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Posts Tagged ‘couch surfing’

Someone’s on my “bed” right now…

This is what happens when you stay with friends who have pets… they try to steal your couch! ;)

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Couch-surfing… with kids!

I don’t hang out with little kids much. Not many of my friends have any (yet)! This past week, I couch-surfed in the Old Irving Park area of Chicago with two friends and their little kids (2 and 5). “Such good practice!” my grandma said. (Hah-hah!) It was fun, not to mention quite educational.

I learned that putting a Transformer together (“in 17 easy steps”!) is tough (actually, impossible!).

transformer - Edited

That little boys love digging for worms (then hanging them just centimeters from my face until I tell them to let the worm “go home” and back into the garden, alive!).

worms

I learned that they love yard work.

wagon rev

They also liked decorating the area by my couch with their artwork and stuffed animals, “in case you want to sleep with one”.

couch

And they tried to charm me with freshly picked flowers.

flowers

They also LOVED to play Hide and Go Seek.

box

And I had to try my best to pretend not to see them during this round.

hide and seek

Then, the two-year-old wanted us to go grocery shopping.

“We’ll take my car,” he said. (I didn’t fit inside, so I said I’d walk and meet him there. These young kids sure encourage us adults to be creative!)

car ride

When he stopped “driving,” he double-checked that he had locked the door.

locking car

He then decided to re-park it, along the fence in his backyard.

I asked what we were buying. He said, “Broccoli, bread, and chocolate ice cream.” I asked for some yogurt. “Okay,” he said in his cute, squeaky two-year-old voice.

On the way home from “the store,” he ran out of gas and decided to push the car home.

no gas

Then, I fake-ate dirt from the garden, telling him it was delicious ice cream. (He fake-ate some, too.)

He had not wanted to eat his real lunch, PB&J and a yogurt, so I suggested we eat one of them. He agreed, chose the yogurt, and we called it a day! (Well, at least for that hour!)

yogurt

Later, he didn’t want a nap, but I sure did!!

So, there you have it… Even if you’re not a “kid person,” per se, you’ll quickly become one when you couch-surf at a place with children! When I left today, they hugged and kissed me goodbye and the five-year-old said, “I’ll miss you, Natalia.” The two-year-old repeated him and I had to blink and look up to prevent crying in front of them. I promised I’d visit sometime very soon…

Couch-surfing in arctic temperatures!

I am a wimp!

Yes, I grew up in Chicago, amidst the unbearable, arctic-like winters… but couch-surfing in the cold is a whole other story! (Guess I got spoiled couch-surfing in L.A. — plus, having a car made it a breeze versus braving the buses, subways and the cold here! That’s one way to pack light! Who wants to lug more than one suitcase in this weather? The other day, it was 70 degrees! This afternoon, it was sunny and in the 50s. I don’t get it! Earlier today, a Chicago friend told me, “You know Chicago — we get four seasons in one day.” Now, I believe him!)

Here’s a screengrab from a friend’s place where I’m staying tonight:

Screenshot 2015-04-23 at 11.46.51 PM

Yes, a nice 38 degrees — and it doesn’t feel like 38 degrees! (It feels like zero!)

I’m packing for my next couch, in Oak Park. Yay, it’s warmer there (Weather.com says)! We’ll see!

Screenshot 2015-04-23 at 11.51.08 PM

If you have any tips for surviving this coooollllllddddd, let me know!

Couch-surfing in Chicago!

I always love coming back to Chicago — and meet such great people through Couchsurfing.com each time I do! (I wanted to sleep at my grandma’s nursing home, but I wasn’t old enough!) :o Aside from couches, CS.com hosts many events throughout the city — game nights, outings to see the Cubs, etc.

It’s a great way to meet people from, literally, all over the world! Have you ever used Couchsurfing.com or attended one of their events? Tell me if you have or do!

Couch-surfing: Commonly Asked Questions

People often private message me and ask for tips on couch-surfing, as well as ask me other questions about my experiences, so here’s some answers to some of the most common questions:

YOU:  Where do you find your couches? Websites like Couchsurfing.org?

ME:  Actually, I am fortunate to have many friends and friends-of-friends who offer me couches, air mattresses, floors, and the like. Sometimes, even guest rooms! I usually stay with each person for three-to-seven nights, though I house and pet-sit, also, and so my time at someone’s place is usually longer then, anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

Couchsurfing.org is a fantastic organization, though. Sort of like an online dating site – but not for dating; rather, to find couches. People have profiles akin to Facebook, and have testimonials from others on their pages, so you are not choosing couches blindly. I have used Couchsurfing.org when traveling abroad, and had nothing but positive experiences. Feel free to private message me for more specific information.

YOU:  You said you would couch-surf in L.A. for fifty-two weeks, but it has been much more than a year now. Why?

