100 Countries!

Placing a map tack in a 10' wide National Geographic 2015 map of the world

War is god’s way of teaching Americans geography.
— Amber Tamblyn

Placing a map tack in a 10' wide National Geographic 2015 map of the world
Maggie & Yen Li from Malaysia putting the “Country #6” pin in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Country Index & Links

  1. Algeria #46
  2. Argentina #30 • Argentina 2Argentina 3
  3. Australia #22
  4. Austria #33
  5. Bangladesh #42
  6. Belarus #21
  7. Brazil #18 • Brazil 2
  8. Canada #36 • Canada 2Canada 3
  9. Chile #15
  10. China #40 • China 2
  11. Colombia #27 • Colombia 2Colombia 3
  12. Crimea #49
  13. Croatia #55
  14. Curaçao #13
  15. Czech Republic #14
  16. Denmark #11
  17. Egypt #51
  18. France #12 • France 2France 3France 4France 5France 6
  19. Georgia #37
  20. Germany #9 • Germany 2Germany 3Germany 4Germany 5Germany 6Germany 7
  21. Guatemala #62
  22. Honduras #45
  23. Hungary #1
  24. India #60
  25. Iran #26 • Iran 2
  26. Italy #8 • Italy 2Italy 3
  27. Japan #25 • Japan 2
  28. Kazakhstan #38
  29. Kenya #35
  30. Korea #28 • Korea 2
  31. Latvia #50
  32. Libya #31
  33. Lithuania #3
  34. Luxembourg #57
  35. Malaysia #6 • Malaysia 2Malaysia 3
  36. Mexico #19 • Mexico 2
  37. Nepal #58
  38. Netherlands #20
  39. Norway #61
  40. Oman #34
  41. Pakistan #43 • Pakistan 2
  42. Panama #39
  43. Peru #48
  44. Poland #5 • Poland 2Poland 3Poland 4
  45. Portugal #24 • Portugal 2
  46. Puerto Rico #41
  47. Russia #17 • Russia 2Russia 3Russia 2b
  48. Scotland #59
  49. Senegal #53
  50. Slovakia #4 • Slovakia 2
  51. South Africa #29
  52. Spain #10 • Spain 2Spain 3Spain 4
  53. Sweden #7
  54. Switzerland #54
  55. Taiwan #2 • Taiwan 2Taiwan 3
  56. Tunisia #32
  57. Turkey #47
  58. Turkmenistan #44
  59. Ukraine #52
  60. Uruguay #56
  61. Venezuela #23
  62. Vietnam #16

Welcome 100 Countries

Some people set for themselves a 100 Countries challenge. To visit 100 countries in their lifetime, or by age 40, or in 2 years, and so on. It’s an awesome project. I had such great experiences with Aki, Csecsi, Denes & Esti from Hungary, and RuRu & Angel from Taiwan, that I decided to do an “Inverse 100 Countries.” Instead of traveling to 100 Countries, to invite 100 countries into my home.

After RuRu & Angel’s visit I ordered a 10-foot / 3-meter wide map of the world from National Geographic, and map pins numbered from 1-100. By the time I’d put up a wall in the garage, patched it, painted it, and mounted the map there, Uršulė, Greta, Lukas & Kristian, and Sara & Marta, had also visited. I placed the “2”, “3”, “4” & “5” pins for RuRu, Angel, Uršulė, Greta, Lukas, Kristian, Sara & Marta on Taiwan, Lithuania, Slovakia & Poland. I didn’t place the “1” for Hungary. I don’t suppose I’ll get to see Aki, Csecsi, Denes & Esti as a group again, but I have a feeling one or more of them will visit again some day. So I’m saving the “1” for them to place if and when they return.

Yen Li & Maggie from Malaysia are the 6th country to visit and the first since the map installation was finished, so they got to put the “6” in Malaysia themselves.

Visitors from 100 countries! I think it might take 4 years. Or less. Or more. I don’t want it to have a time limit or be more artificial than necessary. I’d love for the meetups to be as simple, and real, and honest and uncontrived as possible. Here’s who’s visited so far. More to come!

