When Lily came to Casa Robino, I was breaking in my new Dutch army-surplus boots and thinking about hitting the road soon; but that all changed in a flurry of excited heartbeats. I quickly found myself under an intensifying joyous magic spell; with a huge grin that wouldn’t leave my face, a sponanteous kiss on the dancefloor, and a potent infusion of soul-feeding, life-embracing energy, it was clear that our paths lay together.
Life began to sparkle and shine like never before.
She was introduced to me as a freight-train-hopping expert, hobo-hitchhiker film-maker extraordinaire. So yeah, she’s pretty damn cool. But it’s her principles that really impress me; she doesn’t participate in animal-farm industry, she doesn’t take airplanes or own a car… she wouldn’t even send a letter in the post, because they would put it on a plane! We had to compromise on the whole hand-written letter thing(I could never boycott the mail!) so at the Casa we developed and implemented something called Lightfoot Sustainable Post, an alternative to the modern system.
Inspiration flew when we were together.
Lily was working on a documentary when I met her. It’s about food waste and people who dumpster dive for ecological reasons. The first time I did it – the first time I dug through the trash can for food – at the Tenkatemarkt in Amsterdam, it was an eye-opening experience. The first reaction people usually have when you tell them “Yeah this meal came from the trash,” is, predictably, disgust. But that’s just societal conditioning. Some of the best food I’ve ever eaten has come from the garbage; sure it’s a little dirty when you pull it out of the bin, but you clean it off and you can see for yourself that it’s still edible food. They only throw it away because it’s not sellable, not because it’s truly rotten. With so many people starving in the world, and with Western society gobbling up as much as we can and wasting so damn much, well, living off of waste sounds pretty good to me. At the Casa they created a website for dumpster diving which has been rapidly growing, wiki-style: www.trashwiki.org. There’s even an international organization whose all-volunteer chapters make delicious, healthy, dumpster-dived meals and give them away for free – it’s called Food Not Bombs: http://www.foodnotbombs.net/story.html.
There really is enough food in the world for everyone.
“Kraken Gaat Door” – Squatting Continues
In the Netherlands there’s another way to live off of waste: squatting. In Dutch it’s called “kraken” – named for the sound of a door or window of an abandoned building cracking open. As far as Dutch law is concerned, if you can find a legal way inside a building that’s been in disuse for more than one year, and stay for 24 hours with at least one table, one chair, and one matress, then you are legally allowed to live there, and the owner can’t charge rent. In fact, to evict you after this initial squatting day, the resposibility is left with them to prove they are going to use the space – otherwise the cops, the law, is on the squatters’ side. They even get official letters from the police, ordering the water and electric company to turn on the juice! Squats can be found all over the world, but in Holland it’s easier than anywhere else. It’s so common that there’s even an anti-squat organization, where landlords can register their unused residences against squatting and provide inexpensive accomodation.
The usual thing may indeed be to break in to the abandoned building; but beyond that the squatters don’t really deserve a reputation for criminality or violence. Normally they are peaceful, welcoming, and compassionate, and provide unique benefits for the community – free grafitti walls, second-hand clothing and goods “freeshops,” free workshops for various crafts and skills, public “eetcafes”(veggie/vegan gourmet dinners for super cheap!), dumpster dived donations to homeless shelters, bicycle workspace, and other volunteer outreach programs.
I went and stayed with Lily at a “krakhuis” in Leiden, where she was living in half a room in the rafters of a squatted pub, and finishing the editing process on her documentary. Inside a squat, it’s is usually a little bit run-down, a little bit dirty, but it is an abandoned building, after all. I’m not bothered by a little dirt. Quite the opposite, actually, and I really fit in well with the hippie-punk squatter scene in Holland. Especially with my new boots!
There was no ladder to Lily’s loft, only a rickety bedframe that wouldn’t support my weight. I had to build a ladder the first day. There was a urinal installed in the shower, a relic left over from a techno party. And there wasn’t much sunlight, only a tiny bit reflecting down from a rooftop entryway. Lily buckled down and finished the documentary while I helped the fellas and enjoyed the low-amenity lifestyle. Really, for me, just having a toaster was amazing – not to mention warm water and a roof!
At the end of February the movie was done, and she held a screening party. I cooked vegan dumpster-dived food for everyone and some folks even cycled all the way from Amsterdam to see the film. It’s called Skipping Waste, and it went over spectacularly; there’s just nothing as shockingly inspiring as dumpster diving. It’s an amazing thing to see: I encourage you to watch it: http://trashwiki.org/en/Skipping_Waste.
We celebrated by packing up the bakfiets – the huge Dutch cargo bike – and taking a little adventure to the beach for the night. On the way there, Lily sat in the front, singing, eating, drinking, smiling and waving at passersby(even in Holland it must’ve been quite a sight to see), while I pedaled from the back. We parked by the sea, drank wine, and read chapters from our books to each other. And the next day, she pedaled, and I got to sit and relax the whole way! Yay bikes!
Lily and I spent a lot of time together, but we weren’t sick of each other. Not by far; in fact, when we realized our respective plans both went the same direction, I invited her to cycle South with me, and together we formed a killer plan….
Next : Amsterdam to Paris on bikes!