My first Couchsurfing experience was amazing and I was convinced to try more.I had wanted to stay in Queretaro and was waiting to hear back from a bakery I wanted to volenteer at, but with no luck.
So reluctantly, I was on my way out to try to find my next journey when I received a message from a couple I had contacted initially on Couchsurfing that they would love to host me if I was still in town. I felt like I had pretty much seen the city in the week and a half but I loved the city and I believe in never turning down a kind offer so I said, Yes! I’ll do it! And it turned out to be of course, one of the best decisions ever.
Elena and Fernando (E&F)
They were a couple from Ukraine and Mexico.
They had met a few years ago in Queretaro and after a long distance has gotten married and moved to Queretaro. I read in Elena’s profile that she had had a busy career in law and after quitting her job, had traveled (using Couchsurfing) and then has made a big transition to her life here in Queretaro. What an interesting story I would love to learn from!
They have impressive careers and backgrounds they themselves are travelers having traveled together to Ukraine, Dubai, US, Cuba and many more plans for the future.
Elena was a lawyer amongst owning other businesses and speaks 5 languages. 5 languages!!! and I mean fluently! Fernando, born and raised in Queretaro is also a lawyer has experimented with his own business, worked for the government and now works for his parents’ business, and speaks Spanish and English.
The great thing for me was that I would get deep insights of culture of Queretaro and Ukraine but in Spanish because their common language in the home was Spanish with English as a suppliment when I needed it! A great relief compared to only having Spanish as an option.
E&F – Why they host
You think couch surfing and some people may imagine a couch in some “One world One Love” hippie’s couch, But that’s not reality. Real people that are themselves traveler or will be in the future host because they recognise how valuable meeting local are in travel.
Also open minded people that are genuinely interested in other cultures and want travellers to have a genuine experience in their home turf host. I guess it almost like having travel come to you at home when you’re not traveling.
The Home + Dogs
The small but cozy home was up on the hill overlooking the Queretaro, convenient location from the city centre in a nice neighbourhood.
Beautifully decorated cozy home with memories of their travels and Elena’s collection of her travels.
2 cute hyper dogs that are just begging to be played with.
Seriously, have I just hit the jackpot or what? I had my very own beautiful room, a queen size bed, a computer. After being used to sleeping in dorms with sometimes 4, 6, 8, 10 people, this was unbelievable.
Clean towels, and Elena was kind enough to lend me some “for the city” jackets too because you know, I only have backpackers attire. Thank you!
And NETFLIX! on a big screen. ….. I think I will stay here for a long time….
I felt like I was “checking-in” to a B&B because they had treated me as if I was paying guest with a proper reservation. I had to wonder if I really did have the concept right. Was this Air BnB? or Couchsurfing?! I had completely hit the jack pot in Queretaro.
I woke up to this breakfast.
What had I done right in this life to deserve this?
The food and them were so beautiful and lovely that it felt like I had literally entered into this TV show that is in Japan called “Breakfast around the world” which shows newly wed’s breakfast around the world. See sample it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNBTiCFBL6g
And might I add that Elena also did my laundry (I insisted to do it, I swear!!) while we ate. Seriously! What did I do in my life that was so great I deserved this! or was it possible there were really people this nice?
Activities and Meeting Friends
Friday night, we went to a lovely restaurant on the top of a hotel, No name and no indication hence a tourist could never find it.
Fernando explained to me the “tales and legends” of Queretaro passing through the historical area. That’s the thing about Mexicans, they always have tales and legends in every corner of their streets. They assured me that I would be meeting a “historican” and he could tell me anything and everything about the history of Queretaro.
Oaxaca drinking traditions
Party at GAD – (Gracias, ADios) – beers and more mescals with the historian and his girlfriend.
Going to the Lake
Going to the Fair
Cooking at home
I wanted to cook for them to show gratitude and so I cooked Japanese Curry rice and some veggies. I was surprised that they really took a liking to bean sprouts! Simple home cooked dishes but glad it won their hearts.
Next day, Elena cooked Ukrainian Borsch. The color was absolutely beautiful and the flavour was so savoury and healthy! Apparently it changes flavour every day.
This type of cultural “food exchange” is what I most look forward to when I stay at someone’s home. Tasting their food and learning about cooking and introducing mine. A precious experience I could never get at a restaurant.
Oh and I should add Fernando adds to the table “strawberry water” – which is a delicious alternative to water. Strawberry + water + a little bit of sugar. Yum!
Mexican (slangs) and Culture
Because I had a chance to hang out with their friends, I learned all kinds of “Mexican” (as opposed to Spanish.
- Many cultural slang (bad) words – which I loved saying because it would drive them crazy laughing
- The best Gorditas in town
- Real Narco homes – on top of the hill and humungeus.
- Different neighbourhoods, the very rich, the old rich, the new and the poor.
- Development in the city of Queretaro – its booming now and many industries and people are going in from overseas and from DF.
- 8 people in a car – no problem
Everyday was filled with activities, meeting new friends and cultural experiences and I absolutely loved every minute of it. I had planned to stay for a few days but I ended up staying for 5 nights and I could have stayed longer, or forever.
The last day, Fernando help me look for a camera.
Not sure why but I had somehow gotten it in my head that I needed a camera NOW and Fernando took me to 4 pawn shots, 3 consumer stores during his work hours to find the perfect camera.
The Good Bye
On the last day, Elena gave me a necklace of a Sun from Mexico. What a surprise, it was ME that was planning a gift to give to THEM but she outdid me with the necklace.
Now I was a bit embarrassed to give my gift but I bought a box of chocolates and Sesame seed oil, which I had mentioned in conversation and thought they could use in trying out new dishes along with a letter and some Japanese coins.
They work up early to drive me to the bus station before work and said our good byes.
They were no longer my hosts but my good friends and my family in Queretaro, which I will think about often in my travels and which I will come back to visit.
One day I hope to meet them back here or back in Japan or another place we live. But what I gained from this experience is not just a place to stay but rich experiences and a friend, but also an open thought in my head of the concept of receiving and giving back and the willingness for me to be like that too.
Thoughts on Couchsurfing
I felt I hit the jackpot at first but perhaps it is exactly just what the concept is about. I received and felt genuine kindness and passing that on to the next traveler could be the way to make this world a better place. It has opened my mind to wanting to “Pay it Forward” in the next chance I get.
To make sure travelers are comfortable, they get some rest from their travels, to have them taste the best of the food my town has to offer, to have them meet my friends, to help them in any way they need.
I had seen the concept and how beneficial it was from a traveler’s perspective but now I kind of see how awesome it would be too as a host. It would be an absolute pleasure to do that one day because of the great experience I’ve gained already from them.
Thank you Elena and Fernando for the experience and opening up my mind. And thank you Couchsurging for this concept.
I think these things are what make the world a better place.
Love Queretaro and love even more the people that I met.
I will be back.
Now off to Sierra Gorda, a mountain range ouside of Queretaro which came with high praise from everyone I met in the city.