Standing on the driveway in front of the house, just a minute before leaving for the airport
Akos, Csenge, Glenn, Eszter & Denes

Aki, Csenge, Denes & Eszter

#1 Budapest, Hungary
August ’15

Angel, Glenn & RuRu taking a selfie in Glenn's print room and flashing the familiar Asian "V Sign"
Angel, Glenn & RuRu

RuRu & Angel

#2 Taipei, Taiwan
September ’15

Uršulė, Greta, Lukas & Kristian from Lithuania & Slovakia standing together in front of my house in California
Uršulė, Greta, Lukas & Kristian

Uršulė, Greta, Lukas & Kristian

#3 Lithuania – Uršulė, Greta & Lukas
#4 Slovakia – Kristian
September ’15

Marta, Glenn & Sara on the beach at the Venice Beach Legal Art Walls
Marta, Glenn & Sara. Photo by Bruno / STP

Sara & Marta

#5 Katowice, Poland
September ’15

Placing a map tack in a 10' wide National Geographic 2015 map of the world
Maggie & Yen Li from Malaysia putting the “Country #6” pin in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Yen Li & Maggie

#6 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
September ’15

photo of 7 people grouped around a compact car
CounterClockwise from upper-left: Carl, Elena, Antonio, Glenn, Isnaya, Fabio & Maria

Elena, Maria, Carl, Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio

(5) Poland – Elena Chuck
#7. Sweden – Maria & Carl
#8. Italy – Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio
October ’15

two women standing in front of a world map
Stefanie & Zeinab

Stefanie Kuisle & Zeinab Greif

#9. Sonthofen, Germany
October ’15

Larra Royo standing in front of a map of the world and pointing to Spain
Lara Royo

Lara Royo

#10. Valencia, Spain
October ’15

Two people standing in front of a ten foot wide map of the world, smiling and making peace signs
Anita Michelsen & Lorenzo Carloni

Anita Michelsen & Lorenzo Carloni

(8) Italy – Lorenzo
#11. Denmark – Anita
October ’15

6 people standing in front of a world map, with a 7th person being carried by the group
Zeinab, Sheedia, Lara, Anthony, Demetrick, Kevin & Stefanie

Kevin & Anthony and Sheedia & Demetrick

#12. Lyon, France – Kevin & Anthony
#13. Curaçao – Sheedia & Demetrick
October ’15

three people standing in front of a world map
Cecile Barbot, Martin Hytha & Katerina

Cecile Barbot, Martin Hytha & Katerina

(12) Paris, France – Cecile
#14. Czech Republic – Martin & Katerina
November ’15

Christopher, Martin & Katerina in front of a world map and pointing to Chile
Christopher, Martin & Katerina

Christofer Werner Hausdorf

#15. Llanquihue, Chile
November ’15

13 people posing for a group portrait in front of a large world map
Back Row: Masha, Lizzy, Artem, Suus, Andrew, Fabio, Bia, Justa & Hania.
Front Row: Czarek, Glenn, Ida & Thinh.

Thinh Nguyen, Masha, Artem, Bia Alves, Fabio Shimizu, Hania Robaszkiewicz, Justa, Susanne Wiesner, Larissa, Andrew Melnik, Ida & Czarek

#16. Vietnam / United States – Thinh Nguyen
#17. Perm, Russia – Masha & Artem
#18. Sao Paulo, Brazil – Bia Alves & Fabio Shimizu
#19. Puebla, Mexico / (5) Lodz, Poland – Hania Robaszkiewicz & Justa Sobótka
#20. Hilversum, Netherlands – Susanne Wiesner & Larissa
#21. Minsk, Belarus – Andrew Melnik
(5) Poland – Ida Koĺodziejczyk & Czarek Rychlicki
November ’15

3 CouchSurfers standing in front of a large world map
Ele, Terézia & Lucas

Terézia Ligačová, Eleonora Prudenzi & Lucas Hayes

(4) Lužianky, Slovakia – Terézia Ligačová
(8) Rome, Italy – Eleonora Prudenzi
#22. Newcastle, Australia – Lucas Hayes
November ’15

Eleonora Rey sitting in a chair and playing a Venezuelan Cuatro
Eleonora Rey

Eleonora Rey

#23. Caracas, Venezuela
November ’15

3 people jumping in front of a world map
Rafa, Nuno & Sara

Sara Conchita, Nuno & Rafaela Bidarra

#24. Lisbon, Portugal
November ’15

4 people, all from France, standing in front of a large map of the world
Emilie (eating a chouquette that Terézia made from Cécile’s recipe) Blandine, Marine & Cecile

Emilie Arhan, Blandine Amirault, Marine Cotet & Cécile Barbot

(12) France / San Francisco – Emilie & Blandine
(12) Normandy, France – Marine
(12) Chevilly-Larue, France – Cécile
November ’15

photo of Tomo Ono pushing a "Country #25" pin into a world map. His pin is at Yokohama, Japan
Tomo Ono

Tomomichi “Tomo” Ono

#25. Yokohama, Japan
November ’15

4 boxes of 25 numbered map pins each, with the first box being empty

25 Countries!

Sunday, 29 November 2015:
When I agreed to host Aki, Csecsi, Denes & Esti 3 short months ago, I had no idea of the “journey” I was embarking on. I only thought that it seemed ok to let 4 college students from Budapest, who’d worked all summer at a camp, spend a few days of their Travel Weeks at my place before they headed back home for fall semester.

