Chapter 43 – The Perils of Couchsurfing
Although I’d ended up meeting quite a few cool people whose company I enjoyed during my eight-day stay in Lebanon, the two that I’d hung out with the most had been a dude named Efren from Mexico and a local girl named Elizabetta.
I met Efren at the hostel where I’d been staying. We shared the same dorm room. He was an engineer by trade and ran a blog called wetbackpacker.com where he’d post pictures of himself wearing his beloved sombrero in front of tourist attractions all around the world. His sombrero was so important to him that when he lost it while a buddy and he had been making their way up to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, he ended up going back to find it. To my understanding, his buddy had come down with a bad case of altitude sickness, was on the brink of dying and needed to be carried down the mountainside by Efren so he could get some medical attention and, during the difficult descent, the sombrero had become separated from his person. And then once he’d gotten his severely weakened buddy down to a town at a safe altitude, essentially saving his life, Efren then re-trekked the route, combing the area for his precious accessory until he’d found it.
While we were in Beirut – a city that has quite a vibrant party scene with very attractive Arab women who I must say look quite nice when they don’t have to cover themselves up – Efren wore his sombrero out to all the bars on St. Patrick’s Day. As he ripped shot after shot of tequila, danced with every chick, talked to anyone and everyone while handing out mini packs of cigarettes that he’d bought in Iran, Efren was a huge hit wherever he went.
Liz was a girl born and raised in Beirut who I’d met the evening after getting into the rock fight with those strange non-English-speaking Arabs whose car I randomly decided to hop into while drunkenly staggering around at four in the morning. While we were conversing, I told her that story and she seemed to have enjoyed it. And after our initial encounter, we ended up hanging out every day until I left the country a week later. Although there’s not much ground to cover because it ain’t that big, she was nice enough to drive me all over the country in her car, taking me to historical sights and other attractions while she and I got to know one another. From her I learned that almost all educated young people in the capital are able to speak Arabic, French and English. With her, I saw the cities of Byblos and Tyre as well as the ancient Roman ruins of Baalbek.
On our way out to Baalbek which is right near the border with Syria, I sat in the passenger seat and Efren sat in the back. Before we made it out of Beirut proper, we’d been caught in traffic and were stuck at a standstill. As we stagnated, some lower class dude who looked about thirty who’d been on the side of the road selling fruits or vegetables or some shit had seen my ginger ass in the passenger seat and decided to test his English.
“Hey,” he called out while thrusting his crotch at me, “I gay! You gay! Sexy!”
I waved and laughed and we eventually drove away.
Along the way through the rolling green hills of the northeastern highlands which had been filled with fog and were quite chilly even in late March, we could see several makeshift shanty towns out in the fields occupied by Syrian refugees. Although I didn’t interact with any of ‘em, the sight made the conflict a lot more real to me than just being something that I’d read about through online news sources.
At some point during the road trip when the three of us had been talking about whatever came to mind, Efren decided to ask me if I enjoy drinking Corona.
“Nah man,” I replied. “I don’t drink that shit. But for many years my dad had the habit of taking down a daily twelve pack of Corona Extra.”
“Oh no! Your old man drinks it? I can’t believe it!”
“What,” I laughed at his reaction, “you don’t like it either?”
“No way, man. Like, if my friends and I see a gringo like you drinking a Corona in Mexico, we’ll say, ‘Aw man, what a stupid fucking tourist drinking that Corona shit.’ But if my friends were to see me drinking a Corona in Mexico, they’d say, ‘Aw man, look at poor Efren, he don’t got enough money to drink a decent beer. I feel bad for that guy, man.’”
At Baalbek, the three of us were the only tourists on the entire grounds which, to me, made it way more special than visiting the ruins in Italy or Turkey where thousands of tour groups are constantly being shuffled through the sites by some jerk-off holding up a flag and shouting into a megaphone. I loved having no one there treating me like a money-soaked sponge and trying to ring me dry with their souvenir bullshit. On top of that, there were no security guards around. We were free to climb on whatever we wanted. It truly felt like authentic exploration.
The Temple of Bacchus was one of the most overbearingly large structures of the ancient world that I’d ever seen. After nearly two millenniums of standing tall and standing wide in spite of the perpetual conflicts that have surrounded it since its inception, The Temple of Bacchus demands respect. But since I’m an asshole who only wanted to take photos of me doing a D-Generation X style “suck it” next to the temple, it would have to get that respect from someone else.
