My involvement with Bpigs has been a bit…haphazard to date. The post you are about to read in now, is approximately 5 months delayed.
To summarize … It was February, I was unemployed and running out of money fast …on the brink of a self induced/self indulgent "depression", with far too much time on my hands…and alongside every other non-German speaking expat in this city I was finding it impossibly hard to find paid work…However I was blindly determined to prolong my stay in the city, although rapidly losing sight as to why…During this period of excessive internet usage I came across Bpigs and I was instantly charmed. I sent an email to see what my chances were of getting involved and subsequently met with Despina and we agreed that I’d try at doing the interns diary…For now I happily “settled” for creative stimulation – knowing at the back of my mind that my bank balance couldn’t really support this idealistic decision.
The first Bpigs event I went to was a sort of wonderful post-Situationist walking tour or "drift" around Rosa-Luxemborg (put on by Kunstverein) accompanied by mulled wine...plus I had received positive feedback from a supportive Despina at my first blog attempt! All was going well. However, I have a bad habit of saying yes to everything in the moment (and maybe suffer from selective hearing), and soon realized that I'd actually agreed to an interning position that included a fair portion of administrative responsibility, and not one that just entailed writing the Interns diary. Despite good intentions, with deadlines looming and my hate for my virus-riddled, sticky-keyed computer increasing and internalizing…I quickly went off the whole idea, and rather than address the issue, I sent a rushed email saying that Id found other work and quickly terminated my involvement with Bpigs. I regretted this instantaneously and reluctantly started a full time job in a call center. Now I could at least stay in Berlin, I thought to myself, with the income to do so. Whilst constantly hoping that I wouldn’t run into Despina at openings.
But then a couple of weeks ago, to my delight, I received an email from her asking what I was up to, and so here we are….
So this is, or was, Part One written in February:
I arrived in Berlin just over 7 months ago, a recent graduate, fed up of London and with no particular plan other than (a slightly obnoxious notion) to “make it work” in Berlin. I had five nights booked in one of the worst hostels I have experienced in the city, with an exhaustingly over enthusiastic owner (I’ll leave it unnamed!) The only lead I had in terms of a job was a tentatively arranged interview to be an au pair/gallery assistant. To explain - out of desperation I had joined aupairworld.com before I left the UK (despite the fact that I am truly inept with children), however with little German, or money to fall back on I feared the worst…and I didn’t want to return home with my tail between my legs 2 weeks later… A family contacted me and the wife mentioned her husband was in the process of opening an art gallery in the city; I cheekily took my opportunity and offered that my (sometimes seemingly useless) Art History degree might mean I could be of use. The interview went well and I moved in- with only a backpack of drunkenly packed summer clothes…probably more suitable for Ibiza. I attempted, for two weeks, to work a sort of hybrid position as au pair and working-from-home gallery assistant – these were mostly 14 hour days- and they almost killed me. It quickly became apparent that I had no disciplinary bone in me, and that childcare was not my calling. And so I embarked on a 7 month position as the gallery assistant. For the first 3, 4 months I was utterly enamored with the job, I didn’t mind for a second that my social life had taken a back seat – at any rate it seemed everyone in Berlin worked as a free-lance something-or-other so the 10am-7pm lifestyle didn’t exactly accommodate! I spent every Sunday I had off wide-eyed in Mauerpark buying clothes which I’ve never worn and watching the karaoke or attending yet another (increasingly less painful) WG flat share “casting”.
Yet, even living in one of Europe’s cheapest capital Cities can be problematic when living on an intern’s wage. I spent the whole time travelling without a ticket on the U-Bahn, forever dodging the BVG inspectors and always ever so slightly on edge (I would advise sitting at the front of the train…facing towards the platform…or to just buy a bike!). I couldn’t afford language classes (although saying that, I have now sourced lots of excellent free classes in the city; try Frau Lehrerin at Zapotek) which meant that whilst my German scarcely improved, my English got worse- morphing into a contorted mixture of the two – I feel embarrassed to type this, I’ve heard far too many other English people moan about the exact same thing... I shouldn’t complain, it was a “great experience”, however sometimes it seems that this whole internship phenomenon is built on this very phrase, but we do not live in some utopian society and the ideal of “art” or a “great experience” does not pay the bills. Indeed, I found that being an intern I would alternate from being incredibly grateful to mildly resentful- especially during the final leg of the job or when I was being talked to like I was an incompetent sub-being. My parents became increasingly fed up of my schizophrenic phone calls whereby I would switch from crying to almost imploding with enthusiasm for the job.
I hope I don’t read as though ungrateful, far from it, moving to Berlin was the best thing I ever did and I would not change a thing. Now sort of jobless (unsurprisingly the underpaid intern position did not get extended into a permanent position, despite convincing promises till the end), in my 8th – but now semi-permanent- WG flat share and with a life built in Berlin that would break my heart to leave, the fear of having to return to the UK has made me more determined than ever. Moreover once you learn how to navigate Berlin and learn certain tricks, you realize that it is filled with a whole host of “free” nights or tip based venues, which accommodate so well for the money restricted individual like myself...
but we will get more into that in the following weeks.