When you work at a party hostel you get the chance to meet many interesting people. Some of them you won’t remember, many of them you’ll never forget, and a few of them you feel bad about releasing back into the world. But I’m a people person. I wanted to work at a party hostel mainly for the opportunity to form new relationships with people from all over the globe.
I made a lot of crazy connections during my time working at Slumber Party Hostel. The experience was exactly what I expected. My job was to make sure everyone was having a good time – which is something I’d naturally do anyway. It was perfect.
I checked people into the hostel, set-up beer pong cups, peer pressured loud dudes to chug from beer bongs, and moved my herd of sheeple along on pub crawl nights. I mingled with all the guests, talked to cute boys, danced in front of AC units, and repeated the process. It’s definitely a dream job for a free spirit in their 20’s. But during the end of my time working at the hostel, I got a guest check-in that would forever change me.
Honey, my favorite receptionist, called my name and handed me a dorm room key – the clear sign I needed to take a new guest to their room and go over the nights’ festivities. She pointed at a pretty Asian girl standing near me and said, “She doesn’t speak any English. Good luck.” The girl smiled shyly at me as I introduced myself. She held a small electronic device to her mouth and spoke an unfamiliar language. Almost instantly, the device responds in English, “I’m Monet. I’m Chinese and don’t speak any English.”
As I’m walking her up the death-trap stairs towards her dorm room, I was puzzled. Two conflicting thoughts ran through my head. Should I even try to go over all the information I have for her? That will take a while. I don’t have a lot of time until I need to be downstairs to announce the beer pong rules. Maybe I’ll just show her the basics and head out. Quick and sweet. But, she is alone. She doesn’t know anyone. I know when I travel alone and check into a party hostel, I want to make friends and have fun.
I unlocked her room and showed her to her bed. I wasn’t sure how much English she knew, so I gave her a generic greeting to the hostel. My greeting was answered by a look of utter confusion. She handed me her translator and showed me how to use it. I spoke a few short sentences and watched in awe as this device not only spoke the words back to her in Chinese, but had words written down on the screen. How cool! I told her that we had a Beer Pong tournament that night and that she had to come down and join us. What she said into the translator next broke my heart: I want to join your party, but I am embarrassed because I don’t speak English.
My mind was then made up. I wanted to show her a good time. This brave girl has traveled alone to a country where she can’t communicate with anyone directly. She should be able to go out and have fun just like everyone else.
We conversed a bit more through her translator and through google translate on our phones. She had only checked in for one night, so I was determined to get her to join the fun. I told her that people were very friendly, that they would love her translator, and to find me downstairs so that I could show her around. She smiled and said she’d get settled in and come down soon.
I rejoined the party downstairs, told a coworker about her, and kept an eye out for her the rest of the night. Unfortunately, she never showed. I knew it was because she was scared. Afraid of being rejected at a party just because she didn’t speak English. This pierced me like a knife.
The next night starts as any other night would. Drinking games, shot-guns, lots of clothes pins destroying livers (sorry, Slumber inside joke). As I’m busy screaming and waving my hands for the drunk brigade to follow me to the next bar, I notice Monet walk up to the hostel. I ran over to her immediately and gave her a hug. By typing into our phones and showing each other the translation, we were able to conversate. I told her we were going to a new bar and that she had to come with me. I was going to show her a fun night. She apologized for not coming out the night before, as she was nervous. But she was brave enough to come out tonight, so I was going to make it count.
We go to the same bar every night, so naturally the staff at Stockholm Syndrome are our family. I introduce Monet to some of their staff, buy her a drink, and then sit outside so we could “talk”. We chatted via electronics for over an hour. People would come and go; some interested in her translator and wanting to make friends, and some not patient enough to try. We learned a lot about each other in that hour. Like how her boyfriend cheated on her and broke her heart. She then lost 40 pounds and booked herself a holiday in Thailand. We both share a desire to fully enjoy our twenties – which doesn’t include settling down and starting a family. We both want to travel and meet new people. We danced at good songs and laughed when people did dumb shit. It was easy.
