By Abdulhamid Al-Gazali
I have wanted to start this series a very long time ago; but then, how many other things do I have to give up before I can have enough time for it? Even if I have such things as to easily snap off, how many more are out there pending for, what is, really, really long? Of course, we may have free will, but we have to be given the permission to execute it, which I now take to mean, should I get this piece to the end and continue subsequently as I have intended to, is the only case with this.
This series is about hotels I have stayed in. But before going into it, there’s something about me that I will like to address. I have been thought of, not infrequently, as being a very quiet, nay naively quiet, person. That’s completely not me. I am scathingly naive, but about the accusation of being quiet, I am if anything, an adventurer, which means I belong to the category of those weird few who believe talking is unnecessary when you can or in fact have already at some point done the things you’re excepted to talk about. When we were at primary and secondary schools, I often get surprised when my classmates are punished for ‘crimes’ I or a few of us orchestrated. It is true, we used to have a deceitful innocent face, and we did not fail to average in all our courses! Sometimes we even get lucky to top the class, something only luck does.
An example was when a few of us thought and decided to displace a beehive of honey bee nest behind the school because we believed it was not the appropriate station for them. Our schoolmates who take the route to go home were sometimes bitten by the bees, so we wanted to end it.
We took months to, quietly and without informing anyone, stockpile firewood, kerosene and matches, among other things smuggled from our homes. Was there even any need to inform anyone? We only wanted to solve a problem. I still do not know where we learnt that smoke displaces them, but then, even if it was just our thought, we would surely experiment it given those days.
On a particular Friday, after closing from school, we went there to set enough fire under the tree where the nest was hosted and left. We thought by Monday when we go to school, we would find the problem solved, but only for us to find an urgent assembly convened over it. As I approached the assembly ground, I could see students drawn from different classes kneeling down at the stage. Unfortunately, they were held responsible for what we did. The bees, thanks to a good farewell culture, did not leave until they stung innumerable number of people in the adjoining communities. In fact, the incident was reported to the school management by a community clinic, which ran out of, I think, anti-tetanus!
That didn’t change us. There were many other things such as seizing bicycles belonging to students who appear proud to us or attempting to stitch a wounded dog, as we thought that could help him recover fast, which unfortunately only enraged him to unleash an unprecedented level of terror on passersby, never seen ‘his’ entire lifetime for the whole of the day. I can only now seek forgiveness from those who may have fallen victims, including the owner, who had to come to our school the next morning, his hand bandaged, to report to the management. I also apologize to those who were blamed for it, I only did not want to question my teachers’ judgment.
I think I have changed a lot now, which is by the way, understandably difficult to believe since nobody even ever knew how I truly was; but regardless, I still carry the foundational adventurist traits which shape many of my actions, namely exploration and solving problems. I mentioned all these, of course needless, self-discrediting, curtain lifting stories, to explain a problem I encounter with many of my hosts and even co-travelers about my choices for hotels. The truth is, every adventurer is an explorer. They try to caution me about extravagance, true to what it appears to them, but then, it is just about the overwhelming urge for exploration which I suffer from.
I want to always try new things, attempt bigger fights and dare things feared by others depending, of course, on my resources. This—yes, agreed—stubbornness has taken me to, since we are talking about hotels, hotels of different sizes and shapes.
If you reserve a ‘deluxe’ or a ‘standard’ room for me, call it whatever name, be sure that I will change it on my own to a better one, except if I have no money. That is why whenever I am invited to a function, I prefer to be paid whatever that is budgeted for the hotels and travel. Because sometimes, even for planes, when I have money, I buy business or first class tickets just to ‘enjoy’ and secondly because one day we will all die and leave behind all the money we refused to spend for ourselves! Forget about all the workshops, conferences, meetings…my only reason for traveling is to explore and whether you will invite me again or not, dear future host, everything else is secondary!
I have stayed in many hotels. But the good thing is that I can remember all of them without any labor. The reason is simple. I remember them because I lodged in there with intent or two, because of how I had to leave with the torment of not having enough money to change them! In the subsequent write-ups, I will by the Grace of God share my experiences about them. I will also keep trying new places, every one of which I will be at my best to share with you. You will live in them.