Pavel is the best! by Yong-Tin (Linda)

I was looking for a safe place to stay during my visit of NYC and after a long search I came across Pavel's CouchSurfing profile. Given his 100+ positive references, I knew this is the guy I should trust. I lost any doubts I might had about Pavel’s legitimacy when he arranged for our meeting at the entrance the Department of Economics at NYU. My phone had died, I got lost on the way there, and I ended up being almost an hour late. When I had arrived, Pavel was not there. I thought he must have already left. I was welcomed by a friendly young-looking guard calling himself Doudley. I then realized that I did not know Pavel's last name, to explain who I was looking for. Before I said anything, the guard asked: "So, are you CouchSurfing, are you OkCupid, or are you an undergrad?" And he added that he had not seen Pavel leaving yet, so unless he fell asleep in his office, he should be there soon. That guy must have been a fortune teller! How did he know who I was looking for? We did not even spend ten minutes chatting, and Pavel showed up. I expected him to be angry at me, but instead he just approached me and while giving me a hug and two-cheek-plus-one-kiss, he said: "Yo, you here, Bro? You did not get lost? I thought you were from..."

We were about to go and yet Pavel remembered he forgot a phone charger in his office. I thought he did not have electricity on his boat, but maybe I just misunderstood his profile. He took me with him to pick it up. I was impressed to see his Carpe diem office: The fitness ball and an antique armchair came to my attention first, the maps and Buddhist pictures on the wall followed. There were some books in the shelves, one of them even having an economic sounding title. The rest of the shelves was filled with sleeping bags and other camping equipment. I asked Pavel if he it was his office or he shared it with someone. He replied: "Yes and Yes. Well, there is this Japanese decision theorist who lives in New Jersey and comes here time to time to show up at a seminar or to see that Turkish actor that advises him. And then, each year one more guy tries to dare to share the office too, but that's their problem, after all." Then, Pavel asked me if I was hungry, that he can cook something for me in his rice-cooker. He showed me one drawer filled with ingredients and the other with spices, adding: "Your choice!" Wow, I felt like at home, too bad I had full stomach. After rejecting his kind offer Pavel opened a fridge and passed to me an orange. Then Pavel asked me to show him my hometown, Beijing, in the map. While I was looking for it I noticed that he opened some box and moved a few small flat-squared objects with "NYC" written on it from it into his backpack. Then he turned back to me and said: "This is U.S., the world map is the other one." Pavel kept packing his bag while I was searching my hometown and after ten minutes he said: "You can show me another day, let's go to the boat."

On the way to the elevator we saw a shot skinny smiling Korean man holding a broom. Pavel shouted: “Lim! Lim!” explaining to me that this was the guy who would wake him up with his vacuum cleaner around 5am whenever he would fall asleep while studying. Pavel approached him and slapped his back. The guy said in broken English: “You go camping? How many year of PhD you have left? No, no, not two years! In ten years you will still be here!” Pavel replied to him: “How many floors you have left? ...Yo, you have hard work to do tonight? That makes us two!” He called him “Yo”, I thought that that was how he misspelled my name. Perhaps that is the way people call each other in academia… I asked Pavel with compassion and surprise: “Pavel, you still have to do your research tonight?” He looked away from my eyes, paused and answered: “Don’t worry, my boy Matlab will do the job!”

We spent over an hour in subway. Pavel kept impatiently watching time saying that we should try to catch the last bus to City Island from the Pelham Bay Park. As we were diving deeper into Bronx there were less and less people on the train, and eventually only the homeless person sleeping on a seat remained with us. The train kept stopping in between stations in random fashion — due to the "train suspension". However, Pavel confronted me that it was normal and we still had about five minutes reserve according to his estimate. We were about to make it and then the train stopped for a long-long time just before the last stop.

