If you read my blog regularly, you will notice that I have been M.I.A these past few weeks. It was because I was going through one of the most traumatic times of my life. I have to add here that pain and suffering is relative, I know that all I have to do is turn on CNN to see that in retrospect what I went through last month can be considered as Child’s Play to a lot of people.
But as I said pain and suffering is relative, from my experiences what I went through last month definitely ranks as one of the worst experiences in my life and I hope few people get to have my Et Tu, Brute experience. The reason why it traumatised me is because for the first time in my life, I was put in a situation where I felt like my safety and my belongings were in danger. It was the first time I slept at night not feeling quite safe, it was the first time I would go to work, with the niggling question in my head- will all my belongings be in the same place when I get back? It was the first time I was threatened and harassed. It was the first time someone through unlawful and evil means tried to steal my money. It was the first time I was on the receiving end of just what greed and lust for money can do. It was the first time in my life that for peace and safety, I had to find somewhere to live- within a week.
For those of you who live in Berlin, you know what it’s like to find somewhere new to live within a week. And somewhere good. Aaaand when you don’t speak the language, aaaaand you have a full time new job, and you have part time work and you have so on and so on.
The funny thing (and not Ha, Ha, Bonk folks) is that whilst a ‘friend’ was the culprit of putting me in this hell, it was my friends that reached out to me and pulled me out of the dark, slimy tunnel I found myself drowning in.
At this point, I have to thank my overseas friends and family who really supported me when I finally told them what was going on, but in the beginning I kept what was going on to myself. Why? A number of reasons, denial, shock and most of all I felt guilty. Guilty because after much thought, I knew that the real reason I was in this situation was because I had chosen to ignore the Red Flags. And if I had come clean to my parents at the time, especially to my father, he would (out of love and fear), have said that I was old enough to have known better. And he would have been right.
So why am I thanking Berlin, when this is the city where it all went down? After all there were some nights, when I thought- is Berlin worth all this, the sleepless nights, the lack of peace of mind, the various illnesses that popped out of nowhere (because of anxiety and stress). But what kept me in Berlin was how my friends gathered to help me to get me out of the nightmare I was in. Their kindness and support really helped to restore my faith in mankind and humanity, because honestly I had begun to doubt. I could feel myself hardening, getting bitter, but then the following things happened:
1) Within 30 mins of me sending my SOS on Facebook to my Berlin friends, explaining my situation and asking them to help me find somewhere new to live; a few people instantly put my SOS as their Facebook Status Update and I began to get in influx of flat recommendations.
2) A very talented illustrator, who I had only met twice- the first time, I had taken his pics for my blog, and the second, I had interviewed him (again) for my blog. Well, he not only gave me the contacts of his friend who was a lawyer, but he also put me in touch with his friend who was looking to rent out his place.
3) Due to the illustrator putting me in touch with his ‘lawyer friend’, I was able to get free advice….in English (!!) And folks, getting a lawyer was what helped the threats and harassment to stop. It also made my ‘friend’ change tactics when it came to the money she/he was trying to extract from me.
4) Then a friend got me in touch with her friend who was looking to sublet. She not only put in a good word to the lessor, but whatever she said made him choose me above a whole bunch of other people who were vying for the flat. Aaaand on top of that, her positive words about me made him trust me enough not to pay a deposit. This is where I live now.
I have heard and read from a number of sources that Germans are cold and don’t show emotion, that it’s hard to get on a particular level of friendship with them if you are not German etc etc.
I can say from my personal experiences in Berlin that I totally disagree, my closest friend in Berlin is German and he’s lovely and warm, as is his father who I have met. This friend dealt with my many SOS calls when I was a total wreck with uber maturity, considering he just turned 20. The girl who put in a good (great, actually) word for me to get the flat I am in is German, the illustrator is German and so on.
I am not saying all Germans are angels, what I am saying is my personal experience have led me to different conclusions than what I have heard been commonly said about Germans.
At the end of the day these people, and the rest of the Berliners I asked for help (who come from all over the world) didn’t owe me jack, nada, nothing, zip. They had known me for two years, one year, some a few months- and they had their own lives and problems to deal with. But they were there for me, I will never forget that.
Now how did all this affect my job? If you know me, you know how hard I fought to get my job and if you speak with me regularly, you will know I love my job. So I did the cliche thing of using work to camouflage my personal life and it caught up with me, people it caught up with me baaaaaaad. Needless to say, I fucked up baaaaaaad. But I was forgiven by my boss. She’s German by the way. And let me tell you, this was an amazing act of kindness from her. I have so much respect and admiration for my boss, I really, really do on both a personal and professional level and she said something to me, I won’t forget- she said words along the lines of: Biki I forgive you and it’s really in the past and when I say that I mean it. I used to hold on to things and then I almost had a breakdown, so I don’t do that anymore.
And then she gave me a big hug, it was a really humbling and grounding experience.
She also told me that in the future, I should let people know when bad things are happening in my personal life. It was funny (not Ha, Ha, Bonk) because that is something someone I used to know very well once said to me.
And so here we are, am I totally out of the woods yet? Yes and No. No because I await what I am financially owed- those who know me know what I am talking about here.
In the meantime, I carry on with my life, I have so much to be thankful for: I have a new flat which I am going to have fun decorating (and I have friends who are interior designers, not that I can afford them!), I have a refreshed and new attitude to my job and my life, I am lucky to have an eclectic mix of friends in Berlin, I have my part time work I am passionate about and new projects I am about to start, an amazing family who stuck by me when I thought I was about to lose it all, amazing old friends who are still calling me from all over the world to check up on me, I go to London next week and can’t wait…
I don’t say all this to show off, it’s more of a reminder to myself to remember what I have that is worth fighting for, to push myself to keep the faith, to not wallow in the past, to not bear malice, to fight to be a better person, to make amends when I fuck up, to not forget that despite the army of haters and people out there who take pleasure in damaging my name, there are oceans of people who have faith in me, who love me enough to forgive my faults because they know that my negatives don’t define me.
So thank you all, I am forever grateful to you and Berlin.
I’m head over heels with this song at the moment and now I cornily dedicate it to Berlin and all the people that have been So Good To Me: