That lovely lady there is named Gail. She is one hell of a woman.
You could tell by the twinkle in her eye, and i can feel her awesomeness as i prognosticate my left cheek smarting from the playful smack that will land me after she reads this write-up about her, her roomie Fang (Phoang, really but you want to call her Fang) and her other mysterious roomie, Lily.
We took Toronto by the neck and wrangled it for two nights. But let’s rewind a little bit. Back-up to the time that i asked a friend whether she knew of any hosts in Toronto. You see, there’s this magical little thing called Couchsurfing, where you get to save a couple a’ bucks sleeping on someone’s floor/laundry room/dungeon. You poor little pauper traveler is called a Surfer- and it is every bit awesome as the name implies. The deal is that you invade someone’s living space and barrage them with stories, cooking skills, board game talents or even just your company while the Host- (Raise ’em hands for these saints!) fixes you up a little corner so you could rest your head for the night and for their kindness, they get a warm fuzzy feeling in their rectus abdominis.
In biology, this ecological relationship would fall under
Commensalism Mutualism. — because the spirit of Couchsurfing is not in the usual exchange of goods-for-services but in an unspoken credo between members: “today i’m the traveler, tomorrow i’m the host” or more succinctly put as “we are all evanescent, we wander, we get lost, but we find home in the kind faces of strangers”. As with any small-scale underground thing gone mainstream, Couchsurfing is easing its way through some cataclysmic bumps, but with strict adherence to the CS prescriptions posted on their site you’re bound to mellow into its groove pretty fine. I will have to admit though that i am a bit wary of staying with a complete stranger alone in the middle of a creepy village with no access to public transportation when i discover his stash of skulls in the basement, this paranoia stems from before getting acquainted with Gail, when i posted an “Emergency Couch Request” on the Toronto group page and what i got as replies were quite….. interesting.
I just have to note that a lot of new Couchsurfing profiles today are completely empty. That is a red flag and if you get a message from your host saying, “My bedroom door will be open all night.” Maybe you should quit being such a cheapskate and book a hostel instead. I’m not a prude but i would prefer sleeping on the floor rather than sharing a bed with someone i just met. Maybe you would prefer being gung-ho and throw caution to the wind while flipping the bird but it is always best to be prudent. Honestly i’d be quite happy to experience staying with a nudist septuagenarian but only if i am assured completely that i can get out completely unscathed.
Fast forward to my first day in Toronto, i was on the bus fresh off a Niagara Falls tour wondering where the heck will i sleep that night– When suddenly i got a magical text message from Gail, saying she’s downtown and would love to have dinner with Fang, her pulchritudinous roommate- carrying a yoga mat strap and poor, pauper me. And that was the start of an epic Hang-over style montage i’m never going to be able to replicate until after 4 months and 22 days. Little Ms. Energizer bunny thought it would be a great idea to have a sushi dinner and head off to a Couchsurfing party happening downtown. There we met Angus Beef-cake, an Australian backpacker conquering Canada one province at a time, Rogelio, a Spanish party-phile. Together with Gail, Fang and I– we comprised the Canadian Jengalympics! It was 12$ whiskey sours, board games, steady hands and somber conversations that can’t possibly be condensed in a single paragraph. Those brief moments of lucid clarity from being ironically inebriated was a facet of travel life that i sure as hell love. I didn’t even spare an errant thought about how, wait a minute, didn’t i just meet you about 3-4 hours ago? because when you find that commonality within a group of people everything just seems so much easier. We all spoke the same language of Travel and with it we made a Babel tower with Jenga blocks.
Couchsurfing in Toronto with Gail wasnt my first time sleeping on a stranger’s house. It was in the ethereal Southern-most tip of the Philippines, Tawi-tawi, a secluded island besieged by whispers of kidnappings, terrorism and danger. Yet the only time i got hurt was when Jaafar’s Mom told me that when i first came a-knockin’ on their door she thought i was their next door neighbor and she was wondering why she got so fat. It’s a good lesson on Murphy’s Law, you’ll be safe in perceived danger and you’ll lose your guard in a protected environment.
Slightly delineating from awesome board games we tried to do amateur psycho-analysis, with Aussie Angus playing Dr. Phil and asking me what animal do i identify with. Apparently people see me as a Manatee because i am inherently fat, boring and unattractive but actually kind of cute and thoroughly misunderstood.