Sarah was not my real name. Fe gave this name to me to anonymize me in an interview she did for the student newspaper. Fe is not Fe’s real name.

There is one moment I didn’t mention in my last post. Fe, Ben and I were sitting on the pillow case, drinking tea and reading fortune cookie fortunes to each other.

Speaking of fortune: I still talk about it with self-irony, but part of me really believes in the dumpster god. Last night, among all those other brilliant things, like two left-hand working mittens and a device making annoying sounds to get rid of moles and probably any other creature hanging out in your garden, we got various pairs of underwear. I got really excited when I discovered them, cause that means I can cross off yet another item of my wishlist. Just that within all this variety, my variation wasn’t among it. There were three pairs for guys, one being huge. One for a woman, but really really huge, and three Hannah Montana ones for kids. I look up into the sky and say:

“Dear dumpster god. I really appreciate that you took my wish for underwear into account. But seriously, I’m not that big!”

My glance leaves the night sky and wanders over to the massive amounts of cake. In his defense, he might just act in anticipation.

Or, OR: I might just be too fast in my frustration. The Hannah Montana underwear is AWESOME. The one has a glitter butterfly on the mons pubis. Pure trash. It’s kids size, but hey, it might fit anyway, right?

Turns out it does. Thus I am a new Hannah Montana fan. And since Sarah isn’t my real name anyway, I switched to calling myself Hannah.

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I meet my friend at the second store. It’s right next to where she lives and she could use a break from studying for her exam.
When she arrived she began digging enthusiasically as always. Her head almost disappearing. In second-intervalls her arm reaches over to me and I hear her exclaim every single time:

“Oh look at this!”

With every ‘Oh-look-at-this’ I get more excited. I feel like a freakin’ gold digger. Pasta. Cake. Heart shaped rocks with ‘Happy Easter’ on them. A bicycle basket. A shower curtain! (For the shower in the wagon…) Two solar gadgets which’s solar panels can be used to build something useful!
Just to mention a few.
She keeps handing me over things, never getting tired to throw me another happy ‘Oh-look-at-this!’

I come to realize that this day is big. I call my boyfriend.

“Hey! What are you doing right now? This place is crazy! Fe is saying ‘Oh-look-at-this’ all the time and – wow! duvet covers! and I think I cannot – Oh my god! Underwear!- if you have time, would you like to come help us? We have solar panel devices and do you have a shower curtain yet? This is CRAZY. Ben, please bring a BIG bag, something for the bike carrier too, we have cake, do you want cake?”

Finally Fe thinks she got the most of it out, way too much anyway, but I am hooked. I want to find more more more! Just one more ‘What-the-hell-does-this-do-in-this-dumpster’-moment. Just one more suprise. Really, much of it is for the discovery. When all over sudden you are showered with free stuff, in such an exorbitant way that it is unreal. Absurd. Your brain goes blank. I guess I could just throw everything back in when the rush is over, but that would be a terrible waste. It’s probably the same mechanism that makes people go crazy during sales or shopping in general. Just that they keep all the stuff.

People, if shopping is your hobby or what ever, try this: Shop like you are rich and try on or try out everything and fantasise about how your life will be so much better when you have all that and dream of all what you are gonna be when you have all this and imagine you keep everything you buy, be exsessive.
Then have a good nights sleep and recover from your rush by returning every single item the very next day. And reflect upon this idea: You didn’t need stuff. You needed a trip.

So back to this night. Ben arrives just when we are a bit clueless on how to proceed. The floor is covered with stuff. He get’s out a thermo flask with herbal tee, we take the pillow cover from the duvet set as a picknick blanket, ben unpacks a candle that we had found here some weeks ago and places a flower on the “table”. Fe is getting the cake. I pass around fortune cookies. My favorite one:
“You are welcome everywhere.”

We sit, enjoy. At some point the motion detector light goes of. Stars are sparkling like crazy above us. Live’s beautiful when you just let it happen. It comes to you just like that. We spoil it by trying to buy it. Perfect moments are priceless. They are for free.

