Friday, 26 December 2008

To surf or not to surf that is the question.

When I had planned my trip to London, because
I was right smack dab in the middle of Graduate School
I didn't really have a lot of time or money to plan things properly.
But, one thing I did do that I am really happy about
was sign up a profile on http://www.couchsfurfing.com
My time spent on CouchSurfing was unforgettable and I was inspired
by the open generosity and love of so many strangers.



By the time, I got to London I had a few couchsufing hosts lined up.
That's right, sleep on someone's
couch. When I first heard of the idea from a friend
in Berkeley I thought isn't couch surfing about
some creepy guys trying to get with some willing
damsels? She assured me that was not the case at all,
( although it can happen)and that many of the hosts
are very kind people that have testimonials
and references on their profiles.



Well, I thought can't be all that bad
if my friend, who seems very sensible, thought highly of it.
I put up my profile and researched a few hosts.
So, I thought to give it a shot and signed up with http://www.couchsfurfing.com
Why not? And, to my great surprise I found Couch Surfing
to be a very fun rewarding experience in which I got
to meet many people from all walks of life.




In my couch surfing experience
I met some interesting people and I am glad I visited
London this way, because I was able to see some really
interesting London neighborhoods this way.
Let's say I just was going to visit London and stay
in a posh hotel in High Street Kensington, I would
never get a chance to see how the real Londoners live.



I got to stay in all sorts of neighborhoods with really
weird names. I stayed in Dalston Kingslad with two
British Blokes Richard Herring and Hamish ( from
Scotland). Dalston Kingslad is an interesting neighborhood
in North East London. Not the most desirable neighborhood,but
it was fun and they had this great market, where you can buy
knickers for £1 and avocadoes for 50p. Richard Herring
is a graduate from Oxford. He lived in this flat with his
friend Hamish. Both are pionneers and are creating a media
television show called http://www.http://visionon.tv/




I stayed with two Italians near Liverpool Street, just south of the Thames.
They were really nice and checked up on me when I was sick and brought me
some paracetamol. The weekend I was there one went out of town to Italy and
let me stay in his bedroom. It was nice for a change to sleep in
real bed, instead of a couch. They were really generous and gave
me the keys to their flat so I could come and go as I please.Lucky Me!



What I got to learn is people's different hospitality styles.
Some people were comfortable with me going in the fridge
( I was not particularly comfortable with that because
of the way I was raised),and did not mind if I helped myself
to the pots and pans. One man didn't want me to touch his stuff in the kitchen,
but then he took me out to a really posh restaurant for dinner.
Another man, waited on me hand and foot, cooked
me dinner, made me midnight snacks and porridge for breakfast.



The couch surfing experience was fun, adventurous and
terribly insightful. I would recommend it to anyone.
It's a great way to experience a city,
and see an insiders view. I would have
never got to see those tiny little referigerators
and tiny stoves that everyone talks about
when they visit Europe from America.
Every single house I have been to has one
thing in common, a kettle for tea.




Do, I recommend that women couch surf? Yes,
absolutely !! Everyone, not just women,
should be advised to have plenty of money
and the numbers of other hostels and hotels.
Of course, the phone numbers to taxis.
Just in case, of an unlikely idiot that wants
to take advantage of a damsel. Many,Couch Surfing
Hosts view couchsurfing.com as a dating machine.
Also, keep the numbers of a few taxi, in case
you have to flee in the middle of the night.
Bring a bottle of wine or perhaps
chocolates. Marks and Spencers sells Great Truffles
for about a tenner. Read thoroughly your hosts profiles,
get to know their tastes. Use the time as a couch
surfer as you would if you were an anthropologer.
Study, Observe, Excavate Politely and Learn !
You get to see inside the homes of Londoners,
and this is invaluable experience. Anyone,
can stay in a posh hotel ( or maybe not),but
by slumming it you get a chance to be a real
thinker and adventurer.When you are done try
to send a Thank you note.



Just got started in April 2008.
I am in London now. My first month in London
I stayed with several CS hosts, they were all kind, loving and generous. I am very grateful to the CS community. In addition, I have found that this is a great network to meet people. Since, I am no longer a guest I am meeting friends with common interets.



I think this is a great way to learn about people and especially their culture. Hell, in London, I have stayed with a Chilean man and a Colombiano. I have stayed with 2 British gentlemen Hamish and Richard, they are both super smart and nerdy so we got on famously.



http://www.couchsfurfing.com

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23023250@N06/sets/72157612823459465/





Here is this cute, sweet Argentinian Juan Vaccari
He's a Phd student and was living with the two
Italian Guys. I am really happy to have met him.











Stay Tuned for more LONDON DIARIES

The first leg of my trip: September 26- October 16th, 2008





















I am here in London and having a bloody fantastic time!
I have been in London for 1 month now. London is a fabulous, cosmopolitan city rich with history, diverse people and more pubs per square inch.



In my journey, I have enjoyed many different parts of the city. I have met different people. In the beginning of my trip there was Chant for Peace in the Middle East. Followed by a Roshashana party in Shoreditch London. Then, there was shopping for avocadoes in Brixton- a very Caribean part of London. I met a new American friend Bill Inglebright at the SGI (Buddhist Center) in Brixton. He invited me to his lovely home for a traditonal Sunday roast and a stroll along the Thames with his two gorgeous children, Sohaila and Zach. It's amazing how Americans stick together in a foreign country ! I also enjoyed Southwark London where the home of Shakespeare's Globe Theater. What's different from the Brits and the Americans? Alot. I say, same language different culture.



At first, I took the tube everywhere, it's very fast, but by the time you have to go down the stairs, then up the stairs, turn to the left and then go up the stairs and then turn to the right, by the time you've reached the platform, your exhausted and need a pint! Ha! Anyway, a friend suggested to take the bus because it's a great way to see the city plus it's really cheap( 90 pence a ride or an all day pass for £3.50). You can zip around all day on the big Double Decker bus.. (they scare me..in an exhilrating way.. I was think they are going to tilt over..). You can see all the big sights, on these buses. Just riding to my Buddhist Center in Brixton I see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Absolute HEAVEN ! I feel, really at home here in London. This is a Grand and unforgettable Adventure. This week I will be going on more Literary Walks and to see the stomping grounds of the likes of Oscar Wilde,Virgina Woolf and, of course, my fave of faves my Shakespeare.





























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