June 2012

High school ends. 800 km journey to the north. A station wagon packed with me and all my belongings plus two proud yet melancholic parents. Station wagon empties and there I am, facing what I thought of as absolute freedom in the tender age of 18.

My first house is remembered as decadent yet magical. The building was old, the neighbours all sorts of immigrants, grumpy old people, loud students. The elevator used to go off once a month. But my apartment was east, the walls foul of quotes from the Dadaists, the Situationists and the Beat generation. The kitchen was new. My mattress on the floor with a long piece of wood to separate the mattress from the cold wall. It was decorated with yet more quotes and the tracing of the hands of my best friends. Tiny Christmas lamps where lit all year-round. Two orange director's chairs added to the colourful atmosphere.

I loved this place. Yet, once I graduated from my studies there and had to go, I felt no pain leaving it. It was like the cocoon that has to be destroyed for the butterfly to go on with her life.

Little did I know then that there were more cocoon's to be torn.

Back to my parent's house, to see what I would like my future to be like. The six years of my studies they had moved into my room (the south, always the south) so I had now to live at the northern room. I made the bad choice to paint it dark green and ochre, making it even darker. My architecture studies had taught me very little, I guess.. Still, all my colourful memorabilia was in there with me, even though this room and the transitional period it represented tended to suffocate me.

One year passed and this time an air plane was needed to cover the distance from my parent's house to my new life. Athens-Delft. A 3 hours flight, one suitcase, a laptop case. That's it. Deciding what to leave back was again strangely easy. Cocoon number two: torn.

I chose to live at the so called “space boxes”, in TU-Delft. They looked intriguing to me. Containers shaped a bit like outer space objects and painted pink, blue, yellow, grey. Nikos warned me against staying there. He had a friend that lived there and hated it. It was in the Campus, far from the centre. A student ghetto with no supermarket in a 20 minutes walk radius. I did not listen. I rarely do. But I did not regret it either. After two days of cleaning and unpacking and shopping, my grey space box was equipped with a fluffy rug, tons of pillows, pictures of my loved ones, a sturdy plant and my books arranged in the bookshelves. For my new Christmas lamps I had to wait until November. This space was filled with creativity and love for two years. Yes, when a truck passed by it was shaking. Yes, when it rained -very often- it was as if the rain would come through the roof. But it did not. And it is true as well, that the supermarket was far away. But the walk to it was really calming, next to the campus canals. And there is the amazing small forest-y spot in four minutes walk. I do not know if it was my attitude that made it work for me, or if it was other people's negativity that ruined it. But it might as well be a third thing..

The second year Nikos moved from Rotterdam to Delft. He moved to a house with an attic, a chessboard floor in the kitchen and yes, south orientation. And then I realised that my space box was facing north. I had not realised it before, as the first year the weather was so bad that the sun was rarely out and I was at the faculty until the sun would set. And then I realised a second thing: this apartment had a view. A view of the church tower and a canal right in front of it. And we could grow plants on the window sill, that in the space box died within a week. So I spent the majority of my time there. And took the serious decision to find a place as pretty as this one, once my contract would end.

This happens in one month. So a while ago I started house hunting. I love attics. I believe they are magical. I believe they hold the secret of life in them, be it their cave-like shape or something more... So I was thrilled when the first house I found was an attic. The description read “the attic has a hip-high beam that divides the space into a living/ sleeping area”. I was exited. I was beyond that. And then, I visited the attic. The beam. It had a really strong presence. You had to either climbe above it or bend under it to go to the bed. Even at this point my faith in attics did not let me see clearly the situation. But then I realized that the only view this attic had was the sky. Blue, when I visited. Grey and cloudy eighty percent of the time. And the stairs where so steep that resembled more boat stairs. Also, if I wanted to take a couch up there, I would have to take the hand rail of, otherwise furniture just didn't fit to go up the stairs. I was, for once, mature and politely rejected the place. Which led me to my first “insteming” experience.

A lovely house, a nice orientation, an attic, a view of the churches and the old town, a laundry machine, a dryer, two balconies, an amazing kitchen and three Dutch house mates. And the insteming. This so unfamiliar to me practice of having interview sessions to chose the most suitable person for a house. In Greece we all rented our own student studios. Some smaller than others, but everyone on his own, with a few exceptions of best friends or relatives choosing to share a home. And here I was, being informed that I had to take an interview similar to a job interview. The people were very polite and I enjoyed the evening, but did not get the place. Different tastes and different expectations dragged me down in the list of the “chosen” ones. I was left baffled, not being sure how to react on that rejection. It seemed almost comical to me, having to prove that you are someone everyone likes, to get a place, as -sooner or later- everyone will reveal their true colours and antithesis will surface. Then I realised this might not be the case for everyone and people can actually get along in a general sense without conflict and I am the one who is weird. If I was fifteen, I would probably go through some sort of self esteem crisis, but thankfully I was past that. So my sole reaction was to reply with lightning speed to the next add that appeared in the housing site.

This house would be available until February. This would have stopped me for applying before, but time was pressuring and I would soon have to leave the space boxes, so I gave it a chance.

This time the orientation was right. A south room, an east facing kitchen. Plants everywhere. Only one house mate. Furnished with lovely 50's furniture and a double bed on a mezzanine. And a view. I could see both the sky and the towers of the two churches. Lovely Brigitte told me she wanted to give me the room right away, but there was one more person she had to see before she would decide. She knew and disliked the insteming process, so she said she would call me the same evening to let me know, to make things a bit less stressful. I went to the central square -french fries in my hand and good company- and waited to see what Brigitte thought of me, while gazing at the square. I loved it's peaceful atmosphere. I loved the church, tall yet elegant and serene. I was amused by the tourist shops, all selling the same, poorly painted wooden tulips and the same -always original- Delft porcelains. Then, the phone rang.