My second day in Poland was filled with activities. My CouchSurfing host, Sonia, took me all over the city and showed me Warsaw from her local perspective. We went to a market, visited downtown, Old Town, and much more than I can even remember. A high point in the trip was later in the day, when I met friends for some social time.

First, my friend Chryscina Siuchykava, who had also responded to my couch request on CouchSurfing.org, asked if we could meet later that evening. She had been living in Warsaw for several years now, but is originally from Minsk, Belarus. She was taking the “red-eye” train back to her hometown for a few days to visit, and so Sonia and I had to meet her at the train station, Metro Dworzec Gdański, an hour before her train left.

Warsaw Metro station – A-17 Dworzec Gdański. Somewhere around that center bench is where Sonia and I met Chyscina. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Adamon.

We found Chryscina downstairs in the Metro area of the station (the station services the city’s Metro below as well as long-distance trains above), the warmest place to wait. The three of us exchanged greetings and then decided to walk upstairs to sit in a little kebab joint. Chryscina, Sonia, and I had a great time talking; we talked about traveling, Warsaw, Minsk, and our different hobbies. Chryscina is a marketing agent with a nifty new startup, Way2A, a website that allows users to map out routes that they have traveled in the past or are currently traveling and take photos of waypoints along the path. These routes can be shared with friends or the public to show off personal adventures or to map out a great route found so other travelers can replicate it. I loved the concept from the moment I heard about it, and now I am a fervent supporter of her employer.

As it got closer to the time that Chryscina’s train was scheduled to depart, Sonia and I walked her to the train station again to wait. Our conversation then shifted to her journey; Warsaw to Minsk on an overnight train seemed to me like the most awesome trip ever. I asked her how much the ticket was, and it came out to be like $80 USD for the 10-hour ride each way. She then told me a cool little secret that only the locals know: Instead of having the ticket ready, by buying it ahead of time at the station, you can risk it and buy it on the train. Full price on the train might be higher, but Chryscina told me that when the ticket agent approaches you once on the train, ask him/her for ciocia Vala (aunt Vala). This imaginary aunt is a code that somehow may afford you a reduced fare; the ticket agent may let you pay half or so, and you pay in cash so they can basically pocket the whole thing. Win-win situation!

After that long story and the questions which abounded afterwards, it was time for us to say goodbye. Though we only spent an hour talking face to face, we have been keeping in touch ever since, and working together on our relative projects. I am proud and happy to say that I legitimately have Chryscina as my friend in Belarus/Warsaw!

As Sonia and I left the station, we realized that the night was still young. We gave a call to our friends Nelson Moya and Antonina Holowko-Moya, a couple we had met the previous night at the CouchSurfing Warsaw Group ‘Saturated Party.’ These two have quite a story, she is Polish and he is Ecuadorian, and they met while doing some work/study program in the United States (in Arizona, the capital of immigrant altruism {not really}). They made actual contact at the last possible moment, as it was their last day in the program (guys, forgive me if I got this wrong!). They are now happily married, and one of the coolest couples I have ever met.

We all met at Bierhalle, a German-themed pub/restaurant. Sonia called her best friend, Emilia, and we all sat down at a booth. We talked, we drank, we laughed, we drank, we laughed, and we talked, and we drank. Nelson made jokes; Antonina rolled her eyes. Sharing this joy and laughter with great people on the other side of the world from where I live was the greatest feeling, one that I never wanted to end. And I am going to end this post at this point; as the great actor, Orson Welles, said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

Dedicated to Chryscina, Sonia, Emilia, Nelson, and Antonina – great people whom I was fortunate enough to share time with.

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