You’re new to a city. You’re like Bo…you’own know Diddly. What do you do? You log onto CouchSurfing.org, that’s what you do.
A social networking site that’s actually built around facilitating live-and-in-the-flesh human connection, The CouchSurfing Project puts world travelers and other worldly folk in contact with one another for interaction as benign as a coffee and a chat, up to and including the more intimate use of floor space, couch space, or bed space. You set up a profile, look for like-minded individuals in your immediate area or in a place that you’ll be visiting forthwith, and voilá, you’re on your way to eye-opening experiences with some of the world’s friendliest, most interesting, genuine people. All communication is recorded in the system for safety purposes, and testimonials for both hosts and guests help paint a picture of what kind of nut-job you’ve got on your hands. Interest groups let you hook-up with other single female travelers, backpacking epicureans, beach bums, parasailers, or last-minute-couch-having Berliners, and it was in one such city group─the Brasília CS group─that I subtly mentioned that I’d just moved to town and was having a little welcome get-together at my place on Saturday. Forty people showed up.
See, CouchSurfing fits almost too well with a gregarious society like Brazil’s. People here really do look for any excuse to party and welcoming a new foreigner in their midst offers the perfect reason. And with Brasília being the national capital, and therefore a very transient city, many of my guests were recently-relocated Brazilians who’ve been in town only a bit longer than I have. I had students and teachers and journalists and civil servants and federal police officers and future novelists and regular vagabonds conversing on the pull-out sofas, sipping caipirinhas, dancing to Beija-Flor de Nilópolis and Madonna and Hector Lavoe.
My neighbor came home at 11:30 (official party start time: 5pm) and, with smiling politeness, informed me that party cut-off in the building is 10pm. By midnight, the revelers─my new-found friends, acquaintances, and running buddies─had moved the party over to a nearby park, each one thanking me as they left in customary receiving line fashion. No, thank you.