A Letter from Katie Botkin in Rome:
The latter half of my stay in Rome is much more relaxed than the first half. I have found possibly Rome’s most trusting, most big-hearted person on Couchsurfing, and he has told me I can stay in his apartment even though he is not there. Another couchsurfer is there already, he tells me. Wilma, from Chile.
I’m not sure what time Wilma will leave the apartment, so I take the metro early. I take the elevator to the seventh floor, and ring the bell. Wilma knows I am coming, but she hasn’t read my message about what time, so she greets me with a dustcloth in hand. She asks if I speak Italian or Spanish. I say no. She says she doesn’t speak English, but she says it in English, so I say, I can help teach you if you want.
Wilma had been cleaning the apartment, but she takes a break to make us some tea and get acquainted. She is 50 years old, and has a daughter my age. She’s spent the last year in Italy traveling around after selling everything she owned in Chile and returning here, because her grandparents were Italian, and they regretted never coming back. So now, she is “closing the circle.”
After tea, she is tired from trying so hard to speak English, so we clean the apartment together. I sweep, she mops. This is what I do when I couchsurf, she says. I put the place in order. “I was…” she hesitates, and says a few words in Spanish and Italian, until I decide that “disorganized” is the one she wants. And then she needs “before.” But now, Couchsurfing has forced her to be organized.
I nod. I understand.