Hitchhiking To Detroit – An Adventure Like No Other

hitchhiking

You’re hitchhiking to DETROIT?” friends asked of me incredulously. “Are you mad?” they would enquire, ever before I even mentioned that I would also be couchsurfing there. i.e. staying on an absolute stranger’s couch for the weekend.

I never planned to go to Detroit, it all just seemed to fall into place. I was invited to attend the Detroit Couch Crash, a meeting organized by all the wonderful couchsurfers in Michigan to unite people from all over for the US for Memorial Day weekend. It also happened to take place during DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival), an annual event attracting thousands of hard core music fans.

After standing awkwardly on the main highway out of Toronto, with my thumb stuck out and a strained smile on my face, I waited patiently for a kind stranger to pick me up. Many people pulled in, slowed down or stopped, before performing rude hand gestures or shouting obscenities in my direction and subsequently speeding off. The joys of traveling in a country not accustomed to hitchhikers!

Eventually I secured a ride with what seemed to be a very decent man travelling all the way to Windsor, a town on the Canadian/US border. However normal he appeared, his initial greeting once I sat into the car was anything but conventional.

“I hitchhiked myself once”, he said.  “All the way from LA to Montreal about fifteen years ago. Yup, and I got picked up by a mass murderer and all. You just ‘know’ when you have sat into a car with a mass murderer, don’t you.”

Words escaped me, but he continued.

“Lucky back then I was a lot bigger.” He flexes his now deflated ‘guns’. “We were driving through the corn fields of Iowa and BAM I knocked him out and threw him out of the car. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?”

Indeed, I thought, as I contemplated jumping out of the moving vehicle.

The four hour journey continued on a similar note with him telling me about how he asked God to find him a wife – he found one 2 weeks later and they have been married ever since, how he broke his crack cocaine habit in a bar days before ‘finding’ his wife, and of course all about his journey becoming a born again Christian and door-to-door salesman.

If having to listen to this mans slightly scary and equally bizarre life story for four hours wasn’t interesting enough material for a blog post or two, soon my worst nightmare was coming true. We were running out of petrol with not a gas station in sight. Hopping over the border for a weekend break to Detroit was proving to be more hassle than I ever could have anticipated!

Upon finally making it to the American border, alive and well, I was quizzed about where I was from, where I was living, and of course where I was going in a stuffy little immigration office and was once again questioned about my sanity.

How did you get here? the large, stern looking woman asked.

“I hitchhiked from Toronto”. Cue shocked, incredulous looks.

“Where are you staying in Detroit?”, she continued.

“Oh, I’m couchsurfing in Corktown with…”

‘You’re what??’ she interrupted.

‘I’m couchsurfing…it’s a website where you can stay on peoples couches for free all over the world’.

“So it’s (glances at her watch) nearly midnight on a Friday night and you are planning on meeting a total stranger in the ghetto, who you met off the internet and you’re going to sleep on their couch?! Are you crazy woman?!”

I was beginning to think she might have a point, but couldn’t help but laugh. As I get my visa approved and head for the exit, the woman’s colleague calls to me, ‘Have you got a gun with you?

Puzzled and thinking they are trying to catch me out and deport me from the US before I have even taken a step over the border, I immediately (and truthfully) reply ‘Of course not!’ to which the male immigration officer quickly responds,

“I would if I were you. This is Detroit.”

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CouchSurfing in Korea can get you FIRED

This is just a quick post on Couchsurfing in Korea that I wanted to share, just to warn others of the potential dangers of couchsurfing in Korea. Most people who put “couchsurfing” and “dangerous” in the same sentence are referring to the dangers of hosting a complete stranger in your home. The dangers of meeting complete strangers, on the internet, then meeting in a public place, and taking them home as if they were a friend and letting them sleep on your couch / spare bedroom / floor mat..whatever. Having hosted 100’s of couchsurfers and surfed on 5 continents, I can confidently say I have never had any truly negative experience, have never felt threatened, never had anything stolen and have also walked away from the experience with a smile on my face and amazing memories and new friends.

Until today I thought Couchsurfing could work anywhere but having been in Korea one week, I can see that in certain cultures, and in certain countries, it may be more of a hindrance than a help. Why?? Well, check out the letter, below, which my friend received from the principal of her school following a few weeks hosting people in her city South of Seoul…. I doubt she will be hosting anymore. :( Oh Korea.

