Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Lost for words

September 17th, 2011

Lost for words, albeit briefly. Finding myself being presented, quite unexpectedly, with a large cheque. In more ways than one. A remarkably generous donation to The Outward Bound Trust from the Bent Prop Inn Hostel in Anchorage.

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Owner Ben and manager John had already been overwhelming generous with their hospitality. A charitable gift, especially one of such magnitude, something I simply couldn’t have foreseen. Regaining my composure, I thanked them profusely, admitting I’d been entirely taken aback, especially given everything they’d already done to help.

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Introducing Reggie

September 16th, 2011

Introducing Reggie from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Reggie, handyman at Anchorage’s Bent Prop Inn Hostel, shares some candid thoughts…

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Dave at Downtown

September 14th, 2011

Dave at Downtown from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Like John the manager, Dave had started out at the Bent Prop Inn Hostel as a guest. Thoughtful and unassuming, his was a calming presence. Years running a homeless shelter, he’d also had his own blues and jazz show on local radio, and spoke German fluently.

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Bent Prop Inn

September 13th, 2011

Bent Prop Inn from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

His first hostel stop in the US, Ken explores Anchorage’s Bent Prop Inn. Curiously drawn to the on-tap strong coffee…

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Homely affair

September 4th, 2011

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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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Around Anchorage

September 1st, 2011

Providence Hospital, Anchorage. Small coffee shop, caught just before it closed. In need of caffeine. I’d not slept for more than four or so hours in the last forty eight, the seemingly perpetual daylight thwarting efforts to rest.

Second day in Alaska. First mostly taken up with recovering my trusty steed. I’d ventured into the city, eager to introduce myself to John at the Bent Prop Inn Hostel. He’d offered to help with some PR. I’d inadvertently gone to the wrong site, for there were two hostels, Downtown and Midtown. I’d headed to the latter, but it didn’t matter as he happened to be there.

He recognised me before I he. Soon dropped off at a nearby outdoor equipment shop, then lunch at a downtown bar. Joined by hostel owner and former US Marine Corps helicopter pilot Ben. John had a few things to do, so I headed off with Ben. Driving around the city for a while on a few errands. Hazy memories but quite sure I’d been introduced to a woman who’d survived a machete attack. Finally parting company at the US Geological Survey offices so I might find a decent map of Alaska.

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