When I arrived in Santiago, Chile, I still hadn´t decided. Whether to continue on my money-saving, new-people-meeting, and all-round-fun-times CouchSurfing crusade, or to settle for what I saw as the easier (and therefore less desirable) option of staying at a hostel.
In the end I chose the latter, La Casa Roja to be precise, and I´m so, so glad that I did.
It´s a special place.
Following the usual routine of every single building I arrive at, there are steps to get inside, but once these had been swiftly merked the place is siiiiick. The Rough Guide`s description of a “travellers` nexus” did attract me, but my brothers need to update! I`m talking about a swimming pool, outside bar, what more can you want…
OK, I didnt immediately feel the confidence to be making friends for life, it kind of looked like everyone was friends already, but the environment was saying a lot.
Looking around the place, with discoveries expanding to some dope communal kitchen, I was busy checking out the breakfast menu (which was looking fresh by the way) when I heard a voice from behind me…
“So, where are you from?”
I`ve never seen a girl like this before…
She introduces herself as Nesrine, but I can call her Nes. I tell her about how I`m travelling, and the now legendary story of Puno to Copacabana, and she tells me that she`s been staying here in Santiago for about a month, looking for NGO work. After a bit more convo she offers to cook me food later…
That`s just how I roll.
The atmosphere in the kitchen where she is cooking up some pasta is so jokes… there must be at least 20 people all cooking, chatting, having a drink (or…giving me a drink) and listening to music.
Nes hopes that I will like the people she is going to introduce me to, and I have a feeling that I will…
It still amazes me how quickly you can make new friends.
Friends for life.
When it starts passing midnight we head into the bar so as to not wake up too many mans. I chat to Guillherme, and he teaches me how to chat up Brazillian “chicas”.
I also meet a guy called Martin who works at La Casa, and he buys me a beer. We talk for a long time about socialism and politics, and he tells me about his trip to Cuba, aged 19. He says that he went there with unfettered expectations, idolising Fidel, Che and everything about the country. But after arriving to find only dire poverty, and people hassling him for change or a cigarette at every café he sat down in, he left incredibly disillusioned and disappointed.
The clock made swift movements from 1 to 5am.
After everything that has happened today, the challenges of arriving in a new city, new surroundings, etc. etc., I was still yet to face, undoubtedly, my toughest test of the 24 hours…
The room is dark with only my mobile phone screen available for light, and I must unravel the wheelchair charger from my bag, somehow assemble the cables which have obviously all been pulled out and tangled amongst themselves, locate a power point and last but not least plug dat shit in…
Man like me killed dat…brap!
On the evening we left La Casa to head south, my Granny cooked a special meal for me and the friends I had made. It was so good.
I had an hour to go, and I was talking to Nes. She started crying. I was saying about how cool it is meeting so many amazing people when you are travelling…
“Yes,” she said, “but I will not meet anyone as cool as you.”
I don`t know how to say “I love you” in French.