Ringing in the Chinese New Year usually involves the smoky explosion of firecrackers, dining with family and friends, and wearing red for good luck.
CS members in Vancouver pose with the God of Wealth at the Chinese New Year Parade – Photo courtesy of Jasmine Tan
Even though it’s called Chinese New Year, the occasion (which fell on Feb 3rd this year) is celebrated in countries across Asia and in Chinatowns in Australia, Canada and the United States.
In Beijing, CouchSurfers welcomed in the New Year in style. They not only enjoyed a meal together and viewed the city’s astounding fireworks display from Beijing’s famous Drum and Bell Tower, but also did a whole lot of dancing.
Hong Kong CouchSurfers took on more a challenging activity: hiking in the scenic Kam Shan park and the Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail.
In Seoul, a jam-packed CouchSurfing weekend included a leisurely afternoon trip to a Jjimjilbong, a visit to a spa and sauna, a trip to the Buddhist Jogyesa Temple in the central area, and plenty of Tteokguk — a rice cake soup eaten during the New Year festivities for good fortune in the coming year.
Red dragon walks in the restaurant – Photo courtesy of Jasmine Tan
In New York, a small group of CSers attended the Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival and watched performances by Asian-American singers and dancers. Organizer Jasz‘s homemade cupcakes and red envelopes made the event the right amount of enchanting.
“I have never felt more welcome at an event with 49 strangers!”said Kayathri Thangarajah, one of the attendees.
“I’m a Singapore Chinese and have not really done a lot of Chinese New Year celebrations since coming to North America in 2007. It was a homesick feeling that prompted me to do something special this year with CouchSurfers.”
Thanks to her, a bunch of CouchSurfers got to make paper lanterns for the first time.
Hey CouchSurfers, have you ever considered running away with the circus?
The Circus Open House is a one night event where you can have the opportunity to try your hand at circus skills like trapeze and juggling!
Circus performers will be volunteering their time to teach you a little of what they do.
You can learn ground skills including juggling, poi and two person stunts, or try out aerials like trapeze, hoop, and silks.
Come out and give it a try!
Rachel Smith might have not become so hooked on CouchSurfing if her first experience hadn’t been a really magnetic event.
“What catapulted me into the CS community was a Chicago museum day with travelers and other locals like me. That led me to becoming more involved, and finally to volunteering for CS.”
What are her favorite CS events to this day? Below, she lists her top 5, and tells us what was so awesome about each one of them.
My top 5 CS events (in no special order):
1. Cookie Party
The most creative and indulgent CS event I’ve ever been to was a holiday cookie party. At a CouchSurfer’s apartment, we made and shared Christmas cookies. I brought my own recipe — special apple spice! Later, we played some intense rounds of Wii bowling. What a night!
Since circus arts are both a hobby and a part-time job, I decided to host an open house to teach these skills to CouchSurfers. My talented friends volunteered to help for an evening, and everyone had fun juggling, swinging on the trapeze, and hanging upside-down in the air. Lesson learned: CouchSurfers are willing to try anything!
CouchSurfer hangs upside down at Rachel’s Circus Open House
3. Museum Day and Picnic
The first event I ever attended was a Chicago museum trip. We visited the Museum of Science and Industry and had a picnic by the lake. The adventurous ones even went swimming, but a violent storm caught us by surprise and forced us to take shelter in a local bar where we waited out the storm over a few pitchers of beer.
A great day in Chicago – Rachel Smith is the smiley girl in red.
Visiting the City Museum was part of the St Louis Couch Crash, but it was by far the best part of it. The museum is like a giant playground for grown-ups and kids alike, made out of reclaimed building materials from the city. The best way to get to know a group of CouchSurfers is to do an activity with them, and we had fun climbing through caves and airplanes and going down the stories-high slide.
With all the creative minds in this city, the Chicago Couch Crash turned out quite spectacular. There were visits to the museum, comedy shows, a fire performance on the beach, an arena concert, a board game night for those who didn’t wish to party, and a huge bonfire barbecue for those who did. Chicago has more to offer than I imagined, and I grew up here!
CSer Spreads Love Across the Globe
Meet Keveen Gabet, the man who creates love carpets
Keveen Gabet’s dad was hoping he’d become a lawyer someday. Instead, this 28-year old CouchSurfer from France became a teacher, a poet, a photographer, a filmmaker, a ukelele player, and a maker of love carpets, amongst other things.
No matter which occupation, his mission is to spread love, encourage others to do the same, and connect people worldwide. It can be summed up in one word — Korakor –, which he created in reference to the French expression corps à corps.
“In French, corps à corps means ‘body to body’. It is a connection with life, others, oneself and all that makes our world. It is traveling to the heart of people to embrace diversity. It is seeking to co-create, collaborate and share as much as possible.”
Love carpets on sidewalks
While traveling the world, Kaveen practices Korakor through two of his projects: Spread Your Love and It’skool.
My mother warns me against bees and snakes and my father wishes I were a lawyer.
The idea behind Spread Your Love is to get people thinking about, and expressing, love. Part of it involves what he likes to call “love carpets” — drawing hearts on the sidewalk and encouraging strangers and passers-by to join in.
The It’skool project is a free and mobile classroom offering alternative, interactive education in remote areas.
CouchSurfing is an essential part of both. Currently, there are 5 love carpet actions being organized through our website. Instructors for the It’skool project are also being recruited from the CS community.
“I used to do these things alone, but now I share this experience with CouchSurfers. CS is a good way to find volunteers who are interested in integrating with the local population.”
Because it makes him happy
Keveen is currently going through the paperwork to make Korakor an official non-profit organization. It’s obvious, though, that he’d be spreading his love no matter what.
“Instead of getting a full time job, I’d rather do this. Because it makes me happy, and it’s my lifestyle.”
Want to find out more about Kaveen and Korakor?
Like this article? Then you might like these CS groups, too:
You would have thought it was impossible, but I made it work! I will admit this week spent in London wasn’t even planned, but that may make it even more amazing. The reason it wasn’t planned was that I never intended to spend more than two hours in the city, but that two hours turned into eight days.
I was on my way home after a two week vacation. My short flight from Amsterdam to London went off without problems, and my easy two hour layover in London before the final leg to Chicago should have been the same. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. As we landed at London Heathrow airport, the pilot informed us that all flights for the rest of the day were to be cancelled, due to a volcanic eruption on Iceland. I couldn’t even process this information, but as we exited into the terminal the situation began to sink in.
All passengers were being asked to exit out through customs; I got a nice “Leave to Enter” stamp in my passport and proceeded down to the baggage hall with the rest of the herd to retrieve my luggage. After having my luggage lost for 5 days at the beginning of my vacation, I was anxious to have back as soon as possible! The rest of my day was spent waiting; waiting for my luggage, waiting for a hotel voucher, waiting for a bus, waiting for good news.
The airline was kind enough to put us up in a hotel, although the hotel was 40km outside of London, and I had no clue where I was anyway. A luxurious room at the Hilton to myself improved my mood, and those first two days passed fairly quickly. Travelers wandered in and out of the lobby, chatting and congregating in front of the TV which played the news all day long. On Saturday morning we were suddenly told we had to check out immediately and head back to the airport. What were they going to tell us there?
As it turned out they told me they could do nothing else for me, so a woman I had met at the hotel offered to let me come along with her. We bought cheap cell phones from the Vodafone store in the airport and I was able to call home for the first time. The cell phone continued to help when I got in contact with a young man in west London who was willing to put me up for a few days. I will be eternally grateful for the kind people across the world on courchsurfing.org and for William who hosted me for 6 nights at his small apartment in Notting Hill.
So I took a leap of faith and agreed to meet William at the tube station closest to his house. His apartment was a charming little place near the famous Portobello Road, and the kitchen window looked out onto an overgrown courtyard garden. I started to like the idea of being stranded in London and gave barely a thought to my job back home. William and I played UNO on the floor and talked until we went to sleep.