Out of their inspiring visit, and other wonderful visitors who followed, I’ve found myself on a “World Tour” of 100 countries. A 100 country tour that doesn’t necessarily involve leaving the house, but does involve welcoming visitors from 100 countries into my home. I had no idea the 1st 25 countries would arrive so quickly! I’m certain the last 25 countries will take a lot longer!

Wherever this Journey in Glenn’s Living Room might lead, it’s been amazing so far. Something about world travel and spending a few nights sleeping under the same roof seems to bring out a sort of intensity. The conversations we’ve had aren’t necessarily conversations that couldn’t be had with a neighbor or family member, yet they’ve had a sort of aliveness, an urgency, that is invigorating and inspiring.

Thank you Aki, Csecsi, Denes & Esti from Budapest, Tomo from Yokohama, and all the other beautiful visitors from 23 other countries. On 9 December Iran will become country #26. Unless that visitor cancels. Or someone else comes first. You never know!

photo of Amir Yazdanbakhsh standing in front of a world map
Amir Yazdanbakhsh

Amir Yazdanbakhsh

#26. Shiraz, Iran
December ’15

Amir is working on a PhD in Computer Science at Georgia Tech. He’s been giving a lot of talks on his research, and while here in LA he spoke at USC. As Moore’s Law starts to run out, and noting the staggering computing power of the human brain while only using 20 watts of power, Amir is focused on new hardware architectures that utilize brain-like circuitry.

Christian and Matt standing together in front of a large world map
Christian Trujillo & Matt Smith

Matthew Smith & Christian Trujillo

(19) Mexico – Matt
#27. Cali, Colombia – Christian
December ’15

Matt & Christian are roommates near Mexico City. Christian is in graduate school studying Medical Physics, and Matt, born in Bakersfield and well-traveled in the USA & Mexico, teaches English.

6 people jumping in the air in front of a large world map
Paulina Wątor, Johanna Acero, Jacek Golanski, Daleen Booyse, Soojeen Heo & Celeste Canete.

Soojeen Heo, Jacek Golanski & Paulina Wątor, and Daleen Booyse, Johanna Acero & Celeste Canete

#28. Seoul, Korea – Soojeen
(5) Poland Jacek & Paulina
#29. Pretoria, South Africa – Daleen
(27) Bogotá, Colombia – Johanna
#30. Corrientes, Argentina – Celeste
December ’15

Soojeen is an exchange student from Seoul, spending this academic year at North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo, ND. In Korea she’s majoring in Fashion Design, but she’s studying Hospitality at NDSU, and has a big interest in Food Coordination and Cuisine Art.

Jacek teaches Laughter Workshops and Paulina translates.

Daleen, Johanna & Celeste are all working as au pairs on the east coast, and are spending a few of their precious days off exploring the West Coast, catching colds as they experience the breathtaking vistas of The Grand Canyon in the snow, and today visiting the stars on Hollywood Boulevard.

Rania and Moe stand in front of a world map and smile at each other
Rania Chafint & Moe

Rania Chafint & Moe

#31. Benghazi, Libya
December ’15

Rania and Moe have been friends in Benghazi for about 7 years now. Even though it’s a city of a million people, you still seem to know everybody. Today they’re both working on BA degrees: Rania studies International Relations at Montana State University, and Moe studies Supply Chain Management in Portland, Oregon.

4 German CouchSurfers stand in front of a large World Map
Nadine, Cedric, Kim & Naddi

Kim Binnig, Nadine Schliedermann & Cedric Sel, and Naddi Sa

(9) Ehingen, Germany – Kim & Nadine
(9) Ulm, Germany – Cedric
(9) Nuremberg, Germany – Naddi
December ’15

A student in Communications at Universität Tübingen, Kim just finished a semester studying abroad at Sacramento State University. Her lifelong friend Nadine, and Nadine’s boyfriend Cedric, flew over to celebrate and do some West Coast traveling with her. Also, Nadine delivered a bunch of Christmas presents, mostly chocolate, from Kim’s mom.

Naddi works as an au pair in Kansas City and is taking a holiday trip to California. She was surprised and delighted to arrive at my house and find everyone (except me) speaking German.

Iheb, Bianca & Mike carry Marouen in front of a large world map
Iheb, Bianca, Marouen & Mike

Marouen Ben Hamed & Iheb Saidi and Michael Liggett & Bianca Golling

#32. Tunis, Tunisia – Marouen & Iheb
#33. Austria – Bianca
(0) Montana, USA – Mike
December ’15

Although they’re both from Tunisia’s capital city, Marouen and Iheb didn’t meet till they both came to the University of Central Missouri to study Engineering.

