We only have couch surfers on nights when it’s storming outside. Our Slovenian guests named Ksenija and Lojze arrived in the rain around 8 last night. Slovenia is a small country in Eastern Europe of about 2 million people. Ksenija and Lojze are from the capitol, Ljubljana, which they told us means “the loved one” in Slovene. We began the evening off by pulling all the beers we had out of the fridge and consuming them together. We practiced the Slovenian cheers “Ziveli,” which means “To the Living”.
Ksenija and Lojze were passing through Kansas City on their American roadtrip from North Carolina to Colorado. They were our age (26) and Ksenija was getting her Masters in Nutrition in Slovenia, and Lojze has been in the US for the past year training as a medic in the Slovenian military’s special forces. Our cat Francis practically leaped into Lojze’s arms when they arrived, and was by his side for the rest of the night. We soon found out that Lojze worked at a veterinarian clinic before joining the military, and his special affinity to animals showed.
We talked about all of our career paths, but it seemed that Lojze was the only one completely confident about his.
“I love shooting things and blowing things up. I’m in the right field.”
He also mentioned throughout the night that he was a trained spy, and called us out throughout the night for micro expressions we were making surrounding certain subjects.
Throughout the night, the spy was ever watchful:
“I can tell from your facial expressions that you’re uncomfortable with that friend you’re talking about,” he would state as fact.
Or, “Why did your voice drop when you spoke about music?”
Lojze told us that he liked our peace flag in the corner of our apartment, but peace was not realistic.
“If peace does happen, I’m out a job. You guys are keeping me busy though,” Lojze commended, in reference to bellicose American foreign policy.
We soon finished all the beers in the apartment, and headed out to the neighborhood bar. On the walk there we talked about international relations. In regards to current U.S. and Russian relations Lojze said, “I’m just hoping Mommy and Daddy don’t go to war with each other. That would not be good for their child, Slovenia.”
Speaking about his medical training in Georgia for the past year, Lojze said he avoided any trouble he ran into by telling people that “back in my country, we take pinky fingers.” Lojze was definitely the talker of the couple, while quiet Ksenija smiled and observed.
At the bar Ksenija and I eat Stromboli, drink beer and talk about food. Slovenian food is a mix of many cuisines. From Germany they borrow sausage and sauerkraut. From Italy they makes use for fish and olive oil. Influences from the south country of the former Yugoslavia bring chevapuchi, which is brown meat (usually hamburger or sausage). Traditional Sunday lunch in Slovenia would be beef soup with noodles with a side of pragenkumpeer (baked potato cooked on an onion). Maybe a salad as accompaniment.
What scares a European nutritionist about America?
“Zero calorie, zero cholesterol water. Chickens without antibiotics or lactose. Why are these labels necessary on American food? Water should be calorie free, and chickens free of antibiotics anyway. It’s like labeling cookies as ‘edible.’ Soy in everything. Milk that’s ‘fat free.’ I just want normal milk!”
Ksenija and I are deep in conversation, and Carp and Lojze stop their conversation and decide to listen in on ours from time to time.
“I think they’re talking about salmonella?”
“I bet that would be about right,” Carp says.
Lojze steps in and adds that, as far as Europeans are concerned, Americans are far too worried about expiration dates. “If milk jug or canned food expands, it’s bad. If not, its still good.” The smell of strong weed drifts throughout the bar as we start another round of drinks.
Every time I turn my head from my conversation with Ksenija, another round of drinks is sitting in front of me waiting to be consumed. Lojze keeps ordering drinks all night: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… Carp and I both have to work at eight tomorrow morning. But when in Slovenia…
We talk about health insurance being $30 a month in Slovenia. We learn that seventy percent of Slovenia is hills and mountains and forests and environmentally friendly green spaces. We learn that, according to Lozje, Slovenia is shaped like a chicken. Also, you can travel for one hour in any direction and reach the border of the country.
According to Lojze, Slovenia deserves about 2.5 days of tourism before you move onto another Eastern European country; this should be enough time to cover the alps, sea, flatlands and caves that the diverse landscape contains. However, Lojze also noted that his country is similar to the J. R. R. Tolkien’s writings about hobbits.
“You can learn hobbits in one afternoon, but you’re still amazed after ten years. This is how Slovenia is to me.”
We leave the bar learning that Lojze has paid for our food, and most all of our drinks. We thank him. He tells us he would rather pay to get to know people than pay to stay in a hostel. I think this is so true. I am sold, couchsurfing is a lifestyle that I will continue pursuing.
Sometime after midnight we walk home in the rain and the mud, and all fall asleep immediately. The next morning I woke up and shared a cup of coffee with Lojze after Carp went to work and while Ksenija was still sleeping. Francis the cat was sprinting back and forth across the room and pouncing on the sleeping Ksenija’s head, but fortunately Ksenija was a heavy sleeper.
I left for work, and told Lozje they could take their time heading out. He wanted to have breakfast at the cafe I was working at, and an hour later they walked in and bought cinnamon rolls and bacon. It was really nice, and like seeing old friends even though I had only met them the night before.
While they waited on their food Lojze admitted that he was trying to take a shit this morning, and Francis kept poking his head into the bathroom and making him feel guilty. Francis also jumped on Lojze’s face two or three times during the night, waking him from his sleep. Francis couldn’t get enough of our guests. Next time we have guests, he spend the night in his own room.
They finish their cinnamon rolls and bacon, and then give me a hug goodbye.
“If you’re ever in our neck of the woods, we have a couch for you to sleep on!”
I said we would make getting to Slovenia a goal in the future.
When I returned back to my apartment after work, I saw that they had taken my copy of “The Motorcycle Diaries” that I offered them. A fitting read as their destination next week is Cuba. They recommended we read Slovenian author Valdimir Bartol’s book, “Alamut.”