I got a message from Couchsurfing.org with another request for my couch. I’ve had a few over the years since joining in 2009, but for one reason or another my guests never made it. All that would change with a message from Sabrina two weeks ago. She asked if three nice, smart, young women could sleep at my house for three nights. They would be arriving Saturday night after their semester abroad in Quebec and leaving Tuesday to continue their trek north along the great west coast before they fly back to Europe.
As the day approached my anxiousness increased. Sabrina called me at 10:00 pm when they landed at the airport. I had offered to pick them up, but they would tell me later that they took the bus as to not inconvenience me (some people are more busy than I). She called again at midnight from the bus stop – the one that is walking distance from my house. I thought they were at the trolley station so I drove down to pick them up. This was their first experience too and we were all excited – and they had jet lag.
They arrived to a clean house and a fridge with juice and squash. I already had the bed made, but it would be at least two hours before it was used. They met Sparky and Piggy as we talked about travel, education, friends, and our plans for the next few days. In the morning would be hot showers for all with coffee and Cheerios for breakfast. Then they would gift me with maple syrup in the shape of the leaf.
They are interested in downtown so I take them to the Gaslamp Quarter where we can enjoy the peace of the city on a Sunday morning. We make our way to Horton Plaza looking for H&M (that isn’t there) for some summer clothes, but still have fun trying on different hats in varying shops. Though I may find 63* F to be chilly, they are thrilled to be in such warm, and sunny, weather – and they want to work on tanning their pale skin.
Walking through the plaza we are stopped by a representative of Seacret: Minerals from the Dead Sea. Caleb bought me a nail kit a few years back and I remember how much I liked it so I agreed to a small pamper session. Sabrina was busy with her new phone (with Wi-Fi for travel) while Nici, Marita, and I got our hands scrubbed with sea salt. I would’ve bought some to gift them, but the guy was asking for twice the price offered online. We spent the rest of the day touching our hands.
Lunch time was near and the girls wanted something quick (affordable). We walked across the street to the first restaurant we saw – Panera Bread. I could have gone for something more local, but sometimes huge chains have just as much entertainment. While we ate we watched a dad play with his baby girl and his puppy. We watched another guy eat half his lunch then cuss when one of the two patio doors wouldn’t open; then we laughed when the agent-looking guy behind us was able to push the door open with ease.
Our lunch arrived and we all noticed the bacon in my salad. The waitress left my plate with bread and took the bowl back so that I would have something to munch on and so that the others could eat. Marita was surprised by her neon green pickle spear (a tradition with little information to its origin online). After lunch it is time for more exploring. I enjoy their enthusiasm of the city and it helps me to see it like new again. There is a crowd gathering and as we join to watch the skater attempting a move down a steep board and through a chain-link fence he gets too nervous and calls it quits.
We are making our way to Seaport Village down W. Broadway and then onto Pacific Hwy when someone noticed giant bubbles coming from near the water and drifting towards the tall city buildings. We follow the sidewalk around until I see the Bubble Guy of Coronado with the USS Midway behind him. I tell him that my friends are visiting and noticed his bubbles from a block away and he offers to let them make some bubbles. They are happy to try something new and with some instruction (you have to hold them up or they will hit people in the face) they are smiling and getting their pictures taken.
Once in Seaport Village it’s time for pictures with the Coronado Bay Bridge in the background. The buskers are out today and we get to watch a clown-faced guy get out of being tied up – I almost thought he wouldn’t be able to. The sword swallower wasn’t set up yet so we made our way into the shops – Harley Davidson, The Cerveza Store, and Del Sol where we each pick a changes-color-in-the-sun nail polish. With the receipt we receive 10% off at the Candy Shack – we will make our way there.
There is a bird rescue volunteer out in the park and all the girls get their picture taken with a macaw. We find a spot in the grass to enjoy the view, weather, kites, and crowds. I find a bee and let it walk around on my hand while trying to take its picture. Soon these three guys sit next to us and one is holding a video camera. I take a picture and they start posing. They tell us this is their first time here and that they are from South Korea. We share where we are from and when Sabrina says Germany one of the guys says, “Be-yah!”
Sabrina is confused, but I think it’s hilarious. The Germans are known, at least by these South Koreans, for their Oktoberfest (which mostly happens in September) and their overall love of bier (the German spelling). They are off to their next destination, but before we can finish laughing one of them comes running back asking to meet us here again tomorrow. It would have been neat, but I’m guessing they have more time in town than my guests. Our rest is over and it’s time for us to get moving again too.
Once inside the Candy Shack we are almost overwhelmed by the amount of candy covered in chocolate, nuts, caramel, sprinkles, etc. We stick to our choice of frozen yogurt where we are limited to four flavors, three fruit toppings and six other toppings served in cone or bowl. I ordered a banana/raspberry in waffle cone with nuts. As the cold dessert starts to fill our insides the temperature outside begins to drop and become covered in shade. It is time to make our way back to the car as we take pictures as pirates and pose in front of buildings, signs, pictures, and plants. I enjoy seeing San Diego through so many new eyes.
We head home to grab jackets, change into pants, and figure out the rest of our plans for the evening. We didn’t look busy enough for Sparky as we watched some YouTube videos so he threw his ball under the couch and Nici was nice enough to try to get it for him. He helped her look, but when Marita and Sabrina decided to help, Sparky took the role of supervisor with his assistant Piggy staring unknowingly into different directions in the room based on where the most sound was coming from.
Once his ball was recovered, it was time to head to the beach with snacks and explore. We sat on the wall by the jetty while a guy in a hood sat on a bench nearby reading. I introduced the girls to Snakebite and Apple Pie drinks and they chose a bag of BBQ chips to go with. We are mid conversation when a guy, Kawika (pronounced ka-vee-ka), rides up on his bike. He is stressing about his buddy and a girl, finishes his beer, and then trades some of Nici’s French compliments for some of his Hawaiian. The girls are enjoying all the interactions with the locals.
We make our way down to the pier, six blocks from where we are, to use the bathroom, but the ones on land are locked for the evening. Luckily the night fishermen need somewhere to go so down the pier offers nighttime public use. Nici and Marita run down the pier together while Sabrina and I walk. There are two stalls and the timing works perfectly. After finding release, we are ready for the animals on springs at the playground – the animals are the only ride offered, but we have plenty to choose from – snail, gorilla, horse, ladybug, dragon, elephant, and others.
It has been a long day. The girls are jet lagged and tired. We make the bed and couch and Marita asks for another blanket (the one she slept with last night wasn’t warm enough). Then it’s time for me to email the husband while they whisper themselves to sleep discussing the day and keeping up with future hosts that will complete their trip along the west coast. My first 24 hours as a couch surfing host has gone better than I could’ve hoped for and I can only hope that future guests are as wonderful as my first three surfers.