A Montana native, Mike’s already got a BS degree in Business Management. He’s now at the University of Montana working on a second degree in Physical Education, which is where he met Bianca, an exchange student from Austria.

Hana, Shahad & Aisha stand in front of a large world map
Hana, Shahad & Aisha

Shahad Alharthi & Aisha Al Aouqi and Hana Jama

#34. Muscat, Oman – Shahad
#35. Mombasa, Kenya – Aisha
#36. Toronto, Canada Hana
December ’15

Shahad and Aisha are both from Muscat, Oman’s capital city. But they only met at Washington State University in Pullman. Aisha was born in Oman and raised in Mombasa. Although Hana is from Toronto, a world away, her family has roots in Kenya’s neighbor, Somalia. Perhaps that has something to do with why Hana, Aisha, and Shahad became such fast friends when they met here at my home.

As she was pushing the 34 pin into Oman on the big world map Shahad said:

SHAHAD: Finally you have visitors from an Arab country!
GLENN: What about Libya who was here earlier this week? Or Tunisia, who’s here now?
SHAHAD: Well, I mean a real Arab country!

When I told Marouen & Iheb that Shahad had said that, they just laughed.
When I told Shahad that I had told Marouen & Iheb that she had said that, she was mortified:

SHAHAD: OMG! You did not tell them I said that??
SHAHAD: I was only joking!!

Mariam, Maya & George stand in front of a large world map
Mariam, Maya & George

Mariam Kakhabrishvili, Maya Gamze Zorlu & George Zviadadze

#37. Tbilisi, Georgia – Mariam & George
(9) Munich, Germany – Maya
December ’15

George was looking for someplace outside of Georgia to go to college. He checked out a lot of information online and at college info fairs. Somehow Troy University “accidentally” sent him a letter saying “We’re sorry for not giving you all the information, but yes, we’d like to offer you a scholarship!” The letter was a mistake, but they still honored the offer, and now George is studying Computer Science in Troy, Alabama.

George had heard that his mother’s sister’s somebody’s somebody was also looking to study abroad, and so he told his mom that this person might want to check out Troy University too. And so it was that he wound up meeting his 3rd or 4th cousin Mariam not at home in Georgia, but at Troy University. Mariam’s studying Criminal Justice. George says that the CS department at Troy might be a little weak, but that the dorms are like a 4-Star hotel!

Maya, a Communications major from Munich, met Miriam (Mia) at the Montgomery, Alabama airport. They were both exchange students heading to Troy. Mia said she had to go meet some guy: her mother’s sister’s somebody, and did Maya want to come, and that it’d be a quick hello and they’d be out. It turned out to be not so quick as they all connected instantly and became fast friends.

Meanwhile, here at Runaway University, when Mia & Maya dragged their blankets from the Curaçao Beach room to the somewhat better heated Sonthofen Ski Lodge, Georgie’s voice trailed after them:

GEORGIE: You only seek comfort. You know not the friendship!

And in another conversation:

MIA: I was in a relationship with a smart guy. But stupid guys are easier to manipulate.

8 people jumping in the air and laughing in front of a large world map on New Year's Day 2016. One of the jumpers holds a "2016" sign in her hand
Ludmila Tugues, Ana Ramirez, Davis Ureña, Mariam Kakhabrishvili, Giorgi Zviadadze, Maya Gamze Zorlu, Bauyrzhan Abuov & Aidana Assanbayeva

Ludmila Tugues & Ana Ramirez and Bauyrzhan Abuov & Aidana Assanbayeva and Davis Ureña

(30) Buenos Aires, Argentina – Ludmila & Ana
#38. Kazakhstan – Bauyrzhan & Aidana
#39. Panama – Davis
1 January ’16

Ludmila and Ana have been promising me the mate experience for a month now! Jacek warned me I might have to try it 10 times before I actually liked it. I wound up liking it right away, except ouch they drink it so hot! Also, they drink it all day long. Not that I’m calling them mate addicts or anything!

There’s tons I don’t know about most countries on earth, but I was extra-ignorant about Kazakhstan. I had no idea that they’re ethnically Asian, culturally Russian, and religiously Muslim. Wow!

Davis has been our WhatsApp travel correspondent for a month now! He’s kept us in touch with all his places and adventures. And finally, he’s here! And OMG, his plantain dishes were so good!

headshot of Alia Jeraj
Alia Jeraj

Alia Jeraj

(0) Honolulu, Hawaii
January ’16

I spent six weeks in a small village in Senegal working with a group of women to harvest oysters. Every week we went out to the mangroves, walking out into the ocean, crawling through the mangrove roots, and digging in the sand for shellfish.

