Alice Springs: Those of the hostel life

I had reserved just the evening and following morning towards my stay in Alice Springs, the closest city to Ayers Rock. Alice Springs: think the Clayton of Georgia… the remote city you find along your drive along the American countryside. Alice Spring’s Kmart was probably the largest attraction in the dingy area, if that gives you an idea. But my stay in Alice Springs was a memorable one. And it’s once again due the people in which I came in contact with, however briefly, during my short stay in the grimy city of Alice Springs, Australia.

Part of me wishes I could have stayed a day longer to get to know the other individuals of the Haven hostel. The night guests, the long term residents: they’ve all got a tale to tell. And as much as they've become a part of my travel stories, I too am a part of theirs. We’re all abroad on similar missions, on a journey of a backpackers adventure traveling across the diverse country of a land down under, far from our homes of origin, our areas of comfort. We’re in pursuit of surroundings that feed our thirst to discover the greater world out of the confines of the familiarity of our bubbled home environments. It’s all the backpacker’s tale of a journey abroad.  

The Austrian roommate, possibly named Michael.
I timidly entered room 25, my assigned room for the night’s stay. A tall, blonde haired man sat on the bottom of the wired bunk furthest from the room’s entrance. He wore black glasses that rested slightly below the ridge of his brow and nose. His large forehead seemed an essence his personality, illuminating the passion of his words between the animated creases etched on the slate of his forehead. His name, I learned, was Michael (well if I wrote his name correctly) and it was Michael, my Austrian roommate, who proved to be an incredible young man to talk to. Michael was preparing to leave for the same Ayers Rock I had just taken. He would be traveling with Julia, my German roommate I met later that night for a few minutes before she turned in for the evening.

I ate my second serving of dinner with Michael. He had made Indian food from scratch that evening, a topic that filled our conversation as he described the different ingredients necessary for tossing together an Indian curry. Michael’s English was impeccable, making him easy to both understand and communicate with. I asked him if he spoke Austrian, oblivious to the fact that Austrian is the nationality, not the language. Austrians speak German, though with a vastly different accent than that of the German dialect. He mentioned that Julia, for example, often struggles to fully comprehend his accent as a result in the variation in pronunciation. I also asked Michael about the Sound of Music, proudly announcing that I own a VHS copy, a childhood favorite of mine. But apparently the movie is an Austrian stereotype. The majority of Austrians, so he said, have never actually watched the film. Both Michael and Julia were gone when I awoke the following morning, gone in continuation of their journey across Central Australia. Individuals come and go here: It’s just the way of hostel life.

Rachel, the girl I tagged along with in the dark of the streets on my walk to the grocery store.
Alice Springs is home to a large Aboriginal population, an unfortunate parallel to the high levels of criminal activity, often associated to the alcoholism among the Aboriginal community. It was about 8pm, the sun had long set and an air had settled thickly over the dimly lit city streets… an air that my Jewish mother would feel unbelievably uncomfortable with had she known I ventured on a ten minute walk, at first alone, to the city’s local grocery store. I noticed a girl walking a few feet ahead of me. I recognized her from the hallways of my hostel and without giving it a moment’s thought, ran to catch up with, immediately initiating conversation. Her name was Rachel and was hesitant at first to talk, a factor which perplexed me at the time but come to think of it now, I was the stranger who had come out of nowhere. Rachel did gradually warm up; She was originally from England but had taken a working holiday in Australia. Rachel had been working at a camel farm for the past few weeks, but had been recently fired after a camel had attacked her. We parted ways as we entered the Coles and I walked back to my hostel on my own, the sketchiest walk back EVER. Part of me worried I’d get kidnapped, slightly panicking as I realized my phone was low on credits in addition to being unsure if 911 was even applicable in Australia. Regardless, I held my phone firmly in my hand, as if I knew what I was doing in case of a potential kidnapper.

Aboriginals in the grocery store.
So I didn’t talk to any of them, merely observed as they walked along the aisles of Coles. Many of the Aboriginal women had thick, upper lip moustaches. Had it not been for their sagging bosoms, I might have mistaken them for men. They all went without shoes and had a distinct smell about them, a sort of showers aren’t my thing kind of smell. A woman, who had previously volunteered with an Aboriginal community, once told me that an open mind is key to adapting to their culture, their way of living their lives. I recognized that immediately upon viewing them in the grocery store, gathering a perceived sense of just how different our cultures are.

Lauren, slightly out of order.
Lauren had been a fellow participant on my Ayers Rock trip, and I had gotten to know her over the course of the past three days. She’s number three on the list, however, as I ate the first course of my store bought, Indian curry dinner with her. Lauren spoke English well, given that her native tongue was Korean and she had been studying English intensely for the past few months in Australia. There were times I could tell my English translated as gibberish, a blank smile being the tell- tell sign. But for the most part, we had an interesting two- way conversation. We discussed the concepts of keeping Kosher as I explained to her why I wasn’t able to sample her Asian chicken noodle soup. We dabbled into the topic of education; she explained how in Korea, students do not ask questions, merely accepting the teachings of their professors without challenge. Lauren also spoke of Koreans’ pride in their culture, pride in standing out from the majority of Chinese present in Asia.

The construction worker who was a few months sober. And missing a few front teeth.
It was difficult to understand him, given he talked in bogen English (bogen is an Australian term for low class). Construction worker sans teeth had moved to the Haven hostel following his decision to sober up and get his life back on track. He works long hours in Alice Springs making an enormous amount of money that he saves so in that in the future, he will be able to afford his own place. I admired his self- motivation, his drive to pick himself up from the place he had once found himself in.   

The Korean roommate who was the only one left when I woke up in the morning.
It was slightly disconcerting waking up to room empty of the familiar roommates I had fallen asleep saying goodnight to. A wiry Korean man was the sole individual left in room 25 the following morning. He definitely hadn’t been there at 10:30 last night. My Korean roommate had been at the hostel for the past year and a half, and would be completing his working holiday at the Alice Spring’s McDonalds in the next three weeks. Korean roommate seemed excited to be soon returning home. Like Rachel (my Cole’s walking friend), he didn’t seem to have particularly enjoyed working in Alice Springs. But to renew a work visa, the government requires individuals to spend four months laboring in the farmlands. The majority of Australia’s population lives along Australia’s coast lines, leaving the lands of Central Australia sparse of human inhabitants. The government, therefore, is taking steps to try to spread the population across the country, particularly the farmlands of the country.Korean roommate left for work as I packed my belongings in my purple duffel bag. I would be leaving for Melbourne, Australia in a few short hours.

My trip to Melbourne: to be continued!

1 Response to Alice Springs: Those of the hostel life

April 23, 2014 at 1:46 AM

Alice Springs is of course a nice place to live where one could get friendly & all care environment for a comfortable living.

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