Archive for the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

Infinite ‘Why Loop’

Posted: September 20, 2012 in Food for Thought
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I spoke with my director at work recently and realized that my favorite question, my claim to fame, my entire essence of being is setting me up for disaster. 

My favorite question:

Why?

It has made my teachers salivate because I seem engaged, it has established a niche for me within my friend circle and has been met with mixed reviews in my work place.

He major knowledge that was dropped is that when one asks ‘why’ it is great, but you can get trapped in a ‘why loop’ if you don’t focus enough on the ‘what.’ 

Think about it this way, once you start asking why you can never stop asking why. It is the intellectual’s dilemma. I am too much of an intellectual, and am trying to reframe my happiness so that I can find value (in things other than the quest for ‘why?’). 

When he said this to me, I was just like

Wow, that is heavy. It’s so deep, yet so real. Wow, that’s heavy. 

As I’ve been traveling and working abroad, I have realized that my cultural ties to America are rooted in a way that most cannot understand.

Most racial, ethnic and cultural groups have a distinct homeland, language and some aspect of a diaspora. Italians can find Italians in many cities, French can speak French in many lands and the Irish can go to Ireland and trace their roots. As an African-American descent of slaves I do not have this luxury.

I cannot go to a pilgrimage to my homeland, there is no non-English language with which I can communicate and there is no diaspora. The first two are things that I cannot change and can be in some degree assuaged by being American and finding other Americans.

However, my African-Americaness which is rooted in slavery and being an admixture with a distinctive culture which is replicated differently outside of the US creates some problems. Most other blacks outside of the US have a more rooted and direct link to their ancestors. And given such close ties do no share my black American experience. Southern hip-hop, black clubs and the fascination with “donkeys” is very much something that I haven’t found outside of the US.

The conflict I have is that everyone thinks Americans love America because we are too ignorant to appreciate other cultures. This may be true, but the reason I love America and complain about how I miss it because this is where my culture was born and only lives. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be black in America and feel comfortable. Yet, I fully do in a way that most other groups cannot understand.

Being based in London these past few weeks had made me realize just how American I am. Being well educated and believing myself to be open-minded, I assumed I would love new cultures. I guess I overlooked my distain for “newness” and change.

I love America, I specifically love NYC. I would say that London is still better than Boston…but my patriotism is all the way on high.

Marrakech is a whole other level of struggle. I used to think I wasn’t always in need of 3/4 star living, but the fact that I just want to fly home or to London after being here for less than 12 hrs is too telling.

I’m very excited to return back home to the comfort and familiarity of my former life.

On this Valentine’s Day, I think it’s interesting that mental place that I am in right now. I am single, completely single. Yet, last year I was not, and thought about these extravagant plans that I would have. In light of recent events, I have some “only in my life” news to share.

Two weeks ago, I saw the Ex, and we went out to a club together (our second planned club encounter, but third overall). It was an awkward experience. Yes, we are broken up, but we’re “friends” now right? Eh, it’s a bit fuzzy actually. Over the course of the night, I was asked questions about the Ex, like “Oh, who is that?” and upon explanation being told “Oh, you have good taste.” Duh.

Kidding, I was actually repulsed by the level of thirst that was present, especially from someone currently in a relationship. And then I got jealous because I thought:

Why are you interested in my Ex, when you’re in a relationship and you and your friend are fighting over who ‘can look, but not touch’?

Where do they do that at, especially when we haven’t left each other’s side for the entirety of the night. And then I remembered that I needed to fall back. I guess you can’t expect that people who all swap lovers within a consistent group of “friends” would think to have a set of standards. After that annoyance had passed, the Ex and I walked by to my apartment at 3:30am.

Can I take a nap at your place?
I mean, you should just stay, there’s no way you’re going to actually just nap

I disregard that thought and just figure “whatever,” I’ll be right in the end.

We go up to my apt and then something strange happens.
Where’s the blue teddy bear?
What?
The blue teddy bear. You didn’t keep it?
It’s at my house…where my parents live
Oh…
I mean, why would I keep that, it’s the same reason that I have you hidden from my Facebook newsfeed

And then we delved into a discussion of why we broke up…as we made our way to my bed. It was surreal. It was actually a very productive discussion, and one that we should have had about a year ago (that’s my fault, really).