On the way, I asked Pavel if his research was hard. A silly question, of course it must have been hard. As a gentleman, Pavel did not get offended, and instead he started explaining. He said something like that he is looking for Nash in the Patent Race. I did not know what these words meant, but it sounded sophisticated to me. He kept explaining me all the way on the subway to me what made the problem so hard that he had no results after years of his PhD and that the reason he will be the first one to eventually solve it was that he was the only true mathematician doing economics. After he finally looked at me, he realized I did not understand anything despite my effort to follow his enthusiastic monologue. He paused. In in the minutes of silence that followed I thought what should I ask him to get at least some partial understanding, but everything was messed up in my head. Then I said: "Excuse my poor English, please, what does the word patent mean?" Pavel paused and replied: "Hmm, let me think.... Well... Don't worry, you don't need to be bothered by these things back in your country..."

More silence followed. I regretted that I did not better ask Pavel about his boat instead. Since we missed the last bus, we walked all the way to City Island. It was almost an hour walk in this chill weather. I appreciated that Pavel offered to hold my freezing hand and helped me to get up whenever we fell after slipping on an icy ground. I was soooo freezing that I could not wait to rich Pavel's boat. It was late after midnight when we finally arrived. To my shock, the temperature inside the boat was about the same as that was outside. Pavel explained: "Don't worry, you just need a warm sleeping bag, let me find one for you." After a few minutes of searching, Pavel told me that all the sleeping bags he had for his surfers got wet as the roof was leaking — only his personal sleeping bag stood dry. I thought I was gonna freeze to death that night! And then Pavel's genuine generosity showed off when he told me that he might be willing to consider sharing space in his private sleeping bag with me. It was so freezing and I was thinking what could I possibly do to make this happen. I relaxed a bit when Pavel said that no matter what, he is gonna get me out of my trouble. He explained me that although his sleeping bag is designed for one person only, it can accommodate two people with their clothes off. I was shy first, but then Pavel confronted me that in his country people always sleep naked and so it is completely normal. I felt guilty because perhaps he won't get a good sleep if I limit his space – and he has to dedicate himself to his economic predictions tomorrow. I must really have been limiting his space — he kept being restless. It was somewhat more intimate than I expected — I won't tell my Mom about that night — but honestly... I can't deny I liked it!

I did not get much sleep but I indeed stayed warm. In the morning, Pavel invited me to join him in his ice bath. Since his ice-diving video was so famous, I really wanted to try it too, but I did not have swimming suit with me. Pavel said that he can tolerate it and to make me less uncomfortable, he will get naked too. We got back to his boat half frozen. Pavel turned on the hair-dryer and demonstrated me how to warm ones body with it. Pavel is a professional survival man! He told me that as a gentleman he would let me use the hair-dryer first, but he explain also the analogy to the advised use of air-masks in airplane and so as the stronger of us he should warm up first. I was shivering like never before in my life and suddenly the hair-dryer broke down. I felt helpless — am I going to freeze here? Pavel stopped, thought, and then told me that he figured out yet one way I could survive this miserable situation I put myself into: "Let me share my body heat with you under a thick blanket" he said. Pavel really knew what he was doing in any situation and that is why I felt safe with him despite all the adventures — that is what I appreciate the most about him.

You should not think that PhD and adventure is all that Pavel is about. He is also a professional photographer. I asked him to send me all the pictures of my ice bath he took regardless of their quality: "I just want them for my memory and perfection of the shot is secondary to me" I explained. He sent me file named DCIM0037 displaying me inside water and picture named DCIM0089 of me covered in a towel. The former was blur and the later was dark, which I found to be very artistic effects. At first I wanted to complain to him about the fifty pictures missing in between, but then I understood that a professional photographer like Pavel shared only the very best of his pieces despite any resistance.

I love you, Pavel!

