The stories of a couchsurfer

Yadira, Paris

Yadira

Finding a couch isn’t always easy. Even in a city like Paris there can be challenges. When plans fall through one can be left on the streets. Luckily I have many friends in Paris who I can fall back on, but again I preferred to meet somebody new.

There is an option in this case. Couchsurfing offers the concept of Groups. Essentially these are forums, where people can post topics and other members respond. A common use of these groups are emergency groups. Most, if not all, major cities will have one. They allow travellers to make a post in the emergency group asking if anybody in the city can help them, usually even that night or the night after.

Once my original plans had fallen through I decided to resort to the Paris emergency group. This is quite an active group and so I received numerous responses in a quick amount of time. The first such of these was from Yadira.

Yadira lived in the arrondissements of Paris but was far from Parisienne. She came to Paris from Colombia to study and ended up staying here. She had developed her French language skills while living here and could speak almost fluently. Again, she was able to provide a heartwarming insight into the process of learning the language.

She also wished to improve her English, so we soon made an agreement to do a language exchange – half an hour of French followed by half an hour of English.

The first night she invited me out with her friend who was Italian. We went to a bar in Montmartre for a few drinks. It was a very intimate bar, with people often brushing past others to move around, and it seemed almost everybody knew everybody else. The two bartenders both spoke Italian and it was easy to see that they were enjoying themselves. Free tapas came out every five to ten minutes and the beer here was cheap. The Italian friend had a dog and it was freely allowed to roam around the bar as it pleased. The waiter accommodated it by bringing a bowl of water and everybody embraced it. These people were very relaxed, very fun to hang out with. I thought of the furore that would probably eventuate if somebody attempted to bring a dog into a bar in Australia. Here, nobody minds (at least in this bar).

The second night we went to a pub quiz night. Couchsurfing also offers to ability to create Events. Events are basically a facility to allow members to say “I’m planning to do this at this place and this time if anybody wants to join me”. This pub quiz was a regular event on the Parisian Couchsurfing calendar and also a very popular one. It occurs every Monday night at the Irish bar of The Lions.

I had intended to go on the previous two Mondays that I was in Paris, but other events took higher priority. Finally, on the final Monday that I planned to be in Paris I had the chance to go.

Yadira had actually attended these events previously, so it worked out perfectly. I met Yadira at the pub with Cyril, a friend of mine who I had hosted in Australia. The pub was extremely crowded, but we managed to find a table and form a team with some other people at the pub. The team consisted of around eight or nine people and, from what I could gather, was entirely French with the exception of myself. This didn’t matter of course, as the questions were all in English.

The quiz was divided into two halves. In the first half, twenty-five songs are played and the team must write down both the artist and the name of the song. Each week, the music section takes a different theme. This week was love songs. Needless to say, I contributed fairly little, although Bon Jovi and Elton John were my highlights.

In the second half, twenty-five multiple choice questions are presented. Again this takes a theme. Again, I contributed little. Valentine’s Day was the theme this week, but the questions were very obscure such that even if the topic had been something I like, I doubt I would have been successful. I heard that the week prior, the topic was Australia, and the team had an Australian with them but he couldn’t answer the questions confidently.

At the break, while the answers were being assessed, I finally had the chance to meet some people. One was a Tunisian who had moved to Paris for work. Another was a Peruvian who had previously lived in Montréal and now moved to Paris. It just goes to show how Couchsurfing can bring people from all over the world together.

Yadira and I planned to leave after the answers were displayed, as we were both pretty tired. But to our surprise, we had won the quiz. Which meant that the team had won a bottle of vodka between them. Because the team had become quite large by then, dividing the bottle meant that each member got a fairly weak drink, but it tasted like victory none-the-less.

So there it was. Because of a chance response to an emergency request I’m able to recount the time I won a quiz about love songs and Valentine’s Day. Thanks Yadira.

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