I soon rallied the troops and headed to my favorite dance club in the area. Monet and I got girly drinks at the bar and danced the night away. We hung out with some people from the hostel while also meeting new people together. We even got invited into the VIP area where we drank free drinks, danced on couches, and watched boys dance like idiots. We had a blast.
I told her how my birthday was that weekend and I was going to the infamous Full Moon Party to celebrate. I knew she’d have a blast, so I invited her. She really wanted to go but regrettably told me she was running out of money and had to return home soon. I was sad, but I understood.
Once it was way past my bedtime, I told Monet it was time for me to go home. We both walked as far as we could together before we had to go our separate ways. She told me how happy she was to meet me and that she wished she could come to my birthday. She said she now thought of me as a sister, and she would definitely join the party at the hostel the next night. My heart was full of warmth as I headed home.
The next day I headed to work prepared for Pub Crawl night. Once I got there, I found Monet sitting on the couch alone. She was waiting for me. She gave me a big hug and we talked about how much fun we had the night before. As she spoke into her translator and handed it over for me to read, she started rummaging through her bag. The translator explained how sad she was that she couldn’t be there for my birthday. We were now close friends and she was so thankful someone made her feel comfortable enough to step out of her comfort zone. She pulled out a beautiful bracelet and placed it on my wrist. A birthday present.
This was one of those moments that you read about or see in movies. Interactions that don’t happen in real life, but that touch your heart. I held back a tear as I thought about how sweet this gesture was. One thought that was glaringly clear: I had touched her, and she had touched me. It was real life magic
Everyone around the hostel started noticing us on the couch talking back and forth via devices. Clearly in serious conversation but confused to not hear us say much. The interested looks came from all over. Over the next half an hour, I could sense the questions on everyone’s minds. The looks progressed from: “Are they talking via phones? Why isn’t she mingling with us and being her loud-ass American self? Oh, she must not speak English. Wow, that takes patience. Okay, this is great.”
After a bit my coworker, Dylan, (who she had met the night before) came over with a game of Connect Four and placed it in front of her. He grabbed her translator and told her she was ‘going down’. She had never played before, but she picked up the rules via subtle body language and finger cues. As I left her briefly to pour shots down people’s throats (duty calls), I knew she was going to be fine without me. She was breaking out of her shell. I was confident she’d make friends tonight without me having to be by her side. And I was right.
The rest of the night she was bouncing between me, new people, and drinking games. Smiling from ear to ear, bright orange pub crawl shirt on, and taking part in ruining people’s livers with clothes pins (again, it’s a Slumber secret). We talked again at Stockholm Syndrome, danced more at a mega club, and I even helped her hit on a boy at Burger King. It was an epic night.
Later that night we said our official goodbyes, only for her to reappear at the hostel a week later. She told me she didn’t want to go home, especially now that she wasn’t afraid to meet people. She ended up staying in Thailand an extra week. She stepped out of her comfort zone and had the holiday that she wanted. She grew so much right in front of my eyes. We made plans to hopefully reunite in the future and travel together .
I’ve met countless people in my life, but my time spent with Monet has truly changed me. One girl from China has taught me so much. Her spirit is truly inspiring. She channeled her hurt from her breakup into something constructive. She was brave enough to travel to a foreign country when she didn’t speak their language (or English!)– something I’m not sure I would even do. She followed her dream of traveling and meeting people even though her family and friends didn’t understand it. She put herself out there to make friends and hit on cute boys. She’s even kind enough to buy a beautiful bracelet for a perfect stranger.
As I grew closer to Monet, I learned even more about myself. My initial thought when I met her was something along the lines of, “this is going to take time and I don’t have the patience for this”. But on my second look at the situation, I put myself in her shoes. I would only hope that if I ever traveled somewhere that I couldn’t communicate, that someone would show me kindness. Someone would choose to lend a hand instead of choosing what’s convenient. It’s the true embodiment of the phrase “be the change you wish to see in the world”.
I won’t lie, it took a lot of patience. A lot of back and forth on devices that constantly screwed up and didn’t always translate accurately. But you know what? It was worth it. I helped her, and unknowingly she helped me. I now have a friend for life and a new sense of the type of person I want to be. I want to be the change I want to see in the world. And I want to be brave like Monet.