We usually call it “staff dorm” because even if you’re just a volunteer, you will be placed in a fuzzy hole that rooms all the staff of the place you’re volunteering in.
It’s always a different experience, you know. In Colombia, I had the coziest bed like I was back home; in Ecuador, more or less good because there were only three of us in a room, and in Peru — filthy, shitty but the best people are in it.
When you’re traveling, you can’t always choose where to sleep. Sometimes, you arrive last and all the bottom bunks are occupied but after a while, when you’ve stayed long enough and someone leaves, you are not considered the newbie anymore and you can always say “I’m taking that bed.”
A year of volunteering (almost) will make you respect people’s differences and learn to live the life given to you without asking “Is this alright with you?”
Of course, they don’t ask that. They just say “this is your room. Welcome.” and you’ll just find your way how to fit in those beds that make your spinal column hurt for three days, learn to like the people you are going to volunteer with for a long time and just TRY TO FIT.
For starters, I didn’t have problems getting along with people. Growing up, my mother always told me to respect people’s differences, not identify humans with their skin color and if you don’t like someone, walk away and don’t pick a fight.
I’ve applied that here, really. My life in the Philippines was spent around people talking about other people’s lives and for a year now, not once did I do that here.
I mean, come on, “mind your own business” is really applicable. Stress-free, happy, who wouldn’t like that?
In this post, I will be talking about all the staff dorm secrets that I’ve experienced and learned by just being here. 100% good, little bad things along the way and some are really ugly.
Brace yourselves. You are about to enter the world of bunk beds.
The Good: people = Friends
I’ve met real people who are just comfortable with their skin and do not need to pretend who they are. “What you see is what you get.”
Staff Room Parties
… always the best. After a long night of working at the bar, we don’t even stay there. Everyone knows where to go when it’s “closing time”.
We all just come to a consensus of storming the doors of ‘our room’ with bottles on our hands, cigarette packs, and figuring out how to keep quiet because the boss’s room is just next to us.
Still, no matter how you want to keep quiet, I believe this is something that no one can control. Every hour, someone will try to knock on the door to say “guys, keep it down.”
Of course, we will for a minute or two until the one who always knocks eventually gives up. Win-win. He gets to sleep and we get to continue the party.
The Job is Always Fulfilling
Volunteering made me the person I am now — a person of culture, of diversity, a person who is hungry to learn more.
Never in my life have I felt so happy with bartending or cooking in the kitchen because back home, if you don’t have a high-end job, people will look at you differently.
But these jobs I had, they’re just amazing. I wouldn’t do it any other way because I learned how to speak fluent Spanish, made friends all over the world, knew how to eat (eating is an art, you know) just by volunteering.
The Bad: You’re Not Always On The Mood
From partying and drinking every night, there are just days that you want peace. I’ve had times when I just want to meditate thinking it’s possible but it’s not.
You’re in a small room with 12 beds and there’s not really much space for peace. Of course, you can always go out but what if you want to sleep and the others are just in a mood for partying?
Luckily, I am planning to write about “How To Live (aka Survive) in Staff Dorms” too so keep it here!
There will be one volunteer who’s never in the mood
More often than not, there will be an odd one out who will eventually complain if he’s had enough. The bad thing is that he wouldn’t even talk to you about it but will go straight to the manager.
Oopppsss, we’re in trouble. He would probably make things worst to force the management to have “staff dorm rules.”
“Oh, they’re taking drugs.”
“I can’t sleep because they’re smoking marijuana” and all those kinds of exaggerations.
There are some people who are not on the same wavelength as you are. I’ve had rough days too but as the saying goes, “majority wins.”
If it’s only me complaining and all the rest are enjoying it, I could definitely adjust. Before I came to Peru to volunteer at a bar, I remember a story of someone storming out and quitting her volunteer job because he couldn’t take the smoke and the noise inside the room.
She actually gave me that volunteering spot because if she didn’t leave, they wouldn’t accept me.
Hostel life: the ugly
Filthy Toilet, Dirty Floor, and Rotten Food
After the night of the party, no one remembers to clean. In the morning, everyone just walks around and takes a shower ignoring all the trash from last night.
As for me, I couldn’t stand it. I always clean. I mean come on! The staff room is the size of a child’s nursery and it’s not that hard to just pick up stuff, put the plates in the kitchen, broom, and wipe the floor.
I’m not being a doormat by cleaning. I just grew up with the fear of rats and I would never ever want a rat crawling my bed while I sleep.
No. Never. Please. No. Staff dorm parties won’t make me quit my volunteering job but the rats will.
Staff Room Sex
The ugliest but somehow, I learned to deal with. Let’s talk like adults here and you know I would always speak the truth. The party doesn’t stop with drinking.
There are 12 of you in the room and there will always be two people who will eventually end up having sex. Imagine being really drunk, all you want to do is fall asleep and get ready for your shift the next day but these two people JUST.CAN’T.HELP.IT.
If they’re not on your bunk, hallelujah! But if they are on top of you (or even at the bottom), prepare for a night of head-spinning, hearing them do it and a bumpy sleep like you are being pushed in a hammock.
Uglier than that, really. Either way, you’re in the same room so you’ll eventually hear something. Along with that, there will be other volunteers who are snoring. Double that pain.
Apart from that, there will always be that distinct smell that is parading around the room. It can be anything, really. Socks, food, people not showering, etc.
I do not regret anything though. Living in staff rooms has been the best ride of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She’d like to believe she’s not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.