Stories of HI Norway: Rudi

HI Norway is an ideal organisation with a long history. We had the chance to interview some of the people that were there and built it. This week:

¨Working in a hostel, the world comes to you.¨

Rudi Lauterbach – Assistant manager at Haraldsheim Hostel in Oslo

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Rudi at the Hostel in Oslo

“How I came to Norway? It started by chance, like most things in life do. The first time I travelled to Oslo, hitchhiking from my home in Germany, I actually stayed at Haraldsheim Hostel. It was a very short stay, but it was long enough to see the essence of this place. I remember that the hostel was so full these summer days that people actually had to sleep outside in the garden with sleeping bags. I fell in love with that atmosphere, with young people everywhere.

It was the summer of 1980 that changed everything for me and for my life. Me and my wife were already staying in Norway for 5 years, when we decided to move here for good. I found what was supposed to be a temporary work only for a summer, painting the doors of Haraldsheim Hostel, in Oslo. But yet here I am, 36 years later. It was a very warm place with a family atmosphere. We were all about the same age group who worked here and the warden was like a father to us. I felt I could really do something and make a change here, help other people, guests with their problems, so my job became more and more about doing lots of different things, sometimes it was sitting at reception, sometimes nightwatch, preparing food, fixing things… and so 2 years later I became assistant manager officially.

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Haraldsheim Hostel back in the day

Back in the days, things were very different. Before the Internet, we used to talk much more to each other. The technology has changed the way of working as well. People didn’t book online, of course. They called, and everyday we got lots of letters, postcards… from people who wanted to stay at Haraldsheim. The booking system was a huge book in which we wrote with pencil in order to make changes afterwards.

But one thing stays the same is the essence, the hostel as a place to meet people from all around the world, as a social place.

When you work in a hostel, it is sort of like social work. I have met lots of people and learned from every experience. I will always remember the story of the Australian girl that stayed for about half a year. She came one day with about 25 plastic bags, 4 or 5 suitcases, and asked for a room.

Her dream was to marry a Norwegian man. She tried so hard, until she couldn’t extend her visa anymore, and she had to leave the country. The day when she was being deported was a sad day. Two policemen came with a relatively large car, that of course was not big enough for the number or suitcases and bags. They needed to go and get a bigger car to make everything fit inside. I remember her last words: “I will be back next week!”But she never came back.

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Haraldsheim’s garden during spring time

Some stories are funny, others are sad. I’ve also met quite a lot of inspiring people over the years. I remember Woody, this guy from South Korea. He was in his 40s, recently divorced after a long marriage. So he decided to take his bicycle and come all the way from Asia to Europe, through Afganistan, India… The day I met him, it was raining. He had nothing with him, just a small backpack. I offered him a raincoat. But he kindly refused it. “I don’t need a raincoat”, he said. “When it rains, I just find a tree and wait until it stops raining”. People like this, you know? He really made a big impression on me, this guy.

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Woody at Haraldsheim

What attracted me (and still does) in this job was the creativity, freedom and the possibility to make changes. You grow, you get more flexible, more tolerant, and you see life from a different perspective. Those are the things you learn while traveling. Or by working in a hostel. How much I make doesn’t matter to me, when I can go home and be like “Ok, today I planted some plum trees” or “this summer we hope to get lots of tomatoes”. And somehow it’s very satisfying, you know? There are not so many jobs where you can see all the results of your work like this.

But maybe what I like the most in my job is that working in a hostel, the world comes to you. ”

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Rudi’s paintings in Haraldsheim Hostel, Oslo

Interview by Katarina Vlkova
María de la Cruz

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