這次歐洲行是我第一次Couch Surfing(CS)，透過CS可以免費住進當地居民的家，既省錢又更了解當地文化，莫斯科是整個歐洲行的第一站，我於2016年8月18日抵達莫斯科，8月25日離開，頭四天住在市中心的Comrade Hostel，之後四天住在Couchsurfing host家。
我離港數周前開始找CS Moscow host，只挑選「女性」或「家庭」host，認真地詳讀每位host的資料才寄「求宿信」；等了十多天，終於有host接納我的留宿申請，我細閱已經入住過的會員留言，發現留言都一致讚好，說host好人、健談、開朗，留言如此正面，會是偽做的嗎？
畫Lily & Olivia這幅畫時，已是凌晨一時，多謝Lily抱着Olivia說故事，Olivia才能坐定定讓我畫。這是整個「Picture the Host Project」的第一張畫，畫的時候有點緊張，怕畫得不好，但母女倆俾足面，捱眼瞓都坐了在我面前，一定要畫，無得猶疑，那就不要多想只管畫吧。
CS free lodging first experience
This Europe trip is my first experience on Couch Surfing (CS) for free lodging and living with local people. It's the best way to save money and makes friends with locals. Moscow is the first stop and first CS host of my EU trip. I arrived in Moscow on 18AUG2016 and leave on 25AUG2016. I was living in Comrade Hostel in the city center for the first 4 days and living with the CS host in the last 4 days.
I have worried 'there are no free lunch' of the CS free lodging. It is hard to believe somebody would open their home and provide free lodging for just culture exchange. Would that be a fraud? How can I get help if accidents happen for a lone traveler like me?
I have started my research on Moscow CS hosts a few weeks before departure. I read the host's profile very carefully and only sent hosting request to 'Female' or 'Other' host. There is a host accept my staying request finally after a week. The comments are very positive by people who has ALREADY stayed with the host. They said the host are kind, talkative and positive. The comments are all unbelievably positive, would that all be fraud comments!?
I clicked into the profile of the people who leave comments and they all have their own different profile pictures and bio. They don't look like fake accounts and they all seems REAL people.
I just want to save money and make friends with locals so I didn't think too much and just GO with a brave heart.
My Moscow CS host is a 3 people family. The father is Sergey, the mother is Lily and their 3 years old daughter Olivia. It takes 45 minutes from city center to the host by train and 15 minutes’ walk from the train station to the host's home.
Sergey comes to pick me up in the train station. He is in his mid-30s with a tall and thin feature. He has no difficulty to spot me out because I am the only Asian face in the station. He help me with the big luggage after a simple greeting and we walk home in silence. I am very grateful for Sergey helping me with my big luggage but Russian men are (of course) so silence...?
Their home is a separate house and is near to the main road. Their neighbor are all in separate houses too. There are iron sheets surrounded all houses as boundary. The long straight road are just like a wall of iron sheets. The iron sheets are all in dark brown, dark green or dark grey. The residents do not paint beautiful patterns or bright colors on the iron sheets. Can I say the Russians are all unified, low-key and deep if things like master shape?
We push open an iron sheet door (which has absolutely no different with the next iron sheet door to me) and walk pass a gravel path (Super difficult for my wheeled-luggage) and push open a wooden door and walk pass a little garden and finally see the main house. This 100-years-old wooden house will be my home in the next few days :)
I probably got beginner's luck and I have my OWN ROOM! My room has a bed, a table, a window, a bookshelf and WIFI!
The toilet at home is small. There are no place to wash hands in toilet. There is only ONE sink for washing veges, dishes and hands at home. But that’s fine. It just makes the home more cozy.
This 100-years-old wooden house is not in its prefect situation and does not look like a home for rich people. Most of my CS hosts I met are not rich during this travel. People with less possessions are always more willing to share.
The mother at the host home, Lily, is in her mid-30s and has a head of beautiful blond hair and she always tied them into a ponytail. She was working in a law firm before she married to Sergey. They did a world tour (and even Tibet!) for honeymoon and living in Moscow now with their 3-years-old daughter, Olivia.
Olivia is a super cute and a sweet sweet lovely girl. She has a pair of big watery eyes on a little face and always exploring the world with curiosity.
I feel RELAX after I meet everybody at home and settle down at my room. A sense of security is gradually built up even I was in a foreign country, living into a foreign home and be with some foreign people in the next few days. I read their profile on the CS website and they are really the same people as they described themselves on their CS profile. I bet they have read my profile too and we feel we have known each other for ages and are old friends already.
I go to the museums by my own if they are not free; we cook, talk and outing together if they are free in the next few days.
There is a fireworks show one night and they took me to their aunt's home which has a balcony that can see the fireworks.
Of course the fireworks are beautiful but I was most impressed by the home which fully decorated in Russian style. There are small oil paintings, embroidery works, potted, painted saucers, wall clocks, hang carpet, dolls...and there are lovely cats running around. It's a shame that the aunt and I can't understand each other because of the language barrier but I'm very happy that my host introduces their friends to me.
There is always a big smile on Lily's face and she is a very easy going person. Olivia is the main reason they keep hosting worldwide travelers for free. Lily doesn't believe in Russian stressful education and prefer home schooling. Every traveler brings their own culture and history to their home. 'The world is coming to our home and we don't even have to leave our door!' said Lily.
And I provide a good opportunity for Olivia to learn about Chinese culture. I always bring a pair of chopsticks with me while traveling because I prefer to use chopsticks than fork and knife. I use chopsticks and Lily and Sergey use fork and knife when we have meals together. And Olivia got a chance to learn how to use chopsticks in which these experience won't be provided in the Russians mainstream schools.
I appreciate Lily has her own ideas and has the strength to make it happen. I hope I can re-visit Olivia in 10 and 20 years to witness Lily's successful home schooling!
I will draw a portrait for every host and put the water color pictures on my CS profile. The pictures are a record and a very good excuse for a staying request. (It works!)
This is already 1AM when I draw Lily & Olivia. Thanks for Lily tells a story to Olivia to make her sits still for me to draw. This is the first picture of the 'Picture the Host Project' and I am a bit nervous.
Lily and Olivia are quite tired and still so kind to sit and pose for me. So I just have to DRAW without any hesitation and don't think too much.
I want to show Lily the mother is holding her daughter Olivia; to show Mum Lily is tired but Daughter Olivia is still very energetic; as long as there is color then it's fine, no time for shadow and background(I have to pack my luggage and leave Moscow tomorrow morning)...
I am very happy that I have drawn the picture in a way that's in my head and even more happy that Lily likes the picture.
Art can really connect people!
It's seem we've found a common language and our hearts are connected by the picture : ))
莫斯科 CS Host
CS Moscow Host