It was the worst experience of my life, but it helped! by Gerald

After years of disagreements with my wife I was kicked out of my hard-built home, loosing not only her and a place to stay, but also the chance of seeing my children. I used AirBnB as means for finding a refuge in this situation. In my unfavorable situation, the advantage of AirBnB compared to hotels relies in the chance to talk to your host — I wanted to vent about my difficulties in exchange for a place to stay. However, as it happens in this city, I never found a host who would have enough time to talk. And then I found this listing of a nice room on the Amarena boat. I felt this was what I needed to do! Based on the description of the room and the price for it I expected to find all the comfort. It reminded me the relaxing time I visited yacht of one of my business partners. Finally, my day of moving to the boat came! I arrived to the City Island's Dunkin Donuts where my host Pavel suggested to meet. While waiting for Pavel I was bombarded by random questions of this elderly messy big man, calling himself Captain Mike. He kept showing me his sick-old leg and asking if it was a blister there. Disgusting! I worried what will come next – is he going to ask me if those were hemorrhoids out there on his behind? While I was trying to use my computer to work on my business in the meantime, he kept asking how much was the computer for and how many songs and pictures he could put in it. Then he told me to show him the website of the Wooden Boat Magazine, and he repeatedly forced me to watch this video of some Pablo taking bath in his ice jacuzzi and to show it to whoever was around. He also mentioned that Pablo was the future owner of some 46 ft whorehouse, and that I should better sign up to the waiting list ASAP to become his customer. Terrible! I just wished I could have been back to my house, the noise of my wife suddenly became tranquility to me. He also kept repeating that I need to meet Pablo, and that Pablo is not "Czech-ass", but "Jack-ass". What do I care about some freaking Pablo from this island and why should I meet him?! Despite all of that I at least tried to answer some emails. Whenever I was replying to any of my female clients this man pointed at her picture and said that that was the girl I should marry — yet reminding me more of my family tragedy. When I got completely sick and tired of his comments, I replied ‘why don’t you just marry all of them yourself’. Then he started shouting something like: "NO engage Ring, NO wedding Ring, NO su-F-F-eRing!!!"

When my host Pavel finally arrived more than an hour later, his only excuse was that he has mobile signal on his boat only from time to time, and in any case he does not hear his phone when sleeping. WTF, it was about 3pm! Besides, I found out that he was that unmaintained boy from the stupid video — something like a slimmer-younger version of that terrible man. I don't know how he got the idea to mention in his AirBnB profile that he was studying an Economic PhD — nobody would ever believe such a lie upon meeting him!

Anyways, the real shock came as soon as we got to the boat. Something seemed wrong when I did not see a television antenna on it, but everything was certain to be wrong once we entered. There was neither shower nor toilet in it. Pavel told me not to worry that he will explain to me how to use his ice-hole in front of the boat in a way to avoid most of the interaction with my own excrements. The windows of the boat were all covered, he tried to tell me that preventing loss of heat was the reason. Even worse, my "room" was nothing but about a feet of space between a dirty mattress and a piece of cardboard falling from the headliner in the v-bunk. There were several sleeping bags smelling like sex-and-sweat. While I was looking at this dark space-less "room", Pavel commented that this is the magic room where no matter how ugly girl you bring in, she becomes your princess of the night even without closing your eyes. He continued praising the "room" while I was getting a head-ache, ...I tried not to listen, but comments like, that this was his sex laboratory were penetrating my ears despite any efforts. He mentioned the words "couch" and "surfing" several times, mostly in association with his conduct of randomized experiments on human subjects...perhaps better that I did not understand what he meant by it.

I was just about to get out of this damned place when my wife called me. Outside the boat was too cold, so I lied in that "room" trying not to touch any of the smelly bags. Pablo, Pavel, or whatever that bastard calls himself, told me to take my time he will do his daily meditation in the meantime and include some prayers for my family in it. He set up candles in the cabin of the boat and sat in some kind of yoga position. I tried not to watch — imagining my sweet home instead!

It was a long conversation with my wife and I was trying to apologize just for anything that came to my mind — whether the one responsible for it was me, her, or the president of this country, I would just apologize for it — I apologized her for my left leg being shorter than the other, I apologized her for her period, and I apologized her for the below-average economic growth caused by the temporary lack of reasons to be in war with meaningless countries.

As I was talking, I started smelling smoke. Seeing feathers flying around I thought that it was just a part of the Jacks occult practice. However, when I started chocking, I asked my wife to hold on the phone and took off to check the situation. There was smoke everywhere, I would barely saw any shades. That idiot was sitting with his eyes closed and repeating some "Ohm, Ohm,..." while his down sleeping bag was burning on a candle.

