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Sunday, June 16, 2013

In the Kitchen

It all started in Berlin around 1980, when I had just finished a relationship and was desperately looking for a room to stay independently.

Well, the first and best way to look seemed to me to be in a Studentenheim, having had good experience with this kind of living before. So I checked out a few places, and as it was urgent and I was feeling the time pressure,I checked out a few Studentenheime, among them the one in Suarezstra├če in Charlottenburg.

The chief administrator, Fr. Weser, seemed to be nice and understanding of my problems and my wishes. So I went by there, she was quite hopeful that she could help me. But she had to talk first to her colleague and would give me notice in half an hour. So I walked up and down Suarezstr and had a coffee, couldn’t wait to come back. I think it was 1:00 or so. So when I finally came into the room, Fr. Weser and her colleague still had their heads together, whispering to each other – I thought oh-oh-oh, how might that end? But then looking to me, she said to me that a room was available. I didn’t know what to say at that moment, but was more than grateful for this offer which I accepted very happily.

The only problem was that I was not officially a student anymore, and had a job as a physician already. So I actually mentioned my personal dilemma and pretended to be working on my M.D. thesis. The ladies were quite understanding and respectful and sympathetic with my life situation at that moment. So I got the room number 210 on the 2nd floor, and was overly happy.

So for the next few terms, every semester, it was always a problem to show my legitimization as a student,which I did not actually have.In order to calm down my social conscience (that I wasn’t taking the Studentenheim room from a needy student) I was able to rent an apartment with my real pay check, and sublet it to a student couple for a low price. Of course this was not only altruistic – I knew I had a place to live if Fr. Weser decided to kick me out.

So I said I would need a little extra time to work on my thesis, but after a certain time I felt that didn’t meet the criteria as a student any more, so I had to explain my personal circumstances in more detail. One time explaining not feeling well in general and another time unexpected difficulties occurring. So by then I had figured out that it would be best to go to the office right behind another person, so that they were busy and attended to that person, and then, when I opened the door, they recognized me of course and waved to me that they were busy right then and couldn’t attend to my semester dilemma, and indicated that it was ok to stay on.

In the meantime, I had met a girl from the States (who had moved in to room number 215) and who had noticed me coming in once a week from Kaiser’s grocery store across the street, usually on a Friday, carrying 4 big plastic bags, with Kaiser’s printed on them, mostly filled with cans of “Mexican Bean Stew”, and soda, supposed to last for the upcoming week.

So after walking up the stairs, usually after a night shift, my arms got longer and longer, and the bags almost hit the floor. When I entered the community kitchen, there was the American girl, usually fixing food for herself (and sometimes for others).

While I stored my food away, I had the feeling the girl felt sorry for me, and we got into a conversation, and she provided me with a different meal than Mexikanischen Bohneneintopf.

Sometime after that we had our first date – an all day boat trip on the Berlin rivers, during which we took pictures of each other and fell promptly in love. The rest is history, and it all began in the kitchen (right around the corner from which we are writing this in our “real” kitchen of 25 years)