God Is In The Details
(Certain names and the names of places have been changed. However the events that took place here really happened. Oh yea, they happened.)
As I write this, I’m packed into seat 50k in the back corner of a daunting Lufthansa plane. The person in front of me has their seat as far back as it can go, the person behind me has their knees as far into my seat as they can manage, and the person next to me is taking up 99.98% of the armrest. God that pisses me off but after the past few days, all I can think of is the Serbian phrase, “bochi boya.” This is spelled phonetically since my tiny, travel-sized Serbian-English dictionary doesn’t have such complicated phrases, such as “it will be okay,” amongst its much thumbed through pages. Nothing crazy, just a phrase that has somehow managed to become a personal mantra of mine over the past few days. (I was recently informed by my good friend Back Side that it is actually spelled bice bolje)
As an R.I.T. Hospitality and Service Management major, I am required to co-op three times before I graduate. This isn’t too bad and most people do them during the summers of their sophomore, junior, and senior years. My first co-op was actually a study abroad in Dubrovnik, Croatia, which I loved. This in turn led me to a very new, brand-new in fact, opportunity with Hotel Babala in the incredibly beautiful city of B****, Montenegro. As my friends, family, and the rest of the Eleven staff can attest to, I was incredibly excited to be spending the summer in the Balkans, staring out over the Adriatic. Again! One can’t expect opportunities like this to come around everyday. So, I pursued the co-op and with little to no information about what I was going to do once I got there, I jumped onto a plane and headed to the Mediterranean. It is five days later, and like I said, I’m packed into seat 50k in the back corner of a dauntingly large Lufthansa plane.
From the beginning this trip was a bit shady. But I am who I am and I revel in total cultural immersion. I’ve always felt that it’s best to surround yourself with another culture to learn not just the language but also the day-to-day basics of that society. Not to mention, who wouldn’t want to spend three months working in a 5-star resort? Employee housing? Three meals a day? Sounds pretty enticing…until you get there. It was thrown together, emphasis on thrown, by some R.I.T. advisers who worked their asses off to make this work. Sometimes though, it’s best to get all the information first. In writing. With signatures. It seems to me that we in the states might be a little spoiled with things like labor laws and employee handbooks. However, I was a guinea pig for this new relationship between the university and resort but as guinea pigs go, I might be what you would call a “failed experiment.”
My “contact” or “mentor” or whatever other word you want to put in quotations was one Herman Smithram, general manager numero uno at Hotel Babala. No matter what word you use, don’t forget the quotations…it might even be a good idea to physically do the quotations expression with your fingers as you read this, as it would give you a better idea of the level of sarcasm with which I say “mentor.” He was, to say the least, incredibly arrogant. And that’s just saying the least. This was apparent upon immediately meeting with him. He had this habit of winking at everyone he passed by. At some points, I was beginning to be concerned that he was having a very slow seizure in just his left eye. After reassuring myself that his winking epidemic wasn’t life threatening, we sat down for coffee. One hour total, 50 minutes of him on his cell and 10 minutes of him dodging my questions. Overall, I learned more about my duties at Babala by pretending he was sending me private messages with his over-winked eye via Morse code than I did from what he actually told me. But to give you an example of what he was like, he once made a joke at a meeting that we had a couple of days later. He said he was planning on writing a book called Baseball Bat Management in the Balkans. It was a comment on the fact that he had to “break knees” at least once a week to make sure everyone feared him and did what they were told. This kind of management at a 5-star resort? There was an upside though. He allowed them to call him Herman instead of Director or O Holy Father. Nice guy.
The employee housing was nice. My room was pink, as my facebook friends can tell you since I put a few pictures up of it. It was hard to communicate the feeling of cramped confinement that I sensed there through a few poorly lit digital pictures. I’m not particularly picky about rooms. For example, my room in Croatia was approximately the size of a dwarf’s broom closet. But it was mine and it could be locked giving me a small sense of security in a foreign land. When I get back into the states I will be sleeping on a mattress on the floor in my living room for about two weeks. Do I care? Not in the least. And yet these rooms were beyond anything that I was expecting and not in the they-left-me-mint-chocolates-on-my-pillow kind of way.
Each apartment had two rooms connected by a balcony sharing one bathroom. They were cramming 7-10 people in these rooms, depending on the different room layouts in the apartment building. The bathroom, mold and all, was not particularly clean to begin with. It had a shower head that resembled one of the types that you can detach from the wall, except with no wall mount. Or shower curtain. Which also doubled as some peoples laundry machine. So showers spent sitting in the fetal position were a hoot. A raucous, annoyed, unhygienic hoot. We had the pleasure of having to mop the floor after our showers too, since water invariably got everywhere. This isn’t undoable I thought though. I mean, it’s just a place to store my stuff and sleep. I don’t need a California King sized bed and blackout curtains to be comfortable. There was a saving grace to being in this room. I would eventually share it, for a night, with my now friend Back Side.
Check back on Wednesday for Part Two of one man’s crazy journey into losing his job!