斯德哥爾摩 CS Host
Stockholm CS Host
我繼續在機場打電話，打了十幾次後，仍無人接聽，我與Fatima素未謀面，有的只是十多天前、在電腦螢幕前的一句「OK」，莫非免費嘢真的不可信？我的信心忽然缺堤了，喪失了對Fatima的信任，點點茫然慢慢升起，但無時間傷心了，抹乾未能掉下的眼淚，立刻在CS網站的Stockholm Emergency Group緊急找另一個CS Host，在airbnb找房間，在HOSTEL WORLD找床位。
無論免費的CS host Fatima，收費的airbnb host Anna／HOSTEL WORLD的旅館，我與他／她們全都素未謀面，為何我會覺得收費的較有保障？旅行就是未知，反正免費／收費的住宿都有風險，我選擇免費，起碼省了房租。
於是我回絕了airbnb的Anna，Anna當然不悅，但也寬宏大量的祝福「Anyway have a nice stay!」。
Joakim與Fatima在「Community Centre」遇見，Community Centre的業主以市值半價出租房間，但對租客有要求，例如需為素食者、藝術家等，每客一房，廁廚共用，既能廣結志同道合之人，房租又便宜，正呀！
我給Joakim看了Picture the Host Project的畫，他同意讓我畫他，原來他每日都會打坐冥想數次，每次40分鐘，於是我就畫他冥想的樣子。我在香港學打坐時，都是拿個軟墊，直接坐在木板地或榻榻米上，但Joakim的西式打坐才妙，他盤腿坐在椅子上，長腿凌空，就閉目打坐了，我就趁他靜止不動的時間，快快手地畫畫，整個飯廳只有我在畫畫、他在打坐，雖然場面有些詭異，但我挺享受這段各有專注的寧靜時光，幾十分鐘後，他做些雙手打圈體操，就完成打坐了，我也差不多畫完。
原來Fatima離過婚，大仔二仔就是與前夫所生，兩個小女兒是與Joakim所生，Mary Ann就是前夫之母，但二人友好，所以離婚後也保持來往，而Mary Ann又是Joakim的中醫客人。
My Stockholm CS Host is a big family. Fatima is lying on the hammock and on the right picture. Joakim is meditating on a chair and on the left picture. This is a 6 people family with 4 kids.
Fatima the mum is a part time midwife and would visit people’s home to help with the process of giving birth. Joakim the dad just stayed in Beijing for 2 weeks to study Chinese medicine. He is a Swedish but he can speak little Mandarin and even write Chinese with writing brush.
The elder son is a little shy and he likes music. The younger son is a fatty who would like to be a chef when he grows up. The lovely daughters are very young and are in kindergarten. There are 2 cats at home—the black cat hides from people but the white cat plays with people.
I fly from Oslo, Norway to Stockholm, Sweden by plane and I have to get to Fatima’s home by myself. That was an amazing journey and makes me re-think: Is the technology gets people closer or pushes people farer?
I did not stay in any paid hostel in Stockholm and only stay with Fatima. I have found Fatima on CS website around 10 days before I arrived in Stockholm. She agreed to host me but I couldn’t contact her for 2 days before my arrival. I was worry things have changed or Fatima changed her mind and refused to host me. Fatima did not have a smart phone. She could only be contacted by Swedish SMS or CS website. I bought my Norwegian SIM card in Norway and couldn’t contact Fatima’s Swedish number and her CS account had not been logged in for 2 days.
I was worry. I was afraid Fatima forgot her promise which had made 10 days ago. I bought a Swedish SIM card immediately once I arrived in Stockholm airport and left my Swedish number to Fatima on her CS account and rang her but her number had no answer and the SMS messages I just sent to her were all rebounded. It was raining heavily in Stockholm that day and it was just like my mood.
I kept on ringing Fatima in the airport but still no answer. Fatima and I have never met and all I had was just an ‘OK’ on my PC screen around 10 days ago. Is it free stuff always unreliable? Suddenly I lost my confident on Fatima. I was getting lost, worry and frustrated. But I didn’t have time to be sad and I just wiped dry the tears that hadn’t been dropped and looking for another CS host on Stockholm Emergency Group, looking for a room on Airbnb and looking for a bed on HOSTEL WORLD.
There is a respond on Airbnb soon. The Airbnb host is Anna, charged SEK$200 per night and the rent can be paid on site. I immediately said yes and leave the airport and ride on a bus to downtown.
