Dusseldorf, Deutschland

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December 18-16, 2011

What an adventure! Not only did I formally couch surf for the first time, I also informally couch surfed for the first time.  I relearned a few lessons along the way.

Lesson 1: Make detailed plans and meeting points. 

I arrived by bus on Saturday morning several hours before Andrea.  I decided to jump right into the heart of Dusseldorf at Christmas time by going to the Christmas Markets.  Dusseldorf is the fashion capital of Germany, so I also did a lot of window shopping.  I saw a lot of pretty and also pretty expensive things in Dusseldorf.  I took pictures just in case any of my readers win the lottery and decide they want to buy me similar items.  (I don’t expect you to travel all the way to Dusseldorf to hunt the exact ones down.)

I was excited to see my cousin days before I left, and the anticipation only grew as I waited for her at Central Station where we had decided to meet.  But, there was a small problem.  We never said where in Central Station.  So, I used my problem solving skills and figured out the platform and exact time of her arrival.  I thought for sure I could pick my Indian princess out of the crowd emerging from the train.  Not only did I not see her get off the train, I didn’t see her inside the station after walking many laps in alteration with standing in one place for bouts of time.  If you are asking why I didn’t just call her, it is because she didn’t have a ‘mobile’ on her.  I would find out later that her flight was delayed, and she missed her train.

Our back up plan was to meet at our couch surfer host, Tanja’s house.  So, I began the journey on the tram/metro.  I was really relieved I got off at the correct stop because they aren’t all labelled.  At this point, it was dark outside and this whole knocking on a stranger’s door was starting to scare me.  Isn’t this how people end up dead in foreign countries?  I rang the bell because I didn’t have any other option that seemed more appealing.  No one was home.  Great.  I sat at a kebab place drinking a Coca Cola Light praying that every time a new metro arrived Andrea would be getting off of it.  An hour and a half later, I still had no success. 

I tried buzzing up to the flat again, and this time I was greeted by Marianne, Tanja’s flatmate.  Just after I freshened up, Tanja arrived home.  Andrea was only a few minutes behind her!!  We were both incredibly relieved to see each other. And I was also relieved to not have been murdered.

Lesson 2: Hanging out with people of different ages is fun and educational.

We all know how entertaining kids are.  They introduce you to silly bands, cool handshakes, new music, the possibilities are endless.  ‘Older’ adults are also engaging comrades for a night out on the town.  

Andrea and I were standing in awe, amazed that we were outside of a bar watching the Chicago Bears on a flatscreen in Dusseldorf, when we bumped into two Americans.  They are two pilots who fly the rich and famous around the world.  They invited us to the restaurant Bender Marie for a fantastic dinner and paid the “cheap” bill of 130 euro.  It was interesting to hear about their lives and their families.  Ben has kids a little older than us, and CJ is living the single life excited about moving into his newly built house.  It was fascinating to hear their life journey and how they ended up where they are.  You really can accomplish any dream you dream if you set your heart and mind to work.

“Chase your dreams.” - Tanja (Our couch surfing host)

Lesson 3: Cooking can be enjoyable and not so challenging

Our first night in Dusseldorf Tanja taught us to make ___?__ .  It is a pasta dish served with a mushroom cream sauce.  Meat eaters can also add chicken.  It was cheap, easy, quick, and delicious. 

Marianne was especially talented in the kitchen.  We were lucky to arrive during Christmas time because the Christmas cookies were continuously fresh out of the oven.  My favorite was an apple cookie/ pastry with icing.  It was like a gourmet pop tart in the shape of a star.  If anyone speaks German and would like to translate the recipe, that would be wonderful.  If you want, you can go ahead and make the dessert for me.

In the classroom, teachers are now saying activities are challenging because the words ‘hard’ and ‘difficult’ are discouraging.  Cooking has always been challenge for me and it still is.  But, it is not so challenging nor so intimidating any more.  Learning to make a friend’s specialty dish is great way to expand your repertoire because it is almost guaranteed to turn out well.  When you make the meal again in the future, it will be a nice reminder of your friend.  

Lesson 4: Trust

-Gaining and giving trust is easier if you are part of a community.  Couch surfing wouldn’t work without the network of references online, and the ability to report someone if they are too crazy to have people surfing on their couch.  It is also easier to trust someone if they are willing to trust having you in their home.  

-Trust in a higher power.  I’m not referring to fate or God.  Just this universal force that makes the world go around.  When Andrea and I had no where to go and no way to get there, a stranger opened the doors of his home to us.  I trust that karma will be good to him and that any good we do will be returned to us.

-Trust body language.  This usually doesn’t lie.  If someone gives you a hug and tells you goodbye, it usually means that they want that to be goodbye.

Lesson 5: Doppelgängers are real.

 Doppelgänger is German for “double walker.”

Exhibit A: Margaret McLaughlin joined us at a pub called Paulaner.

Exhibit B: Jim Etchingham let us sleep in his flatmate’s room.  We had no idea Jimmy was so determined to become a world famous chef.

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