On the way back to Beirut, Liz’s tire blew out on the expressway. She had a spare but she didn’t know how to replace it and I’m a stupid helpless American who’s never been taught anything practical in all my years of schooling, so the two of us didn’t know what the fuck to do. Efren, on the other hand, knew how to change a tire faster than a grease monkey at a NASCAR pit stop.
“See look,” he said while standing up and dusting off his hands after a job well done, “having a beaner around comes in handy, don’t it!?”
Our visit to Baalbek was the last that I’d hung out with my two new friends. The next day I took off on a plane from Beirut to Istanbul. But, before drifting apart and becoming just a memory in each other’s lives, I did my best to keep in touch via email over the ensuing weeks.
I always felt comfortable talking about disgusting shit with Elizabetta because she always seemed to find it as entertaining as I did. So, in writing an email to her, I decided to make up some bizarre account of what happened to me in Istanbul just for shits and giggles. What I sent went as follows.
“Yo, last night was WILD!!! I went out to meet this Turkish guy for some drinks at his apartment and it seemed cool at first but after my second drink I started to feel woozy and incapable of moving my body. As I laid back on the couch, still conscious, the man stood over me, looking at me like a rabid dog as he undid his belt. And that’s the last thing I remember before passing out.
“I then awoke several hours later naked, in a haze, tied to a chair and with my severed penis floating in a jar of formaldehyde on the floor at my feet which’d been being dripped on by blood spouting from the now stumpy nub from where it’d just been removed. Just as I suspected, the man who I met had indeed been a homosexual…and not your everyday Sex-and-the-City-fanclub type of funboy, but a sick, twisted and devious fudge-packer with cruel intentions in store for yours truly. Figuring he must’ve drugged the whiskey he knew my alcoholic self couldn’t resist, this demonic creature then appeared in front of me in a polka-dot clown suit with full make-up on, juggling jars containing other members formerly belonging to previous sexual torture victims. Things weren’t looking too good for me especially once he strapped on a 12-inch blade of a dildo, bent me over and…
“Just playin. In reality, I was supposed to meet some ambiguously gay Turkish dude named Denizli for some drinks but he stood me up – can u beleeeeeee dat? So instead I just hung out eating Snickers bars with this Iranian dude from the hostel who, oddly enough, is in Istanbul to get his American visa while I happen to be in the same city for the purpose of getting my visa for his country. What’s new with you, homeslice?”
A day or two later I got this email in reply from Elizabetta:
“Ha! Nice story. It’s funny that you mention about a gay guy. Have you talked to Efren lately? Well, if not, he told me a story that happened to him like three days ago and I found it hilarious!
“So he left Beirut and went Couchsurfing in Byblos (for those of you who don’t know what Couchsurfing is, it’s where you connect with local people on the internet who allow you to crash at their place for free while travelling), and the guy he stayed with was this 47-year-old man who looked well-trimmed and shit. He looked totally gay and Efren had his suspicions and whatever but he’d later find out firsthand just how gay the guy really was.
“The first night they went out drinking together but Efren wasn’t really in party mode and after a while felt exhausted and just wanted to sleep. But when they got back to the guy’s apartment, the guy dropped the news on him that they’d have to share the man’s big comfy bed :P
“So the lights were off and this man starts asking him questions like, ‘When was the first time you had sex?’ and ‘Do you have a big dick?’
“Efren was freaking out like, ‘No man, I don’t wanna talk about that, I just need to get some sleep.’ But then a few minutes later he hears a repetitive noise of something rubbing against the sheets and Efren goes, ‘Oh my god, are you…are you masturbating?’ And the guys like, ‘Yes I am. How big is your cock? I imagine you with a really big cock.’
“‘Uh okay,’ Efren said, ‘I’m gonna turn around now and try to sleep.’
“And the man says, ‘Ohhhh are you turning around so I can…’
“‘NO! Just stop it, man! This is wrong!’
“So yeah, it was too late in the night for him to go anywhere else. He had no other option but to stay there. He didn’t sleep all night. He just laid on his back, awake and terrified of getting butt raped by a gay guy! Hahaha!”
Few snaps from our visit to Baalbek…