A German, a Spaniard, and two Czechs walk into the middle of a road with a telescope

by Jonah

That’s what happened at our house last night, no joke. We hosted a quartet of couchsurfers yesterday. In their request they said they understood if we could only host a couple of them, but we assured them we had plenty of room for all four.  When they arrived, we all introduced ourselves: Max (male) from Germany, Sara (female) from Spain, and Misha and Beata (both female) from the Czech Republic.  We told them again what their sleeping options were, and after what appeared to be some panicky internal deliberations, Sara and Beata elected to bunk in the upstairs queen bed and Misha informed Max that she did not mind sharing the downstairs queen bed with him. (To be fair, I had offered them all the option of the couch and the air mattress too.) The whole situation amused Berck greatly.

As Berck and I worked on preparing dinner, we asked our couchsurfers how they knew each other.  It turned out that they did not.  Amongst a variety of websites, the four of them (there was a fifth, a Russian, who had left the day before) had met online with the intention of all gathering in Denver to pool their resources to rent a car together and see as much of the United States as they could in one week. They said they had driven 3,000 miles, and tonight was their last night in the US.  They were flying out of Denver the next day.

Before dinner, Berck took everyone down to the kegerator and gave them tastes of all of his beers so they could choose which one they would like a glass of.  This activity proved very popular with our guests.

They had warned us that two of them were vegetarians, so Berck made bread and pasta with tomato cream sauce and I made Caesar salad and peach cobbler.  Usually, Berck makes his pasta dish with lots of red pepper to make it spicy, but because we knew a German was joining us, he held back this time.  Max thanked him for making it mild and said it was still very spicy for him but also still delicious.

We ate and laughed, and Berck and I told stories of our European backpacking adventures, Berck about his random Norwegian Rastafarian host, me about how, whenever I got into trouble, I was rescued by Japanese girls.

Then Sara asked, “Is that a telescope?” And that’s how we ended up in the middle of our street looking at Saturn’s rings and the Andromeda Galaxy. None of them had ever had a good look at the Milky Way before, and I pointed out Cassiopeia, Polaris, and the Dippers.  We saw a meteor. We were probably annoying our neighbors, all talking in the middle of the street in the middle of the night, when Sara pointed to the Pleiades rising and exclaimed, “I can see that one from Spain too!”

It was such a fun night, and the Professor loved having so many people to show off his feather toy catching skills to.

There’s a risk to couchsurfing. And I don’t mean the ax-murdering type risk; that’s so remote as to be laughable.  There’s a risk that we rush around cleaning the house and cooking for someone who doesn’t actually show up.  Or the risk that the folks who do show up are homeless freeloaders who use six bath towels and three rolls of toilet paper between the two of them in one night.  Or worst yet, that our guests are utterly boring.

But then there’s the possibility of six random strangers from all over the world, sitting around a table, drinking, eating delicious food, talking, laughing, and just enjoying a wonderful evening together.

And it’s even better if you’ve got a telescope handy.

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