Monday, June 16, 2008

I deboard the train in Frankfurt, and am surprised to find pay phones at the station. I thought this species went extinct with the typewriter and VHS tape. I toss in a few euros and call my Couchsurfing host, Christian, who says he´s standing in front of the nearest McDonalds.

Like most Europeans, he´s neatly presented, with a long navy wool coat, neatly ironed shirt and polished shoes. He greets me with a smile and a kiss on each cheek, tells me about his job as a pharmaceutical sales rep. Then he says he has a surprise for me. Would I like to be on television?

We go to a Chinese restaurant around the corner, where a Spanish news crew is interviewing couchsurfers and their hosts. I´m approached by a journalist about my age. She asks if I´d be able to do the interview in Spanish. I took a clue from the fact that she was asking this question in English, and said probably not. She insisted that I try.

Speaking Spanish into a videocamera, it turns out, is like playing piano in front of an audience: suddenly, you can´t hit half the notes that you could in rehearsal. I sputter through the interview, telling her that I´ve traveled for the last 10 weeks -- 6 in Spain, 2 in Portugal, 2 in Italy, half a week in Austria, and today in Germany -- and that I built a couchsurfing page with my photo and information on it; I tell her finding a host is sometimes easy and sometimes hard, depending on the country, and that my friend Kim has stayed with my current host, Christian, and reports he´s a wonderful guy.

Christian takes the pressure off with a joke; he tells the news crews that meeting Kim and I has convinced him that not all Americans own guns.

We wrap up the interview, return to the train station and pick up a Taiwanese couchsurfer. On our way home, it occurs to me that no one laughed at his "gun" comment, and I realize it wasn´t a joke. I mention this to him, and within minutes, find myself describing how an M-16 has the same barely-there kickback as a 22-caliber. I surprise myself with my own gun knowledge.

The grocery stores are closed on Sundays, so we drive to the airport to buy broculi and fish. "It´s international," Christian explains. "Its the only place that´s open."