adventures in the far east — of canada!

Friday: Couch Surfing bonfire meet-up!

In culture, friends, st. john's on July 19, 2009 at 1:31 pm

The much anticipated event has passed, and I’m still smiling!

Having joined the Couch Surfing community to meet friends and hopefully one day do some traveling, I discovered that groups based in cities across the world organize monthly (or so) get-togethers that any CS members, world travelers, and their friends can attend. Yesterday, in many cases complete strangers came together (and gave rides to others to Topsail Beach) in Conception Bay South, just 20 minutes or so out of the city, to a big bonfire meet-and-greet. We roasted hot dogs, marshmallows, baked bread from some tasty dough an Aussie gal brought, drank some booze, told stories, there was a song, and even some half-hearted interpretive dance. All in all, it was a glorious night, and everyone came away friends eager to meet again.

The speed in which we all connected was incredible…it’s like when you typically make friends, you invite them to things, see them a few times, and then get to feel you know them better in a few weeks. Here, it seemed all condensed in one night–and I don’t mean it in a bad way–and all the formalities (if there were any at all) disappeared, and everyone raced ahead, eager to know you.

I brought Jeanne along because we’re pretty good friends now, but I was wholly prepared to go myself if she couldn’t. It’s always nice to have someone you know along. Along with another Montrealer, Jason, we took a ride with a lovely young St. John’s couple. Jon greeted us happily at my place (had Jeanne over for a light dinner, so they could pick us both up easily), and somewhere between negotiating seating and rearranging our bags of stuff–blankets, food, and booze–we were already kinda joking around. It’s almost a nice icebreaker, I think, to have a squishy car, and be obliged to sheepishly apologize haha.

The couple have been in the province pretty much their whole lives, but were Couch Surfing newbies, as was I (minus meeting Whitney); it was another small bonus, another small point to bond over, our mutual inexperience and excitement over our first events. Jason was a more seasoned traveler, and was just in St. John’s for a while before he headed elsewhere–he leaves Monday, unfortunately.

At the party I was pleased to meet with Jenna, one of the moderators of the St. John’s group–so warm, so motherly, so full of life and stories. She was very happy to meet and welcome me into the St. John’s CS group, and made sure all the newcomers had a great time; she even provided prizes for things like the best story, best dance, song, and food. Small things, but the effort and gesture was touching.

Myself, I shared my naming story. 🙂 It got 2nd prize for best story, and I received a pair of fabulously giant, kitschy glasses–in the shape of stars lol. Jenna proclaimed, “And you get these, because you’re such a star!” I hope you can get just a small sense of her lovely self from my entry here, though words can’t really do it justice.

I also got to know 3 lovely German ladies, here to do some nursing/health care/med stuff at Memorial University and at one of the hospitals. They leave early August, much to my disappointment–they are so cool! They told us Canada has a great reputation for having excellent programs or practicums and such for the field, and they had wanted to see the East Coast. They were so friendly, polite, open, and so ready with their laughter, and were an example of that amazing European phenomenon of knowing too many languages–one of the gals, Maria, speaks German, English, French (she could confidently converse with both Jeanne and Jason), Spanish, some Italian, and some Swedish. It’s so normal for them there, where so many different countries are at their doorstep!

As a result, they seemed so cultured and adventurous–they were so into all this foreign cuisine, so thrilled to try the seafood here (among them, they’ve never or only once in their lives had lobster, because it is prohibitively expensive in Germany–now in St. John’s, it doesn’t get much cheaper or tastier!), so well-traveled, and so curious about other people and cultures. They were a pleasure, and I hoped I would see them again…and I did, but that’s another story. 🙂

Beyond the incredible range of backgrounds there, this was also a venue to meet great people I may never have met normally. Ben, a big guy with many tattoos looks like a rough character–but he’s a really sweet, affable guy. A real free spirit, he was the only one to wade into the ocean, shirt off, and into the night…he insisted it wasn’t that cold, we just laughed and watched. Like many other CS members, he just has this sense of adventure and curiosity, and far from being prejudiced, related a story when he was briefly in Toronto, and was both delighted and startled to encounter such diversity–for years, he’s been so used to the cultural and racial composition here, which is much more predominantly European and caucasian. He’s got a big North American trip lined up–his first significant trip–and he’s super excited.

There was a weird, instant connection between myself and another dude, Angus–barely into our first conversation, it was revealed he was a graphic designer. Hehe, there’s just something about us design people, and from there we were already comfortable and swapping stories. It was unfortunate he had to leave early, but encouraged me to keep in touch. No need to ask man, I hope we’ll hang out some more, and maybe even trade some typography jokes! 😉

These are just those I got closest to, but there were many other wonderful people. I wished I was able to speak with them more, a few were a little more reserved, but I do hope to see them again some time, because my experience with everyone was still very positive, if perhaps not as thorough.

In a strange coincidence, I was pleasantly surprised to hear someone yell playfully, “Natrix, go home, it’s past your bedtime!” during the night. Investigating, I discovered it was Karen and Tracy from the house with their own friends!

The event ended at 1:30 am, and almost on cue, a light drizzle started. I was more than happy to stay longer, as were most of us, but the rain convinced most to head home. Some stuck around a little longer, particularly the latecomers. Jeanne, Jason, and I took the ride back with Jon and Shantille, and on the way back continued fostering our own little group that developed on the way there.

Man, what a night! Unfortunately, I’d forgotten my camera, but it was pretty dark there anyway for decent shots. Despite that, I don’t think I’ll forget this one, and plans began to take shape to screech in the Germans and Jason….. 😀

PS: if it’s not been clear enough already–thank you Couch Surfing, I love you.

  1. Wow. Sounds like quite the night. I’m glad Couch Surfing has worked out so well for you 🙂 Also looking forward to hearing any other stories you have, and some of ’em in person!

  2. OMG you’re almost going to be here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀

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