免費住宿的CS初體驗

 

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。

 

我也擔心過「免費無好嘢」,哪有人真誠得打開家門,免費招待別人入住,只為文化交流?會是騙局嗎?獨遊在外的我,萬一有事,要如何自救?

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?

我click入留言者的個人頁面,留言者都有個人相片,有個人簡介,不似假人,不像偽做。

當時為了省錢,為了識人,無想太多,「勇」字當頭就出發了。 

 

 

莫斯科的CS host是一個三人家庭,父親是Sergey,母親是Lily,還有三歲女兒Olivia。由市中心坐地鐵去host家要45分鐘,再由車站步行15分鐘左右才到host家。

我與host相約在車站會合,再一齊返家。來接我的是男主人Sergey,高高瘦瘦,約莫30多歲,整個車站只有我一張亞洲臉孔,Sergey毫無難度就找到我,簡單寒暄後,他幫我拉起大行李,就一起沉默地走回家了,我非常感激有人替我分擔沉重行李,但俄羅斯男人果然都是惜字如金嗎?

 

他們的家貼近大馬路,是座單幢屋,房子四邊皆以鐵皮圍着作分界;鄰居全是單幢屋,也用鐵皮圍着分界,整條筆直長馬路就像連綿不斷的鐵皮牆。

全部鐵皮都是深棕、深綠、深灰等沉實顏色,居民並無重新漆上漂亮花紋或亮麗顏色,如果物似主人形,俄羅斯人果然都是統一、低調、深沉嗎?

 

推開host家的鐵皮門,走過一條碎石小徑(我的有轆行李超難走),再推開一扇木門,穿過小庭園,終見一間百年木屋,這就是我未來數日的家了。

大概是新手之運,我竟擁有自己的獨立房間!房間有一張雙人床、一張書桌、一扇窗、一排書架,還有wifi!

host家的洗澡間很細,廁所無地方洗手,全家只有一個星盆,洗菜、洗碗、洗手都在客廳的星盆。

這間百年木屋不算新淨,很多地方也是補補貼貼的拼湊起來,湊合着用,光看房子絕不像是有錢人的家,以後的CS host多數也不是富有人家,也許就是擁有不多,才更樂於分享吧?

 

到了host家,見到了女主人Lily,她約莫30多歲,常把長長的金髮束成長尾,輪廓深刻漂亮,她以前在律師樓工作,婚後與Sergey環遊世界(甚至踏足了西藏!),現育有一個三歲女兒Olivia。

Olivia真的超可愛,小小臉孔鑲着大大的眼睛,好奇地張望世界,金髮藍眼真的似一個洋娃娃!

 

見過了家中眾人,放下行李安頓好後,不自覺的放鬆了,我明明在一個陌生的國家,住進了一個陌生的家,未來要與幾個陌生的人同住數天,但一陣安全感卻油然而生,可能我早就在CS網站熟讀了他們形容自己的資料,現在見到真人了,的確與資料無異;大概他們也看過我的資料,對我也有幾分了解,彼此好像老朋友,感覺份外親切。

 

接下來的幾天,他們沒空的時候,我就一個人去看博物館;他們有空的時候,我們就一起煮飯、聊天,或出外遊玩。

有天晚上有煙花匯演,他們還帶我去了一個阿姨家,阿姨家的陽台剛好能遠遠的眺望煙花,但最漂亮的不是煙花景,而是阿姨家中蓋天舖地的俄式擺設:小油畫、刺繡、盆栽、瓷碟、掛鐘、掛氊、公仔,還有幾隻可愛貓貓到處亂跑,可惜語言不通,聽不明阿姨的故事,但非常感激Lily一家帶我周圍行!

 

Lily臉上永遠掛一個大大的笑容,很容易相處,原來她家不停的免費接待各國旅客,是為了Olivia的教育!Lily不相信主流俄式高壓教育,喜歡home schooling,她認為每位異國客人都帶着自己的文化歷史而來,「我們連家門也不用邁出,整個世界已在我家。」Lily說。

 

我很欣賞Lily有自己的想法,不會人云亦云,也會切實執行自己的理念,期望十年後、廿年後再訪Olivia,見證Lily成功的home schooling;)

 

我就是Olivia接觸異國文化的其中一扇窗,我喜歡用筷子多過刀义,所以去到邊都自備一雙筷子,我們一起用餐時,我用筷子,Lily一家用刀义,Olivia就有機會認識筷子,繼而了解中國文化,這些經驗都是主流俄式學校所無的,與每位異鄉人的相處,就是Olivia認識世界的最好教材。

 

 

我會為每個host畫肖像畫,然後放在我自己的CS頁面,既是一個紀錄,也是一塊求宿敲門磚(老外很受落「為您畫畫」的求宿藝術呢…)。

 

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。

要顯示媽媽Lily抱着女兒Olivia的感覺;要畫出媽媽Lily好攰,但女兒Olivia好精神的對比;陰影深淺不管了,總之有顏色就行了;背景無時間畫(我自己都很累,還要打包行李,明早離開莫斯科),留白算了……

總之畫畫畫畫畫,Lily很喜歡那張畫,我也很高興畫到我想畫的畫,更難得的是對方也明白,有人喜歡我的畫作,感覺好像接通了彼此的心靈,尋到了一種共同語言,好感動!

 

 

甚麼是Couchsurfing?

 

 

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)...

 

Just DRAWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!

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 : ))

What is Couch Surfing?

莫斯科 CS Host

CS Moscow Host

莫斯科CS host的百年木屋 My Moscow CS host's 100 years old wooden house.

Sweet sweet Olivia❤
Sweet sweet Olivia❤
Sweet sweet Olivia❤
Sweet sweet Olivia❤
Lily and Olivia
Lily and Olivia
家貓Home Cat
家貓Home Cat
在阿姨家眺望煙花Fireworks at Aunt's home
在阿姨家眺望煙花Fireworks at Aunt's home
俄式煙花!Russian Fireworks!
俄式煙花!Russian Fireworks!
俄式煙花!Russian Fireworks!
俄式煙花!Russian Fireworks!
扭計妹The twisting Olivia
扭計妹The twisting Olivia
俄羅斯貓❤Russian Cat❤
俄羅斯貓❤Russian Cat❤

俄羅斯貓❤Russian Cat❤

俄羅斯貓❤Russian Cat❤

阿姨家的俄式裝飾好靚❤ Beautiful Russian decoration in Aunt's home❤

俄式裝飾❤Russian decoration❤
俄式裝飾❤Russian decoration❤
俄式裝飾❤Russian decoration❤
俄式裝飾❤Russian decoration❤
小手 Little hands
小手 Little hands
唔夠高...Not tall enough...YET
唔夠高...Not tall enough...YET
俄羅斯貓❤Russian Cat❤
俄羅斯貓❤Russian Cat❤
我的房間My bedroom
我的房間My bedroom

Olivia在吃草莓,畫在Lily的留言簿了 I drew ‘Olivia eats strawberry’ in Lily’s notebook

隱沒在民居之中的莫斯科郵政局 A Moscow post office hiding between houses

好後悔無買到的漂亮俄莫斯科郵票! So regret that I didn't buy these beautiful Moscow stamps!

在莫斯科見到日本汽水機! I saw a Japanese soda machine in Moscow!

街頭西裝音樂家,大提琴拉得好好 Street artists in suit. The cello is great.