I shouted at him: "Pavel! There is fire here!!!"

Without a single movement he calmly whispered: "Relax... the space is playing with itself... enjoy the dream-like nature of it!"

I was unable to breath, yet I did not know how to exit the boat through the burning cabin. I grasped the last breath to shout: "Hey! Hey! We have fire!!!"

He slowly opened an eye and whispered softly: "Oh, this one." ...taking the candle that was burning the sleeping bag and moving it to the other side of the cabin. He commented with confidence: "Just wait, the smoke will eventually subside... If you wish, I can open the doors once I finish my meditation."

I knew that this might be my last breath, and so I took all my courage, held breath, and jumped though the smoked cabin away from that burning boat barefoot; I ran away from that freaking marina with half of its boats sunk; I ran away from that damned island; and before I got back to any normal civilization I saw the car of my wife approaching me. She jumped out of the car crying, hugging me, and swearing that she will never ever make me leave home again for any reason.

The aftermath: I lost my luggage including my laptop, I lost my phone, I lost my shoes, but I saved my life and I got back my wife and children. I think his meditation worked!

He brought me to heaven! by Monika

I almost gave up my chances with on-line dating, and then I found this lovely boy-toy. Not only does he never lose his charm, but he also never loses his charge. Trust me, his professionalism goes far beyond the survival techniques!

Like our son! by Tim and Lisa

Since we lost our only son there has been sadness in our house. Our economic situation is not the best, yet we thought we could afford to invite this sunny boy to visit our family at least for the Christmas Eve. We asked Pavel what food we might prepare for the special dinner expecting to hear the list of the ingredients he was allergic to. To our surprise, Pavel eased our choice of an appropriate dish by giving us specific suggestions. Pavel wrote us that in his homeland, the Czech Republic, it was custom to eat a carp on Christmas Eve, yet, since it is hard to find an authentic Czech-tasting carp in New York, he is open to having lobsters instead. What a great idea! Honestly, we had not eaten lobsters since Lisa lost her job ten years ago! Pavel gave such a great inspiration to us! Besides the advice on what type of appetizers, salads, desserts and drinks go well with lobsters prepared his favorite way, he also taught us that in his country there is a custom to always cook food for at least one unexpected guest. How thoughtful of this young gentlemen, indeed!

On the dinner night, we answered the door expecting to see Pavel's face the way we knew it from his survival pictures. We did not recognize him at all, though. He looked yet much wilder than we expected. In fact, we were ready to receive a friendly-wild guy, not a creepy-wild guy. And then suddenly the yeti we recognized from the pictures jumped from the hedge on the side of our door shocking us and commenting that this was his new friend, who he met on the way to our house. And we thought that we were open-minded...! Pavel showed us a completely new level of what "open-minded" means. Pavel introduced his new friend Jeff to us and explained that the reason he picked Jeff out of all the amazing homeless people he met on the way was that Jeff was just released from a prison after 20 years of being incarcerated and that it is our civic duty to show the generosity of the outside world to him and in this way set him on the right track. We were very impressed. Not only is Pavel open-minded and caring for people, but he also has the strong moral sense to commit his life to the benefit of society as a whole. We felt somewhat uneasy about having a criminal in our house, but Pavel convinced us that Jeff is not a criminal at all and that it was our country being criminal instead. Pavel said that Jeff was in jail for selling drugs, which will some day be legalized the same way slavery was abolished decades ago; and that no one but our government is responsible for all the people from the other gang that Jeff murdered, for if drugs were legal there would be no need for gangs. Pavel continued explaining to us that the reason drugs were not legal in our country was that it was the only way to sustain gangs, and those were needed to fill the prisons and so therefore keep the economic demand at sufficient level, and that if the prison bubble popped, it would cause an even worse crisis than the one in 2008 — the whole world would suffer as a result. Pavel concluded that the whole world is in fact benefiting from the 20 years of Jeff's imprisonment and that we should appreciate that he volunteered to sacrifice himself by selling drugs. We never heard this type of explanation in TV news, but since Pavel studies PhD in Economics at such a great university we presumed that he had the first-hand source of information.