Yet, a few days later I felt really confused: What were we? Are we getting back together, or we completely over each other? Do you know that I didn’t want to break up? Do you know that my feelings for the past 10 months or so have been still affected and that I’m not completely over it?

At that moment, I had to talk to the most rational (and compassionate) person I know. She gave the best advice, and then I finally got why she and her Ex had a seemingly unhealthy affinity for each other. Some things just cannot be explained. I get it now. I hated her Ex, and never really understood it. But now I get it, now I am someone that I had not fully understood for a long period of time. With that knowledge burned into my thought, I decided that I needed closure. I had to have a conversation about what we were/are.

Do you remember what you said on Friday?
Yes…did I say something that I shouldn’t have?
I’m just checking. From what you said, it’s unclear what you want. What are we?
We are *friends*
Ok, well *friends* don’t behave like this…so for the future, I think we need to have some boundaries.
I can’t account for what I do or say when I’m drunk
Ok, that’s fine. But, you might not know that I’m not really over it so you might want to be mindful of what you say

And at that point, I was somewhat OK with this. I had the closure that I was looking for, yet I had some control because now we would have boundaries…and I wouldn’t be as subject to nostalgic feelings. We decided we can hang out, etc.

Although there was one thing that still confused the black-and-white mind that I have: friends don’t cuddle. Yet, it was this past Friday that we went to a party together, and were going to go out after…but you know the need for a nap came about again, and then we obviously didn’t go out after. So we slept, and we cuddled. And then we had breakfast the next morning, and talked some more. And I think I finally get it now, I understand the perspective that I couldn’t see when we were dating.

But now what? Are we just cuddle friends? Will be anything more? Should we be, can we be?

I just disregard those questions above as things I should not think about, because it’s not healthy to think about. I do however, think that we can become good friends (worse/best case); although this cuddling thing does throw me off. I don’t cuddle with people, not readily. It’s really a relationship exclusive perk (slash one given to my best FWBs).

Is this even emotionally healthy to maintain? Perhaps not, but I guess we’ll just be “fuzzy” friends, as the delineation between *friends* and *not friends* is not clear in my very binary and compartmentalized definition of friendship. I will at some point have to decide if this is good or bad for me overall, but I can’t help but feel comfortable around someone with so many similar interests and tastes when I consider myself to be idiosyncratic. And at the same time challenged enough that I don’t get bored, because you might not know that I am easily distracted.

So as I reflect on this Valentine’s Day, I am thinking about these past two weeks and the emotions that have swirled, swooped and peaked. I am very content being single right now, and I don’t feel lonely or otherwise slighted. I am in a much better place than I have been in previous years. I feel good about this, and it’s kinda weird how OK I feel. I guess this means that I have matured a bit? Whatever it is, I like it.

Pet Peeve: The word ‘ghetto’

Posted: December 28, 2011 in Food for Thought
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via bluetealeaves

Vagina Pagina: Next time someone (white) calls something ghetto, I’m going to ask them, “Do you mean resourceful? Clever? Creative?”…

darkjez

neverwillstop

If you answer, “No, I meant ghetto as in shitty,” then don’t be surprised if a fist comes flying.

_________

Loïc Wacquant, From Slavery to Mass Incarceration— [The ghetto] is a relation of ethnoracial control and closure built out of four elements: (i)…

I legitimately get bothered when people say ‘ghetto’ as if it’s acceptable from a socio-cultural or socio-economic perspective. I actually live in what many would describe as a ghetto, and find such ignorant parallels frustrating. Like ‘who the fuck is you!’ However, I don’t resort to violence, just an immense loss of respect and endless side eyes.

Pizzas & Calzones

Posted: December 11, 2011 in Food for Thought
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“It’s complicated, it’s a much longer story to tell” is how I have to preface any conversation about my current job. It’s become so frustrating for me to explain to people how and why I am having such a hard time with what seems like an awesome job and why their knowledge of me is not always accurate. I’ve decided to use this posting as a perfect example from a recent work event.

