Monday, September 10, 2012

Another Type of Surfing? Don't Mind If I Do! - Part 2

Jenkie. Or at least that's how I thought it was spelled. I heard it from her voice after every gesture. There were no communication barriers or misunderstandings. She was Polish and that was her way of saying thank you.

Her face lit up like a lighting bug in the dark when I agreed to host her for the night. She was 27, single and on "holiday" to one of her favorite cities is what she said. She was couchsurfin for the second time and it was my first time hosting and depending on this experience could be my last??

She told me, she was picking up her bags from the luggage storage lockers in Hell's Kitchen (yes, I said the same thing. They have those?)  She would take the train up to my house on a Friday afternoon. It would be our second time meeting, EVER. I was going against everything my mother had raised me to do. I was going to open the door to a stranger. As the door bell rang for a second  time,  I was standing there peeking from my balcony, talking myself into proceeding with this ridiculous idea. It was as if I felt a rush of curiosity, I had to know. I needed to know. I can't remember my exact thoughts as I was rushing down the stairs. I do, however, remember the very second before unlocking the door thinking "this is it kid, you can easily walk away from this. It's completely optional". Curiosity trumped cowardliness that day. I flung the door wide open, as I extended my hand to help her with her bags. I exposed every single one of my teeth, but it was a genuine smile.  Standing tall at 5'9, dark brown hair, at a fair 175lbs, with the kind of skin that hadn't met the sun in years was Magda.

First order of business was to get fed. Anyone who knows me, knows I don't deprive myself of the pleasure of hearty meals, the unhealthier the better. Out of courtesy, I asked if she had any place in mind she had read about or wanted to try. She looked at me confused, trying to find a piece of crumbled paper that was in her bag from a couple days ago. She wrote down the name of a place she passed by. "It's, ehh... Mexican food, we don't eat it a lot in Poland" she said. I tell her I know a couple places. In my head I'm thinking: Rosa Mexicana, Dos Caminos, La Esquina etc.. I tell her, "finish getting ready so we could go". She screams my name in a heavy accent to let me know she has found the paper. I had never heard such a horrible pronunciation of Chipotle. That was it? She wanted Chipotle? Lol, I was thinking fancy she was thinking simple casual style dinning. As we started to engage in conversation the second order of business was to help her say my name correctly. All else fails tell her to call me Mimi.

She tells me that she doesn't eat meat. I'm not sure how to take that. Was she vegetarian? Well, I put my persuasive skills to test. Told her she atleast had to try it and if she didn't like it, I would pay for her meal. Let's just say I paid but she loved it. I felt accomplished. If she left that very second, I knew I had made an impact in her life.

That night there was another travel event in the Lower East side. The bar screamed travel, as it was called "Destination Bar". We met up with Glenda and her friend Jackie. Glenda explained to Jackie who Magda was. I immediately saw the judgmental facial expressions, as Jackie battled with this crazy idea and the norm. I wasn't entertaining anyone's view on this. I put myself in this situation, it was something I wanted to do. We met some people and grabbed a couple half priced drinks. I wasn't trying to generalized but she drank like a fish (obviously this was coming from a girl who had two drinks, eyes glazed and was ready to dance). She taught me Polish words and told me she wanted me take her around a day in my life On our ride up to the house, I told her I had a great idea for tomorrow. Her eyes lit up, as I explained to her that there was a beach I wanted to take her to. My exact word were "girl, we are gonna get you some color". I think she was excited about it, if not she was pretty great actress. As the night came to an end, I handed her some sheets, a pillow and a towel. Jenkie!

Blueberry/Strawberry Pancakes
Yankee Stadium

I heard the shower running, she was an early bird. Since I was playin an amazing hostess in this crazy movie, I got up to make her Pancakes. She said they don't eat it much in Poland and they actually call it omelette. Based on last night's conversations, I had learned she loved fruits, snowboarding and pancakes. I like to think I was doing pretty well. Due to the humidity and the sun not showing up to our planned outings, we decided to skip the beach. I took her shopping since she said that Poland was pricier than the states and she loved buying new things. She didn't want to do regular touristy stuff. I took her for a nice home cooked meal at my loving yet judgmental mothers' house. Magda was so thankful and excited, but shy and reserved all at once. She told me it was the best meal she had since she had arrived in New York. I patted myself on the back for the second time, even though my mom had made it. I took her for a walk near the Yankee stadium, followed by a Jamaican restaurant near my house.  As we drove away from the restaurant, she frantically asks me to pull over. She wanted to take a pictures of kids playing in by the water hydrant. She commented on how easy life is as a kid. I drove over to the South Bronx hoping to expose her to the low income housing area. Magda had taken so many pictures, as to capture every single second. We bought some moscato and conversated about the pictures she had taken, the things she had done and compared it to her perception of the Bronx prior to staying at my house. 

A lot was to be learned about this experience. We weren't too different, me and her. She was from another side of the world, but yet she was just as curious and enthused about learning more and wanting more from life. She thanked me for showing her around but I was far more grateful for the experience. It was my turn as i waved goodbye, I uttered the word dziękuję (Jenkie) meaning thank you. She look up in shock, smiled and said "we learned alot this weekend".

By hosting Magda, I had opened my door to another country, lend my couch to another culture and my mind to a world outside my comfort zone. Would you do the same?


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