Changing Spaces, Trading Places

It started as a joke. Patrick and I were sitting on the balcony one evening discussing the options, how he might stay in Austria, how I might cope with the costs for the flat, both of us feeling more and more frustrated and limited. Then at some point I suggesting jokingly, slightly sarcastically: Maybe we should just trade places.

As soon as I said it, though, we both realized it would be the ideal solution. Looking at the number of empty bottles on the table, however, we decided to continue the discussion the next day. Patrick asked me whether I would really do that, if I could seriously imagine living in Calafou, where he has been the past almost two years. The more I thought about it, the more the idea actually appealed to me, and with that we both found more optimism and motivation than either of us had felt for some months.

So this is the plan: Patrick and V will stay in Linz, where Patrick will take over our family flat with the goal of “de-museumizing” it. He will find one or two people to share the space and the costs with him, and he already has a job starting in September.

In the meantime, I will pack up my cats, some clothes and a few odds and ends, and move into Patrick’s flat in Calafou. Of course, it is not only up to us, because the community in Calafou has to agree too, but visiting here for a week, I find everyone very supportive and encouraging. And spending time here again has thoroughly confirmed for me that I really want to do this. Life is not easy here, nothing is comfortable or luxurious, and dealing with a whole community of complex individuals can be tedious and frustrating. All of that is clear to me, and yet this is still the most hopeful place I know. I really have to work on Spanish, obviously, but I find I understand more than I expected. And of course I have to pick up at least a little bit of Catalan along the way, but learning new languages is supposed to be good exercise for senior citizens’ brains.

Patrick has to tell his own story, the way he wants it told, but for my part, this is exactly what I needed without realizing it before. I am as free as anyone can be in this age of late capitalism: my husband is dead, my children are grown, I currently have no other real care responsibilities, and I have a regular, unconditional income with my pension. But I need to do something with that freedom. Since I retired last year, it seems that most of my energy and resources just go into maintaining the flat, but just maintaining, preserving, conserving is not satisfying. Patrick is right that the flat needs to be de-museumized, but I have reached the limits of what I feel capable of doing with it, when everything I touch is loaded with memories. To be able to let go of the past, I won’t even be taking pictures with me to Calafou.

Now I want to make something, build something, contribute something, do something, and there is certainly enough for me to do in Calafou. I want to help with the feminist server here and help develop plans for a possible data center. I spoke with one resident about her plans for educational games to promote the ideals of free software and with another about possibilities for setting up a sewing center. And every time I go into Patrick’s flat, I have so many ideas about what I want to do with it.

Since Patrick and I agreed to try this as an experiment for one year, to begin with, and then see how it goes, this evening I will be meeting with the other residents to request their consent for me to spend a year here as a residency, first of all. Then we’ll see …

So this week I am just visiting, but in three weeks I will be back with my cats to stay – and I could not be happier or more excited.

This will be my new home starting in September

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