My friends had amazed me with their frequent visits and heartfelt gifts. I had received flowers, poems, a pink stuffed animal pig, and most importantly an overwhelming amount of love and support. As the little pig watched over me I slowly came to through a very thick fog. Psychologists had warned me that the actual moment of waking up to my body being radically altered combined with the pain might be quite a lot to handle. I instinctively looked down – and all I felt was relief and happiness. Step by step the walls of my life long prison began to crumble…
First Draft Sneak Peek No. 4
Something had shifted in my life. Taking care of my parents had awoken a need for responsibility. I became active in a local bird watchers club. When I was fifteen I founded the youth section of the club and we became part of a nationwide German environmentalist group. I spent my free time organizing weekend events. We did cleanups in our local forests, guarded falcons nests during the nights to deter poachers from stealing the young birds and selling them to Arab sheiks. We built fences along highways to help frogs cross the streets safely during their migration. We watched and identified animals and helped people convert their gardens into natural habitats. My group wasn’t big but we were a dedicated little gang. During school vacations I went camping throughout Germany. It felt good to belong. Within this group of environmentalist nerds who dedicated their free time trying to make a small difference I did not seem quite so odd.
During this time I came in contact with other cultures for the first time. One year the environmentalist society organized a summer camp between youth activists from Germany and Malta. I was enchanted by the intense two-week experience. My heart opened and I knew I needed to make the whole world my playground. Germany alone was far too small to be satisfying. I sensed beauty, and magic. Thankfully, after all that had happened, I was still curious about the world and keen to socialize with people.
My strange childhood with its constant uprooting and emergencies had molded me into an individual with advanced social skills. I cared deeply, approaching others with non-threatening compassion. I instinctively knew how to fit in, sensing how to make people feel comfortable, make them laugh and feel safe.
For a long time my scars made me feel very self-conscious. For many years I dreamed of getting a tattoo. After my surgeries I waited even longer than planned to approach a tattoo artist. I didn’t want to get a work of skin art for the wrong reasons. Rather the tattoo should mark the occasion of celebrating my body as it was. Finally in 2002 I approached a tattoo artist specializing in Polynesian designs. While we plotted and designed, she asked, “So do you want me to hide your scars?” I was so happy to be able to reply with conviction and with a smile, “No, that will not be necessary.”
First Draft Sneak Peek No. 3
The staff accommodation set up was very amusing. I was reminded of Alcatraz as Judith showed me A-Block, B-Block, and C-Block as each small accumulation of staff rooms was called. My solitary confinement dwelling was located in C-Block, a long L-shaped building with many small doors, leading to very small rooms. Judith and her partner Rowan had secured an air conditioning unit for my little sanctuary. Some other people were bound to leave soon. I hoped to scrounge a few pieces of furniture and decorations from them. As I stood in the doorway of C-7 I realized that there wasn’t much need for decorations since there was hardly any space for them. Each of our rooms was about six square meters, with barely enough room to squeeze between the queen-sized bed, night table and wardrobe to reach the bathroom door.
The bathroom was a tiny but cozy space, about three square meters, with a simple shower head sticking out of the wall like a periscope, an old toilet bowl, a small sink, rough crumbling walls, and a corrugated iron roof covering only half of the space. The uncovered half of the bathroom was open to the equatorial sky, the ground left in its original sandy state. A tropical tree grew inside the bathroom, opposite my narrow shower area, the branches reaching far above the C-Block roof. I was enchanted and felt instantly at home.
Over the months I realized that as idyllic as it may be to have a tree growing out of your bathroom, it was essentially a convenient natural ladder for assorted island wildlife. Surprise visits from lizards, snakes, rats, gigantic cockroaches, and birds became a regular part of my life. I learned to open my bathroom door cautiously at night, ready to jump backward depending on what critters would be illuminated as soon as I switched on the bathroom light. I also learned to pee and poo in record time since you never knew what would crawl over your feet or fly into your face as you sat contemplating the stars, going about your private business.
Thankfully Pneumonia has departed and it is time to get rolling again with my 2nd draft. In part it was good to be forced to come to a complete stop for 4 weeks. I realized that I had become too obsessive as I often do when I focus my energies. I need to strive for that delicate balance between passion and obsession.
The last four weeks have turned flu into bronchitis into pneumonia… bringing all writing work to a complete stop. As so often I am reminded of one certainty in life – plans are great, but rarely ever work out exactly as intended. No matter what though, delayed it may be, but my book will be written and published xxx