Like actually. I have tried to hang out with fellow hostel people twice. The first time I was staying at the “party hostel” and was down at the bar, some fruity drink in hand, looking for a small group I could easily mesh in to. I found one with two Swedes, two Aussies, and the token Kiwi (I realize how strange that sounds but actually there are Kiwis everywhere and yet there is only ever one per group/hostel – I don’t know why, but this has been scientifically proven in my small scale studies). When the conversation switched from one dull topic to another until it finally reached an entire discussion on Nachos, I had to leave. The second time I was at my new, “quiet” hostel, hanging out in the lounge on my laptop and at first just talking with two Canadian nursing students. Then four guys came in (a German, two Aussies, and the token Kiwi) and shifted the conversation. Though the nursing students were pleasant enough, it was impossible for me to keep interest in a conversation discussing how one of the Aussies was able to get a Visa despite two DUIs or the hostel staff’s reaction to feet dangling out of windows. I have mastered the quick introductory statements of hi, where are you from, how long are you staying, do you want me to take that picture for you? Easy, simple, almost memorized statements – not in a robotic manner or something like I have no social skills, but in a I’ve-repeated-this-story-twelve-and-a-half-times-already sort of way. But actual, interesting conversation seems to be lacking from my peers in Canada thus far.
Except for old people. I went to the most amazing museum of Anthropology at UBC today and was fortunate enough to be just in time for a guided tour. I have been through enough of these things to recognize a carefully laid out exhibit and to appreciate the artistry of a good guide – and this guy was a fantastic storyteller. After the tour though, he kind of sauntered away from the crowd and sat in a chair in a lonely section of the museum. No one thanked him at all or even approached him except to ask where the bathroom was. So I walked over and immediately struck up a conversation. I asked if he was a professor and glowing with pride he responded that he was just an enthusiastic volunteer. Before long he was looking up museums for me to look into in Washington, giving me another mini-tour of the museum, and exclaiming that I should visit a set of islands off the coast that not only still housed many of these totems but also was brimming with a biodiversity rivaling the Galapagos (like I said, he was a pretty good orator). I had told him I was shocked at how late some of the Indian disease outbreaks had occurred (1750s) and he responded that the area had only been “discovered” by Europeans a couple decades beforehand. My college (W&M) had graduates before anyone even knew this area existed. So cool. I begrudgingly left his side to tour the rest of the museum on my own. In the gift shop a man approached me asking if I knew anything about the bus system. I replied that I was clueless and about to ask the front desk about it myself. I bought a postcard and pretty soon he and his friend came back to me with new found information on where to go. These two guys were about thirty, maybe a little older, and English teachers from Sweden on summer vacation (I sang the song Gay or European from the Legally Blonde musical several times in my head, but ended with no conclusion). They gave me one of their bus passes and we struck up pretty interesting conversations on the way schools work, the sights of Vancouver and Seattle, and various other things. When we got off the bus, we weren’t done talking, so we grabbed some nearby pizza and had dinner together. When I left for my hostel, yet again this felt like a legitimate goodbye instead of a ‘thank-god-im-done-talking-to-you-cause-I-was-out-of-meaningless-conversation’ sort of goodbye.
I suppose its high hopes to think that every stranger you run into will immediately have vibrant William and Mary-like exchanges, but I would like to leave one of these hostels having had an intelligent conversation with my peers. It’s not like I’m that mature, in fact I feel like I’m usually known for being immature, so I just don’t understand. Wish me luck.