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:
Mashuri – Receptionist at Haraldsheim Hostel in Oslo
Once upon a time, there was a princess who lived in an island that glistened in the light of a thousand emeralds. The island of Langkawi. The princess was so beautiful that everyone admired her. One day, she met a warrior, and she fell in love with him. The warrior was never with her, as he was always fighting in wars that happened so far away. Too far away from her. The princess was so lonely and sad… Some people, jealous of her beauty and willing to make her disappear, spread rumors of crime. “She is married, and she sees other men. She is a bad woman”, they said. Those were different times. Unfair times. The princess was accused of adultery and stabbed to death. Before dying, she cursed the island of these people that killed her being innocent. For seven generations, nothing would grow on the island that used to be the most fertile. It was in the late 80s when the economy began to pick up in Langkawi, and the local people believe that it’s when the curse ended. There is even a mausoleum in the island dedicated to the princess. The princess Mashuri from Langkawi.
When my parents got married, they went on a honeymoon to Langkawi, and they found it so beautiful that they decided to stay. My father was having a hard time trying to find a job, and the locals told him: “Go to the mausoleum and make a vow, she will answer your prayers”. So my parents made a vow to her, and promised that their first child would be named Mashuri. He found a job within a week. It could be coincidence, it could be something to be believed… So I got the name of the princess.
Mashuri was born in Malaysia. Her biggest passion has always been to travel and meet people from all over the world. That’s why she’s been working as a flight attendant for 22 years, until she moved to Norway. She was 18 years old when she joined Malaysian Airlines. It was in the 90s, the golden era of the airlines. “Things were very different those days. You got to see much more of the world being a flight attendant. It was glamourous. Now you just go up and down; you have a 24 hour layover and you come back”. Flying was the best school for Mashuri. “I learned a lot. It made me a better person, a stronger person. And I learned how to deal with people from different countries”.
“What I like about travel is that it makes your eyes open. How much you can see… And you never have enough. I wish I was 30 years younger to get to see even more!” Mashuri smiles when memories from her travels come to her mind. “I’ve done crazy things. I remember when I did bungee jump in Brisbane, Australia. It was crazy!”. She has her special places. “Maldives. It’s such a fragile island. And so beautiful. The first time I was there I went snorkeling. I’m quite scared of deep water. But I remember the captain took me and said ‘Follow me’. I didn’t even think. I forgot my fears and dove underwater. It was amazing”.
It was in one of these flights with Malaysian Airlines that she met Dag, the main reason why she quit her job and moved to Norway. “During my travels I’ve mixed with so many different people, different cultures… that when I moved to Norway I could blend in and it wasn’t so difficult for me to get into the society”, she says. She knew that the first step to integrate in Oslo was to learn the language. “The first year I focused on learning Norwegian. And after that I needed to integrate. The only way to get into the system was to find a volunteering job”. For a couple of years, she volunteered in different festivals, worked in the airport, at a cruise ship, in Norwegian Airlines… Until she started working at Haraldsheim Hostel, almost four years ago.
“When I started working here, I didn’t really know what Haraldsheim was all about. And then I felt it. It is a totally different atmosphere. Like a family. Everybody knew each other and helped each other. What made me stay was the people I work with”. Mashuri enjoys the atmosphere of that place in Oslo between the nature and the city, and the view over the fjord. “This hostel has something special, its own charm. A lot of people come back every year because of the atmosphere. They feel that it’s like a home. And you get to know all these guests, and you remember their faces, their voices”.
Sitting at the reception, Mashuri travels all over the world… in a different way than she used to do when she was cabin crew leader. “One of the things I like the most is to see backpackers in summertime, youngsters who travel on their own”, she says. “When I was younger, I haven´t had the chance to travel like they do. Seeing these young people takes me back to those days and I realise how important it is to travel. How much you see and how much you learn”.
Mashuri has plenty of memories that make her smile. “Sometimes you have such a terrible day. But then people come and give you a pat on the back that makes you feel so good. Like this American couple that gave me chocolate with lovely notes to thank me that I was kind with them. Or like that guy that always offered me all kinds of herbal teas when he saw I needed comfort. ¨Here Mashuri, have a cup of tea¨ It touches your heart when people appreciate what you do”.
Once you’re bitten by the travel bug, there’s no cure. Mashuri knows it and she keeps on travelling whenever she has the opportunity. In March, she got the chance to explore one of the most fascinating countries on Earth, Iceland. She joined the Staff Exchange program of Hostelling International and spent 2 weeks in Reykjavik, working in three hostels there: Reykjavik Downtown, Loft Hostel and Reykjavik City.
The HI Staff Exchange program, which enhances the relationship between hostels by exchanging staff, knowledge and practices, has been running for about 10 years. “I went to Iceland for one main reason: I wanted to learn more about sustainability, recycling and volunteering programs”, Mashuri says. HI Iceland was one of the pioneers in introducing volunteers in the network; there, they are called “green messengers”.
Mission accomplished. “I’ve learned a lot. Now I hope I can implement what I learned at the Haraldsheim Hostel. I would like to start a recycling program here, and also to achieve the HI Qualification endorsement”. This kind of programs “give the organisation a boost and enhance its´ vision”, Mashuri agrees. “We are not just taking things from the nature, but also giving back to nature and people. I think it has to work both ways, it has to have a balance”.
Interview by María de la Cruz and Katarina Vlkova