You may remember that the hostal is run by Elaine and Marcos, who also happen to live right above it with their two ridiculously adorable children.
So here´s a little background info: Elaine and Marcos head up CIEE´s Service Learning Program here in Santiago. The Service Learning Program is something I wish I had known about when I was studying in college. I truly cannot think of a more worthwhile study abroad program. The students that participate not only have to take courses at the University, but they must become involved in and organize their own community service projects, consistently volunteering in the community, interacting in Spanish, and improving the lives of everyone they meet here.
Not only do Elaine and Marcos help orquestrate these community service projects and meaningful experiences between the students and community members, but they also have opened the doors to the bottom floor of their home to provide extremely reasonable lodging for peace corp volunteers, non-profit groups, and wayward travellers passing through the city, who are often on tight budgets.
In addition, (I know, right, is there anything they don´t do!), they also host a non-denominational "church" service almost every Sunday.
This service is the thing that keeps bringing me back to the Hub. It´s usually a small rag-tag bunch of whatever peace corp volunteers are lodging for the weekend and a few core Santiagueros and ex-pats. Someone volunteers to strum out a few songs on the guitar while the rest sing along. We have a moment of prayer and a short lesson or reflection period, usually prepared and presented by one of the group members in advance. Coffee is free and every last Sunday we have a potluck lunch. The whole thing is so cute and quaint that I fell in love with it immediately. But it goes far beyond just being a lovely idea. This little church service has become a safe haven for me. A place for me to center my thoughts, to connect with people, to find peace. Amidst the whir and buzz of falling into a new culture and new way of living, this place has become the one constant in my life, somewhere I know that I can go with whatever burden I am carrying. And I know that many others feel the same. The Hub is truly a blessing for everyone who enters through its doors and a little piece of home for those of us who are so far away from our own.
Exhibit A: Thanksgiving. The Hub opened its doors not only to the CIEE service learning students and interns, but also to any ex-pat missing home on this important holiday. Everyone was asked to bring a dish to pass and something thankful to share. Before long, the table was groaning with the weight of all the food acquired: everything from classic American mashed potatoes to Dominican pineapple pie. And somewhere between the mouthfuls of turkey and bubbling conversation something special happened: strangers, friends, and relatives all became family for one night. That´s the magic that is the Hub.
The competition was tight, but Marcos scraped out a win by 1 vote.
"Too often I wake up feeling like the day is a burden and my first thoughts are work, class, deadlines, and debt. After last night's Thanksgiving dinner, I feel softer, calmer, more humble. One of the most beautiful aspects of last night's dinner was the openness of all of the attendees. One thing that most of us had in common was being away from home on such a family-oriented day. I think that since we were all feeling vulnerable, we were able to show more love, support and kindness to one another last night. Everyone went around to give thanks and I said that I was thankful for the ability to grow, learn, develop and change. I was also thankful for the gathering since I have been feeling rather homesick for a few weeks now. What are you thankful for?"
P.S. This is just the most adorable picture ever.
May God forever bless you and all who enter under your roof