Thursday, December 3, 2009

My "wheeled submarine" in Munich

In 2007 I had a great experience: in a short while I learned more about trust and generosity than in the many years before in my country.
After some years traveling to Vietnam, India and such I decided I was fed up. Too hot, too many people. So I decided to build a rolling home in Europe to use as a base. It was to be an important investment, but once made, the cost of moving through Europe one month a year would be close to zero.

Without giving it much thought I bought a used Renault Master Van (Inner height  = width = 6 feet !) to fix it in Munich for my traveling/ lodging needs. The raw plan was to park in front of a “Baumarkt” and work there... I had no idea.

Firstly I had to get the parts, but not speaking German it was really hard to do. So I thought: yachts and motorhomes have the same components. I looked for a yachting shop, and I found a place called “Der Segler”, where a guy named Theo took patiently care of me.
When I told him my plan he gave me a strange glance, and told me that he had a motorhome too!. In South Africa! And somebody there took care of it while he was away in Germany. So he in turn would help me (that had come through his door half an hour before) and would let me use his workshop and tools for the job.

Theo ended up being not only a fine technician and mechanic, but also a great guy. One week after our encounter he told me that having consulted with Ulla, his wife, he offered me his home to sleep in while I was fixing the van.
Well, thanks God. I had no idea how difficult the job would turn out to be. Through Theo, from Buenos Aires, I bought all the components:  gas and water tanks, heater, boiler, batteries, kitchen, sink, shower, tubes, isolation, etc. And when I got back to Munich I worked for a month to build what you see.
I Worked 16 hours a day, alone (Everyone is busy there) and in the courtyard, because the workshop was full of stuff. When he had a while Theo came downstairs  to offer instructions, coaching and German standards (!). And introduced me to tools unknown to man.

When it was done I realized that I would never have made it without his advice and help. It was a lesson on trust and generosity that puts me in the future in the duty of acting in the same manner given the chance. Thank you, Theo.
Finally, several kilos lighter and with skinned hands, I came home and the Van rested in a saw mill waiting for me through the year. In this manner my trips cost little more than the plane ticket. A few Diesel gallons and 100 Euros in a supermarket are good for a month of Spaghetti and 2000 miles.
And, even after having put up several buildings in 30 years as an architect, this was one of the most difficult building projects in my life, and as you can see, I am quite proud of it.