View from the top: the balcony of Villa 37, looking towards the Cathedral
My Frankfurt may have been a bit different from the Frankfurt most other New Zealanders experienced in October 2012. I’m not the only one. There were seven of us that turned up at various times during September and October, to take up residence at Weltkulturen Museum’s two apartments in Villa 37. Most of us didn’t know who else was going to be there, or that there would be such a full house. It turned into a little creative Kiwi enclave for a while, with people working on different projects in different parts of the Villa. But sometimes there weren’t so many of us about – poor Bryce Galloway was by himself for three weeks before Hamish Clayton, the second resident, arrived. Bryce's experiences are brilliantly depicted in one of the three zines he developed during his residency, and he now has several new fans of the series ‘Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People’, including myself.
The Weltkulturen Crew at the Face to Face exhibition. Photo: Lisa Gardiner
As the third Kiwi resident, I arrived on a quiet weekend while Bryce was away visiting the other half of his band Wendyhouse. It was nice to be greeted by a familiar face in Hamish, but also enjoy the solitude of the beautiful apartment and city on foot. I walked and wrote and explored, and it came as a bit of a shock when other people turned up to work on Monday. Despite several lessons, my usable German consisted of various greetings, thank you and please and Ich verstehe kein Deutsche – I don’t speak German / Ich verstehe nicht – I don’t understand. One day I went to a café determined to order in German, bowled up to the counter, and muttered something about wanting cappuccino and cake. As soon as I was answered in German, I had to admit I didn’t understand a word. I’d also bypassed some sort of etiquette about sitting down and waiting to be served. In the end it was always easier to let the citizens of Frankfurt speak their excellent English when they quickly sized up my inability to express myself in their language. It was a language that I continued to admire though, sounding to my uneducated ears quite beautiful and funny. Perhaps those sounds will always remind me of the sophisticated gentlefolk of Frankfurt strolling in their taylored clothes, shopping at their delicious organic markets, eating their massive plates of meat at local pubs, with Grüne Soße und Apfelwein of course.
One of Francis Pesamino's portraits for the Face to Face exhibition
Ah, Green Sauce, which Wikipedia puts in the same category as Italian Salsa Verde and Argentinian Chimichurri. The local signature dish, we were soon regularly indulging in the stuff. For the vegetarians among us, Grüne Soße with eggs and potatoes was a saving grace in a land that has such generous definitions and proportions of meat (slaughtered pork plate anyone?) By Thursday following my arrival, we all had new flatmates. Heather Galbraith had arrived to co-curate Bryce’s exhibition of NZ zines, Francis Pesamino had turned up for the opening of the exhibition ‘Face to Face/Fa’afesaga’i/Kanohi ki te Kanohi’ which included his wonderful drawings and items from the museum’s collection, and Bryce’s wife Jakki from the Film Archive had arrived. We often ended up at a local establishment for dinner, quite late by NZ standards. The meals were hearty and cheap. Gourmet, organic, refined and international foods for every palate were easy and inexpensive to procure, but it was just as likely to see people indulge in the down to earth local fare. We were offered very good German bubbly (who knew?) and hospitality that made me think we were not so far from home.
Villa 37 balcony view, sunset.
The youngest of us, Francis, was mothered by everyone. ‘I bet you didn’t expect to have German aunties, eh?’ I asked him at one point. I know I didn’t expect the level of care and nurturing we experienced, receiving the auntie treatment more than once myself. We worked or explored during the day, and came together in the evenings, talked about local customs and personalities, food and culture, ghosts and dreams. The river and city were ever present through our windows, lighting up the night, constant foot and bike traffic accompanying the regular beeping of car horns and wailing sirens. I didn’t learn to sleep well, but it was warm and beautiful and there was plenty of good company.
Es war einmal in Aotearoa, apparently!
I'm heading to the Weltkulturen Museum Residency in a couple of days, so I've been thinking a lot about Frankfurt. I'm beginning to realise how extraordinary the German language is, and find myself wishing I knew more of it (what little I do know is thanks to Emma at the Goethe Institut in Wellington, bitte!) This seems a good time to link to this post from the Frankfurt Bookfair 2012 - An Aotearoa Affair Blog, which includes an interview with translator, Anita Goetthans, and a German translation of my story, 'kaitiaki':
Kōrerorero - Conversations
From time to time I'll post things here that haven't found a home anywhere else, or have been used in other formats. Occasionally I might even blog...