Sell Event
Two weeks ago, we had a ‘sell event,’ which is when you invite candidates you’ve offered a job to with your group out for a social event. We had pizza making and karaoke.

The pizza making involved us making pizzas, and in a great surprise of events we would be making personal pan pizzas. Yes! As we started to be given instructions and a demo of the pizza making, my mind was already in over drive. Being ‘that person’ I decided to ask the big Naples woman if she would be adding a ‘lip’ to the pizza to make the crust. And question that got many stares from my colleagues. I mean, what type of pizza doesn’t have a pronounced crust? Fine, then at least address the crust issue for some of us that like traditional, crust-laden pizza.

Now that the demo had been completed, we went back to our individual stations and I got to work. I found a big heap of dough and immediately knew that I wanted to make deep dish pizza. As I started rolling out the dough, I decided ‘I have to make this a cheese-crust pizza.’ At that point I got on line to add toppings to my dough and I got many stares and comments about how thick my pizza was, while the rest of the people had roll out their dough to be very thin like the woman who had given us the demonstration.

As I start to roll the mozzarella cheese into the crust, I decide that it would be really interesting to make a calzone. I make my pie and ask the Naples woman if there are other toppings and she replies that they don’t have meat balls. And I said ‘I meant like chicken, or sausage or…’ Realizing that I now sound ungrateful, I decide to ask ‘If I wanted to make this into a calzone, I would just need to flip this over right?’ in order to save my gaffe. This made her smile and say:

You make me happy…come with me

She starts to unfold the lip of the pizza, and I tell her that I have plans for cheese filled crust. She gives a knowing glance and dismisses the other chef who has echoed my sentiments. She only unfolds half of the lip in order to tuck the other side of the pizza in, making a perfectly closed ‘pizza purse’ aka calzone.

Me: How do we take this to the next level?
Chef: Let’s add cheese on top

Nom!

Colleagues: What’s that?
Me: It’s a calzone!
Colleague: you would have to be differentMe: What, it’s food, you should enjoy what you’re eating…they’re personal pizzas!

On a side note, the seating at a sell event can often be critical. I learned the hard way last year that being stuck around some people ensures that you can easily get stuck sitting somewhere for longer than you’d rather be. I had made an effort to orchestrate where I sat and with whom I sat. I had managed to round up the people most similar to me, aka the fun bunch. My table (one of three) decided to clap every time someone at our table got their pizzas, commencing with a loud cheer when all of our table had their pizzas. Did I mention we were the only table that did this? It wasn’t awkward, but it was very telling of the kinds of people in our group. Two women made explicit points about the hole in their pizzas and the innuendos around that, and one guy put his pizza on his head while another guy took a bite (all for the camera of course).

Analysis
You can see from this event where we are given the freedom to make our pizzas that I like to be creative and do what makes me happiest — I also like to engage people in a way that no one else had bothered to do by talking to the chef. I had been given stares and derision for asking about pizza crust while others were content to not ask any questions, and I decided that thin crust didn’t work for me even though that’s what the recipe showcased but didn’t explicitly call for. I also asked about other toppings while no one else bothered to see if they could maximize what was supposed to be their personal pizza. If it’s my dinner, I really want to make it my way and with all of the things I require.

I can admit that I do try to be different sometimes, and that that is my natural inclination but under no circumstance should everything that I do be perceived as an intention to subvert authority. I do subvert, but in this instance and most at in this group people’s perception that I am intentionally going out of my way to be myself is foolhardy. Technically, I did more work to get what I wanted in a calzone, but often I can do a process differently to achieve the same result yet be perceived as an intentional outlier.

In a nut shell, being different or trying a different approach is not always appreciated. Innocent actions can often be perceived as intentional subversion, and what is a matter of personal choice (what type of pizza, if pizza at all) can often be subject to unnecessary public scrutiny even if it shouldn’t be a matter debated by the public.

Enjoy Europe…in America

Posted: November 26, 2011 in Food for Thought
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Excuse my frankness, and hear me out. I want to encourage you to have sex with Europeans that are living in America.

I won’t romanticize Europeans as good lovers because they have accents, have a different sense of self than Americans and are naturally more sexually liberated. Those are all nice to haves, and things that you can find when you visit Europe.

