Wednesday, April 9, 2008

There’s no place like home…

I have to write this out immediately if only to justify to myself how such a well-laid plan could fail so miserably. It was a simple premise – escape to somewhere peaceful, quiet and remote in the mountains to encourage me to focus on the last revisions required of my thesis. The fact that it was off-season I took to mean that the hotel would be quiet and, more importantly, cheap. Concerned friends asked if I was sure there would be food, or heating, and I was concerned about hygiene and towels, but I convinced myself that all criteria would be met and set off up the mountain.

After a few wrong turns, the type that mistakenly carry you through two tiny villages before you realize you must be off track, I finally arrived at my hotel. Its name contained the adjective ‘Grand’, which made me sit in my parked car next to the prophetic sign and stare up at this grand hotel. I should have stopped at the element of doubt that entered my mind at that point. I even debated for a moment whether to check out the rooms before carrying in my bag. Then again, I had done this before, had a similar feeling, and it turned out to be a pretty good experience. Guess lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place.

I’ll spare you all the details, but let me at least share some of the highlights…
I wasn’t given a key as no member of management was there, and was reassured that I would get one in the afternoon – this meant that I would need to be accompanied by one of the three staff in attendance any time I wanted to get back in.
As I was going up to the room, I was also told that the kitchen wasn’t open yet, perhaps in the evening, but nobody had felt like cooking that morning. Still in positive spirits, I brushed this setback off and filed through my memory to the last supermarket or snack shop I saw on the way up.
With absolutely no other guest at the hotel, I was given a room that overlooked the backyard and some rusty barrels, instead of the breathtaking view of the mountainside and coast. I asked if this could be rectified, and to their credit, they saw to it immediately (again, no one at the hotel). The room was identical, oddly cramped though not too small, perhaps due to the green, turf-like wallpaper. No matter, I continued to focus on the positives. I did, however, quickly figure out why that room had not been the management’s first choice. For one thing, it had no heating. A space heater was promptly provided that buzzzzzed when it was on. I pondered whether I could brave the temperature, but decided against it as it was high noon and pretty cold. The heater was soon adjusted, and all was well.
The deal-breaker, the final straw, was when I peeked into the bathroom. As I didn’t touch anything, I really can’t claim that standards of hygiene weren’t met, but I just couldn’t picture myself trying to shower in a no-tub, open-floor shower for four days.
My positive attitude lost the battle, I consoled my bruised ‘full of great ideas’ ego, and left. I decided I would try to do the work at home, and not correct anyone’s information that I was far away from Beirut. I will tell them all later, but perhaps I can recreate the retreat that I needed in the comfort and convenience of my own home.

Oddly, I felt the need to reassure the lovely Filipina who had checked me in that the hotel was lovely, but didn’t suit the type of space and quiet that I needed. A sucker till the last moment… but that’s what I get for picking hotels out of the yellow pages!

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