Dago Riviera

NAFTA is killing my travel budget. Mexico works out more than twice as expensive as Southeast Asia, so in Oaxaca I opted to stay in a youth hostel for the first time, at the unyouthful age of 30. $7.50 buys a bunk in a twelve-bed dormitory.

I knocked before going in, since I’m not sure of hostel etiquette. My dorm-mate was not happy to see me. Thinking I was staff, she threw her joint out the window and rushed out leaving me in a fog. When she came back she muttered an accusatory apology and sat on her bunk, scratching trackmarks and chewing gum. I offered her some water and she softened up.

    ‘Where’ve you been in Mexico then? Poobla? Oo-wocks-awww-ca?’

This woman had the worst Spanish pronunciation I’d ever heard (though I’ve never claimed to be able to roll my own ‘r’s properly). England isn’t steeped in Spanish the way the US is, but “sign peh-SOSS” for “cien pesos” is downright creative.

She wore a brown Ziggy Stardust shag, and droned, stoned, for three hours, even after I turned the lights out. Had I seen the Dago Riviera pictures? Had I been robbed yet? Mexico was full of thieves. And the food was fucking ‘orrible and spicy.

   ‘At least this hostel separates the men and the women. This hostel I stayed in in Mexico City, it was mixed. There was a Japanese lad wanking off in the bunk under mine, and ‘e kept hitting my mattress. It was ‘orrible.’

I was trapped in a Mike Leigh movie: specifically, I couldn’t escape from the Katrin Cartlidge character in Naked. New resolution: no more treats—books, movies, museum entrance fees, or coffees. All that matters is having the cash for a private room, free of scrawny English junkies and hearty Dutch ladies who shower at six.