In English
4.5.2015

A bite to eat and a place to sleep

Victoria Webb’s duties in the Chilean hostel vary from welcoming guests to cleaning and to setting the tables for breakfast.

Workaway can be an excellent way to spend more time travelling abroad without fluent language skills and massive savings. Some spend the time wasted, but is the time then wasted?

Text & photographs: Anne Salomäki, translation: Elina Ojala

 

I’m ordering breakfast in Spanish at the restaurant of a Peruvian hostel. The guy behind the counter is looking at me with bloodshot eyes, the tell-tale signs of a hangover all over him.

“You speak English, right?” he sighs.

Maybe it’s the accent or my blue eyes that gave away I’m not a local. And yet I still thought that the customer service personnel would speak the local language in a Spanish-speaking country.

I get my fruit salad. It takes a while, though: when the bartender is on his way to take my order to the kitchen, he stops to chat with another hostel guest. Flirting is a more pressing matter than my order, it seems.

Based on my experiences from the night before, I’m not that surprised the guy at the bar has a sore head. I was minding my own business at the bar when another bartender, busy mixing vodka and Red Bull into bloodbomb shots, stole my beanie and put it on his head.

A bit later I saw the same guy outside the bar. He was laying on a bench when I decided to walk up to him to negotiate the release of my belongings.

After I sat next to him, he laid his head on my thigh and started to chat with his eyes half open. The Irishman was off his face, but miraculously he was still capable of working.

“I’m the manager of this bar,” he says.

I take my beanie back. It’s probably a bit too (up)tight for someone who thinks a supervisor can come to work drunk.

 

I’m chatting with a twenty-something British guy in Argentina. The young man has had so much fun the night before he can barely speak his native language.

“I worked in a hostel in Peru for six months,” he slurs.

I wonder out loud how much his Spanish skills have improved during those six months – quite a lot, I presume. He tells me, laughingly, that he only knows a couple words.

He hasn’t got a penny to show for it, either.

“If you work, you get board for free and 40 per cent off of all food and drink, including alcohol. That saves you quite a lot of money,” he explains, and apparently deems the deal generous.

The whole thing costs a pretty penny, though, because alcohol is for drinking. Another young man has just recently started working a similar job in a hostel bar in Argentina. He’s serving my friend, even though he’s not on shift at this time of day. It just happens that no one has been behind the bar for quite some time.

The man seems a little ashamed on behalf of the company. Maybe that’s why he offers to help us, even though he’s not on duty.

However, apparently no customer service experience is required of the staff. According to the young man, his so called “interview” went like this:

“Can you drink?”

“I’m half German, half Irish.”

“You can start tomorrow.”

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