It was such a pleasure to have Pavel and Jeff over for dinner. We heard lots of stories about Pavel's boat-life including his favorite topic which was the endless solutions to having to go number 1 and number 2. Not only did Pavel not leave any leftovers, but he also helped us to finish our portions; it is a pleasure to have a guest who can appreciate food like Pavel does. Pavel also explained that in his country leaving any food is like wasting what was given by God. We thought that it was acceptable to store left-over food in the fridge, but Pavel explained that such technology has not reached his country yet and so his God does not recognize storing food in fridge as an appropriate excuse for not finishing it right away; and besides that the fridge eats more electricity than an equivalent of the food in it. This was very enriching to hear about the traditions of Pavel's country — in particular, knowing that he was Buddhist, we appreciated that he cares about the Christian traditions of his country.

We were very pleased to see Pavel and Jeff being so friendly to our 17 year old daughter, Julia. She has been missing her only brother every single day since his tragic departure, but for this very night it was as if she had two brothers to play with. It was beautiful to see their happy moments together. At one point, Tim thought it was our responsibility to make Pavel aware of the fact that touching under-aged women is not only inappropriate but also unlawful in this country. Luckily, Pavel educated us that slapping women on their bottoms is a Czech tradition, and that they like it unless their father happened not to be violent; and since we decided to have Czech dinner, we also need to respect the traditions of Pavel's country.

Originally, we were facing a hard decision when considering the choice between experiencing the Christmas Eve dinner with Pavel or the gift sharing with Pavel the next day. This became a lot easier after Pavel explained to us that in Czech the gifts are not shared on Dec 25th, but on Dec 24th, right after the dinner. We first were unsure about what exactly the gift sharing should be like the Czech way. However, despite being busy fixing our economy, Pavel found time to write us the Czech customs in detail. He explained that since Jesus died at the age of 33, it is the custom that those older than 33 give gifts to those younger than 33. We felt lucky to be on the givers side so that we could share a piece of art that was the result of Lisa's all-year effort. The most beautiful moment came when we saw Pavel's reaction to receiving this painting. His appreciation of it went beyond concepts. He said that it was so beautiful that he would like to give it to his sister as a Christmas present next year when visiting his family. We lost any doubts about Pavel just trying to flatter us when he asked us where he could get two more copies, so that his parents could appreciate such a gift too. Unfortunately, we had to disappoint Pavel, informing him that the painting we gave him was not a copy, but an original, and so we are not able to help him buy another two pieces. We felt so sorry that we could not help Pavel out, so Lisa offered that she could at least paint two more similar originals and that hopefully she will manage to do so by next Christmas time. Pavel said that it sounds like a good compromise and that he would even not insist on the other two paintings being that similar — and even if they happen to be taller or wider it did not matter. In fact, Pavel advised Lisa to make the other two paintings both twice taller and twice wider as in that case he can always cut off the corners to achieve the actual size, whilst if one of the dimensions was insufficient there would be no way to fix it and Lisa's effort would go to waste. Besides sharing his wisdom with us, he also convinced Lisa not to cut off the corners as it is something he can do on his own and that he appreciated her time too much for doing such things. Honestly, Lisa never felt more excited about creating her arts than at this time.

The happy moments with Pavel and Jeff were so precious to us! Moreover, on the morning of Dec 25th we received the nicest gift from Pavel and Jeff: We realized that when accepting his / their invitation for Christmas, Pavel did not refer to Christmas Eve on its own, but to the whole month of his Christmas holidays. After a few days of coexisting with these two fellows, we felt that Pavel was being more generous with us than we deserved, but he tried to comfort us explaining that his office is not ventilated during vacations and so he was willing to do this favor for us.

Besides all the good times we had, Pavel shared some of his Buddhist wisdom with us. He taught us a lot about generosity, patience and modesty. He even taught us where Buddha was wrong and Pavel was right.

Thank you so much for everything, Pavel!

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