The Power of Intuition — IV
Black Tea, Neitzsche and Backpackers
This was probably 8 years ago…
I had just arrived into town in stifling heat, back from the country side. I had spent 2 months without seeing a single soul.
I just sat down everyday, took a beating from my thoughts & feelings, relentlessly wrote poems, and also edited my book.
I stayed in a house, which, someone I knew had left unlocked — mainly because there was nothing to steal in there.
Besides, the owner did not want to put a new lock on it; he was lazy like that.
I had notified the owner (he was an acquaintance who was overseas at this point) that I had camped in there.
He said it was fine, because it would give the impression the house wasn’t open for just anybody to squat. It would also allow him to extend his trip if he wished.
My food budget for the whole 2 months was about 20 dollars. I survived on just tea, pancakes and a bit of butter.
I ate one pancake mid-morning and two in the evening. The pancakes were made by mixing water with the cheapest flour I could find. I drank lots of black tea.
After my stint in the country-side, it was really refreshing to be back in civilization. I liked the feeling of walking into a crowd of people, after spending time in absolute solitude.
Of course, I arrived back into town with no money, but it wasn’t like this was anything new. Yet, it never got any easier, no matter how many times I experienced it..
The bit about not having money, always seemed the most challenging for a lot of people to understand.
The thing is, unless you take the time to get to know me in-depth, some parts may be tricky to comprehend regarding my experiences or even some view points.
I took out my last pancake which I had cooked earlier that morning, before leaving the country-side house. I sat on a bench next to a cafe by the beach, stared at panacke for a while, and then proceeded to finally consume it.
I had no idea where I was going to have my next meal. I was well over the soup-van situation by now.
I had had enough of putting myself at physical risk of people attacking me — one time too many.
My senses, however, were doing alright.
I was in one of those Eckhart Tolle / Power of Now modes, when a girl decided to sit down a couple of paces away from me.
We got into really interesting conversation. Can’t recall how long we spoke, but at some point her friend had arrived at the cafe, and she had to leave.
But just as she was about get up, she said, “You know, all through our conversation I felt you reminded me of someone. I just realized, its the main character from the book: The Stranger*.
[* A few years later I came across a copy of this book by Albert Camus.
Scrolling through it I realized that there were similarities, yes, but I wasn’t as detached as that character.
Maybe I had changed by then.
This was around the time another girl would describe me a the character from the book: The Alchemist.
It’s kind of funny to me that over the years, I’ve been affectionately nicknamed by people as Morpheus, Merlin, Buddha, etc.
Even though I was really just being myself, to others, I obviously meant and represented something.
In a way, I was probably living through a different archetype, for each year I experienced through my journey]
I wished the girl well, as she headed off into the horizon. I sat in relaxed contemplation for the next few minutes.
Then as I began to wonder where to head to next, I had a feeling I should go to the hostel I had stayed in last year.
This was the hostel I had stayed in while working at the bakery for 3 months (when I had access to currency).
Since the girl and I had spoken quite a lot about intuition during our chat, I decided that I should stop questioning shit and just make my way towards the hostel.
As I walked about half way there, I spotted someone I knew on the other side of the street. It was Rahim: He was the assistant manager of the hostel.
It had been a while since we’d crossed paths. We gave each other a hug, and as usual we got philosophical.
This dude was intensely into Nietzsche!
He used to half-jokingly say: “You know man, I think Nietzsche is the devil.. I’ve never had someone fuck with me like this.. I find the fabric of my life turned inside out every time I read him!”
On the other hand, I was not much into reading books. But I was always in sync with what Rahim used to experience from his sessions with Nietzsche.
I guess my everyday life itself was a philosophical & spiritual cauldron — it’s why I’ve always found myself to been more of an Observer.
Rahim had majored in Philosophy at Uni, so he always found this aspect about me to be intriguing.
At some point through our chat, I asked him how things were at the hostel?
He responded by saying: “I seem to be constantly at logger heads with the senior manager. Just between you and me, I’m planning to quit.
I just need to confirm my appointment at another motel, where I’ve been offered a job. I was on my way there just now.”
Then he added: “I think bumping into you has come at a perfect time. Let me run something by you.
Alice (manager) wants me to manage the entertainment at our hostel for the rest of the summer. I was about to give the job to one of the backpacker’s earlier, but he wasn’t around.
Alice would fight me on this, if I employ the backpacker; however, if you’re interested I can put you in charge of the activities.”
I thought it was an interesting offer, so I said to him: ‘Ok, tell me more’
He continued: “If I tell her you’re taking over the entertainment, I just know that she won’t fight me on it— you were always her favorite guest.
You can choose to get paid for this or swap for accommodation. I can hook you up with a quiet dorm room if you need one.”
For me, this was definitely an interesting development.
Running the entertainment sounded like a good deal, as I didn’t have to be answerable to anyone as such.
Besides, I had been seeking a little challenge like this.
It was a large hostel and peeps could get pretty rowdy. I felt I needed to get myself out of the introverted mode and get as social as I could, while getting used to engaging people.
A lot of things lined up well here, so I said: ‘Cool.’
