So today finally I caught a glimpse of my old German soul – welcome back, dear friend. Somehow also nice to know some things do not change. I am quite tense these days, having decided to stay here in Lisbon until the end of the year, with no real security on how it will work out moneywise. I want to try something new, namely relying on fate and trusting that somehow everything will work out, somehow. So let’s see.
Anyway, I live in Casa Marvao, an old house that I would like to call squat house but cannot because I pay the same rent I pay in Berlin for a 12 square meter room. And the house is not to be compared with my house in Berlin. It is old and deep inside desperately hoping to be renovated, but to the outside it poses a face of pride and dignity in its antigue charme. I love my room, because it is my space, literally. Noone gives a f**** what I do here, so I started painting, which I have never done before. I am no artist, but I find it really relaxing.
The house is divided into approximately 15 rooms (never counted during my almost three months here), a kitchen, a living room, a spacious terrasse heading out to the backstreet where some neighbours live that want to kill everyone who lives there for making their lives miserable…. ah, and some bathrooms of course. I think it is a magic house, and I call it home. On the first floor live the owners of the house, originally from Marvao, who are approximately eighty years old and endure their young tenants with a mixture of warmth and resignation. The rooms are filled with people from all over Europe and sometimes even the world. During semesters it is an ERASMUS house, 100 %, but during the summer break I also shared it with medical interns, Americans exploring the traditional music scene of Portugal, and Chinese students attending a language class. When I first came here, the house was filled with 15 ERASMUS students who had been living together for nine months already, and the house was a hellhole. I am talking about one week old chicken bones lying on the terrasse floor and mice running over my hand in the sink when I decided one drunken night to wash the dishes for a change. I am thankful to all these people for taking me into their group. Then they left and the house, which I think has a life of its own, became dark, silent and depressing. But it was at this time that I found a second home in the cafe where I work – more on that later.
In any case, new ERASMUS people finally arrived a week ago, or a bit more, and since then, again, everything changed. A new phase in Casa Marvao, a house that changes always with its inhabitants. This time I am offered the chance to see the beauty develop from moment one. While I have some kind of outside perspective on everything, having my own life here, being older and being the one person who has been living here for some time, I still get to be part of everything. Now I live with I think eight Spanish persons, two girls from Hungary, a German girl, a Swedish boy, a girl from Poland, a girl from Belgium and a boy from Italy.
It is still clean, often very loud due to the presence of three guitars, a lot of ego, and even more talent. What comes to mind first when thinking about Casa Marvao these days is this: wine, food, music. Every night someone, usually “the boys” from Spain and Italy, cook dinner for everyone. Then we sit either on the terrasse or in the living room, around a big table, like in a kitschy movie, and eat.
One sentence I loved very much was: “Pratos – nao.” — In Casa Marvao – no plates. Food is being put on the table on two or three big plates, and everyone has a fork. That is it. While this is due to the lack of plates in this house, it still represents for me the spirit Casa Marvao currently has.
Then there is wine, sempre, sempre, which we now buy in five litre cartons the woman from the corner shop in our street special-ordered for us, seeing the amount of bottles we buy there every day. And music, as mentioned before.
One story to illustrate the spirit of the house: the other day I was sitting on the terrasse, around noon, enjoying the first coffee of the day, when one of my Spanish roommates enters with three strangers who turn out to be from Berlin. We share coffee and get to talking, and it turns out she does not know them but just met them on the street when they helped her open the old heavy door to our house. She invited them up for a coffee and we ended up spending hours together. My roommates came home, one by one, and joined the group. Lunch was cooked and enjoyed, more coffee was made. Finally the three Berliners took off, with cameras full of images and minds full of appreciation and wonderment.
But coming back to the start: tonight I wanted to go to a concert, and mentioned this to some people in the house. Soon it was clear we all go together, so we take off, early, not to miss any bands. It takes maybe 20 minutes to get out of the house, and then another 15 to go to the venue. When we come there it turns out it does not open for another 5 minutes, so it is discussed to go somewhere to drink. Then I make the mistake to go ahead into the direction of a bar I know, and when the group finally catches up, I am informed that we will now all go back to the house for some wine and food. At this point I personally wanted to bite into my lower arm until I hit the bone (German soul) but I managed to go with the flow. Now food is being prepared while I write this, and then the plan is to go back. I do not see it. But whatever, we will have a good time either way. Bemvinda a Casa Marvao. More to come.