ME: Unfortunately and fortunately, yes, it has been over a year now. Actually, over three years. All because I spent the majority of the first year getting out of default with my numerous (about a dozen) student loans, making very high payments to student loan collection agencies, in order to get back in their good graces and to improve my credit score (which is important, and which many people my age/Gen X-ers don’t always take too seriously, though we should).

Long story short, the more I pay off my student loan debt, the better I feel about whittling down that $98,000 to thousands and thousands less now. Since I still make several student loan payments each month, I often say that I still have a landlord – not some middle-aged man, but the faceless Department of Education. J To pay off all my debt and to pay a three-dimensional landlord would be out of my means, financially. And for now, I choose my student loans.

Plus, I really love living with my friends. I recommend that everyone try it, whether or not you’re in debt. It will make you and your friends much closer… usually. ;)

YOU:  Do some people not understand your couch-surfing lifestyle?

ME: Of course, not everyone gets it. I think it’s a creative way of dealing with a serious problem. In 2009, I could not pay my rent and I did not want to leave L.A., either, for I feared that if I left, I would not return (as I had seen so many others do; working in film and TV is not easy and takes a lot of perseverance). So I turned to the one thing I had: friends. And they have been immeasurably kind and generous in opening up their homes and pull-out sofas for me. And I swear I will return the favor one day, when I get an apartment of my own again.

Also, couch-surfing and living on as little money as possible has taught me a lot. For instance, there are so many free things to do in the world, where money is not even required. Not to mention I have learned to travel with one, airline/carry on-sized suitcase and a sleeping bag. Sure, I have some things in storage, but I have realized that, when it really comes down to it, I can live without all that other stuff. People are really the most important commodity, hands down.

I can go on and on about couch-surfing… (If you have more questions, feel free to post them here or send me a message.) Thank you!

How to Boil Chicken

A few weeks ago, I was at the grocery store and only had a few minutes to grab a handful of things. In the paper towel aisle, I came across a frantic woman. Her curly hair was in all directions, and more black mascara was below her eyes than on her lashes. I love talking to people in grocery stores (or anywhere, really) and even have a rule not to bring my cell phone into stores like so many other people do, chatting away or texting. I prefer to be 100% present in my surroundings, to talk to other customers like we did back in the day, comparing apples to oranges – literally. But when the frantic woman approached me, I took a couple of steps back. I was in a hurry…

“Could I ask you something?” she said as she wiped away mascara, like a clown badly applying makeup. She was holding two types of paper towels, Brawny and Viva, so perhaps that was her question? “Sure,” I said. “I need to boil this chicken for my dog, Oscar,” she continued as she showed me the freshly packaged chicken breasts. “He’s really sick and the vet said to give him plain, boiled chicken. Can you tell me how to make it? Do I just put it in water and cook it? I’m a vegetarian. The doctor said not to add any seasonings. Do you eat meat? I really love Oscar…”

As she continued to ask me question after question at rapid-fire speed, I scolded myself for having been hesitant to have her talk to me. I guess I feared her having a question more than the actual question. We continued talking about her dog and how to boil chicken for several minutes. At one point, I even offered to come over and make the chicken for her. By the end of our conversation, even more mascara was on her face, as she was crying. And I was too, at the love she had for Oscar. “I’m so grateful for the advice,” she said. “So many people just talk on their cell phones and can’t be bothered to answer someone standing right in front of them.”

Every time I’ve eaten or made chicken since then, I can’t help but think of that woman and her dog. I hope the chicken worked for him.

Do you talk to people in the grocery store? Or do you just try to get in and get out?

Background noise – how it helps me write…

Have a deadline… but it’s too loud to get any work done? See how I went from writing in silence to needing noise in my latest couch-surfing article, right here in WOW! 

 

Happy anniversary… to me

I just had my couch-surfing anniversary: two-and-a-half years. Who knew a 52-week project would turn into a 130-week one… and counting. The thanks and gratitude I have to every friend and acquaintance who have opened up their homes – and loveseats, sectionals, and yoga mats – to me is immeasurable.

“So why are you still couch-surfing?” people ask.

With the still-unstable job market and my ever-excessive student loan debt (which is where my “rent” money goes each month), taking my sofa out of storage and putting it into a place of my own hasn’t happened yet. Nor do I want to risk it… and then discover I can suddenly not make rent one month. Believe me, that was the most stressful part about having an apartment.

Besides, I still have many friends’ couches to sleep on…  :) Have I slept at your place yet? ;)

Under (Health) Insured

I have tried getting health insurance so many times, I have stopped trying. Rejected for a biopsied mole here, an Upper GI test there, these tests are on my permanent record like something I accidentally wrote in pen instead of pencil and I can’t find the Wite-Out. And even though I’m trying to redeem myself, waiting “x” number of years for “y” issue on my record to disappear so that “z” insurance companies don’t question my “past history” health responses and hold them against me, a game I cannot win, it’s like they only look at the flaws, not the progress I’ve made: less tests the last few years, mainly because they’re too darn expensive without insurance. So the cycle continues… I get the tests taken, paying cash out-of-pocket should I be so lucky to have spare cash, knowing full well my chances of getting approved by a health insurance provider have probably just decreased… again… But at least I got that mole checked.