Europeans who have left for America are better than regular Europeans because they often have much less attitudw about being European and have been numbed by American-ness that they won’t find you annoying, loud or stupid (relatively, of course).

Why am I saying to have sex with them? That’s mostly how I’ve meet cool new people, which sounds strange. But sexual chemistry for me is really an extension of deeper personal chemistry. If we can have good sex, we can likely have great conversation. Or maybe I have just been lucky to have had great conversations with people I also have great sex with. The post-coital conversations are even better, and you’ll likely find out some cool things about regions/countries you may not have been to. And that’s why I say enjoy a European, not just for the sex, but the great conversation and hospitality offered.

Why do I mean by hospitality? Don’t be suprised if your Euro lover invites you to dinner (home made or after ‘the fun’), because they’re just really hospitable. And it really doesn’t mean they’re in love with you. That’s the caveat where most Americans get hung up and hurt. Just learn to go with the flow, and detach lover from a good vibe.

I think you’ve now realized these are the ultimate friend with benefits lovers. We all need that, right? Or at least any young 20something, I’d say. Except the benefit here isnt just sex but also a new perspective. I want to caveat this by saying you likely won’t find love in the sitch and that ‘European’ can be replaced by ‘European-minded Americans’ (but that’s very rare).

Experiments with Alcohol

Posted: November 20, 2011 in Food for Thought
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I woke up after a 10ish hour slumber after an ‘epic’ Harvard-Yale with a sense of shame that I really am not comfortable with, and that has lead me to a few conclusions. The only way that I could help process my thoughts was to use a scientific approach.

I’d say that my experience with alcohol has been interesting and that what I will take from it are to be analyzed critically here. I didn’t start drinking until I was 21, because I thought that I didn’t ‘need’ alcohol to have fun and that I was content with who I was – no need for alcohol when you’re already brutally honest. And the trigger for when I started was that very memorable trip to the Bahamas, and alcohol was part of the ‘all inclusive’. I had actually decided not to drink for that trip, but since my birthday had just passed I figured it could happen. Senior Frog’s is where it all started, upon ‘winning’ free shots and that’s when my experiment began.

Now that I’ve started drinking, I would say that I’ve been more than making up for time abstaining. The past 3 years have been like a reality show of what happens when you consume too much, most of which I have already blogged. Over that course of time, I have tried to find the reasons why things go wrong, rarely but publicly enough to warrant a need to want to modify behavior. I now realize that you can’t rationalize and explain causality for what leads to a behavior, you actually just have to change the behavior. It doesn’t matter if you hate work, it doesn’t matter if there’s peer pressure, it doesn’t matter that it only happens when you mix different types of alcohol and it doesn’t matter if it’s an ‘occasion’ to drink. It all starts and ends with me.

Due to some health issues around allergies, skin sensitivities and being told to hold off on working out too strenuously,  I decided to not drink for a short period. The timing of this brief control phase of 3 weeks (in contrast to the 3 years of experimenting phase) was to coincide with Harvard-Yale weekend. In those 3 weeks, I was doing pretty well and enjoyed activities that I normally would sober. I of course, had to answer so many questions as to why I wasn’t drinking and I really found myself rationalizing it to everyone – part of what I annoyed me before I ever started drinking.

Upon the eve of HY, I remembered that my body was going to rebel against me if I didn’t ‘warm it up’ and just assaulted it with champagne showers. I had ordered a Sprite, but then saw that a colleague had Jack & Coke and thought, “I should have some of that too”. I alternated alcohol and water because I was trying to remember how to be a responsible drinker. All was well, I stopped after 3 drinks. All of that caution, I intended to exercise the following day. I brought Gatorade to hydrate and coffee cake to eat in case my stomach was in need. And then the big day came, and got caught up in the moment and caution went with the wind. I woke up feeling a sense of anxiety and wondering:

Did I do anything regrettable, did I offend anyone, how much did I embarrass myself?

I hate that feeling, and am now ready to put that uncertainty to an end. I think I’m done with my young 20s defining fun= alcohol. The 3 weeks I spent consistently turning down alcohol in all of the situations I would normally indulge has been great.

