My man Gottfried

28 Jun

Well, my guest survived — no wasp attack, no ill effects from not having a shower, no tripping over the bathtub in the hallway or down the many stairs, and only a half-hearted attempted at humping his leg by the dog. Phew.

My guest (Gottfried) and I are both members of an organization called Servas, which is an impossible to pronounce uniformly Esperanto word. But don’t let that put you off! Servas (which used to be called “Open Doors” in a variety of languages) is a wonderful organization that is dedicated to building international peace and goodwill one person at a time. The idea is the more that people meet other people from other cultures, the less people will want to obliterate other countries and cultures.

I have been a traveler and a host (one can be either or both), and this year have already had two guests! Gottfried, an Austrian professor of English in Korea, and Mihoko, a Japanese woman who teaches Japanese children about traditional culture.

Hosts and travelers pay a small annual fee (under $100) and travelers write in advance to people they’d like to visit and get a yes, no, or “sure but you have to bathe in my sink.” The hosts are asked to provide two meals to the traveler at which everyone sits down and talks. Some accommodations are byo sleeping bag, you’ll be on the floor, and some are guest chalets on the estate (most are somewhere in-between, like couches or spare bedrooms).

All the Servas hosts and travelers I’ve met have been really interesting, peace-minded people. You have to be interviewed to be either a guest or a host (so that it’s not just people looking for free accommodations or mashers). The US Servas is aging — baby boomers and older probably make up the majority of our members. They’ve got a push on for more young people (my Japanese guest who has traveled extensively with Servas said I, at 41, am the youngest Servas host she’d met in the US). It’s such a great way to see the world, meet people, see how people live in other places (I love it when a host takes me grocery shopping, and I’m always interested in people’s bathrooms around the world), and build peace, one relationship at a time.

http://www.usservas.org/ is the web site.

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2 Responses to “My man Gottfried”

  1. Alexis L. June 29, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    That’s a really interesting opportunity. I haven’t slept under a stranger’s roof since I was 17, when I was an exchange student outside of Tokyo. I’ll definitely take a look.

  2. Erica Walch June 30, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    It’s a wonderful organization. It’s such a cool way to meet people and see the world, or share your world. I highly recommend it!

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