Julia, Rachel & Simon standing in front of a map of the world
Julia Petrisor, Rachel Young & Simon Renoir

Julia Petrisor and Rachel Young & Simon Renoir

(36) Ontario, Canada – Julia
(0) Detroit, Michigan – Rachel
(12) Besançon, France – Simon
January ’16

A sensitive literary editor, Julia is one of the best ambassadors CouchSurfing has. Great conversation. Wonderful cooking. She even cleaned!

Simon is doing PhD field research on the role of creative communities in urban change in Detroit, which is where he met Rachel.

5 CouchSurfers jump in the air in front of a world map and holding a sign that reads "Happy Birthday Adriii - Runaway University"
Darich Perez, Ally Snead, Candi Fox, Julia, Joan Li & Adriii

Ally Snead and Joan Li & Julia and Candi Fox & Darich Perez

(0) Richmond, Virginia – Ally
#40. Chongqing, China – Joan & Julia
(0) North Carolina – Candi
#41. San Juan, Puerto Rico – Darich
January ’16

Kasia Palka of Seville, Spain sent an unusual CouchSurfing request. She wasn’t looking for a place for her and her friend Adriii to stay while celebrating his 20th birthday. Rather she wanted to celebrate Adriii’s birthday and upcoming travels by having CouchSurfers from around the globe wish Adriii a happy birthday. Hence this photo! Happy Birthday Adriii!

In between completing her degree in Art History & Religious studies last May, and her trip to do volunteer work in Northern India next month, Ally decided to spend a few days in Los Angeles. Her mission: do yoga; see art; hear music.

Joan calls Julia “mom”, but they’re actually friends. They’re from nearby provinces in China. Today Julia lives in San Diego, and Joan is a graduate student in Geography in West Virginia.

After 4 years of drought, California finally decided to have a couple of torrential downpours this week, and that changed Candi & Darich’s travel plans. Our dry state really needs the rain, and as a bonus Candi & Darius wound up at Runaway University. Candi’s from North Carolina which, coincidentally, is where Darich’s mainland US travels started. Of course it’d be too easy to meet there… instead they met “work trading” on a farm in Oregon.

Puerto Rico is not one of the 206 sovereign states recognized by the United Nations. Of course what counts as a “country” or a “nation” or a “sovereign state” can be a little fuzzy. When I told Joan that “China is Country #40“, she protested “how are you ranking countries!?” I explained that it wasn’t any sort of measure of the excellence of a country, but just the order that they’ve come to visit my home. I explained that Hungary was country #1, Taiwan country #2, Lithuania country #3, and so on. Joan protested again: “Taiwan is not a country! It’s part of China!”

I live in a country where, except for actual Native Americans, no one is from here. You aren’t “American” by ethnicity. You are American by desire. Or at least by circumstance. When Hania & Justa visited I let them put the #19 pin in Puebla, Mexico, even though they are two Polish women. They’re living in Puebla, and studying Spanish in Graduate School there. They’re in Mexico because they prefer Mexican Spanish over the Spain Spanish everyone in Poland studies. If desire counts, then I thought Hania & Justa were good representatives to plant the #19 pin.

Last night I asked Darich if he thought Puerto Rico was a country or a United States Territory. He said, of course it’s a country! We watched the John Oliver video on United States Territories and talked a lot about Puerto Rico in a 21st century world. He wasn’t happy that Puerto Rico couldn’t do its own negotiations for oil with nearby Venezuela, but instead had to let the far-away United States control it.

When someone from a new country comes to visit they put a numbered pin in the big world map. Joan just stuck the #40 pin into Chongqing, China. When someone visits from a country that’s already been here, like Maya from Munich, Germany, I give them an unnumbered pin to place. Stefanie & Zeinab having already placed the #9 pin in Sonthofen, Germany. Or for visitors from the United States, like Ally or Candi, I also give them an unnumbered pin to place. When it was Darich’s turn to place a pin, I offered him two pins: an unnumbered pin, and the #41 pin. Darich took the #41 pin and said,

Thank you for letting me choose.

Waleed Ali, Saeef Alam & Sahar Ali standing in front of a large world map
Waleed Ali, Saeef Alam & Sahar Ali

Saeef Alam, Waleed Ali & Sahar Ali

#42. Dhaka, Bangladesh – Saeef
#43. Karachi, Pakistan – Waleed & Sahar
January ’16

After all the discussing, just a couple days ago, about whether or not Puerto Rico was a “country,” I thought these “simple” what country are you from? questions would be over for a while.
I was wrong.