William had an extra bike and so Sunday was spent riding bikes through the parks and neighborhoods in the area, and even through downtown London. We grabbed a late lunch at an outdoor café on a quiet little street and rode along the Thames. Seeing the city on a bike was the best way to see it, and I used the bike the rest of that week. I spent my days visiting all the city museums and public parks, and wandering around Notting Hill. I even happened to unknowingly walk into the bookshop that was in the Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant film ‘Notting Hill’.
So while the British Museum, the Tower Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater were all highlights of my visit, but my evenings were all spent quietly back at the apartment. William and I might eat dinner together and have some tea, talk, read aloud from a novel in our best acting voices, or simply watch the TV if anything good was on. And so I passed my 8 nights in London for less than $200. It’s a memory I won’t soon forget.
by Rachel Smith
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When you first created your CS profile, what did you put under Teach, Learn and Share? This information helps make CouchSurfing more than finding a place to rest your head. Everyone has the chance to be a student or a teacher, and events are ideal opportunities for knowledge exchange.
What can you teach, learn, or share? Popular ideas to get you started:
Arts & Crafts (origami, knitting)
Travel Advice & Experience
Exercise (yoga, hiking, martial arts)
Music & Instruments
Science & Philosophy
Teach, Learn, and Share Events
In Manchester, England, CouchSurfers meet monthly at a low-key bar in town to practice origami, knitting, poker and languages such as French, Turkish, Italian, and Spanish. Janis, the event organizer, firmly believes that everyone has something to share. “People who say, ‘I don’t have anything anyone would want to learn,’ are often surprised to find that something they undervalue can be really interesting to another person.”
The folks of Lisbon, Portugal, organized their first Knowledge Exchange Meeting this past December. The event had workshops on topics as diverse as self-defense, Austrian cooking, Pilates, Tui-Na massage, laptop recovery, and using Google Sites.
In North and South America:
A small group in Florida, United States, meets to share their common interest in travel writing. Freelance journalist and author Kerry facilitates the workshop, passing on what she knows about the writing industry.
In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, CouchSurfers met twice this January for a discussion of modern physics, moderated by philosopher and engineer Márcio Galvão and by physicist Lucas Savi. “Pleasant afternoons spent in the company of educated people,” was how an attendee, Paula Paz, described these meetings.
A Dutch game lesson
photo by Liza
For over a year, the Weekly Dutch lessons in Utrecht, Netherlands, have brought CouchSurfers together for casual evenings of education and fun.
The lessons have given expats such as Jim Hart and Graham Wright the opportunity to make friends with locals and experience the Dutch culture. “It surprises me how detached most foreigners can be from the local language and culture,” says Jim. Graham credits his new friends for the extra motivation to attend classes. “I made some of my best CS friends through these lessons because there is a stronger bond between people who go through something difficult, like learning Dutch, together.”
As CouchSurfers, there’s one thing we all know a lot about: travel. Montreal’s CS travel conference “gave CouchSurfers an overview of China, from the big metropolitan cities to the countryside,” says Carlos, who presented with Stephanie Wang.
In San Francisco, United States, How to Get Lost featured presentations by CouchSurfers who taught English in Chile, researched flora in Indonesia and traveled solo in Iran.
Events designed to turn inexperienced members into savvy CouchSurfers are also popular. Mario, Ambassador for Heredio Centro, Costa Rica, believes New Member Meetings “encourage members to become more active and empower them to make CouchSurfing safer for everyone.”
Martine, Ambassador for Brugge, Belgium, taught workshops at the Independent Women’s Meeting and the Utrecht Midsummernight. She says, “it’s a wonderful feeling when you notice that one of the CouchSurfers you ‘trained’ ends up an experienced member who helps others.”
Ready to organize a teach, learn, and share event? Here are Janis‘ tips:
1. Recruit several core members in your area to help organize the event.
2. Find a friendly, welcoming venue that supports your group.
3. Choose a visible location. Greet newcomers!
4. Match skills and interests beforehand.
5. Keep tabs on the event attendance list, and encourage new people to come.
6. Create areas for different interests as groups begin to form.
7. Hand out name tags. Have people write their names and what they want to teach/learn.