After 20 years of suburban family life in Australia, Graham took a job at the Oeko Institut in Berlin. I was delighted and excited and ready for an adventure. My work being internet based, my colleagues, primarily European and UK. Perfect!
Mixed with the excitement of such a momentous change was a deep sadness to be leaving our daughters, 20 and 23 and my 88-year-old mother. Family, friends, and community are such an important part of one’s life, how would I survive without them?
To arrive to the Regenbogenfabrik community was a true blessing, more than we could have hoped for. Living in the house and the wider community provided opportunity for abundant connections. If ever I was tired of sitting alone at my desk, I could simply go downstairs to put on a load of washing and most probably find a conversation. When leaving the house, I discovered it was wise to have an extra 5 minutes to connect with whoever I might encounter in the courtyards on the way from house to street.
The sub-groups of Etage, Essensgruppe, house plenum, Wandergruppe, or volunteering for various fete days in the Fabrik courtyard provided this slightly misplaced foreigner with a sense of belonging.
Six and a half years passed happily and contentedly. Then came time to return to our Australian lives.
To transition from one significant time in our lives to the next it seemed appropriate to take our time and travel by train. To fly from Berlin to Canberra would be about one and a half days ‘door to door’. Our overland travel took 6 weeks and we finished it with a six-hour flight to our island home.
Although we planned two-night stopovers in various places along the way, we were soon to discover we were travellers and not tourists. Our 25 nights of sleeping in hotels or similar, were time to savour stillness, wash, rest and replenish in preparation for the next part of our journey. We did visit Red Square, Tiananmen Square, the Mekong River and Ankur Wat and of course many varied and intriguing local districts.
Mostly, the joy was in the detail. Watching crazy monkeys from our hotel window in Hanoi, the cycle path right through the centre of a shopping mall, complete with a climbing wall in Singapore, the ice on the fringe of Lake Baikal, the dizzying height of our Airbnb in Kuala Lumpur, the domination of the high-rise dormitory suburbs of China in contrast to the yurt suburbs of Mongolia, the enormous variety of ginger plants in the Singapore Botanic Gardens and the tree roots entwining the ruins of Ankur Wat.
Our highlights were the people we shared our 4 berth sleeper compartments with. We met just one other person travelling long distance by trains (eastern Russia to Singapore) as their chosen means of transport. Mostly we were travelling with locals or near locals. We spent 293 hours travelling mostly in 4 berth compartments. Our time was spent sitting or sleeping (13 nights on trains) opposite our fellow travellers. Google translate was often our only means of communication. We shared food, stories, photos, snores and our enjoyment of the scenery along the way. The long sunsets, the transitions from town to countryside from countryside to town. Those train compartments provided us with and ever-changing set of small communities. Impermanent but all the same important. Grateful for the company and fascinated by our similarities and differences.
After passing through 10 countries in six weeks we eventually took a six hour flight from Singapore to Australia. Home to our Australian family, friends, and community. Our time in Germany, Berlin, Regenbogenfabrik and especially living in the 2nd Hinter house at No. 22 cemented the value of community and connection for me. Life in Germany would not have been a fraction as rich and as wonderful an experience as it indeed was, without you all.
Deepest gratitude and Happy 40th Birthday Regenbogenfabrik.