Across Continents

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Homely affair

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Like others on the staff, John had original been a guest in the hostel. Returning to Alaska after a decent spell in the US Air Force. A retired Lieutenant Colonel. I don’t think he’d ever imagined he’d end up running two hostels, a few miles apart in Anchorage. But that didn’t seem to matter, for it was quickly evident he knew how to look after his people, both staff and guests. Actually, I thought it was more than that. He cared about them, as you would family.

It had started with a simple, unremarkable e-mail. To Anchorage’s Bent Prop Inn Hostel. I must have included a link to my website, for John replied, inviting me to stay as his guest. Could he help with some PR? I’d taken him up on this. Keen to show I always did what I promised, I’d got a press release off to him pretty promptly. Assured him plans were in place, flights booked, I’d soon be on my way. Wouldn’t let him down.

I’d tracked him down on my second day in Anchorage, eager to introduce myself. Until then not quite appreciating just how busy he was. Quickly apparent that, despite this, he always had time for others, be they staff or guests. Lunch together, joined by owner Ben, a former pilot who’s antics had inspired the Bent Prop Inn Hostel’s name. His passion was break dancing, something, I was to discover a bit later, he’d used to tremendous effect in the slums of New York, helping to steer young men away from crime.

Many of the hostel guests were student workers. Chinese, Moldovians, Russians, Polish, mostly young people far from their families for the very first time, in a society quite different from their own. Working in local fast food outlets or in the fish factories. Early starts and long hours. The hostel their home, John and his team de facto loco parentis. Like Dave, also a former guest, with years of experience running a homeless shelter. There were rules of course. Sensible ones. Strict no alcohol policy for example. The sort of things that make communal living work. A very homely affair.

[With especial thanks to John, Ben and the team – Cindy and Lisa at the midtown site, Dave, Adam and Reggie at downtown. If you’re in Anchorage, I’d heartily recommend a stay at the Bent Prop Inn Hostel – click here for further details]

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