The Courtyard

The sun has well and truly gone down on a courtyard in a backpacker's hostel. This means exactly what you think it means. It could be any capital city in Australia. There are four long, wooden tables, each with its own umbrella open wide above it. While it isn't completely dark, it's pretty close: what little light there is comes from glowing bulbs mounted around the outer rim of the courtyard and from inside the kitchen that sits adjacent.

The tables are almost full of people. While there are spare seats available, it is only the odd space here or there. You could describe the noise as a cacophony. There are voices speaking over one another at levels well above what would be expected at, say, 5pm. Which means exactly what you think it means. The languages spoken are German, French and Italian. But the rhythms are familiar, the pitch is familiar, and the laughter that punctuates each of the conversations is most definitely familiar.

Across the court, cereal bowls are being put to use.

Cereal bowls?

Cereal bowls.

Cereal bowls are gleefully filled from the nozzles of cask wine containers. Glasses are hard to come by in the courtyard but it seems that the bowls are not. Which is probably the funniest thing you've seen today, until you hear someone yell the word 'goon' in one of the European accents, which immediately seems funnier again. One table is covered with empty green beer bottles. Peroni, you guess. There are more bottles than you have ever seen on one table in your entire life. There have been more than one occasion where 'Happy Birthday' has broken out. Plenty of cigarettes are being smoked. These are Europeans, after all.

It all adds up to the sights and sounds of adventure, you figure. God knows you understand it, you relate to it. You've done it yourself, heaps of times. Someone's birthday? Drink. Away from home? Drink. Other side of the world, meeting and talking to new friends? Definitely, most certainly, unavoidably, drink.

At one of the tables, you sit quietly. Your laptop is open in front of you, the screen glowing white and black with the shapes of your words. You feel tempted to draw some conclusions about what all of this means, but maybe it doesn't mean anything particularly profound. It's not a story at all, it's probably just a situation. Just the lives of adventurous young people crashing against one another in a far off land.

You conclude that this is probably a thing to be celebrated, not intellectualised. You clap your laptop closed and leave the courtyard.