Tag Archives: CouchSurfing

Spreading the American-Nepali Love with Christmas

I’ve mentioned this before… that P and I now have an annual Christmas party at our house right before the holidays. I love learning about Nepali culture and participating in Dashain and Tihar, and I feel that it is also important to celebrate and showcase my own culture, and so I get excited about organizing this yearly Christmas gathering.

It starts a day or two before the actual party. I like to invite people over to help make dozens of batches of cookies as the dessert centerpiece at the Christmas party (plus they are good to have around for gifts and to give visitors!) Over the past few years our upstairs Irish and Thai neighbors have helped, AS and N were over this year, KS and our Indian neighbor have also come before, as well as one of my two sisters, depending on who is around at the time.

This year we made 8 different types of cookies… my favorites are the Irish soda bread biscuits because they are kind of like soft biscotti and nice with a cup of tea for breakfast or dessert. We also made orange cranberry drop biscuits, oatmeal raisin/cranberry cookies, spiced sugar cookies, ginger cookies, Swedish jam cookies (with apricot or raspberry jam), peanut butter balls, and macaroons. The macaroons were a big hit, I’ll have to remember that for next year.

Many of our friends were traveling this year, so we didn’t have as many guests as usual at Saturday’s get-together, but we did have a new edition at the party I wanted to mention.

AS, C and N... donning Santa hats and enjoying the party...

I’ve talked about “couchsurfing” before… so a woman in New England recently found P on the couchsurfing website. She had spent several months living and traveling in India and Nepal and when she returned she wanted to keep in touch with people from the region. Since she didn’t know any Nepalis in her area she started looking for people online and stumbled upon us. She wanted to connect with a Nepali community to give her the opportunity to practice speaking the language, and to meet people with a shared interest. She definitely connected with the right couple! P mentioned the Christmas party on Saturday and said that she should come. Despite the snowy weather forecast she made it to our place.

The party was a lot of fun. Lots of food… many American appetizers and the cookies for dessert, and Nepali main courses—matter paneer, daal-bhat, channa masala, roasted spiced chicken, tomato achar. We played Yankee Swap (always a crowd pleaser), lots of conversation, Christmas music, and other games.

Now it is on to the family Christmas. P and I will be traveling back to central New York on Thursday morning. For any of those who celebrate… happy holidays and happy new year!

CouchSurfing

Tonight P and I were research subjects. We don’t get to be research subjects everyday, so I thought it might make for a different kind of post. 

CouchSurfing... literally...

CouchSurfing... literally...

A local professor contacted us for an interview about “CouchSurfing.” She explained that she was taking some time away from teaching to focus on writing a book on technology, social networks and travel, and she had spent the better part of the summer (and now the fall) looking for “CouchSurfing” subjects to interview. P and I just happened to live down the road.

Many of you might be asking, “What the heck is CouchSurfing? Is it a sport? Is it a game? Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” however I am sure some of you readers are probably CouchSurfers yourselves. P and I are definitely CouchSurfing novices, but it was fun to connect with the professor and tell her about our experiences.

Make sure to check out their website at the link to the left!

Make sure to check out their website at the link to the left!

According to their website CouchSurfing “is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit” and the tagline of the website is “Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time.” In the stats section of their website it mentions that there are over 1,413,520 CouchSurfers around the world. Pretty impressive!

I heard about CouchSurfing a few years ago while traveling on a train and decided to check it out. People can put up profiles about themselves and their “couches” (which can be any number of things… an actual bedroom, a couch in a living room, something random to sleep on, sometimes it isn’t even a place to sleep–you can say “meet for coffee” for instance) online and other travelers can search destinations and find a profile of a place they might want to stay. There isn’t any monetary compensation for this, the whole point is more about the interaction between people (although cheap/free accommodation is definitely a motivating factor for some). 

I thought it was a neat idea, and when I had to go to a workshop shortly thereafter I decided to try it out. A lot of the people I talked to about this thought I was crazy (“how do you know they won’t kill you or something??!?”) but P also thought it sounded fun, so I made a profile, checked out a few people where I was traveling, and contacted them to check space availability. Lo and behold, it worked out great and I had a wonderful time. So P and I decided to open our place up to other CouchSurfers. 

Why not add weird random pictures of "CouchSurfing?"

I haven’t always been this open. I fancied myself social enough when I was younger, but it wasn’t until P entered my life and the Nepali social networking thing (“Nepali ho?“) became a daily ritual that I really loosened up. I admit, there are times I really like personal space and quiet time, but I’ve grown quite used to the constant stream of visitors we seem to attract at our place (I’m sure I’ll write more in detail about this some other time). When it came to CouchSurfing we figured why not throw a few more people into the mix?

Lucky for us, where we live is not a bustling tourist destination, or we would probably have CouchSurfing requests all the time, but we do get them occasionally. The joke is that more people find P interesting, probably because he is Nepali, so most of our CouchSurfers have come through his profile instead of mine. However all of our CouchSurfing experiences have been very positive. We have met interesting people, with different stories, backgrounds, and personal goals from all over the world. People have brought us wine, have shared with us their photography skills, taught us magic tricks, and even connected with us in other places–I keep running into one of our CouchSurfers at an annual conference that I attend.

couchsurfing4In fact, the first time I went CouchSurfing, I was talking with one of my colleagues during the workshop coffee-break about where I was staying and  literally someone from across the room heard me say “CouchSurfing.” He enthusiastically called out, “Hey! CouchSurfing! I used to have a bunch of CouchSurfers when I was in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan!”

How random is that?

Anyway, as we told the researcher today, our interest in CouchSurfing, more than anything else, is probably networking and connecting with great people from around the world that we wouldn’t normally get a chance to meet. CouchSurfers are a pretty cool set of people (I guess I’m a bit biased here) with an interest in multicultural interactions and travel. Intercultural relationships or not–I’d recommend checking it out.