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blue bag

My friends place. Inside a wooden box was still the vacuum cleaner from days ago and a juicer. Also: A bag of clothes from the new store that I had left for her to look through. The box needed to be transported as well, but right now I was there with my bike, contemplating what to carry with me. Everything stored there I remembered. Except the blue plastic bag. What’s inside? Tea…tea filter….an old towel…oh! some of the clothes I had given to her…single socks…some cool spaghetti tops, skirts….
Does she want me to take this too? Especially those clothes I gave to her were a “might keep”. But some of the shirts seemed really nice. Then again, tea, she’s not gonna keep that, is she? Or is this a last bag she wants to take to Berlin before she leaves? She might want to drink tea there. I call her. No response.
I decide to take the bag with me after all. Less to transport then, when I come back to get the box. Back home another clothes fest. Like shopping just better: The blue skirt goes perfectly with my brown blouse! I picture myself getting compliments in Berlin. And that green shirt just fits me like no other. All those spagetthi tops might come in handy…and coloured tights and panties! I sort everything into keep, might keep, not keep. Leave everything aside on a table though, after all she didn’t say this bag was for me. It was though, wasn’t it? Do I have to return everzthing? Would be a shame for the blue skirt…
My phone rings, she send me a text:
“Hey sweety, I’m at work. What’s up?”
“Just wondering whether you wanted me to take that blue bag. Oh and there was someone who said you are supposed to contact the office. He didn’t know whether you had moved out yet. Maybe the janitor”
“Hahaha, thank you. The bag is my stuff.”
I look over to that table. All neatly unpacked.
So I stole a bag of clothes from my friend? How embarrassing.
So much about resigning from consumerism.
I should try to return it before she’s back from work. Too bad for the blue skirt though…

I am 5 minutes too late. All my greediness exposed. Embarrassing.
But guess what. She ended up giving me that bag anyway. It was stuff she was unsure about.
And the blue skirt didn’t fit her anyway.
I really like that blue skirt.

And all over sudden it hit me: She’s giving me so much and I think I have nothing to offer in return, but that’s bullshit, I have a huge wardrobe full of clothes, it’s just I am not thinking of getting rid of them. And suddenly I heard myself say:
“Hey you know what, you should come over and pick any one piece of my clothes you like.”
She: “Oh yes, as a memory! I’d love that!”

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How to accept a gift

Now that I don’t buy things I encounter two problematic situations when accepting something given to me.

1. Regular giving. It’s a kind of social contract between friends and aquaintances to give and share. It’s a great way of bonding if every member of the group takes part in giving and receiving.
Now that there is a disparity to the disadvantage on the giving part on my behalf, what does this imply for me and receiving? Especially when those who give assume, just because I am among them, that I will be able to give as well at some point? Which I might not, cause without money I am less flexible. Am I abusing their assumptions to my advantage? Am I obliged to transparency? Wouldn’t it be impractical and downright annoying to be thoroughly transparent? All the time? Could I say that one shouldn’t offer something if he expects to get something in return, because by implicitly expecting this I have no chance to make an informed decision to decline the offer? Or would that be ignorance of social convention and therefore social reality and thus, worst of all an implication of my moral superiority? Implying the common place but somewhat naive “But if you except something in return you shouldn’t be offering in the first place”? Wouldn’t I then paternalize those from whom I take without letting them know that I won’t have anything desirable to share with them anytime soon? Or at least might not?
When I can return the favor, I don’t care so much about the motivation of giving from the other part. But now motivation becomes the crucial factor for me when I want to decide to accept or decline.

2. Giving because “I can’t buy anything”. First of all: I can buy, I do have money, I just choose not to use it. So the situation is something like this: Everyone goes into a restaurant after a meeting to get dinner. It’s a social thing and I’m supposed to come too. I get offered dinner by one person so that I’m able to eat too. I would like to eat. Do I say yes?
I said no. Why? Because this offer wouldn’t have come up had I been using money. It’s an offer born out of the sudden inequality that entails a bit of embarrassment on all sides. These are exactly the uncomfortable situations in which I can learn something. When I evade them by letting someone else pay for me, what’s the point of doing this then? Then there won’t be a difference between being there with or without money, except that someone else pays and I save a lot of money. But do I have to learn something all the time? I said “no” twice, just had a free glass of tab-water instead and what I learned is this: When I am comfortable not having anything while the others do, when I’m not staring at their plates wishing the same for myself, when I’m content with my tap-water, then everyone else is too. This kind of situation really isn’t such a hazard to freeganism if only I get my act together.
Another “I-pay-for-you”-predicament is this: A new movie comes out and friends ask me to come. I decline because I can’t pay for it. One friend says, what the hell, then I pay. Should I accept? That one I didn’t have to decide, my friend ended up watching it via stream and it turned out the trailer was all there was to know. Still: What if? What to do when I get offered that someone else pays because the situation suggests that no matter who pays, someone’s gotta do it?
Declining and thus escaping the situation?
Accepting and thus escaping the situation?
Think outside the box and find non-monetary solutions for situations that claim to only have monetary solutions? I guess that’s the challenge. I guess that’s how long I’m gonna keep doing this: Until this challenge is matched.

