often spotted doing nerdy activities like crosswords, journaling, or reading. Jess and Evan, often referred to as Mission and Parksville, their respective Canadian homes. I sometimes forget who they are when only referenced by actual names. And the newest newbies, Claire from England and Adam from Australia. Besides the bar staff are Jack, hostel manager and really good fun (sometimes our fourth spoon, haha), and Gerry, previous bar manager. Then there are the endless other amazing people. Reception workers, Diego and Suki. Kitchen hooligans, Jose, Julio, Jesus. Fantastic cleaning ladies, Nelly, Nellsi, and Rogelia. Ben, hostel manager and Edith, in the office. Natalie and Brinda through Gravity, the downhill biking company promoted at the hostel (same agency I completed Death Road through). Among the endless list of others I am forgetting. I cannot even begin to mention all the non-staff I have met and befriended. It is truly the people here that would keep me longer. Each new person is like an undiscovered gem in a treasure box. I am not doing justice on descriptions, but I promised to keep these entries shortish… Let´s just say that a significant chunk of my journal was filled for these descriptions and I am incredibly stingy on using up precious pages in the finite space of my journal. That tells you how memorable and important these people have become to me. You will glean a better picture of who these people are once I can manage to get pictures online and through the few stories I will entail.
I got a little off track. My opinion of the staff room has not changed. It is still a dingy, smelly, black hole of a pit where everything goes missing (especially water bottles…), where sleep is a barely received luxury, but good fun is always happening. There are no secrets in the staff room. It is always a giant cuddle fest…or cutch fest if you speak proper English (and come from Wales) ;). Drinking is a daily activity. No questions asked. Breakfast is whenever you wake up, independent of any real time table. Wearing your pajamas all day on your day off but still going to the bar is highly acceptable. If you look like death after waking up, just put on sunglasses and you are fine. Waking up to take multiple rounds of jager bombs can lead to permanent reminders of such activities…possibly referring to the tattoo of “Wild Rover” five of us now have on our bums, due to a few too many jager bombs on the morning of Christmas Eve…Sorry Mom! When taking a free shot that someone else pours, do not 1) start closing your mouth, 2) turn your head away, or 3) start up on your toes, especially when the pourer is shorter than you. All three of these will result in getting nasty liquor concoctions poured down your face. And hand grenades (one shot tequila, one shot jager, one shot vodka, and Red Bull) are the devil. Not many of you will actually understand any of this, but it is all worth mentioning.
Wild Rover is a party hostel, hands down. My first week there we had the 4th Anniversary UV Party. I learned shortly after beginning at Wild Rover (WR for all further mentioning) that my absolute least favorite night of the week is UV night. Your clothes become covered in UV paints and since all the lights are off, everyone feels the need to act like complete morons. Fridays are much more entertaining. Each Friday is some sort of dress-up theme. We had themes such as crazy hats, Father Ted (an absolute must-see Irish/British comedy series about the misadventures of three Roman Catholic priests who live in a parish on the fictional Craggy Island, located off the west coast of Ireland. Hilarious!), famous actor/actresses, and Friday 13th. We also had a fantastic celebration over Christmas Eve, Christmas day, and Boxer Day (the day after Christmas). Christmas Eve was a naughty Santa/sexy Mrs. Claus party. We had all the staff as gifts to each other. Also, the New Year´s Eve Black and White party was great. We always decorate and guests are extremely willing to partake in dress-up opportunities. One night we decided to wear party hats the whole night due to the discovery of about 25 hats under the bar counter. Night life in La Paz is completely different than that in Cusco. There are tons of clubs and places to go at night, but we always go to preselected locations each night because our hostel has arranged deals with these select locations for free entry of WR guests, drink deals for WR staff, the guarantee that the club is open, etc. It is not like Cusco where you can hop between six different places all within walking distance of each other. Due to this practice, we usually just end up at a club with mostly WR people and not many outsiders. This has many pros and cons.
When I finally stopped working after five weeks, I stayed one additional week to clear my head, organize my next travel plans for the rest of Bolivia, and re-enter the realm of functioning humans. Though as I mentioned before, once a staff member, you never actually become a proper “guest” ever again. I still helped orient new bar staff, was still expected to take commends to the kitchen, was ignored immediate service at the bar, had no official bed in the over-booked guest rooms, and, much to my displeasure, was no longer receiving my 40% staff discount. The perks of working are almost fairly decent: free accommodation, one free meal daily, one free pint of juice daily, 40% off everything else (food and drinks alike), a free Death Road tour through Gravity (shirt and CD included), and major discounts at several nice eateries and clubs. Let´s just say that after five weeks of lodging, food, and drinks, was less than $175 USD. Try to pull that off in the States. Not to mention the nightly entertainments of a full bar, all my food prepared for me, a TV room with bean bags, and warms showers. How I feel almost semi-pampered as hostel bar staff.