A Hotel Citizen
“I am a hotel citizen.” It has been nine months since I moved to the fifth floor of the Hostal Los Molinos (Hostal The Mills) in Loja, Ecuador. It was my initial intension to use this location only as a landing base for my permanent return last December until a more suitable living arrangement could be found, but I am still here. I thought the disco music on Friday and Saturday nights, or the barking German shepherd outside my bedroom window, or the numerous calls of the neighborhood rosters before sunrise would quickly drive me to find a different residence, but I am still here. I live in one of two apartments on the rooftop. It is peaceful here because it is the highest building in the area. There are 80 steps to my floor which I climb three to four times a day as there are no elevators in most of the residential buildings in Loja.
The apartment next to me has been vacant since I moved here in December but a couple from the US will be moving in the beginning of September. I believe he is retired and she teaches at the English School and has offered to help my with my Spanish.
Having an apartment in a hotel is a bit different for me because I am used to being isolated in my living arrangements. In Fiji, I lived on an plot of land one hundred yards from the ocean. In California, a small casita invisible to the rest of the world behind the main dwelling. Years ago when I imagined my retirement, I thought of the possibility of living in a residential hotel but the image in my mind was in a city like New York or San Francisco and the hotel had a doorman who would greet me upon each exit and return.
There are some advantages to living in a hotel. One advantage of living where I do is the fabulous 360 degree views of the city and surrounding mountains. Also, I did not have to purchase furniture or appliances, and all utilities, cable, and internet wifi are included. For a person like myself who gets itchy feet every three to five years, a hotel is a good choice. Although now that I have residency here, at least Ecuador will be home for a while. I have learned to put in earplugs before the music starts in the disco so the loud music is not much of a problem. Sometimes if I wake up, I’ll go down to the bar for a drink or read. It is a very young crowd and reminds me of my disco days except everyone here does the salsa.
I am a bit of a curiosity to the young adults who come to dance at the disco. They think I am someone important because the hotel staff treats me so well. I leave by a special door that takes me to the stairway and back up to my rooftop apartment. The rooftops in Loja are used as extended rooms by the families to keep the pets and/or chickens, and to hang laundry out to dry. On holidays and weekends many of the families have BQ’s on the neighborhood rooftops.
In Ecuador the children live in the family home until they marry and often even after they are married. It is very family orientated here, often two or three family segments live in the same home. So, by living in a hotel, I have become part of an extended family. The employees are very friendly and attend to me as a family member. We speak different languages but that barrier has not hindered our relationship. Perhaps this is the reason more than any other I am still here.