I thought Saeef, Waleed & Sahar were from Kuwait, since they were born in Kuwait City and have spent their entire lives, except for the last couple years at American Universities, in Kuwait. Waleed & Sahar’s parents were even born in Kuwait.

They weren’t really sure how to answer my question, where are you from? They were born in Kuwait, but they are not citizens of Kuwait. It turns out that only about 1/3 of the people who live in Kuwait are citizens. The rest are residents. There’s talk of a law that when a resident turns 65, even a resident who was born in Kuwait, that they should be kicked out of the country. If a Kuwait resident spends more than 6 months out of the country without a single day in the country, as Waleed & Sahar have already done, and Saeef will soon do, they lose the right to ever return to Kuwait.

Saeef said that I might think he’s from Kuwait, and he might have to think about it, but for his parents there wouldn’t be any question or hesitation, Saeef is from Bangladesh. Saeef has never lived in Bangladesh. He doesn’t speak Bengali. But his parents and Kuwait agree, he is from Bangladesh.

My perspective might be skewed because I come from a country where, except for Native Americans, nobody is “from” here. Nobody is ethnically American. I was born on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. There’s a hospital there, I wasn’t actually born in the street. Maybe you can’t get more Los Angeles, or California, or American than that. But if, when I went to the University of Hawaii, I’d been told that I might have to leave Hawaii after graduating, and that I couldn’t return to California or the Mainland United States, that I’d have to go to Poland or Israel or Mexico, well, at that point I might not say I was “from” America. At that point I really don’t know where I’d say I was from.

I know a lot about my mom’s Latin heritage, and pretty much nothing about my dad’s Jewish heritage. My grandparents Sam Zucmanski & Sara Dukelski were Polish Jews who emigrated from Russia to the United States. I have no idea if they ever lived in Poland or were born in Russia. They met in Philadelphia and my dad was born there. When my mom would ask them about life in Russia they would never tell her anything. They’d only say, “That was the past, we’re Americans now.”

Ludmila is “from” Argentina, but she is also proud to be from Argentina. Davis is “from” Panama, but he is also proud to be from Panama. Mehdi is “from” Algeria, but he is also proud to be from Algeria. Darich is so proud to be from Puerto Rico that he rejects the United Nations “list of Sovereign States” and believes that his home, Puerto Rico is, or should be, an independent republic. Saeef, Waleed & Sahar are “from” Kuwait in at least one sense, but I’m not sure Kuwait brings a feeling of pride to them. Like a Facebook Relationship Status, “It’s Complicated.”

I attended elementary school and high school here in California. After that I attended most of the colleges in Los Angeles. The final, and most exotic, thing I did was to graduate from the University of Hawaii. For Saeef, Waleed & Sahar, it’s been a different journey. Elementary school was an Indian school. High school was a British school. College has been at American universities. So they were born in Kuwait, but their education has been Indian, British & American. They’re hoping to stay in America after college. Wherever the future finds them, I think it’s fair to call them global citizens.

After their visit Saeef wrote me a letter and said:

Since Kuwait’s birth 55 years ago and my own birth 22 years ago, its stance has been clear: I may reside in Kuwait, but I will never represent it to the world. When it comes to things like being summoned to serve in the armed forces or playing a role in government, the only nation that would expect (or even allow) these of me is Bangladesh, and certainly not Kuwait.

Many of the 43 countries that have stayed at my home have only been here once: only one person or one group has stayed. A few countries, like France or Germany or Poland have visited RULA 4 or 5 times. When someone else comes from France, Germany, Poland, etc, they still get to stick a pin in the big world map, but unlike the #42 pin that Saeef put in Bangladesh, or the #43 pin that Waleed & Sahar put in Pakistan, the later visitors put an unnumbered pin in the country. So Stefanie & Zeinab put the #9 pin in Sonthofen, Germany, and later Kim & Nadine put an unnumbered pin in Ehingen, Germany.

After Saeef, Waleed & Sahar put #42 & #43 in Bangladesh & Pakistan, Saeef asked if he might put an unnumbered pin in Kuwait City, Kuwait. Even though he’s not “from” there, that place is “something” to him, and it seemed appropriate to mark it in some way. So now Kuwait is the only country on the big world map that has an unnumbered pin, but no numbered pin. Saeef thought that felt about right.

Although not as heavy as all this nation stuff, I should probably mention that Sahar is 18, but Waleed thinks she’s still 12. He literally has to pause and think if you ask him how old she is! 😀

Waleed said that Nelson Mandela’s autobiography was the most powerful book he’s ever read in his life. Barack Obama’s, not so much.

