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Shouldering my red backpack, worn from travel, and walking down to the lobby crowded with bellboys, suits, and small children, I could feel my senses engaging again. After having spent a few days attending a conference at the Disney Hilton, which rang in at the reasonable price of $199 per night, I was heading out to find my $10 per night hostel, located along the route of bus 56.

The bus system is a bit confusing; tourists tend to avoid it due to the lack of information posted anywhere. However, after a false start in the wrong direction, I was directed by helpful drivers to the correct stop. 50 meters later, I was checking into a rundown hotel bleached by the sun and by the Pine Sol polished into it by its Filipino owners. I dumped my pack in an unadorned room that I was sharing with a girl from Holland and two from Denmark; went across the street to the grocery store, bought healthy food and cooked it in the hostel kitchen. I had been surviving on pricey white-bread sandwiches and the overripe fruit of the conference breakfasts; I revived myself with four bowls of home-made stew. In the evening, I got into an extended discussion on whether or not America was the Antichrist. This was mostly between two Europeans and a fellow from Australia; the fellow from Australia insisted that America was “the most benign Superpower in the history of the world,” which the Europeans found to be shocking. I went to bed at midnight, got up late, and went for a swim in the cold, clean swimming pool by the edge of the lake, alone. I looked up and noticed two Sand Cranes between the pool and the lake. I got out, did laundry in the sink, took photos, and logged onto the free wifi to do some work in the lobby, Bob Marley a buzz in the background, the tatooed maintenance guy repainting the curbs brilliant yellow in the baking sun outside. Compared to the depressing hotel room, large and crammed with too-fat pillows, and forever disturbed by housekeeping; compared to the crammed swimming pool and the crammed lobby of the Hilton, this is an organic form of Paradise.

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