Thursday, February 16, 2012

Becoming part of a local family as Couch Surfers

Before our trip, we sought advise from our respected elderly, Father Giovanni, how we find the presence of God during our two years trip around the world, his left us some wise words after a few second of silence, 'if I were you, I won't take any photos, see the world with your eyes and meet people.

It's a visual oriented world, we can't help taking photos but we try to spend some extra time enjoying the moment.

When we face the stunning Iguazu Fall, after taking some pictures, we spend time sitting there quietly to look and listen. We could have sit there all day, if we could. It's paradise before our eyes...if there weren't hundreds of tourists with cameras, video cameras, cameramen doing business, fences for protection...okay let's focus on the stunning's amazing.

In Buenos Aires, we are glad to join friends and family gatherings of our local friends, chatting and eating.

Argentinians love chatting, people we met on a bus, in a lift, in the street, in a milonga had so much to say, it's a pity that we don't quite understand Spanish.

We heard about couch surfing (CS) back in Hong Kong, with news that a single girl staying in some strangers house being raped... But we are a pair of couple and have nothing to fear, and do found the idea of home staying very interesting.

Frankly, this helps save cost for our two years travel but then we found the CS site have ways to protect their members and its not just about free stays. The main point of CS is not for saving cost but for people in different parts of the world connecting each other. Tourists know nothing about the locals, but travellers connect with them and know each other, a way is to CS.

Every member need to input their comprehensive profile and will have a list of reference. By being a host or a couch surfer, you actually know a lot about the people before you meet! (of course this may be fake, even so, you still need to write a long story!) It's such a great chance to experience life of a local, to share thoughts, food and culture.

For cost saving, we have thought of hitch-hiking along our way as well, there are some bloggers writing their hitch-hiking experience but we still feel at risk and may take very long time to get to our next destination. We'll save it for later until we become more desperate!

We gone crazy when we got our first host! (after sending almost a hundred requests daily, until the list exhausted). It's a family in Medianeira, a small town, one hour bus ride from Foz do Iguazu, in Brazil. It is a bit far away but we are glad having a chance to meet locals.

It's a 30 years old guy, Juracy, who lived with his parent and a dog. He speaks good English and just came back from Rome after staying a few years. His parent only speak Spanish, Portuguese and some English words. His extremely friendly mum, Catalina was from Venezuela and his father, also named Juracy, had spent some time in Russia - all very open minded people, who love to discuss matters including politics, history, culture, cooking and everything. They spare 2 rooms and receiving CS non-stop! It's simply amazing.

our Chinese fried noodles, they love it
We enjoy sumptuous meal made by mummy on the first night and we also shared some Chinese cooking, including sweet and sour rib, dumplings, Hong Kong egg cake... that they loved so much.

Chinese 3 color fried rice
The next night, they were joined by a German and Finland. We went to nearby lake for a swim, meeting Juracy and some family friends and it's like a fiesta every day.


Actually CS requests takes time, many prefer full profiles (which means you need to fill up a hundred page of info!!), the fact that you are an experienced CS with a lot of reference from previous CS and hosts, and they expect you to stay for only 2-3 days, so don't expect a week or more! And even if a room 'perhaps' available, it takes time to chat with the host and see if you like each other. They don't expect free stay as your only purpose, so generic request message won't work, do spend time to read the profile and get to know the person. In peak time like Brazil Carnival, Rio locals either host their friends, got CS request half a year ahead or plan to escape and leave some place else for a vacation!! It might be helpful sometimes to look for small towns nearby the big cities.
the couple on the left (Juracy and Catalina) are the host father and mother, a neigbour (Ana) who is the only chinese in the town, raised in Cuba, came and visited us

the white t-shirt guy in front is Juracy, thanks to him we have such a good time at Medianeira

Our stay in Medianeira is absolutely wonderful, I feel like children of the family and it's so quiet and enjoyable. Though our itinerary might not have much excitement, but chatting with the family, supermarkets tour, driving around town, trying out local pastries, cooking at home, a short trip to the river nearby, visiting family friends and have a chat and visiting their house are nice for us.

We are lucky to have two hosts in Rio real soon, which makes up a week there. We are still looking for someone to host us in San Paulo and other cities in Brazil. Keep faith and we are well taken care of to whatever plan He wanna take us.

Now is time to make some Chinese dumplings!

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