I know health is supposed to be our #1 priority; that’s what others tell us, “good health is everything” and “if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.” Though the sentiment may be free, why can’t the execution be more affordable? “Nothing” is expensive.

Some people become alarmed when they learn I don’t have health insurance, “What if something happens?” Good question. I want to tell them I’m not avoiding it on purpose. Others think it’s nice that I don’t have to pay a few hundred dollars a month for it, saying they rarely use theirs. But isn’t there comfort in knowing it’s there if you need it? Plus, all the “cash patient” expenses–the doctor’s visits, the tests, the medications–add up. Fast. And there’s always that unpredictable “What if something happens?” looming in the background like a vulture waiting to attack.

Since Sunday, I have had a throbbing ear ache, throat pain, and fever that I hope is a sinus infection, not the start of another two-month flu-turned-cold-turned-bronchitis like I had just a few months ago. I have no time for that. None of us do.

For an uninsured person, the question is always: Do I wait it out – or spend hard-earned money to go to the doctor? A non-clinic doctor ranges in price from $200-400 in L.A. (believe me, I’ve called around), plus they don’t have any available appointments for 4-8 weeks. Never mind. Urgent care is about $100 and the hours are more flexible. The CVS Minute Clinic (which I love) is $80, though the last time I went to one, what they prescribed did not work and I had to end up finding another (more expensive) doctor, anyway, paying two doctors for the price of one. Of course, there are the free clinics, though if time is money, I should be working instead of waiting for an appointment all day.

I have been waiting it out, taking allergy medications, hoping my sinus/cold symptoms would disappear without my needing to pay to see a doctor. Nine times out of ten, said doctors say it’s allergies, anyway, then point me to the appointment desk, where I can pay on my way out, hoping my debit card isn’t declined. (I don’t use credit cards, but that’s another post.)

Yesterday, a friend told me about a Health Truck (think Food Truck with Band-Aids instead of tacos) that goes around L.A., from TV studio lot to TV studio lot. Supposedly, if you don’t have insurance and work on such a lot, a doctor or nurse (I’m not quite sure) on the truck will see you for only $25, which sounded like the answer to my waiting game. The truck happened to be at my lot yesterday. I did a walk-by and I must admit: I was afraid to go in. I imagined the inside looking like a dilapidated motor home, bloody bandages on the floor like an L.A. emergency room I was once in.

I walked into my work and thanked my co-worker for the idea, but said I couldn’t do it. He nearly pushed me back out the door.

The nurse and doctor I saw were probably the nicest, most knowledgeable ones I’ve ever seen. They confirmed my suspicions: a sinus infection. At least I’ll take the right medications now instead of guessing between cold and sinus pills. They asked why I didn’t have health insurance, even though they knew the answer as several other patients had the same response as I did.

I can’t wait for the day I don’t have to worry about being rejected by health insurance providers as though I am waiting for college acceptance letters. That, or the day when no matter what job I take, it comes with insurance, no questions asked, and no wrong answers if they do ask.

In the meantime, I am grateful to Health Trucks like the one I went to yesterday.

Do you have health insurance? Through work or on your own? If not, what kind of clinics or doctors do you go to?

Thanks for reading!

And feel free to “Like” this post if you can relate to it.

Money Monday: My new – $.01 – phone charger!

One thing I’ve become a pro at all these couch-surfing months is saving money. So when my phone charger literally started on fire a week-and-a-half ago as I plugged it into my couch host’s (CH’s) power strip – causing it to blow fuses in a third of my couch host’s house, which took a few days to get fixed (and is a whole other story!) – I brought it to Verizon and assumed they would give me a new one. After all, with past Verizon phones, when the charger would stop working (like with my old LG, for instance), they often handed me a new one for no charge.

Here’s a picture of the burnt charger:

This time, Verizon was once again very nice about it when they handed me a brand new charger… until they said it’s $29.99.

$29.99?!

I calmly explained how my charger had been ON FIRE and blew out all these fuses in a house that’s not even mine (thank goodness for my very nice and understanding couch host, btw!), and I doubted it was the CH’s power strip that caused it… They apologized, saying they had to charge me for the charger. I apologized and handed it back, saying I would get it somewhere cheaper.

I knew Amazon was the place.

There, I found my charger for A PENNY!

Sure, I had to wait a few days for it to arrive, but it was kind of a nice cleanse not having a phone for almost two weeks. For the occasional calls and to contact friends, I used a landline or emailed them. It was fascinating making plans with someone and having to rely on actually showing up on time – them and myself, since I did not have a way to reach them once the plans were set. A great test in accountability, I think.

So far, the charger works! Though I am avoiding plugging it into power strips…

What kind of experiences have you had where someone wanted to charge you a lot — but you found a better deal?