Preparation for this trip involved a lot of dreaming, scheming and organisation. My lecturer in UCD was very upbeat about going, encouraging me to think of how good my German was, how I would be fluent by the end of the year, and what a life-changing year it would be. From this point on, I began to think of how to make this happen.

I didn’t think there was a possibility of a career break from work, but when I explained my case, it miraculously happened. Other aspects weren’t quite so straightforward, with accommodation being the most pressing matter. Since partner Barry and daughter Clare are starting college this year, it was multiplied by three. I had done grant applications before, and know the frustration going with them, but the other two were new to it (and it’s still on-going). None of us had experience of finding accommodation in the last twenty years, so it was an eye-opener to see what was offered in Dublin as suitable places to live. I had blithely imagined that I could find a place in Berlin via the internet, which is possible, but not probable. Trawling through the relevant websites took a large chunk of time, with many blind alleys. The first place I showed interest in was a most wonderful apartment, with everything, including maid service, which turned out to be too good to be true i.e. a scam, with my supposed roommate suggesting I send money via Western Union. After that, I was more careful and more realistic, but finding a flat-share in a city you don’t know is like pinning the tail on the donkey. It never struck me that my age would be a factor too. I think of myself as a cool but middleaged person, but unless I’m going to live until I’m 120, I’m not middleaged anymore. Loads of the advertisments said “only people between 25-30/under 30/under 40”, and it’s completely understandable. At twenty, I wouldn’t have wanted to live with someone old enough to be my grandmother, however cool she might think she is.

The funny thing about looking for an apartment-share is that each lead you follow, you commit on some level to living there (“oh yes, I could live with two sisters, even if they smoke; I don’t mind a large dog; so what if we have to share the balcony; maybe it would be great to share with six people under 25; I could live with someone who writes SPICK AND SPAN in capitals in their ad”) so that each time it doesn’t work out is like a rejection. After a series of no-go’s, I changed tack and investigated hostels (not even cheap for a 16-bedded room) and couchsurfing (mostly literally on a couch in your hosts’ bedroom) as a temporary option, since most people need to see you and take a deposit, so being on the spot is necessary. Just as I was getting anxious, a friend suggested I send out word through the Camphill community, who have lots of German co-workers. Within a week, I had heard of a sublet for Sept that suited me perfectly, which gives me time to get to know Berlin, and find a more permanent home.