from on high

Mainz has been named “City of Science 2011.” At work last week, I wrote a short article reporting this fact. As I read through schedules and perused press photos, I became more and more agitated. The first event on the calendar was a tour of various institutions (all still under construction) that are alleged to add to the city’s intellectual status. Many of these pictures were of the big ugly gray monstrosity that they are building directly behind our community. Behold, the new chemistry building! On second thought, I’d rather spare you the view. (But if you insist, you can see a before and after picture of the old site here.)

If you weren’t around to read about it at the time, I’ll fill you in. Our community used to be twice its current size. Then the university decided that another gray glass and concrete block was just the thing. In an incredible bit of luck, however, they offered us a deal—if we went quietly, they would sell us a second piece of land that we could then pay off slowly and with no interest. I moved here right around the time that the group split. Just in time for jack-hammer mornings and dust-storm afternoons. These days the new building is tall enough to block the afternoon sun, and I often wonder what happened to the hedgehogs that used to live in the brush around us.

In pictures I’ve seen of the Wagenplatz when it was first squatted, everything is wilder; the paths are fewer and less trodden, the borders between Platz and university not yet so concretely defined. Now buildings loom at us from all sides, and we are one of the few green oases amidst concrete and highway and buildings that have “this design was inspired by a Borg ship” written all over them. Despite this, and perhaps because of it, our community remains a haven. We shake our fists at the buildings that loom over us, remember how much more beautiful the land looked dotted with colorful tiny dwellings, and with a sigh we get on with our lives and hope that they don’t one day come for us.

This weekend I had the rare chance to take some aerial photos of my finished wagon. So we must look to the magpies that I watch from my bedside window:

And to round things out with something new: a photo of our guest trailer, a three-meter, metal-sided number that’s cozy as hell:

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