adventures in the far east β€” of canada!

Abuzz with energy: first friends

In culture, friends, st. john's on July 1, 2009 at 2:25 am

The above is not entirely true; I’ve made fast friends with some of the people at Target, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of them outside of work, as they make their way back this week from the Canada Day long weekend (we got Wednesday, and then 2 days to apply to either Monday + Tuesday, or Thursday + Friday; to be with a friend coming August, I’ll be working but taking those 2 days to apply in August, instead). They’re all lovely, and so good-humoured and welcoming.

As much as that’s the case, the hurdle I needed to pass is making friends outside of work–it’s natural to do so at work or school, because you see the same people so often. But apparently, it’s one of the hardest things to move to another city you have absolutely no roots in or anyone you know and make new friends. I didn’t believe it, but I can see why now: it is seriously jarring to suddenly not have a network, something you take for granted after years growing up in a place. I think as we age, we begin to lose that once easy time we had making friends from scratch as kids–we’re now more complex, romantically aware (as children, such motives aren’t in mind–we’re innocent), picky, prejudiced, self conscious, etc. It’s easy to hole up.

And here comes the amazing, connected story–Couch Surfing. I tried initially with various classifieds places, and “Just Friends” personals–after many views but no replies, I began to realize that people on such sites are almost uniformly all looking for a casual fling, or a romantic relationship, and I began to grumble, “Whatever happened to good old, honest friendship?” But CS…I am now a Couch Surfer, and already, I am loving it.

For those that took the Editorial Design class in the 2009 winter semester at ACAD–you may remember that Erin and I did a story about Couch Surfing in our magazine. We thought it was incredible–just the idea of it, the boldness, the almost naively well-intentioned mission. I am so glad we found that story and laid it out, because otherwise we would not have heard of the site, and I would then not have had my night out.

Let me explain briefly for others’ benefit–couchsurfing.com (soon to switch over to .org) is a social media site, like Facebook (and MySpace, and now the latest craze, Twitter). The article looked at how we are increasingly connected through social media, but despite this, feeling increasingly isolated in the world–except for Couch Surfers, a site members gush about that connect total strangers, and make lasting impressions and friendships.

In short: you have a profile. If you’re travelling, you can contact various members that live in a city or town, and their profiles indicate whether they have a couch you may crash on–for a night, a few days, a week, whatever. Think of all the money you’re saving when you can travel like this. Anyway, somewhere along this exchange of meeting a complete stranger, being let into their home, living briefly/for an extended time with them, seeing how they live, chatting, cooking, hanging out with them–deep friendships are made, and you almost instantly have a resident expert on the city’s sights and attractions, insight on good restaurants, bars, etc. There are no rules or tally running things, it is generally reciprical–you may sleep for a night on peoples’ couches all across 100 different countries, but never host anyone yourself. You can do that, but that’s not typical–people tend to give back.

I’m not traveling the world. For people like me (don’t have my own place, do not think I can host out Karen’s house haha, and I don’t need another place to stay), there’s a “Coffee or a drink” setting. I searched for the same within St. John’s, and instantly there’s a list of people who would be more than happy to meet for a beverage, and show you around. I achieved the same by posting a message in the St. John’s group page (along the lines of, “I’m new and friendless, want to meet for a drink and show me around?”).

Well, today I met with Whitney for coffee after work and dinner, and it was wonderful. Had a lovely, friendly chat (so easy to get along with), swapped stories, I quizzed her some about the workings of Couch Surfing, and then she led us out to show me more of St. John’s. Internationally reknown George Street was sectioned off–it being Tuesday night before Canada Day, a break for mostly everyone–but she said it was a deal not to be missed. It was $15 to be let onto the street the entire night’s event, and it paid cover for every bar and pub, and every live show was covered.

A little about George Street–wow. In all of North America, there is no other street with as many bars and pubs per square foot. It’s hard to believe how many there are, all jammed into–get this–only 300 meters. George Street is not long, but what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for with pure energy; they stay open late, and the place is packed, and there is always a large fleet of taxis nearby (St. John’s has a far denser and better taxi system coverage than Calgary). People here just love to party, any day of the week; some of the bars are like 4 different ones that join by patio or dance floor–one cover grants access to them all!

