CS Knowledge Exchange


CS Knowledge Exchange
Posted January 15th, 2010 – 4:27 pm

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
CS 101

Teach, Learn, and Share Events

In Europe:

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.

Language Lessons

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.”

Travel Advice

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.

CS 101

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.”

Derek Wallace has organized New Member Orientation events in the United States which, he claims, have turned CS newbies into “kung-fu masters” — in terms of CS knowledge, that is.

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.


Excerpt Day 2: Three Perfect Days in Verona

Day Two:

Your second day in Verona dawns rosy on ancient monuments. You are ready to tackle the day after getting your coffee fix at the Cappa Café, a cozy joint with a bohemian feel.

With that jumpstart to your day, you head a few blocks north to Verona’s Duomo. The Romanesque exterior, and a breathtaking expanse of columns and chapels inside are meant to impress, as this is the city’s main cathedral. Light a candle if you like, and take a moment to ponder Titian’s famous Assumption of the Virgin, located in a chapel towards the back of the church.Duomo

A short walk back towards the river and you’ll find Verona’s oldest surviving bridge, Ponte Pietra, simply meaning ‘stone bridge’. An original Roman construction, the bridge was rebuilt by residents even after its destruction during WWII.  A plaque is inscribed with words from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in both Italian and English. “There is no world without Verona walls” it reads, a true statement for those who have come to love the dear city.

Crossing the bridge, the Teatro Romano comes into view, a Roman amphitheater home to the Museo Archeologico, built right into the grassy hill. Walking up the steps of the amphitheater, imagine the performances and how it looked 2000 years ago. The rooms inside the museum are crammed full of Roman artifacts, enormous columns and tiny oil lamps alike.

Though it’s time for lunch, you’re still in a Roman frame of mind. Head for a street café near the river on Via Leoni, where you can enjoy a panino, a simple sandwich, in the sunshine. All along this thoroughfare, the ruins of ancient city walls rise up from the middle of the street.giardino

Refreshed and ready for more, the afternoon is full of inspiring views for the camera-happy traveler. Cross the river at the Ponte Navi, and head to the Giardino Giusti for a stroll in a Renaissance garden. Italians are fans of a sophisticated garden with hedges and fountain statues though, admittedly, modern Italians don’t have much more than a balcony flowerbox. Climb up to the higher terrace and admire the multiple towers that dot Verona’s skyline.

castelloAs many locals will agree, the best view of the city can be found from atop the Castel San Pietro. Take the street back north to the river, where you’ll climb the stairs to the left of the theater. Street names aren’t helpful since this same road changes name every block, a phenomenon of Italian city planning. Climb the steps to the castle where friends and lovers sit and chat, perhaps waiting for the sun to sink towards the horizon. Once again, feel the Italian way of life calling for you to slow down.

Do as the Italians do and head back to Piazza delle Erbe for a spritz aperol, an orange colored white wine cooler that is extremely popular before dinnertime. Look around and notice everyone has ordered the same thing. The locals, after all, are creatures of comfort and enjoy the habit of a drink before dinner. Head back to your hotel to rest and get spruced up for tonight.

For a romantic hilltop dinner, visit the classy Piper Bar & Restaurant overlooking the city. Order the Gnocchetti Patate con Scampi for a little seafood paired with Verona’s favorite pasta made from potatoes.  Linger to enjoy the sassy contemporary atmosphere and the twinkling lights of the city below. With a drink list just as long as the menu itself, you’ll be prepped to head to Verona’s hottest nightclub just down the street, Alter-Ego. The young stylish crowd spreads out through several rooms and outdoor patios.  You’ll surely be dancing until the wee hours.