I got to Stockholm downtown. Just when I about to board the train (Train in Stockholm was run by HK MTR!) toward Anna home, Fatima rang me. Fatima worried I had trouble and wondered why did I take so long to get to her home.
It was such a surprise and time seem frozen and I freeze for one second. The opportunity I just gave up swam back to me and the confidence I just lost slower restore.
I had never met the free CS host Fatima nor the paid airbnb host Anna nor the hostels on HOSTEL WORLD. Why did I believe the paid accommodation more reliable than the unpaid Couch Surfing? Travel is the courage to unknown. I chose the free CS, at least I can save the rent, in the fact that paid or unpaid accommodation would have risks.
So I rejected Anna the airbnb host. Anna of course was unhappy but she still blessed me ‘anyway have a nice stay!’
Here came the question, how can I get to Fatima home in a web-like transport system in Stockholm?
I just grabbed a guy randomly and asked for the direction on the platform. The guy was going to a bus stop just one stop away from Fatima so we travel together. He was a black young man named Benjamin. Ben loves Kung Fu and planning to learn Kung Fu in China in summer next year. I use Chinese to search in Google and found a ‘Shaolin Kung Fu classes’ in China and Kung Fu classes in English in Hong Kong and I forward all the info to him.
There was a Swedish broadcast in the train suddenly. Ben translated for me. The broadcast said the cable was broken so the trains stopped and an emergency repairing was carrying out. It was just ridiculous that the HK MTR train kept broke down and increased prices even far away in Stockholm.
Ben and I started chatting in the caged train. Ben was 17 years old and thinking of taking a gap year and travel around the world. He is a mix of black and white with divorced parents. His dad is in the Netherlands and his mum is in Stockholm. He mastered Dutch, Swedish and English and can speak little Spanish and Chinese. He wants to study human technology or Stock market in college and said China has the best human tech on Earth, even more advance than USA and keep saying China would be the world leader in the future…
What was I doing when I was 17? I was under a great pressure of public exams and was being told there is just only one way of life: good exams, good college and good career. I went to school every day and had to recite everything and had not enough sleep every day. I was nervous, frustrated and anxiety. I couldn’t imagine I would travel around the globe.
The eyes are shinning of this 17 years old Ben. He had a dream (travel around the world), he had the ability (master 3 languages) to achieve it. I undergo so much and start to chase my dream a decade later than him. Is this the difference between Hong Kong and Sweden?
We finally arrived the station under drizzle. We have no idea which house is Fatima home in the all-same-looking little houses before us. I rang Fatima and she told me there was a new born baby so she was on duty. I finally understood why I was unable to contact her for 2 days. She gave me the kids’ dad, Joakim number to me and Ben and Joakim spoke in Swedish and we finally found Fatima home in the maze of all similar little houses.
I thanked Ben and he left with a smile. I wish him every success in his life.
Then I pushed open the wooden fence in the little garden and finally arrive the home of my CS host in Stockholm.
Joakim was at the door and welcome me. He is tall and thin and all his hair was tied as a ponytail. He always had a warm smile. Joakim was actually a ‘white skin yellow heart’. He is a native Swedish and found Chinese medicine very fascinated and is an apprentice in a Chinese medicine clinic in Stockholm.
They were having dinner when I arrived at the door. Joakim cooked pasta (although too dry) and almond chocolate dessert (although too sweet) for me. It was a really warm welcome!
Joakim is the calmest person I have ever met in my travel. His mood is always like a straight line (Fatima is the opposite. Her mood is always like a roller caster spiral) There is neither sunshine nor storm for Joakim. If there is fairy, Joakim is it.
Joakim and Fatima met in ‘community centre’. The landlord of community centre usually rent out the rooms half the market price but request quality tenants such as vegetarians, artists…etc. Each tenant can occupy a room and share the toilet+kitchen. Tenants can enjoy a cheap rent and meet lots of people with the same interests, how cool!
Joakim said the landlord of community centre is not aim on profit making and community centre is legal. Joakim said the Swedish people had enough money—the tuitions and medicine fees are all looked after by the Swedish government. No worry on life.
The target must be profit making (money or benefits) in term of doing ANYTHING in order to be classified as normal in Hong Kong. People really don’t have to be profit making all the time BEYOND Hong Kong. People really can choose not to live FOR money (such as CS hosts host me for FREE) Why can’t Hong Kongers have the basic freedom of choices?