So what am I planning to do going forward?
In thinking about why I drink and what it does for me, I’ve applied some thought to how I can be responsible. I find that alcohol allows me to be me in a way that I don’t either get a chance to do enough, or helps me be more comfortable in certain situations. It mostly includes social situations like dates or when I’m uncomfortable around people.

  • I have realized is that drinking to avoid an awkward social situation is a terrible coping mechanism; instead, I will just leave the awkward milieu. That means if it’s a party that I don’t like, I’m around people that make me uncomfortable or what have you, I will let my guests/host know, and then make a timely exit.
  • Drinking around friends is no longer on the table, if I am comfortable enough in our friendship, I don’t need alcohol to have fun or a pleasant time.
  • Drinking to ‘celebrate’ an occasion or event (including Harvard-Yale weekend, big parties, birthdays, etc) is now off the table.

The reality of things are that I cannot stop drinking all together for some of the rationalization (especially a red flag in a work situation) or social ease issues. So my new rule is to never drink when the conditions above exist and to moderate in other instances. Given how delayed the onset of alcohol’s impact to my body is and how easily it is for me lose track of the number of drinks, I have come up with a simple solution – way simpler than my # of drinks x type of situation matrix I had initially thought of. I will have a one drink limit in the following situations:

  • First (and sometimes second) dates
  • Work events/functions

I’m really serious about this, and I hope that my friends will understand where I am coming from. I am not asking my friends to moderate for me in any way nor am I relying on them to help me modify my own behavior – it’s all on me. The only thing that I am asking is that you don’t judge, don’t bombard me with questions when I elect not to drink and be an otherwise supportive friend.

I highly recommend this article for a similar discussion.

Argh, I am mad

Posted: November 17, 2011 in Food for Thought
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Lately, I have been getting pissed off at work. I like my project and my director, but everything else is what is killing me. We get all of these talks about transparency or ‘the rules’ yet all we see is secrecy and ‘exceptions.’ My question is why would you hire ‘smart’ people and try to pull the wool over their eyes or assume that they can’t think strategically and see around your corners?

Anyway, to get to why I am most recently peeved. Today, I had a conversation where every single thing that I said was criticized or torn apart.

How are you liking your project?
Oh, I really like it a lot, I feel like this one is going to go somewhere
All, of our projects go somewhere, [insert examples here]
Well, what I meant was that this one is different from the other ones because [insert valid reasons]
But we do these types of projects [insert more talking points]
Ok, what I meant was that this one feels more immediate
But, the one you just did is being actioned
Yes, but only in Phase III

And then I gave up, and we moved on to actual feedback for someone else that was completely dissected as well. So when I said I’m happy or I like something I probably should hedge some more, but I don’t understand why every little thing has to be contested. Did I mention that this was with a Vice President in the group? #howmatureofyou

Afro-Latinos

Posted: September 18, 2011 in Food for Thought
Tags: ,

When we were children, we were told that we have a motherland, and that motherland was Spain. However, we have discovered later, in our lives, that as a matter of fact, we have several motherlands. And one of the greatest motherlands of all is no doubt, Africa. We love Africa. And every day we are much more aware of the roots we have in Africa… Racism is very characteristic of imperialism. Racism is very characteristic of capitalism. Katrina is—indeed, has a lot to do with racism–no doubt about it. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth, because of my curly hair. And I’m so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it’s African.

I ran across this quote after some random wikipedia’ing, and decided that my next visit should be to South America to see just how true this sentiment is.

via Goodbye forever fatty

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So as you may know we had an earthquake here in the Northeast earlier in the week, so that means I felt all of the shaking on the 48th floor of my building…which is also in the vicinity of Ground Zero.

As we received no direction of what to do people decided to take the long trek down the stairs – all 48 flights. It sucked, but not because of the distance but because the amount of people on their smartphones significantly slowed down the process. If it were a real emergency lives would have been lost because people did not think of safety first, but information first. And outside, the scene was the same: every single person on their smartphone.

