Couchsurfing 102

cc image:  Dave Austria – Flicker

This is the second part of my post about Couchsurfing. You can read the first part here.  

Layce (Brazil), Rose (South Korea) and Jeje (also from South Korea) arrived on Saturday evening, along with three of their colleagues from Columbia and the U.S., who would be staying at another Couchsurfing home.  We quickly got to know each other sitting around my living room. Four of the six had recently completed a six-month project in Zambia after studying at the One World Center in Massachusetts. Each one spoke of their dreams to one day go to Africa and the impact the experience had on them.

Although Couchsurfing hosts are under no obligation to provide anything other than a place to sleep, the benefits of hosting come from getting to know your guests, sharing stories and spending time together. On Saturday, I drove my guests to Watch Hill where we walked on to the beach and saw a beautiful full moon rising over the Atlantic.

Four of my brothers and sisters, along with their families, as well as one of my sons and his family, were expected for Easter Sunday at my home. The other half of the One World Center group and their Couchsurfing hosts joined us as well. It was a full house of international visitors, local guests and family. The six travelers were so grateful for being welcomed on this special day, and although they were each nervous about their English ability, they spent the day eating and talking with family and friends. Having been away from home for over a year, it was especially meaningful for them to be with a large family on Easter.

Although the Couchsurfing experience and Easter holiday were already perfect, my guests made it even more special by offering to perform a presentation they had prepared. This performance was a way of thanking their supporters and teaching them about their experience in Zambia. We would be the first audience they would perform for. As I checked on guests in the kitchen, the visitors transformed my living room into a performance space. The couch and other furniture were moved, a large sheet screen was mounted on a frame, a projector set up and the audience crammed into one half of the living room.

With just shadows and music, these travelers told a moving story about life in Zambia and the challenges that poor people face everywhere. We were left nearly speechless, and there were many tears shed. Soon, it was my family who was thanking the Couchsurfers for coming into our lives and touching us with their stories.

Later that night, when I mentioned to my visitors how I wish my seventh graders could have seen their performance, they all jumped at the chance. My school, as it turns out, has had a relationship with the Chikumbuso project in Zambia for many years. This project works with widows and children by providing a school for the children and teaching weaving and other skills to the widows so that they can support their families.

We quickly arranged a time for the One World Center visitors to tell their story to my seventh graders. This involved an extra night at my house, which was fine by me. My guests prepared a lovely meal, including some spicy Korean ramen that they were eager to see me try.

The performance at school left no less of an impact than the one in my living room. Four classes of seventh graders sat in silence as the shadows moved across the screen, telling a story that came from half a world away. Still, these students could relate to the message and apply it to their own lives. They enjoyed speaking with the performers afterwards and some of them even thanked me for bringing them to school! And to think it all started with Couchsurfing.

Students watch the performance

Answering questions after the performance
You can follow the performers on their road trip by visiting their Facebook page.

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