Every year, roughly 80,000 travelers from at least ninety countries pass through the doors of HI New York City, the largest hostel in the Americas. Each week, Narratively’s Daniel Krieger will spend a few hours in the landmarked building on New York’s Upper West Side, listening to their stories…

HI New York City
HI New York City hostel.

Who: Lloyd Nicholas Vergara, 34, Manila, Philippines

When did you arrive in New York? Four days ago. I work as a lawyer at the Philippine Court of Appeals. I went to Washington, D.C., to attend an annual conference. I spent over a week there, and now I’m in vacation mode. On my first day here I was walking on Amsterdam Avenue when a crazy person suddenly punched me.

Really? I was just looking around, admiring the neighborhood. I saw an old man limping, and so I walked around him. As I did that, he mumbled something to me and then punched me several times on the shoulder. I just moved on. Welcome to New York!

Were people any nicer in D.C.? Actually, on my first day there, I was walking near the White House when I encountered a large group of people milling about and blocking the sidewalk. I walked around them onto the street and promptly got yelled at by a member of the Secret Service, who ordered me to get back on the sidewalk. I tried to explain that I was just going to cross the street, and he yelled again. Moments later, Obama’s convoy came by. Welcome to D.C.!

Speaking of presidents, what do you think about the U.S. election? U.S. elections used to be more about platforms, with mudslinging as just a side thing. But now it’s more about appealing to prejudices and encouraging divisiveness. Our elections have always been [like that.] All Trump needs to do now is bring out scantily clad dancers after his campaign speech. That’s what our candidates do. Even better, Trump should sing. When I was in D.C., many Americans at the conference asked me to compare my president, Rodrigo Duterte, with Donald Trump. I had this discussion every day.

So who do you think is worse – your leader, who people say is dangerous and crazy – or Trump? I think Trump is a bit more dangerous because Duterte still follows principles. Trump doesn’t seem to have any. He just lies and you wonder whose interest he is acting in. Duterte curses a lot and can say inappropriate things, but at the end of the day he believes he is acting for the good of the country.

What was the best part of your trip to New York? Seeing “The Book of Mormon.” What I found interesting was the message: be nice and have faith in things and each other. I went alone, as I often do. But everyone was laughing and having a good time. I liked being part of that. It was a communal experience.

How do you benefit from trips like this? One of the things you realize is the world isn’t that scary.

Even when you get assaulted and yelled at? Well, there are a lot of kind people out there, too. And I’ve learned that you can still communicate with someone even if you don’t speak the same language. Basically, you’re thrown into the unfamiliar and you need to be resourceful. I like that challenge. If I were less experienced with travel, I probably would’ve freaked out when I got punched. But I just see it as one of those crazy things.

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Come back to Narratively next Wednesday for more Hostel People.

This interview has been edited and condensed. HI NYC management has granted permission for this project, but plays no role in shaping the stories and has no affiliation with Narratively.

Daniel Krieger

Daniel Krieger, a contributing editor at Narratively, is a freelance journalist in New York. He contributes to The New York Times and his work has also appeared in Fast Company, Wired, Slate, Salon, and New York magazine.