Sunday, March 22, 2009

CouchSurfing

CouchSurfing (verb): To crash at someone else's place.

The CouchSurfing Project is a free, Internet-based, international hospitality service, and it is currently the largest hospitality exchange

www.couchsurfing.com

I have been afflicted by wanderlust of late and am still in the process of planning my permanent move overseas but the need to get away has been intense. While reading a travel blog online I came across CouchSurfing and proceeded to investigate this community of people who are likewise afflicted. The process is relatively simple, you sign up on the website and get in touch with people who live where you want to go.

So I signed up on the website and proceeded to get in touch with 2 people in Nairobi and 2 others in Dar asking if I could crash on their couches for a few days. I received 2 offers in 24 hours so I packed my bag and run off with little or no money to crash on Putu's couch in Nairobi.

The bus ride was something else, it set off at midday and I proceeded to enjoy the scenery and chat with my neighbour who was on his way to Mombasa. Let me just say Uganda is a bloody beautiful country. 4 hours later we reached the border and quickly got through to the other side so I thought to myself a few more hours and we'll be there. 5 hours later I was knackered and wanted to just get off the bus and walk, little did I know I had 4 more hours and like a gazillion roadblocks to go. The night sky was absolutely amazing and so was the occasional smoke when we stopped for a few minutes. It is an interesting thing but I think smokers have a headstart in making a connection, all it takes is the sharing of a lighter or cigarette and the words come easier.

Anyway 13 hours after setting off I arrived in Nairobi and proceeded to find my host Putu at Carnivore and trust him to be nice and drunk. I quickly deposited my bags and a lovely girl called Wanja bought us shots. The night was filled with beer and strangers; Putu who incidentally is from South Africa and has only been here a month, Wanja who loves old school hip hop, Ameline who was going back to Norway the next day, Prossie who took me through a vigorous ragga session and a host of other interesting people. We stumbled into Putu's apartment at 5:30 and I took up residence on his couch, my journey already having been worth it.

Got up at about 4 and headed to Gipsy, a nice bar and restaurant with a gypsy theme to it, a version of Bubbles if I might say so. I had the best burger ever "classic beef burger with glazed ham, lettuce, tomato, fresh basil and mozzarella" according to the menu which I nicked because it had this poem that I found very exciting and foretelling.

Auspicious Rose (Mary-Ann Robertson)

Whether traveller or reveller
Runaway or refugee
We gather together by a fortuneteller
Wherever dweller the gipsy
Here tales are told
Among scattered packets of tobacco
And shot sambuca sold
Peels of laughter reeling in tequila
'ere there
Drowned sorrow soaks tomorrow in amnesia
Down in one dime or two wine or three
Behold
The curtain of each character unfolds
As thy forune is perchance unrolled
On petalled gipsy palm
Charmed mistress o'er crystall ball
So future vagrants may yet recall
Who knows
That romance did those befall
Amid skulduggery and rose

After watching that painful loss to Fulham, we settled down to conversation and beer while waiting for a one Luc to arrive. Luc is by all definitions African American, even though his last name is Angwenyi. He grew up there and so almost everything about him is gangsta. At first I was shocked to see this big, boisterous fellow but as the night wore on I was pleased to discover that beneath all that macho stuff he has a lot of respect for other people and is really intelligent.

Luc came along with his boss Amid or Hamid or something like that. Amid (I'll stick with that) is British but of Indian descent and considers himself Kenyan. A lawyer by training, he came to Africa 20 years ago with the desire to make a difference in the world around him. A successful businessman, he also runs 5 homes for battered women and children. He's married to a British lady and has 3 children, the youngest a daughter. He hopes that one day she'll marry a nice African man and be happy and in his words "complete". But for all this stuff, Amid struck me as a deeply sad man, he feels he hasn't achieved the things he wants to, he is disgusted with the fact that Africans still dance to the white man's tune. He is disappointed that he has not been able to inspire his fellow man to greater heights and would gladly assist anyone pursuing such an endavour. All this he tells me after I introduce myself as an aspiring writer. Anyway he gets too sloshed and takes his leave and I desiring to continue the conversation ask Luc about him and I get invited to their offices on Monday (sadly I'll be leaving then).

We all settle down at a table and I meet Mercy, Sheila, Graeme, Oscar and Hakim. Oscar and Hakim are Ugandan and have been in Nairobi for about a year. Graeme who also happens to be Luc's boss is British, he's been in Africa for ages as well and loves it, especially Zambia. He's recently divorced after a 14 year marriage and has one daughter he loves absolutely. Incidentally he strikes me as a happy guy who loves life and doesn't take waste an opportunity to enjoy it. He cozzies up to Mercy and I promptly turn my attention to the rest of the party. I learn a new swahili word "baridi" which means cold because warm beer seems to be the rule rather than the exception here. Luc meanwhile is being his gangsta self and making advances on several girls after having an intimate moment with Sheila who happens to be his wokmate. By the by the alcohol gets to him and he comes over to the table with a wild haired girl who looks like nothing but trouble and indeed proves to be as Sheila turns up the heat on him. A few mineral water bottles later he comes to his senses and gets rid of the valkyrie.

Meanwhile I've lost track of how many beers I've consumed and Putu is busy trying to get lucky. After some abandoned dancing, more beer, juicy steaks and more conversation we head home at 4 or thereabouts. We get home and Putu receives a phone call and rushes back out to get lucky. I being too hammered jump onto the couch and call it a good night.

Sunday is a beautiful day with the loveliest weather I've seen in a while. We walk around the city which is nice and neat. We have lunch at some Italian restaurant and then proceed to the Masai market where I have to choose between buying a Masai blanket that is apparently worn by the Masai men when they are brewing beer and chilling or one that is put on by the warriors. I opt for the former and then we go home to chill and wait for the Liverpool game. Its pretty much winddown mode from there onwards and now I have look forward to a 13 hour journey. I so want to see the rift valley.

3 comments:

normzo said...

I heard about this couchsurfing thing...but didnt know how real it was....so i gues with the putu's of this world...it is.

Have fun and yes get some.....i mean wanna read about it.

cheers

sam said...

so so nice!!

Anonymous said...

Very well written, i feel like i was there. I can totally visualise it and it must have been lots of fun and also kinda surreal
Fiona