Yin Chien, Jimmy, Aylar, Linda, Glenn, Joe, Mehdi & Sagar standing in front of a large world map and holding a paper sign that reads "Ozan Sultan'I Seviyor" which I believe means Ozan Loves Sultan'I
Yin Chien, Jimmy, Aylar, Linda, Glenn, Joe, Mehdi & Sagar

Linda Erben & Joe Stötter

(9) Kirchentellinsfurt, Germany
January ’16

Like Martin & Katerina, Linda & Joe bought a car on the East Coast, drove it across America, and are now selling it here in California. Los Angeles was Martin & Katerina’s last stop before heading down to Latin America, but Linda and Joe are still heading up to San Francisco before selling the car and heading home to Germany. They waited in Las Vegas for the papers on the car to arrive and then drove to Los Angeles once they got them.

Joe told me that something about American politics confused him: he said that clearly only stupid people would support Donald Trump, but that in their travels across America they were pleasantly surprised not to meet any stupid people. So, who’s supporting Trump?

Maybe half of the International Travelers here at RULA aren’t especially engaged by American politics. Of the half that are, they mostly seem to like Bernie Sanders. Linda and Joe do.

As Darich, Ally, Candi, Julia & Joan had done with the “Happy Birthday Adriii” sign, I got a CS message from Ozan asking us to make an “Ozan Sultan’ı Seviyor (Ozan loves Sultan)” sign and take a picture with it for them. Unfortunately, when I tried to send this photo to them, Ozan had deleted his CouchSurfing profile. Oh well, love is out there somewhere.

Mehdi, Yin Chien, Aylar, Jimmy & Sagar standing in front of a large world map and holding a sign that reads "Experience America, UGRAD Post, University of Utah" Mehdi is wearing the Algerian flag.
Mehdi, Yin Chien, Aylar, Jimmy & Sagar

Sagar Kumar Katija, Mammetmyradova Aylar, Jimmy Ramos, Zeroual Mehdi & Aik Yin Chien

(43) Quetta, Pakistan – Sagar
#44. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan – Aylar
#45. San Pedro Sula, Honduras – Jimmy
#46. Algiers, Algeria – Mehdi
(6) Perak, Malaysia – Yin Chien
January ’16

Sagar was supposed to be the 1st person here from Pakistan. The “real” Pakistani, as Shahad might say. But as noted above, while Waleed & Sahar were “born” in Kuwait, they are “from” Pakistan. Making Sagar the 3rd Pakistani to visit RULA.

Sagar, Aylar, Jimmy, Mehdi & Yin Chien are all part of the United States, Department of State, Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD):

UGRAD has facilitated their study at the University of Utah this semester. They’ve all just arrived and were eager to explore America! After a week of class they headed over for a 3-day weekend here in Los Angeles.

On Sunday everyone gave little talks on their country and culture. Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Honduras, Algeria & Malaysia. They all used their phones for audiovisual aids, and inevitably they all showed pictures of someone from their country in “traditional dress.” It was a strange juxtaposition to see someone in very traditional dress, being shown on a cell phone, in the hand of someone wearing jeans & a rock t-shirt, and sitting in a California living room!

I asked them if they thought they had more in common with that indigenous person, or with the “Global Culture” round-table of people sitting in my living room. Sagar & Mehdi said they thought they had more in common with that indigenous person. Aylar, Jimmy & Yin Chien said they thought they had more in common with Global Culture.

I’ve been thinking about all of these travelers from 46 countries who have stayed at RULA. Everyone has spoken English. They may not be “rich”, but they have managed to find access to world travel. Have I welcomed 46 different countries, 46 different cultural worlds, into my home? Or have I welcomed people who live in many different cities but are all part of Global Culture? No doubt it’s a bit of both.

Pinar & Gizem in front of a large world map and making a heart shape around Turkey with their hands
Pinar & Gizem

Gizem Kara-Batterman & Pınar Numanoğlu

#47. Ankara, Turkey
January ’16

Gizem & Pinar are long-time friends. Gizem met this American guy who was studying abroad in Budapest. A 5-year long-distance relationship ensued. And Gizem thinks that this might have been all there was to it. But then she got sick and needed surgery. The American, now an Air Force pilot, flew to Turkey to be by her side. And yes, the rest is history. They’d hoped to be stationed in Pensacola, Florida. But wound up in Clovis, New Mexico. In Clovis Gizem has little chance to use her Architecture Degree. So she’s studying Graphic Design at the local community college. And taking trips to places like Miraflores, Peru, and Los Angeles.

Pinar works for a government ministry in Ankara. She works in EU relations. She flew from Ankara to London to Los Angeles. They metup at LAX, rented a car, and headed over to RULA. After a few days here they drove up to San Francisco.

