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By Rebecca McCourtie
EXCITEMENT, that’s what I felt when I got in a taxi at the train station and told the driver to take me to my next volunteer gig at a hostel in central Tel Aviv.
So far I had been a chef at a chateau, a goat milker, a cheese maker, a gardener, a beekeeper, a honey extractor and an English teacher. After leaving Sweden I had been making my way around Europe volunteering. Essentially the deal was, I worked five hours a day, five days a week and got free board in return. It had worked an absolute treat to date! Well… mostly a treat, except for the goat farm stint when I had to leave early because I had a severe allergic reaction to the goat hair. Aside from my sinuses almost exploding out of my nostrils, I had had nothing but positive experiences and it was a no-brainer for me to T-something up in Israel doing the same sort of thing. Thinking hostel work might be fun and something different, I organised a three-week stint at a hostel in central Tel Aviv.
Like I was saying, excitement filled my body as I hung my head out the window of the taxi and allowed my lungs to breathe in the warm muggy air and my eyes to absorb the bright lights that illuminated the skyscrapers in the dark of the night. When the driver pulled up outside the hostel, I paid, got out and made my way up the four flights of stairs with my heavy bags. My excitement disappeared when I walked into a room full of eighteen year olds. ‘SH*T!’ Eighteen year olds who were all drinking, smoking, running around and generally acting like eighteen year olds.
I was greeted by the VERY young manager on the night shift. ‘Hey, who are you?… Rebecca who?’ This wasn’t a good start! I had organised with the boss to volunteer, but the manager hadn’t been filled-in and wasn’t expecting me. After a few brief introductions, explanations and pleasantries, I was taken to ‘the bag rack’ outside. ‘Just leave your bags here.’ I reluctantly put my downs in the open area, cautiously aware of the fact that anyone of the heavily intoxicated, financially questionable teenagers could steal from me.
‘So if my bags go here, where will I sleep? My bags won’t stay out here the entire time will they?’
The young man looked at me perplexed, as though he couldn’t understand why I was nervous about my personal belongings being stored on an oversized shoe rack out on a terrace with zero security. He may not have had anything of great value in his luggage, but I had my laptop, jewelry and basically my entire life in those two bags. The last thing I wanted was to leave everything unattended in amongst barely legal drunkards.
‘Yeah, your bags will stay here the whole time because the room is small. It’s OK, I think they will be OK.’
The child-manager’s tepid reassurance towards the safety of my belongings was not satisfactory, nor was the tiny room with ONE double bed that I was expected to share with all the other volunteers.
‘I am not sleeping here and sharing a bed with strangers.’
Again, he looked at me perplexed as to why I would have a problem with one bed and four people!
‘I’m almost thirty, I’m too old for this sh*t. I need my OWN bed!’
Evidently my message wasn’t getting through.
‘That’s not an excuse, thirty is NOT old’ said the 19-year-old child running the shop. I tried to accept the words of the barely-legal baby telling me I wasn’t old. I knew I wasn’t old, but I also knew I wasn’t young enough to be playing ‘stacks’ in a bed with three male strangers a decade younger than myself.
I exhaled: ‘OK fine. Not only am I not young enough for this sh*t, I DON’T want to share a bed with three strangers.’
He looked back at me, not willing to lose the battle: ‘you can sleep outside on the terrace if you want. There are chairs out there. People sleep on them all the time. You’ll be next to your luggage that way.’ The more the young man tried to convince me to stay, the more horrified I was becoming with the arrangements.
‘Sorry mate, call me a cab. I’m going to another hotel. This isn’t going to work!’Reluctantly, the young man called me a cab and asked me one more time why I was leaving.
‘Well, outside of the fact that I am not comfortable top’n’tailng with three to four strangers, I am also not OK leaving my bags unattended and out in the open. Before you say ANYTHING else, even if I WAS comfortable being in close proximity to you under a bed-sheet, its too freaking hot this country to snuggle! See you later!’
With that I grabbed my bags and fanged it down the stairs and out onto the street. What a disaster that had been! It wasn’t a good start, but like everything in life you just have to deal with it! When life knocks you down, you gotta get back-up.
I managed to book myself another hotel using the wifi on my phone during my brief ‘tour’ of the hostel from adolescent-hell. It wasn’t glamorous, but it would do for three nights while I sorted out what the hell I was going to do with myself! I was definitely not young enough to handle that situation, but old enough to know that I didn’t have to do anything that I didn’t want to do!
Indicators that you’re probably too old to be backpacking (but screw it, you should do it anyway!)
When you took your first trip overseas:
- Technology wasn’t ‘Apple’, it was the apple shaped pocket at the front of your backpack that could store your portable CD player and allow your headphones to feed through to the outside.