He was thrilled that I accepted. As a thanks, he brought me dinner that night. It should’ve really been the other way around, but I did not mind.
I lived at this hostel for close to a year. I survived the entire time without a penny in my pocket.
As part of my gig, I had to cook pancakes on Tuesday morning, organize & cook the bbq on Wednesday night, run the trivia night on Thursday, 9-ball pool competition on Friday, and a movie/pizza night on Sunday.
I was assigned 2 hours for each of the tasks.
There was incredible growth for me in my time at this hostel.
When I had stayed at the hostel on the previous occasion, it was quite a confronting social experience. I just didn’t know how to get comfortable consistently around a large group of people.
But after a couple of weeks passed, I had an idea.
At the end of the work day at the bakery, they used to throw away a large amount of unsold bread and pastries. Seeing this kind of food wastage used to always break me up on the inside.
So I thought to myself: ‘Why not tackle two birds with one stone?’
I said to the bakery management that I would take the bread home, instead of it going into the bin.
I would hence, get back from work around 4pm to the hostel, with 3 bags full of food. I’d leave the bread and pastries on the kitchen table.
Then I would sit at a distance and watch people turn up, eat the wares, while wondering who this mysterious soul was that provided all this food.
But I couldn’t keep it on the low for long. In about a weeks time, the word got out, and I quickly became one the most important people on the hostel’s social ladder.
Its a strange thing, but I decoded something about social interaction.
I didn’t have the ability to go up to anybody and break the ice. But by giving them something they valued (food being the currency) I altered the social dynamics.
I was still playing within my comfort zone, but I made them come to me instead.
I was being introduced by others, to others, and I no longer had to go up to anyone to make contact.
I did sense, however, the overly alpha characters at the hostel were always a bit confused about me. But even they couldn’t bite the hand that was feeding them!
The most interesting thing was how people naturally assembled into groups — I could never do this. I would dip in and out different groups without ever being part of any of them.
Even to this day when I stand at train stations, I’m always the one person standing away from the group of strangers huddled together.
It’s just the way I’ve always been.
Now back to my 2nd stint at the hostel.
At my core, I was strongly introverted (still am to a degree). Having to engage people was extremely uncomfortable — especially large groups of 150 people or more.
The key as I found, was, if I got organized down to the important details, and I was on top of the tasks whilst running them, I’d feel more relaxed and spontaneous in my interactions with others.
Even here, I learnt an interesting lesson in social dynamics.
Although it wasn’t intentional, I would keep to myself when not running any activities.
I was of course going through the intensity of exploring my thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and I needed to be able to figure this internal battle out.
But the combination of being in charge of something at the hostel, and maintaining a less conspicuous presence, in contrast made people want to spend more time with me.
Now when they’d invite me to go out with them, I’d invariably decline the initial offer. I did this for two reasons:
- I did not have any money, but nobody knew this.
- I realized the value of ‘not’ going out with a group at the start of the night.
This way, when I’d drop by the venue later in the night, I’d always get a huge welcome by all the different groups I knew, and they’d insist on buying me drinks.
It was priceless social currency and it always got girls intrigued.
Food, was the other situation I had to figure out. Of course my options were very limited in terms of the ingredients, as I had to eat a lot of sausages for meals.
I used to get a fixed budget from the hostel for the bbq night. I had done a deal with the local butcher to give me 14 extra sausages per batch on top of the 150 sausages and 75 burgers for that price.
I also had my early experiences of delegating tasks to others. I figured that people would do anything for an extra sausage or burger.
So every now and again I’d offer someone extra food, if they took care of frying the meat on the bbq for me.
For my meals throughout the year, I would use left-over sauces people had not taken back with them and condiments from the free shelf, to make a week’s batch of sausages. I’d cook them in various types of pasta & curry-like sauces.
Even though the ingredients were basic, people would always pop into into the kitchen curiously, because of the interesting aromas from my cook up.
I’ve always been a really good cook — very creative. I have an innate sense of which different foods go with each other (sometimes even obscure ones).
[The sad part about this gift for cooking is that I’ve had very little access to do this freely in the last decade — most of which has been with restricted ingredients and cooking in parks]
To wash clothes I had to use another loop hole. This was via the 9-ball Pool competition. I used to get given a bag of marked tokens for the competition. These tokens were generally used by the hostel to track how much the Pool tables got used every week.
Now these tokens were also used for the washing/ drying machines. I would insert myself as a contender into the Pool competition, and just hold onto 4 tokens for every weeks wash.
The thing I couldn’t acquire without money was a deodorant. I would however get around this by returning abandoned shopping carts from car parks back to the supermarket for some gold coins.
There were times of course when I couldn’t find enough money to buy the deodorant. This is when I’d just weigh up the deodorant with a couple of potatoes in a bag, and pay a few cents via the self-check-out counter.
Living on the streets, I observed that a lot of morality lies within the domain of those who ‘have’ than those who don’t. Sometimes survival is the only thing that matters within the dark depths of life.
But life at the hostel wasn’t all about survival and resourcefulness.
There were a lot of realizations and insights gained…
And we will come back to it some other time.