The weirdest flat viewing ever, and Namibia.

I am progressing down my lists, however much they seem to grow. On the upside, I’ve finally found myself a flat in what is supposed to be the cool alternative district of Cologne (Ehrenfeld), to which I shall move soon. This has been an intense week.

Flat hunting is tiresome at the best of times, but fortunately the website I have taken to using has a wee indicator to say that the person on the other end of the message will understand English, and a translation function to put the flat advert into something resembling the language, although hilariously the grammar is mostly still German. Google translate (ever my friend for official documents) it is not. Nonetheless, I am proficient enough to understand the word “schoen”, which seems to constitute the vast majority of such adverts, and there are also pictures, bringing my ability to read language here up to about the level of a four-year-old. Progress!

Inevitably, such forays into the world of Wohnungssuche (flat-hunting) involve some highly personalised template-email spamming, and with the patience of a fisherman I sit and wait for a bite. I saw a couple before taking the one I will move into soon. Well, more correctly, I saw a couple before I was selected as an appropriate candidate. Apparently there is a student housing shortage in Cologne, the most interesting (and un-Edinburgh) reason for which is that everybody is single and wants a flat for themselves. What this means in practice is that a flat viewing is not the mundane exchange of details and first-come-first-in race that it seems to be in Edinburgh, but more of an audition.

Getting to know your potential roomie I understand, but a recent viewing I attended had so many interested parties arriving at once in the four hours they had the flat open that I received a phone call from the one coordinating the advert the day after not to say that they’d like to know when I could move in, but that I had got through to the next round. Couple this with the immediate production of a guitar upon mention of my interests and I feel I’d stand a decent mid-round chance on Cologne’s Got Talent. So at that moment I was somewhat torn. I’ve never thought of myself as the competitive type, but so swept up was I in the need for validation from complete strangers that I distinctly remember rehearsing. This, I think, is the weirdness that comes with living in a new culture, even if questions put to my Koelsh colleagues place this level of X-factor-ness as a tad unusual. However, it was all for nought. Alas (but perhaps for the best) the guitar was not reproduced upon the second round, instead I sat at the kitchen table at four in the afternoon with the flat’s current inhabitants and another interested party, with a beer in one hand and a shot of very kindly offered corn liquor in the other. Ridiculousness was achieved about the fifth, ahem, long cigarette (can’t go refusing hospitality now can I?), and while we all got on very well, I suspect I was a bit too interested in talking to my “competitor” about his band, who sound really cool, and less about impressing my possible flatmates with my lucidity whilst intoxiated. I did not get a call. This is probably a good thing. They were all really nice, though, and I shall perhaps see them again.

Some days later, and with a modest amount amount of trepidation, I proceeded to view flat number two. This was an altogether more relaxed affair, and learning from my previous experience meant that while I was prepared for another audition, none was needed. They seem altogether relaxed about things, the flat is in a cool place, and they basically wanted to know where I existed on the cleanliness continuum between total slob and drill sergeant (somewhere in the middle, if you’re interested), whether I can cook (I can. A bit) and whether I like parties or not (I do). So, I’m moving to Ehrenfeld sometime in the next week or so, which gives me the all-important permanent address, along with some new flatmates, and a new part of the city to get drunk and/or lost in. Also, they’re German, which ups the immersion factor for my language learning. I must say, I’m as excited about it as I am glad for the Wohnungssuche to be finally over, which is a lot.

While flats and all that are interesting, and the experiences very German in one way or another, some far more exciting news came my way this week. It requires me making another very long list of things to do, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest, because I am going to Namibia in March. For a month! This is terribly exciting, being my first visit to the African continent (some Africanist I am) as well as my first time meeting hunter-gatherers. Thankfully, no hardcore research will be taking place, and my supervisor simply wants to see how I can handle the field context. My fellow PhD student  is giving me advice about some of Southern Africa’s little quirks, having done historical research in Zambia, and the key thing she says is that I have to be patient. With everything. Something tells me I probably need to work on this. Somewhat dangerously, they want me to drive while I am there too. This will be fun, you know, for a work outing. Ever since I first studied hunter-gatherers in my undergraduate degree, I’ve wanted to work with the San peoples in Namibia, and similar to my reaction to actually coming to Germany, it feels very surreal. I’m suddenly, as I’m sure you can imagine, intensely busy, reading and making more lists, because this is Germany and ZERE IS ALLWAYSS MOAR LISTS, but hopefully I can keep posting (roughly once a week seems to work), and my main concern with the blog is how I am going to condense Namibia into something that is not a book.

I don’t know whose life I nicked, but I damn well hope they don’t want it back. Tschuss!


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