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I just turned in all the returnable bottles that piled up in my room. 4 Euros 25 cents. The five cent coin is from this year. Shiny copper. There is a globe on it and 12 little start next to the sweeping 5. It is so new and brilliant I can actually see the first four scratches. Curious that this stable seeming little piece of metal can be scratched so easily. I can make marks on it with my teeth. The scratches I can make on it with my pen appear silver from some angle. It appears to me right now like those little figurines I found recently or that tiny little plastic stone. Stuff that is pretty in itself.

It’s kind of weird to hold those 4.25 € in my hands. What do they mean? In the first instance they feel like a lot. I could get new dancing “shoes” maybe. But then again, I was gonna repair them anyway. Initially I collected bottles to buy myself new toothpaste. But I already got some from a friend who got it for free at a promotion. Then I thought of a toothbrush, but a girl gave me the spare ones from her flatmate who moved out and was gonna throw them away. So in a way these 4.25 € are useless. I don’t need them. I’ll put them aside anyway. Maybe I can buy a gift for it, like the 27 cents for the printout of the photo for my boyfriends dad, who had wished to get a picture from us. Or maybe new bikechain oil or dental floss when I run out. But then again, that’s a long time still.

Or maybe get some tea to offer to bypassers on the streets.

Update: One euro of the 4.25 I gave to guy was begging and claimed to be deaf. I didn’t believe him, but what the hell, who knows why he thinks he needs to do do that.

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22.07.2011 – crisis

2 months and 9 days. Where am I at? I enjoy that I don’t have to worry about how I will feed myself. How I will afford my life. That I can take my time for my chores. Enjoy taking the time for collecting, drying or boiling soapworth to make detergent even though it takes so much longer to make than just to buy and it’s even a lot less potent. I enjoy driving through Berlin for two hours to get a box for carrying eggs even though it probably would have cost only Euro in a shop. I enjoy fixing a found duvet cover while watching a movie with my flatmates. I love spending a day foraging fruits. Everything takes so much time, it’s completely out of scale what hourly salary that would imply. I enjoy not having to follow this thought. I rather pick gooseberries for an hour than working a job for an hour and buy them for just a percentage of my salary. I like to cut out the money-middleman. Isn’t it basic psychology that it is more fun to work when the reward is immediate? I enjoy waking up and being able to choose what to do. Build something? Collect something? Help someone? It is so… well just good to be able to talk to people when they ask for it. Not to postpone friends for deadlines. Being able to do what the moment is asking for, not the schedule. Yet, is it sustainable? I still pay rent. My student loan runs out next year January. I only survive like this because I eat trash. Not only, but a great deal. I’d rather eat organic. What about getting old? Family? All over sudden all my fears are back. As if I hadn’t learned a thing these days. Have I not experienced that things will work out? That there is no need to deny faith? I guess I got a glimpse of the rejection of the idea of living freegan permanently. Entirely. My impression is that it is crucial to provide a terminal date for this project.
“How long do you want to do this?”
“Three months.”
It’s a ly. Three months, that’s almost done. Only three more weeks. The last two of them I will be at the Tango Safari, I will work in exchange for food and a camping spot. It would be a worthy ending. But I don’t want to stop. This is where the haunting starts. What when I can’t say “It’s an experiment” anymore? How will I be treated? Will I be stigmatized? Where is the point of no return? Is it now? It’s somehow now. I have to decide whether I will do my phd after my thesis and if I don’t, that’s the point of no return. That would mean that from next January on I would not even be able to pay my rent. Just see what comes along. Dare. It’s tempting. But I fear that it is complete madness. Society will tell me that it is complete madness. Most of my friends would see it as complete madness. My family? I wouldn’t know how to tell them. Still, I kind of want to anyway. The closer I get to jumping of the track, the more attractive it appears. It’s a really odd pull. I guess I don’t know what I’m getting myself into. I’m mad. I’m lost. I’m scared of my decision.

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Wednesdays, 13 & 20.07.2011

Candles! One can never have enough candles.

Note the honey glas in the second picture:

On freecycle someone asked for cork. He wanted to build some kind of floatable device to feed his bees, a swiming be manger if you will. Usually the one asking for something comes to pick it up, but I was in the area anyway so I offered to pass by. To no avail. The particular number of the street was unfindable. Didn’t have his phone number either.

This was the night: https://ddive.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/wednesday-29-06-2011/

So back home I figured out the zip code with the street name I had and send him a letter with various corks in it. The postal charge I covered with money from collected bottles.

Some time later I get an email with many many thanks and a package with this glas of delicious “home grown” honey. I almost worship this glas since it is really rare to dumpster honey, so far I had no luck, and on top, it’s just super tasty.

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