A place I call home NOW, so narrow that it’s like the walls are embracing you into warm hugs, with a cute, small kitchen and a build-in stove with her keen personality, a living room with a couch I call bed, a drawer, and a closet with a gallery on the back. A wooden, wheeled coffee table, and two arm chairs that holds a lot of late-night deliberations. A bathroom with a demanding toilet that doesn’t like it if you sit with your full weight on it, it pinches your ass if you do, a bathtub with no cover curtains which obligates you to squat if you just want to take a shower and don’t want to leave the floor completely wet, and also a very ‘ancient’ washing machine that likes to protest and make a lot of noise when you give him dirty clothes. Let me not forget, one very small bedroom, with one bed, one closet, one drawer which is also a bed, a small white table, and a door to the terrace. This particular room is occupied by my dear Italian flat mate, it has a sliding Chinese door, that can be closed, but is never closed. This is actually a flat for one person, shared by two. No privacy, no sound proof walls or doors, creaking wooden floor, one entrance doorway with two doors which has 5 locks in total, and a sweater hanger, that I hate so much, because it’s made of dead dear legs. I absolutely love this flat, with all it’s imperfect perfections, because it all makes sense when you see it with the eyes of love.
In the beginning I was so grateful to be here, and for that I couldn’t complain, but the flat was challenging, because it made me feel self-conscious and I was experiencing it in full. Of course, you may acknowledge the unfitting things first, because I had my ass pinched, back pain from the couch bed, screamed at by the stove and washing machine, sat down three times on the bar-chair and it broke, and the bathtub compelled me to squat. There were no separating walls where I was sleeping. I had no privacy at all, it was me being exposed to the living room, to the kitchen and to a stranger. A stranger that didn’t let me in to who she truly is, and it was difficult, to fathom her motives.
After three weeks of arriving in Szczecin, my sending organization saw where I was staying and really wanted me to change flat, and find something more fitting and reasonable so I may have more privacy. I didn’t think much of the flat until it was pointed out, that it looks uncomfortable. After that I felt the flat twice as bad for one week more.
After a conversation with my flat mate and our emotional supporter about the flat, we came to understand that her and me are the complete opposite of each other. She is so down to earth, trying to make me touch the ground, and I am so up in the sky, trying to make her touch the stars. I learned that day that she was afraid of me. Afraid to break me, because to her I am a Chinese ceramics doll, that can break easily. I didn’t tell her, but to me she seemed like a strong concrete dam holding the great canyon waters, afraid she would break me. Even funny how I am a very optimistic person, trying to see the positive, and afraid of expressing the negative, and she prefers to express the negative, because she is afraid of expressing the positive. Exactly like a Ying Yang.
Some days after this meet up, we played a game called the points of you, and that, that was when I recognized her. I observed how her waters flow beautifully over the dam, and I understood why she had her walls up. The authenticity that she bares, is as beautiful and strong as roots that grows deep beneath the ground to hold a strong stomp of a tree. Me, well, I broke my pieces myself, and show that I can patch myself back up with silver and gold. I may be delicate, but I can be strong, to deform and reform myself. I learned that we didn’t have to reach out for each other and pull each other on the opposite direction, but only by exposing ourselves authentically can be enough for the other to understand.
Who would have thought that learning her language just by embracing our senses made it easier to learn the language of the flat? The flat is the way it is, and all had to happen the way it happened, for us to dance in this beautiful play, with the theatrical name; flat 4, 5th floor, room 28, It helped creating trust, communication, diversity, and solidarity. Which I strongly believe is the purpose of this project, and as we are in a democratic school, without knowing, we are actually living democratically, with no made-up rules, but just by respecting each other, we tango, like two flamingos. She is family, and this is our temporary home.
Cherly-ann Franken, volunteers in Szkoła Droga Wolna, Szczecin.