Berkeley Hostel: 01/07

When I arrived in Berkeley I went to find the hostel I had booked over the web, which looked like a very professional place from the site. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not so: the building is an old sorority house and the hostel is run by fate, a group of students and an old hippy called Yao (or Rossko, depending on the weather). Rossko is a very unusual man, who would always give such oblique answers to any question that I never quite knew who he was or where I stood with him. Independence Day coming up seemed to mean that anti-British sentiment had stirred within him, and most of his responses contained some sort of reference to colonialism. Example: "So, Rossko, do you own this place?" "Let me ask you this: when the British were in charge of America did they really own it or were they just under the illusion they did? Well, I'm not under the illusion that I own this place - I am its humble servant." He was kind to me and I loved the mystique that he seemed so keen to maintain about himself, partly because it made me judge him by his actions. 

At the hostel, which was a chaotic jumble of bric-a-brac, I had the extreme good fortune to meet some very interesting people called Dee, Tommy and Vaz. Dee and I in particular had a great connection (she is a writer and plans to come to Britain), Tommy is a musician - quiet, thoughtful and possessed of a great humour, warmth and earthiness. They were visiting Rossko and I joined them in the lounge while we all ate dinner, and we ended up spending hours chatting and putting the world to rights. It was fantastic to have good, solid conversation and after spending time in the mountains. I've always been excited by these philosophical, meaning of life sort of conversations as I feel that they allow people to reveal themselves and be vulnerable with each other, but also have iron sharpen iron - that people sharing their ideas and opinions blends and develops those ideas (and the relationships between people) beyond what they would be in isolation. It is like drinking from a deep well. 

One other thing to remember about Dee was that she really encouraged me on my path, which is something I've not experienced a lot of: she told me not to worry about being a success as a furniture maker as I am clearly passionate about it, and just to do it! She also posited the idea of publishing my experiences. I have started to wonder if there is a book in this trip, but she told me that radio, newspapers (e.g. Sunday supplements) would be interested in my story, which was a real surprise to me. What a wonderful meeting with a stranger that was!

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