Blaire, Tiki, Dasha & Silvana in front of a large world map. They're all wearing "bling" like Mardi Gras beads
Blaire, Tiki, Dasha & Silvana

Hyeon-Hui Blaire Cho, Dasha Shubina, Tiki Tiki & Silvana Martos

(0) Los Angeles, California – Tiki
(28) Seoul, Korea – Blaire
48. Miraflores, Peru – Silvana
49. Simferopol, Crimea – Dasha
January ’16

Silvana spent the first 14 years of her life in Peru. Then 7 in Florida. Then 7 in Toronto. After a year of wandering and a few days at RULA, she headed off to Sydney, Australia. Perhaps she’ll be there for the next 7 years?

Blaire just finished a degree at Georgia Tech, and is heading home to Korea. With a little traveling before the big flight!

Dasha moved from Ukraine to NYC a year ago. Recently she lived in San Diego, and she’s thinking about giving Los Angeles a try now. She does photography and video. And thinks about psychology.

Tiki’s lived in Los Angeles for a decade now, but when her provider suffered an accident she found herself homeless. Silvana, Blaire & Dasha noticed her CouchSurfing profile and encouraged Tiki to seek refuge at RULA. Earlier in her life Tiki was in the Russian Mafia. She doesn’t like to talk about those times. Tiki & Dasha twitter on in Russian, or sometimes Ukrainian, all night long. I have no idea what they talk about. It’s probably best that way.

Walesca, Paula, Lauren & Vanessa, travelers from Florianopolis, Brazil
Walesca, Paula, Lauren & Vanessa

Vanessa Kretiska Medeiros, Lauren Fabrin, Walesca Parrella & Paula Voigt Espinola

(18) Florianópolis, Brazil
February ’16

Vanessa, Lauren, Walesca & Paula are all college students from Florianópolis. They’ve been friends for years, but they don’t attend the same university in Florianópolis, and they didn’t attend the same high school. However they did go to the same church, which is where they all met.

It was hard to get a sense of the size of Florianópolis. On the 3-meter wide world map it’s barely big enough to be seen from under the black dot marking Florianópolis. On Google Earth on a 46-inch monitor it looks huge as it sits off the coast of southern Brazil and connected by its 2 famous bridges.

Vanessa, Lauren, Walesca & Paula told me that Florianópolis was about the size of Oahu. Turns out that’s a little off, as Florianópolis is about 168 square miles (population 250,000) and Oahu is about 597 square miles. It’s closer to the Hawaiian island of Lanai at 140 square miles. The entire Hong Kong SAR is 426 square miles, but Hong Kong Island itself is only 31 square miles, on which 1.3 million people are packed. Manhattan is 34 square miles with 1.6 million people. And the Los Angeles metropolitan area? 4,850 square miles. Population 12.8 million.

Vineta, Tiki & Krisjanis in front of a large world map. Vineta is holding Tiki and Krisjanis is pointing to Riga, Latvia on the world map
Vineta, Tiki & Krisjanis

Vineta Jermolova & Krisjanis

50. Riga, Latvia
March ’16

Vineta & Krisjanis are convinced that nobody knows where Latvia is! Or that it’s even a country. Or if it is a country, that it must be somewhere in Africa!

Vineta wound up sick with low blood pressure and they weren’t able to do anything for a day. It was sad to see Vineta so weak. Even so, it was sort of nice to have them around for the day. So many CouchSurfers are gone from dawn till, well, the next dawn! So it was nice to have a little easy time with this fun and dynamic couple. She seemed to feel better by the end of the day. Vineta even got to walk her pal Tiki to Walmart and back!

photo of 4 boxes of numbered map tacks. The 1st 2 boxes are empty (50 countries) and the 2nd 2 boxes are full

50 Countries

  • 26 August – Esti, Aki, Chechi & Denes from Budapest make Hungary the 1st country to visit.
  • 27 November – Tomo Ono from Yokohama makes Japan the 25th country to visit.
  • 2 March – Vineta & Krisjanis from Riga make Latvia the 50th country to visit.

136 visitors from 50 countries in 6 months. What an experience!

Only time will tell who, and from where, will visit next, or what adventures we might have!

So Far

Destroyed by CouchSurfers

  • Two shower shampoo-conditioner-soap dispensers
  • One shower faucet
  • Countless kitchen items
  • iPhone cables stolen: 2
  • Android cables stolen: 1


  • Paper towels, tissues, toilet paper – a lot
  • Hot & cold water – a lot

Most Visits

  • Poland: 5 visits / 9 peeps
  • Germany: 5 visits / 9 peeps
  • France: 5 visits / 7 peeps
  • Italy 3 visits / 5 peeps
4 German CouchSurfers stand in front of a large World Map
Nadine, Cedric, Kim & Naddi