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Statement of Civil Complaint 

Last Friday (7/19) evening, I got a phone call from vice principle Kang. It was your civil complain *sic* from parents of our school students. That person told about your behavior that you are inviting many men to your house and they came out in the morning from your house. It cause *sic* neighbor inconvenience. And that person also said to the vice principle, they already asked you to stop that but you didn’t change. Your neighbors already know that YOU are BLANK Elementary School TEACHER and they think that your behavior is not appropriate for teacher’s attitude as well as not good for your young students who live around your house. At the end of the complain, *sic* that person told that BLANK Elementary school hired unsuitable person for teacher. 

I already told about your ‘Couchsurfing’ to principle and vice principles but they are disappointed with the fact, many men came out in the morning from the teacher’s house which is rented by budget of korean civil’s tax, and they want to change your attitude as a TEACHER IN KOREA. 

As American way of thought, you may think that is invasion of privacy. But you are employee of Korea national educational institution. And Koreans expect you to comply with Korean culture. In this country, if you give an impression behind on student’s parents *sic* that you look to be sexually promiscuous as teacher, *sic* then you can be a target of criticism whether actually happened or not. So your behavior that conflict with Korean culture caused your neighbor’s civil complaint. Furthermore, this complain *sic* is regarded as our school hired inappropriate person for teacher. Consequently, you caused the complain to school and violated a contract article 19-1. So we will issue warning letter. 

Article 19 (Codes of Conduct) 
1. The Employee shall not behave in any manner which may damage or tarnish the reputation of the teaching profession in general or of the GEPIK program and the undersigned Employee in particular during the Term of Employment. 
If you do not change your behavior and attitude with this complain, *sic* other complains will come to school and education office. That will make us issue another warning letter and finally we will reconsider about the contract with you.

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The Cliffs of Moher

When the sun is shining and the grass is green…there is no place I would rather be than Ireland!

cliffs of moher

cliffs of moher

cliffs of moher

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cliffs of moher ireland

cliffs moher ireland

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Flash Mob Cork: Dance into the weekend

Summer in Ireland this year fell on Friday 10th August, and what a beautiful summer it was. As luck would have it, some wise soul in Cork decided to organize a Flash Mob in Grand Parade so we could ‘dance into the weekend’ in style!

Normally flash mobs gather quickly, do something wacky, then quickly disperse. This one was different…and better! It lasted nearly an hour and everyone just danced their socks off, basking in the sunshine, and moving up and down and around the street to the beat, with not a car in the world! Here are a few pics I took before joining in the fun myself!

Happy Weekend Everyone!

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Thongs, Spots and a New World Record!

Just before lunch time today, over 300 people painted themselves into the Guinness Book of Record here in Cork, setting the new Body-Painting World Record! The event, which was organized by Cork Body Painting set out to break the previous 5-year long record of ‘264 bodies painted’ held by an American group.

People of all heights, all backgrounds, all shapes and all sizes showed up from 8am this morning to strip naked (Okay, we all had to wear a thong!), and just before lunch over 317 bodies has been painted from head to toe, fingers, ears, armpits…and sometimes even people’s hair!

By late morning, as the counter clicked 200 a mighty cheer erupted in the hall of the Camden Palace Hotel, gradually becoming louder as we approached the 264 mark. Confidence oozed out of participants as they pranced around half-naked, posing for photos, helping out others or just soaking up the general atmosphere.

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing, as panic spread through-out the city last night as every last shop in Cork sold out of Male thongs! Adult shop, Utopia, came to the rescue though and remained the only outlet with thongs still available yesterday evening, according to The Irish Examiner!

It was a bizarre feeling to be walking around the Camden Palace Hotel with all but a skimpy thong, sipping on hot tea and chatting to total stranger over a game of foosball. I never thought I would feel so at ease and comfortable surrounded by so many naked bodies!

I doubt I will ever forget the image of a 634 multi-colored arms, a spectrum of color, raised high above a sea of naked ambition as the last of the group photos were taken, with everyone smiling and cheering and in a state of utter bliss.

As Keira O Connell, the chief organizer and the lady behind the idea summed up the event, “I think it’s safe to say if I asked anyone that didn’t have an enjoyable experience today to raise their hand, we would be looking in the face of a liar!”

It truly was an unforgettable experience enjoyed by all and something I can now tick off my bucket list!

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