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Archive for August, 2012

1I lived in Costa Rica the last 4 years, but my wife and I have just moved to South Carolina. For me, it is my third time living in South Carolina, but for my wife it is her first time living outside of the United States. We left Costa Rica in June, but I actually start teaching in about a week and a half.

There is a lot of surrealism that surrounds the journey back into the U.S. There are certainly some positive aspects. In the U.S. many areas of life are simply much more convenient and efficient. There is the opportunity to be around family much more. On a political or social level, I no longer feel like an “outsider” when it comes to any type of political or social activism or discussion. I am also excited about many opportunities that are available in the U.S. Personally, I am excited about the chance to study my graduate degree, have a chance to work and serve in a very challenging yet hopefully rewarding place, earn a better living with more career opportunities, and have a chance to grow deeper in the relationships with my family.

On the other hand, there is a lot of sadness that comes with moving back to the U.S. There is the call of consumerism that seems to engulf so many, and it is very easy if one is not careful to fall into the same cycle. I have also noticed more selfishness and less of a sense of community, especially when comes to issues related to politics or the well being of others in the community. There is an idea of the survival of the fittest, which of course is seen in all countries around the world; however, it is not usually held up as a virtue by most of the society.

For me, change is just hard. It is a realization that life is moving on and evolving, when I often would prefer it to stay the same. I miss the church we went to, the students I was able to teach, and the many friends we were able to share life with. I also miss the beauty of the people and nature in Costa Rica. However, that is the thing about life-it changes. Change is usually exciting and sad at the same time. I would not change my experiences in Costa Rica for the world, and I hope one day we can return. However, during this time of change I pray that we will be challenged, forced to grow, and in the end, in a small way make a better world and live our lives in the full realization of the Kingdom of God.

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2What would happen if people started just staying in stranger’s houses, shared food with them, and learned lessons from individuals from all over the world? This is the opportunity that my wife and I have had for the last year through Couchsurfing both staying with other people and having people stay in our home.

Last summer, Raquel and I were planning to go to New York for a few days. However, we soon realized how expensive it is to stay in a city like New York, even in the cheap hostel, it was easily 100 dollars a night between the two of us. We looked at different options, and then I remembered this organization called Couchsurfing which a friend had told me about, where you stay at people’s houses for free. It seemed abit strange, like some kind of hippy experiment, but we decided to give it a try.

We joined the website, set up our profile, and started looking for people to stay with. Since we had just joined and did not have any recommendations yet, it was a little hard to find someone who would host us, but finally, a man named John, who was a medical researcher let us stay in his house in Brooklyn. The first night we were a little nervous. I mean, who in their right mind just goes and stays with a complete stranger? However, when we got there, John welcomed us in like we were long lost friends; he even gave us his bed, and he slept on the couch. We ended up staying with John for four days. We really hit it off well. We went out with him and our friend Marcella who first introduced us to couchsurfing. We cooked together, drank his homemade beer, and spent hours talking. It was an amazing experience.

When we returned to Costa Rica last fall, we decided that we should return the favor and start hosting people in our apartment. We have had people from Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Slovakia, India, France, Spain, Argentina, Switzerland, Finland, England, and the U.S. We have created great friends, had great conversations, and learned a lot from others. However, more importantly, I feel that we have grown as individuals.

This past summer, we took a road trip out west and all along the way we stayed with people from Couchsurfing. We stayed with people as young as 21 all the way up to people in their 60’s. We stayed with couchsurfers in Mobile, San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson, San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Columbia, Missiouri, and Lexington, Kentucky.You are able to experience so much more than when you are just staying in a hotel. In San Diego, we were able to meet great friends Chayo and Edo who had just come back from studying in China. We stayed with them the night when they were having their house warming party, so we were able to meet many of their friends from around the area. In El Paso, we stayed with a man named Russ, who had hosted over 250 couchsurfers. He prepared a wonderful meal of salmon, beans, and fries, and told us about his experiences as a young man when he worked in the Fiji Islands. We stayed with Vanessa and Robert in Las Vegas. They showed us the Las Vegas outside of the tourist traps and modeled the real spirit of hospitality that couchsurfing is suppose to represent.

Organizations like couchsurfing allow people to break out of their normal comfort zones. It forces you to trust other people. We have given people our keys, controls, and we even let one couple stay at our house on the weekend, taking care of our dog while we went to the beach. It also shows that people from all around the world can come together and connect around something that is not based on money, profit, or exploitation. It is about sharing your resources and getting to really know people in the area you are visiting. For my wife and I, couchsurfing has really been transformative in our lives. We hope to continue on as we move to South Carolina. Couchsurfing is something that is so completely outside the norms of the consumerist society, and that is exactly what is so great about it.

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