Culture difference is really interesting. Our topic change to food. I brought some crushed ginseng from Hong Kong and would soak a bit of ginseng into hot water and drink it if felt dry. I show the ginseng to them and Joakim knows the ginseng was good just by smell. The younger son takes a bit of ginseng and smell and frowns and tastes a little smash and leaves an ‘it’s interesting’ comment. The elder son just put a whole branch of ginseng into his mouth and swallows it. Joakim and I can’t even stop him. He was sick the other day and I just hope that ginseng was not a too-strong supplement for him…
I show Joakim the Picture the Host Project and he agrees to pose for me. He would meditate every day for 40 minutes and I draw the picture while he was meditating. I would put a soft cushion on the wooden floor or tatami and sit on it when I was in a meditating class in Hong Kong. Joakim was meditating in a very interesting way. He sat on a chair and his long legs just fly in the air and start meditating. I did the picture when he was still. Although it was a bit strange that one person is drawing and the other person is meditating without a word in the big dining room but I was quite enjoy this quiet period. Joakim did some arms stretching movements after around 40 minutes and finish his meditating and so did I finish the painting.
Fatima and her two little daughters were back at home at night and it was crowd with joy. I went into dreams with a black cat and a white cat beside me. (but their bell collar was so noisy…)
Fatima has a day off the other day and we went to the community centre for a yoga class together. I always want to learn yoga but never can squeeze time to learn. I never imagine that my first yoga experience would be in Stockholm, Sweden, North Europe! Thanks Fatima：）
The tutor of the yoga class is a Brazilian lady and there were around 20 students. Most of them are in middle age and 80% was women.
I have absolutely no idea what the Brazilian tutor was instructing but it was OK. She was instructing in half English half Swedish at the beginning but just switch to Swedish completely later on. I just (try to) follow her movement. Yoga is an art that have to use the body to understand but not language after all.
Yoga is really an art created for worship! Almost every position would point to the sky and lie on the ground to pay respect to God. Yoga stretches the WHOLE body in one pose rather than stretch only one part of body which I learnt in secondary school. I like the simple ‘hands up nose up’ position, simple and comfort!
I guess there are meanings of every yoga pose but modern yoga neglect its religion concept and just keep its prefect stretching pose and transform yoga into a modern sport. This thousand year’s evolution of yoga is so interesting. It would be great to study further in the future：）
Fatima and I swam in a 27 degrees (actually it was quite chilly) indoor-swimming pool after yoga. I tried a Swedish wooden-house-with-charcoal-fire-sauna. The Swedish sauna is a bit cooler and wetter (and more comfortable for me) than sauna I tried in Asia.
Fatima then brought me to her friend’s home to have lunch. Her friend is Mary Ann and the Swedish style relationship just blows my mind…
Fatima divorced once. The sons are children with the ex-husband and the daughters are children with Joakim. Mary Ann is the mother of her ex-husband. Fatima and Mary Ann remains good friend all along and Mary Ann is a patient in Joakim’s Chinese medicine clinic.
Fatima and Joakim are living together with the kids now. I ask Fatima, ‘Will you and Joakim get marry in the future?’
She said, ‘Why? I have tried marriage. It’s no big deal. There are many children born out of wedlock and their treatments are just like legitimate children. Cohabit couple (with a certain time period) is similar to married couple in law. Why do I have to be married?’
Fatima would be classified as ‘Divorced woman’ or ‘No-marriage mother’ in Hong Kong. Both tags are negative. The Fatima in my eyes never be bothered by ‘Divorced’ or ‘No-marriage’ and doesn’t believe marriage is a MUST for woman. Swedish women really live an unrestrained life, how cool!
We have a perfect weather that day and we have our lunch outdoor. Blue sky, white cloud, green grass and warm sun. I lie down and have a nap and the sun is my blanket, so～comfortable!!
I came to Fatima home and chatting, eating and drawing with her family. These trivial daily are very important. It is the process from stranger to friend. ‘Fatima’ is no longer only a name on CS website but my first Swedish friend.
Technology creates an opportunity for me to meet Fatima. I definitely won’t meet Fatima in my life without Couch Surfing website. Technology has broadly opened up my horizon but a crisis of confidence and fear would be triggered once the contact is lost if on-line be assumed constantly.
I think I would believe the promise which Fatima has made 10 days ago on an era without smart phone. I would just go straight to her home without re-confirm her hosting status 2 days before my arrival and the crisis of confidence and fear I undertake in the airport won’t happen at all. I lost my relaxed and calm with my on-line-constantly smart phone…
Is the technology get people closer or push people farer?