On arriving and surviving | Global Ideas | DW | 25.10.2016
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Global Ideas

On arriving and surviving

Young, curious and in search of a better world. A fictional diary about the early days of life in a new city, and of ideals versus reality.

Saturday 01.10

Something is dripping from the ceiling. It's been dripping for a couple of days so I put a bucket under it. Plop-plop-plop. I haven't had to empty it yet, but its contents are earthy and brown. Perhaps I'll see where it's coming from. Perhaps it will stop before I do. But you have to start somewhere. In the big city, when you come from the sticks. It's hard to figure it all out. I haven't been here long. Two weeks? It'll take a while.

That's what Michael said when he called me. He was euphoric. But he was always like that, even back at school. He told me it was wild here, like back home, but the city, and said they have a community here, everyone together, with a little greenhouse on the roof. That's a selling point. Tomatoes. Michael said if everything goes to plan, he'll soon be building machines, little greenhouses that can be stacked in the kitchen and used by anyone. Walls covered in tiny greenhouses, half a meter by half a meter, something growing in each of them. He told me to come, to witness the next big thing. But it's not that easy. Naturally. 

I took the next train, scraped together what I could, and got out at the central station. I can't make my fortune back home where there's nothing but expanse and cows. The house here is a ruin, but it's dirt cheap. And then there's the community. The station isn't far away either, just a couple of streets. You can get out as quick as you get in. 

Sunday, 02.10

Michael, Hannes and Melanie also have leaky ceilings. It must to be good for the plants. Hannes said it was dry in the summer. I told him I couldn't imagine that. Hannes built the greenhouse on the roof. He even has a couple of hens. In the flat. When the weather gets too awful, we sit in the kitchen. That's what we call it. Though actually it's a one-room flat they converted before I got here. Melanie started it. She's been in the city the longest. People came and went, but Melanie stayed. She works in a restaurant in the evening and sometimes in an organic food store during the day. But they're just supermarkets, she says. She's allowed to take home food that's left over from the day before. They throw everything away. Hard to believe how much. It's all still good. 

We all benefit from what Melanie brings home. Hannes says he wants to develop an app that shows the places across the city where you can harvest food for free. He says they're everywhere, just that no-one knows about them. Michael laughs and says it's just like old times. As kids, we used to ride our bikes across narrow field tracks picking apples off the trees. Yeah, says Hannes, that's what I'm talking about. It can't be that hard. Is it allowed? Michael is studying law. He knows the answer. If he sticks with it, he'll qualify soon. 

Tomorrow I'm going dumpster diving with Melanie. We didn't ask Michael if it's allowed. But it makes sense. Because we need what we get from the containers outside the supermarkets, and because they just throw it away. I don't want to sponge off Melanie. That's why I'm doing it.

Sunday, 9.10

Incessant rain. Every night. Every night. The temperature is down ten degrees. At least. The bucket overflowed, then again, and again. I emptied it. But there was water everywhere outside too. Earthy, brown water. It streams down the walls of the house and washes everything away. 

We're still living off what we got last week. Fruit, vegetables, yoghurt. Because you know what, the expiration date doesn't mean it's gone bad. It's still good. You have to be careful with meat, but we hardly ever eat it. I can't, because of the animals. Michael and I agree on that. We come from the same village. That was the first time we had the police on our backs. Unlawful entry. In a barn. But they used our film footage to catch the idiot. Maybe I should do something like that. Film work. Somehow it's all like the weather. There's only black and white. Michael said the same thing. There's only hot and cold, wet and dry. No more gray, no in-between. When it's hot and dry, the dirt collects. When it rains, the water washes it away. People either do something about it, or they don't bother. And there are no seasons anymore. It's miserable. 

Monday, 10.10

This morning, I got a call. I didn't tell the others. But I applied to work at an ad agency. They make films. Maybe I'll get lucky. They want to meet me. 

Monday, 17.10

It's not that easy. Damn agency. They said the decision would be quick, but it isn't. I shouldn't think about it. Just like at school. But that's not possible. When I had a good feeling after an exam, I got a D, and when I had a bad feeling, I got a B. That's the way it is. I had a good feeling at the agency. Now I'm working with Melanie. It was easy to get the job. Not many shifts, a lot of people work there. But now we can both take leftovers home. No idea if it's enough. Things aren't moving fast enough for me. I can't just keep chasing my tail like the others. Hannes and his app. Sure, it costs money, but it's a good idea. Why doesn't he do something about it? Otherwise the rain will leak in forever.  

Tuesday, 18.10

Yes ma, I say on the phone. Everything's good here. Amazing city. I have friends, three of them, and a job. I'm getting there. No, don't come to visit yet, it's not ready. Really. A girlfriend? I want to get on top of the dripping first. What ma? Dripping? No. I said knitting, I'm thinking of taking up knitting. I've got holes in my socks. I'll be in touch, okay.

Wednesday, 16.11

Four weeks they've kept me hanging on! I called them but they told me to be patient. How can they take so long? If I break it down, what do I need to live in the city? A telephone, so I know what's going on and so I'm reachable and can write messages. I brought a couple of books with me, a Netflix subscription. Food, something to smoke, but what else? Nice people, and that's about it, right? We have to try. You don't get many chances, so you have to get it right. Life, I mean. 

Michael didn't understand when I said that. What's the problem? It's alright here. It'll be okay. When he's finished studying, he wants to become a lawyer for energy and environment law. I didn't even know there was such a thing. But he'll be 40 by the time he's finished. I couldn't do that. Definitely not since I met Luisa. Na, no chance. I can't keep growing cucumbers on the roof forever, can I? We talked about how to become more self-sufficient. But it all costs so much money.

Thursday, 01.12

At last! The agency called, said it took them forever to get through all the applications. But now they've decided. They want me to start before Christmas. I don't care why it took so long. They asked if I can come in tomorrow to sign the contract. Sure, I can. They wanted to know if I can start right away. Get stuck in? Sure to that too. It's not like I have any obligations, haha. Worst case scenario, I'll sleep there, I told them, but don't overstretch me. Just a joke.  

Tuesday, 03.01

I hardly ever go back to the house now. Luise and I are looking for a flat. It's going well. I wonder what's with Michael? And Hannes and Melanie? We don't sit in the kitchen anymore. I guess not much has changed with them.

Wednesday, 04.01

Last night it poured again. I don't think there'll be a winter this year. It's too warm now. When I came home last night, I bumped into Michael. He said he understands what I'm doing. We sat on the window sill and watched the rain run down the window. I told him I'm going to move out soon. Michael nodded. He wants to see things through too. It won't be long until he's finished his exams. Then he wants to get drunk and take the plunge, set up something of his own and give nature a lobby. He was gesticulating dramatically when he told me he'd be wherever there's a rare frog in a field earmarked for urbanization. We laughed so much we nearly fall off the window sill. But you know what, he said, I mean it. You have to keep digging until people get it. I know, I said. And next year we have to go home and ride down the field tracks to pick apples. Just like we used to.