Excerpt: Day 1 of “3 Perfect Days in Verona”

Verona: A Gem off the Beaten Path

Rachel Smith

Verona is a pleasant mix of old Roman history and modern Italian culture, located about halfway between Milan and Venice.  It is a relaxing but vibrant alternative to more conventional destinations, and is easy to reach by train or plane. The historic city of Verona in northern Italy is best known as the home of Romeo and Juliet. Couples and tourists alike can stand on Juliet’s balcony, rub her statue’s breast for luck in love, and scrawl their own names in love graffiti on their way out. But there is far more to Verona than this tourist spectacle.  For a true Italian cultural experience Verona is the place to go.

Day One:

Just off a grand piazza in the heart of Verona’s historic city center stands an unimposing building with quaint green shutters, the Hotel Bologna. Traces of an ancient fresco, and flower bedecked balconies are everything one might expect from an old Italian inn. Start your first day with breakfast in the hotel’s attached Restaurant Rubiani. Sitting at one of the outdoor patio tables with a view of the Roman Arena and a frothy cappuccino in hand, you’ll begin to understand why Italians enjoy a slower pace of life.

spring break 022

You’ve been dying to see it ever since you got here, so walk out into the open air piazza with its crowning jewel, the Roman Arena. At one time, Verona was a major trading city in the Roman Empire, and this stadium was constructed outside what were then the city walls. Today it marks the center of town, or il centro, in the middle of the pedestrian-friendly Piazza Brà.

This is the perfect place for sitting and people watching, an activity Italians take seriously.  There is far more to see in Verona, so when exiting the piazza head up Via Roma towards the river, enjoying the old world cobblestoned streets. Castelvecchio, or the Old Castle, looms before you, a gothic fortress built by Verona’s ruling family in the Middle Ages. A bridge extends out over the River Adige where one can peer between the imposing battlements for a peek at the rushing water below. Right next door is the Arco dei Gavi, a Roman arch now covered in modern graffiti like so many other ancient monuments. Graffiti is an Italian word for a reason.

Back on the main street, meander towards the ancient city gate Porta Borsari, once the entrance to Roman Verona. Around the next corner is restaurant San Matteo, the doorway practically hidden in a small stone courtyard. This former church was converted into a restaurant that now boasts one of the longest pizza menus in town, including the popular quattro stagioni , or four seasons. Each quarter of the pizza has its own ingredients including fresh mozzarella, tomato, artichokes, mushrooms, cooked ham, and black olives. Check out the book-sized menu by the door, since you’ll be returning here for dinner.


Continuing down the main drag past all the high-end shops like Prada and Mariella Burani, you’ll come upon another large square. With an altogether different vibe, Piazza delle Erbe is the hangout for a younger crowd, and also the place to buy your knick knacks and souvenirs. Stop at one of the many outdoor cafes for a light lunch and savor the bustle of people against a backdrop of frescoed walls and ancient stone facades. A column with a lion capital stands at the north end of the square, a symbol of Venetian rule.

Since Romeo and Juliet are this city’s namesakes, the Casa di Giulietta is a tourist’s most obligatory stop in Verona. Entering the gate of the Capulet house, you’ll perhaps be surprised to find the walls covered in love graffiti, full of names and hearts. Inside the small courtyard stands a small statue of Juliet. Get your picture rubbing her breast for good luck in love, or smiling from her stone balcony just above.

Now begins an afternoon of serious shopping. The crowded, pedestrians-only thoroughfare Via Mazzini is the place to see and be seen, and contains Verona’s trendiest shops. And as the city of love there is no end to lingerie stores; Intimissimi is Italy’s answer to Victoria’s Secret. While away the afternoon in high style, being sure to stop for a gelato and shamelessly check out what everyone else is wearing. Take Via Mazzini all the way back to Piazza Bra and drop off your purchases at your hotel.

Italy 003

Dinner tonight at the San Matteo restaurant is an education in what pizza should be. Surprising even yourself, you can manage to eat an entire pizza, and still have room for dessert. The waiter may tempt you to try some limoncello after your meal, a popular lemon flavored liquor made in southern Italy. The after dinner passeggiata, or a walk around town, makes for the perfect end to a delightful meal. A glass of wine in Piazza Bra, and you’ll wish this dreamy night could last forever.