Life Explained

Posted: August 17, 2011 in Food for Thought
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source

via Tumblr

The 7 Layers of Division in Black America:

ancestryinprogress:

borednschooled:

There’s a great wish in the African American community for a wonderful utopia known as UNITY. The word brings about images of 70′s era movies where everyone picks their blow-out Afros, slaps high-fives and echoes “Right on!” in unison.

This reality was lived out by our parents but now the word has become pure fantasy. A fellow AA writer and myself discussed this unity thing and came up with 7 layers of division that keeps black unity a myth. This list may not be exclusive to blacks but it plagues us and keeps us separated in a major way.

The 7 Layers of Division in Black America:

Layer 1 – Bourgie vs. Ghetto
Middle/upper class vs. lower class for those confused by the derogatory terms. These two classes of people don’t necessarily hate one another but cannot coexist due to different outlooks and prejudice towards one another. So how would you go about unifying them?

Layer 2 – American vs. Immigrant
African Americans’ “us versus them” mentality, the effort to stay “the most screwed over minority” and the immigrants who segregate themselves so as not to be confused with native-born blacks is an old and hard issue that will not go away easily.

Layer 3 – Church vs. Cynics
Many of us grew up in the black church only to leave and become cynical. I won’t get into the reasoning for this (there’s a full article on it for those who need clarification). The cynics will never agree with those who quote scripture because they do not respect their stance on anything.

Layer 4 – Racially Scarred vs. Racially Ambiguous
When you grew up being called a nigger and being denied based on your color it is a different world than growing up where everyone is cordial and the “n-word” is something you hear about versus actually hearing it. One says “Don’t trust them” and the other says “Get over it!” Each thinks the other is hopeless.

Layer 5 – Light vs. Dark
Every culture of color has had this issue it seems. The light is right attitude of our ancestors has left a nasty and bitter taste in some of our mouths but sadly many black people still follow it.

Layer 6 – Huey vs. Uncle Ruckus
Uncle Ruckus hates his blackness and hates everything to do with it. Huey loves the skin he’s in and cannot fathom how a black man could hate himself. Like their namesakes from Aaron McGruder’s “Boondocks” there are many who cannot see eye to eye when it comes to blackness.

Layer 7 – Men vs. Women
Many of us are in great relationships with black men/women but sadly enough, we don’t talk about that them as much as we talk about the jerks (guilty) from our past. Men are stereotyped as uneducated jailbirds and women as bitchy co-eds, the Cosby dynamic being laughably inaccurate.

So will black people ever “unify” and appear as together as our fellow minorities? I don’t think so and after seeing the 7 layers that we would have to overcome, you can understand why.

Now this right here is deeeep.

via blue tea leaves

A three-day-old human embryo is a collection of 150 cells called a blastocyst. There are, for the sake of comparison, more than 100,000 cells in the brain of a fly. If our concern is about suffering in this universe, it is rather obvious that we should be more concerned about killing flies than about killing three-day-old human embryos… Many people will argue that the difference between a fly and a three-day-old human embryo is that a three-day-old human embryo is a potential human being. Every cell in your body, given the right manipulations, every cell with a nucleus is now a potential human being. Every time you scratch your nose, you’ve committed a holocaust of potential human beings… Let’s say we grant it that every three-day-old human embryo has a soul worthy of our moral concern. First of all, embryos at this stage can split into identical twins. Is this a case of one soul splitting into two souls? Embryos at this stage can fuse into a chimera. What has happened to the extra human soul in such a case? This is intellectually indefensible, but it’s morally indefensible given that these notions really are prolonging scarcely endurable misery of tens of millions of human beings, and because of the respect we accord religious faith, we can’t have this dialogue in the way that we should. I submit to you that if you think the interests of a three-day-old blastocyst trump the interests of a little girl with spinal cord injuries or a person with full-body burns, your moral intuitions have been obscured by religious metaphysics.

— Sam Harris, on stem cell research.

Re-blogged for scientific accuracy and for reason.

(via bostonwalkforchoice:nefariousnewt)

Hostal Felipe II

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Food for Thought
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via Tough Privileged Life

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I thought I was being fancy staying in a hostal instead of a mixed room hostel like most people…turns out that still is not like a hotel. Welp, at least I have a private room…