For the sake of brevity I will cut right to the chase, put the numbers down and let you imagine for yourself the time that is being had in the small city of Arlington just outside the nations capital, Washington D.C. Over one hundred South African students, sharing apartments in the same complex, working at the same hotel, at the same time...Its a recipe for...well you tell me?
After much hard work and preparation Chilli Adventures have successfully placed 120 South African students at the Gaylord National Hotel. The hours and stress involved with visa appointments, pre departure meetings, training, filling out endless forms and a twenty-four hour long flight are long forgotten. The time is now and it seems like everyone is embracing the smiley and jolly US way of life that is exemplified by the repetitive tune of Christmas carols – In November? It seems like every radio station in the States is endorsing the Christmas season well before it’s time.
Work at the Gaylord National has been a rather ‘chilled’ experience. Our job over here is to ensure the smooth running of one of D.C.’s major attractions over the festive season – the Gaylord National’s ICE. This annual event attracts thousands of festive followers and entertains them in a minus 15 degree Celsius show tent filled with over one thousand tons of ice that is meticulously carved into works of art from Dream Works pictures Merry Madagascar.
Hours spent outside of work can be broken up into three very important activities; searching for a second job, heading back to work to redeem our free $3 dollar coupon at the in-house Galaxy Diner and Other.
The high cost of living has resulted in a trend of most SA students over here hitting the big bad city in search of a second source of income. Personally, I have made some headway with both the Apple store in D.C. as well as an outdoor adventure store similar to that of Cape Union Mart. Others have taken a more creative approach and taken up ‘dog walking’ – apparently the hours are great!
In true student style one finds a migration of ‘off-day staff’ heading to work in order to capitalise on the free $3 food coupon. Until I tried out the Galaxy Diner’s array of salads, burgers, pizza and fresh fruit I thought this idea was ridiculous – going to work on ones off day? Needless to say I have adopted the same approach.
Other includes a combination of house parties (the 21 drinking age limit has brought the party to were the heart is – home!), site seeing and the occasional bus ride to the Pentagon City Mall. Washington has an impressive array of museums, monuments and art galleries that I plan on visiting and reporting back on soon. For now, the 5-minute bus ride into consumerism central has been the main calling card. Pentagon City offers a student traveller two things; firstly, an opportunity to find an additional job and secondly a massive shock into the reality that is the American shopping culture...more on this controversial topic to hit your pc screen or mobile devices soon.
For now I am going to retire to the luxury of my new apartment so kindly organized by Chilli Adventures...Nine-hour work shifts have taken their toll on my student-coded system.