Here they call me an "imi". No, I haven't misspelled it. I am an "Imigrantin", an "Imi", an immigrant. But not to Germany, at least in these eyes. Oh, no! Where I live, anybody who is not a native of the city is an "imi". So - that puts both my German, Düsseldorf-raised husband and me into the same category! Cologne , the great equalizer.
I am also an immigrant. An expat. At some point along the way, my status changed from tourist to expat to immigrant. As my fellow Americans in the American Women's Club say, I am a "lifer" - here to stay. That has profound consequences for understanding who I am and what you read on my blog.
Some of my fellow expats and I have formed a writers' group, which we are calling "Writing Women". Last night was our first gathering in our new home. It is a veritable "imi's " heaven. Here, we fit right in - with the Turks, Greeks, Eritreans, gays, children, senior citizens and artists. We are meeting in the old firehouse, a building that was meant to be demolished, but was amazingly saved from destruction in the nick of time.
Most of Germany is modern, clean and very efficient. The old firehouse is antiquated, with rusting radiators, lumpy old furniture, and a bit grimy and disorganized. I'd rather come here to this rusty haven than meet anywhere else. Nowhere have we met such a welcome. We were told that we would have to pay €18 for our room last evening. Then, when we wanted to pay, they said, "Oh, that's OK. You can pay next time!" Later, when I asked again about payment, they said, "You don't have to pay the €18 - we'll give you a monthly fee. That way, you'll get a €5 reduction." Here, in this nirvana, it seems that German regulation has been exorcised. Rather than give us a list of what we are NOT allowed to do, they tell us that we can decide on the amount of rent we want to pay, that we don't have to eat at the restaurant across the courtyard (which is very appealing, offering a buffet of food from a different country every week, all you can eat for €9, complete with candlelight and a server!), that we are invited to cook our own meals if we don't want to bother with the restaurant, that we can come and go more or less as we please. It gives our writer souls wings to be granted such freedom in a country where the saying goes, "Nothing is allowed unless it is expressly written as such by law".
Long live the old firehouse! May we writing "imi" women thrive there!