“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
The hostel we worked at in Tblisi brought me back to my time backpacking through South America few years ago. Unlike the more elegant guest house we worked at when we first arrived in Georgia, this large and busy hostel was filled with the younger “backpacker” type rather than the 40+ year old two-week vacationers. Though Kevin immediately labeled the place as “too hippy” (possibly because we had to take off our shoes at the entrance or because the person working there had flaming red hair and liked to juggle) we both quickly found it to be a wonderful place to meet like-minded travelers (including a hitchhiking solo female and two other cycle tourists) and cook a whole lot of food in a kitchen.
For our free room we took one night shift and did some sporadic cleaning throughout our stay. We have really come to enjoy working for our room because (obviously) it gives us a free room (and shower and internet) but also because it gives us something to do. Something the other cyclist tourists brought up which Kevin and I have often talked about amongst ourselves is the fact that for us, tourist towns are simply rest places where we read, eat, and hang out, whereas for most tourists, these towns constitute their whole trip and therefore they spend most of the day out exploring the city. It was great to share a meal with them (yes, spaghetti liked every other night) and discuss the funny quirks about cycle touring that other travelers can’t really understand.
Another interesting traveler we met was an Australian/Asian girl who has been traveling for the past year on her own throughout Asia and the Middle East. Her absolute favorite country was Pakistan, though she enjoyed Afghanistan and Iran as well. For you Americans out there reading this in horror, if you haven’t actually visited the Middle East for yourself (and if you have, you already know everything I’m about to say), it’s high time you distinguish a county’s government from its people and see a place for what it truly is rather than just the horrific events the media tends to publish. Time and time again I have met travelers, even solo females such as this one, who depict the extremely hospitable countries of the Middle East as some of the finest places our earth has to offer. Omen and Yemen for instance come up for many world travelers as amazing, safe, and beautiful countries to travel through( and have recently worked their way up to number one of my bucket lists for after this trip), and I have yet to meet a single cyclist who didn’t declare that Iran was their favorite country (or at least in the top three). And yes, this includes Americans who have visited these areas and who have subsequently declared that there were absolutely no problems. Sure, the Iranian may not like the United State’s government, but unlike Americans who have this skewed view of every I single inhabitant in the Middle East, the kind, loving, and hospitable people who inhabit that part of the world are able to distinguish between hating Americans, and hating the American government. And thankfully they have chosen the latter. As you can see, I could go on and on about our skewed perceptions so many of us hold about places such as the Middle East, but instead of continuing this tangent here, I’ll leave this subject to its own separate post to be published in a few days.
Here is what the largest dormitory (which fit up to twenty five people) looked like. Though it seems sort of awful sleeping with that many people, I was only kept up by a large group who arrived late at night once.
And my personal favorite part about our stay were the three hilarious kitten who alternated between running around like crazy and sleeping and curled up together.
Thus, will you enter Iran or skip it ?
I would if I could get a visa! unfortunately I can’t, so it’s on to turkey next.
I agree with my whole heart with your comments about people from the Middle East. While I have only been in Egypt, technically Africa, and Israel, a whole different Middle East, I have met people from all over the Middle East in Russia and India. They were always excellent friends to make, and even as students, their hospitality is second to none. Dear America, while we have this idea that Government is by and for the people, (debatable when deep pocketed corporations have the ears and hearts of our representatives), most governments make no such claim, and their citizens would not believe them if they did. Don’t equate the people with the government in other countries, only in the West do we have the luxury of such a belief. In most of the world if you will meet people half way, they will forgive much to be your friend.
Yes yes and yes!!!!
Shirine, you have a great blog. Thanks for sharing!