- Mobile phones weren’t smart, but looking under the payphone and getting the box’s number, emailing that number to your Mum, T-ing up a time and getting her to use a phone-card to call you on said payphone WAS!
- MacDonald’s was a place to buy food and use the toilet, not tap into free wifi.
- A couple of steps before phone cameras, your camera took film… digital what now?
On this trip:
- Shared dorms with bunk beds are a NO, given that the likelihood of you bouncing instead of breaking is slim to none.
- The room isn’t the cheapest room unless it has wifi, in fact it isn’t even a room without wifi, it’s a shanty!
- Breakfast inclusive rooms are a MUST! Your body can’t function without breakfast… including coffee… did I say coffee already?
- The single most horrifying accommodation option is SHARED BATHROOM!
NEW DELHI - India Navy sending four ships for exercises and port visits with the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, its navy said Wednesday, as China's maritime power grows in the area.
The Indian ships will spend more than two months in the region, the navy said in a statement.
Commander Vivek Madhwal, the Indian navy spokesman, said four ships will take part.
The ships will also participate in a multilateral exercise, MALABAR-21, along with the Japanese, Australian and U.S. navies, the statement said.
It said the exercises will enhance coordination with friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and a commitment to freedom of navigation.
"Besides regular port calls, the task group will operate in conjunction with friendly navies to build military relations and develop interoperability in the conduct of maritime operations," the statement said.
The U.S., India, Japan and Australia are part of the Quad regional alliance created in response to China's growing economic and military strength. Washington has long viewed New Delhi as a key partner in efforts to blunt increasing Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
India is also in a continuing standoff with China over their disputed border in the eastern Ladakh region. The countries have stationed tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along their de facto border, called the Line of Actual Control.
Last year, 20 Indian troops died in a clash with Chinese soldiers involving clubs, stones and fists in a portion of the disputed border. China said it lost four soldiers.(VOA/HP)
The UK government on Thursday announced that it will move India from the red to the amber list on Sunday, in the country's latest update to the 'Red-Amber-Green' traffic light ratings for arrivals into England amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means the visit visas for the UK from India are open, in addition to other long-term visas that have remained open. But travellers from India arriving in England can complete a 10-day quarantine at home or in the place they are staying (not mandatorily quarantine in a managed hotel).
The UK government also announced that arrivals from France to England will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. The step aligns France with the rest of the amber list now that the proportion of beta variant cases has fallen, where those who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorised and administered in the UK, the US or Europe do not need to quarantine when arriving in England.
This move also simplifies the system to three categories, as well as the green watch list to give travellers notice where green status is at risk.
To continue cautiously reopening international travel, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the government's green list, having demonstrated they posed a low risk to UK public health.
Besides India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will also be moved from the red to the amber list, as the situation in these countries has improved.
The data for all countries will be kept under review and the government will not hesitate to take action where a country's epidemiological picture changes, a statement by the UK government said.
Following an assessment of the latest data, Georgia, La Reunion, Mayotte and Mexico will be added to the red list as they present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of Covid-19.
Arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible, as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we've made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.
"While we must continue to be cautious, today's changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public."
Since February, anyone who arrives in the UK from a red list country has been required by law to book a stay in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days.
In order to ensure taxpayers are not subsidising the costs of staying in these facilities, which have gone up, the cost will increase from August 12. Alternative payment arrangements remain available to those who genuinely cannot afford to pay and rates remain the same for children up to 12.(IANS/HP)
A Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly vandalized by hundreds of people after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated at a local seminary, received bail, a media report said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn news report, the incident took place on Wednesday in Bhong town, about 60 km from Rahim Yar Khan city.
Besides the vandalization, the mob also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5), the report added.
Citing sources, Dawn news said that a case was registered against the minor on July 24 based on a complaint filed by a cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, of the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran.
The sources said that "some Hindu elders did tender an apology to the seminary administration saying the accused was a minor and mentally challenged".
But, when a lower court granted him bail a few days ago, some people incited the public in the town on Wednesday and got all shops there closed in protest, the report quoted the sources as further saying.
A video clip showing people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights, and damaging the ceiling fans went viral on social media.
In response, one Twitter user said: "Ganesh Temple, village Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab has been ravaged. Another day, another attack on Hindus in Pakistan."
Another said: "Yesterday, the mob ran amok at Temple over minor boy issue who allegedly urinated, the boy said to be mentally handicapped. Hindu community made an apology for the boy — a case registered against the nine-year-old boy. Those vandalized temples, no FIR registered against them."
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said Rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh), according to the Dawn news report.
A ruling PTI member representing the minority said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.