Everything is coming along nicely at the barbecue area Am Flaucher. The charcoal is glowing, the marinated meat kebabs are lined up waiting their turn on the griddle, Marielle has put the drinks in the Isar to chill. Only her guests are missing. “I really have no idea who’s coming this evening,” she says. “I posted the invitations on Couchsurfing!”
The Filipino kebabs that Marielle will cook on the grill this evening are typical of the fare one can get from the food stalls on the streets of Manila. “At home, we always buy our kebabs from the street food vendor round the corner,” she says. “They are sold in plastic beakers with the sauce already added – the perfect Filipino fast food.”
One by one, Marielle’s guests turn up. Most of them have to ask who issued the invitations, but Marielle has no problem with that: “It’s what I like about Couchsurfing,” she says. “It’s a good way to get to know people in a strange city.” Marielle arrived in Munich 2 years ago to take an interdisciplinary Master’s course at LMU in “Learning Sciences”, which combines the study of Psychology and Education. “I just happen to be very interested in education and teaching,” she explains. “For instance, I think E-learning is a fascinating field, because it gives access to a good education no matter where in the world one happens to find oneself.”
To begin with, she found it difficult to settle down in Munich. “German people are generally very reserved,” she says. This is why, in her early days in the city, she made many new contacts via the Couchsurfing network. She also located her first apartment via the same platform, which basically enables urban-dwellers to offer private accommodation to visitors to their town. “It turned out to be the very best thing I could have done,” Marielle says, after placing the first kebabs on the grill. “At the beginning of my stay there, my landlady helped with absolutely everything. She was my translator, showed me where to get my monthly subway ticket, and places where one can have a good time in Munich.”
Couchsurfing also offers a way to find people to share one’s leisure activities. “And a barbecue is much more fun when lots of people join in.” At this point the first round of kebabs is ready, and Marielle doles them out to her guests in plastic beakers – just like they are served in Manila. “What’s special about the recipe is the Cola marinade“, she says. “On the grill, the sugar caramelizes, coating the meat and providing a perfect contrast for the vinegar in the sauce.”
To go with the kebabs, Marielle has made some banana bread – although she admits that this is more of a concession to her German guests: “Germans invited to a barbecue would find it strange if they were expected to eat just what comes off the grill,” she says. – And while banana bread may be typically Filipino, in Manila nobody would think of serving it together with grilled kebabs. “In the Philippines, food virtually always means meat,” she explains, “but it always tastes great!”
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