Anyway, there’s a permanent stage setup in George Street–live music attended by youngsters and older people alike. It’s not just the 20-somethings! And just about every bar or pub had a live band playing inside–it was incredible. It must be said, St. John’s is home to the most live music, ever. Many of them are local, which leads me to another generalized conclusion: there is a lot of great local talent, from Indie Rock to Irish jigs!

Hey Rosetta! was awesome

Hey Rosetta! was awesome

I had not heard of this group, but everyone there knew them–they’re like the darlings of Newfoundland, and I’m told they’ve netted a ton of awards. They were super energetic throughout the show, displayed great range, and were musically very eclectic with drum, bass, cello, violin, piano, and guitar that made for some epic rock. Whitney was a big fan, and she blew a lot of bubbles from a tube into the crowd and onstage if the wind was right.

The energy was contagious, and the throb of the beats ebbed through me like a second heartbeat; I’m still a little deaf, haha! I will have to look them up; I’m still heady from being there.

But as I said–once you have that one friend, it is much easier to meet more. She ran into someone she knew, and this friend brought along her roommate, whom neither of us knew. And we all chatted, swapped stories, and now I have some lovely contacts. πŸ™‚

Molson has a big brewery here and Whitney, a beer enthusiast, told me that they make a number of unique beers in the city I must try; she said that St. John’s is a place where no one buys something like a Canadian, because there are so many local brews that are so much better, and just as cheap!

Later, we got more drinks, hit up another pub, took in some of the live talent there, but I left early–I have plans for Canada Day!…

Some deserved praise: this city is alive. Man, for a city with 10% the population of Calgary (100,000+ vs. 1,000,000+), there are so many things happening, so many bands playing, so many people trooping the streets at night. Some small bands busk it on the sidewalk, there was a busking bagpiper, a guitarist…and they had some pretty good money in their cases. For such a small city, it somehow feels larger than Calgary, just for the concentration of people, and the energy. One of the religious high schools here I walk by often was putting on a school play–The Rocky Horror Picture Show! I mean, the attitude here is just delightfully different.

Anyway, briefly what’s coming up–I headed home early because there’s this Sunrise Festival or Ceremony for Canada Day, pegged at like…an ungodly hour (free shuttles to the event begin 4 am). It’s celebrated because we’re of course as far out east as Canada goes–we will be the first to welcome Canada Day when it arrives! There will be live music (surprise, surprise!) at various places the whole day, fireworks, some free food, family-friendly face painting, etc; I usually don’t care too much about Canada Day, but being in St. John’s, I just have to experience it here, you know?

Whitney told me she’ll try to go, even if she’ll be totally wasted! I hope to find her there…but for now, I must get as much sleep as possible! The ceremony is coming up very soon…!

But what a day it’s been. THANK YOU, Couch Surfing, what an initiative (Whitney told me it began like 2001, and it almost died after a crash wiped practically everything a few years back, and even the site creator was saying it was over…then a group now known as the Montreal Collective or something redid the site and had it up in 4 days, and the community eagerly began anew). I fully intend, one day, to use it to travel, and to host others whenever I can…and I take great pride in doing what I say! πŸ™‚

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  1. That sounds awesome! Good thing I have ID now πŸ˜‰ Might have to take a gander at the nightlife when I visit, especially if there’s anything going on that’s kind of different.

    The Couch thing sounds neat too, and glad you’ve made some contacts and are starting to get to know some people. It would be kind of fun to sleep across the country, although personally I probably wouldn’t do it alone. Too shy when first meeting people.

  2. You know what’s awesome? The founder of the site is super shy, but it’s totally worked for him. And others profess to the same, but cite similar success, as it breaks the ice so quickly. I think you’d do fine. πŸ™‚

    And yes, we should check out George Street at least once when you’re here! I’m not much of a nightlife kinda person either, I only enjoy it now and then, but there’s something I like more when the band’s in front of you. And hey, if you’re into Irish fiddly music, there’s plenty of that here, too!

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