Couchsurfing & the Lyon Festival of Lights
- Agggggh I've collapsed. Long Monday (actually it felt short) with a cold :( October 8
- I listened to 5 seconds of the first track on @TheUkes album The Secret of Life and my heart felt soothed. ♥. http://t.co/wsZquPh5 October 7
- @patheuk hiya, I was wondering if you guys have a general enquiries email address? October 7
- Terrified of flagship #Primark about to open on Oxford St. Tottenham Ct Rd will vamp into as much a tourist mess as the one by Marble Arch.. October 7
- Then I googled a phrase from my poem. 119 results came up. Namely an interview w/ singer @bethjhoughton - lovely music! http://t.co/nFJ55YKW October 6
Friday, December 16. 2011
I'm writing this from a 5:50 AM train out of Lyon, France, on the way to Charles de Gaulle Airport and then back to California for the holidays. It's pitch dark and I rushed to the station after saying a quick farewell to an amazing host and my friend still tucked up in bed. Oh, and I'm eating Lyon sweets and gluten-free macaroons too. It's been a great trip!
Last week I was scrambling to complete my marketing summative work at LSE - and it was the most pleasant change ever when I exchanged that stress for the positive travel-related stress of this week, which was really a crazy trip for me on so many levels!
It started out as a simple visit to see a French friend who studied abroad in Georgetown. But she canceled on me at the last minute - leaving me with 4 days in France and no where to stay. I decided to go to Lyon anyway. And got very lucky because a Singaporean friend in my programme decided she wanted to come, too. It was the Festival of Lights last weekend - the city was packed and we couldn't find anywhere to stay!
So we did what any pair of 20-somethings might do -- we couchsurfed. I've always been curious about it and this was actually a fantastic experience. Seriously. Our host was a girl from Reunion Island (neither of us had heard of it before)... Mel has 2 black cat kittens and a really comfortable sofa bed! She was so nice and actually trusted us with her keys within hours of meeting her!
Me, quite literally couchsurfing
On the third night we had what I think must be a quintessential couchsurfing experience, the reason people do this sort of thing. Mel cooked us some authentic food from her home -- delicious fish curry and veggies -- and we provided the white wine and cheese and dessert. It was soo good and a really nice, low-key thing to do after a hectic day trip out of the city. And I skyped with her family in Reunion Island in broken French!
The language is the other thing - my French is nonexistent but just being there in such a real setting, not a hotel, with true locals, made me see how attainable learning French would be. When you use it it is so satisfying to receive even a semblance of understanding in return. My Singaporean friend was super enthusiastic about it.
As for the crazy parts of couchsurfing, Mel actually had 3 Italians staying with her the first night, andher friend from Marseilles. I legit woke up at 4 AM to a mix of English, French and Italian and a stranger sleeping next to me and two guys on the floor by our bed!! We never actually met them - we left early and they were gone that day. It was pretty amusing. The second night, after they had left and it was so serene in Mel's little flat, was like heaven after a long day out.
I knew a Lyon guy from my time abroad in Japan and he was kind enough to meet me at the station and show me around before my LSE friend showed up. So, he was our bodyguard as we made our way over to the couchsurfing place, thank goodness he came because we were soo nervous!! We were wandering through dark empty streets and worried about what our host would be like etc etc. But it all worked out.
I think the thing with couchsurfing is that it cements a really strong thing in human relations. Think about it, you have to know someone very well before you can impose on them to spend the night. But couchsurfing skips over all of that and goes straight to something that has the potential for the highest stage of human friendship, without ever having met the person. It's a brilliant idea.
I was also thinking about how when you visit a city and there are one or two acquaintances there who can show you around... Of course it's useful. But more than that, there's a feeling of constrained time that makes you hang out with that person more. And all that concentrated interaction really does make you good friends. It's just sad that it all revolves around a few days here and there. Why are my good friends scattered around the globe!? This experience has happened to me a lot in the past few years -- I've generally been on the other end of it though. It's almost traumatic to say goodbye!
Old bookstore my Lyon friend showed me in the medieval quarter
And this all leads into a really interesting discussion we've been having in my media classes about the idea of a young, global, and urban elite. For students in my LSE programme this sort of experience -- speaking 3 languages at once, meeting random acquaintances again in a new city, traveling with friends you hardly know -- is not crazy. But my family at home is going to read this and not even be able to imagine being on that same sphere of internationalism, of access to varied experiences and people. More than that, it's about the mindset: the confidence and also the willingness on each side to really exchange with each other. It's an unbalanced and privileged way of experiencing the world... But I love it so much.
Next posts: our 3 day trips out out of Lyon and the other miscellaneous sightseeing we did! And food!
Posted by Natalie Meyer at 17:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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