Sunday, 29 December 2013

As The Nightmare Fades; Landing Paws First

Tomorrow will be the start of the second week since I moved to Germany and it's been interesting time. The business with the apartment I had rented was very unfortunate, but based on the last communication it seems like I'll get out of that without too much trouble. Meanwhile I have found temporary lodgings at the apartment of a student my colleague knows via the local hackerspace in Karlsruhe. Then early next month I'll be moving to another colleague's place, where I can make use of her guest room until I'll have found a suitable house to rent. The place I'll be looking in is the west side of the river the Rhein, opposite of Karlsruhe.

As a semblance of normality returns to my life this week and I find myself surrounded by people who wish to help me as well as new friends, I find that any sense of homesickness for the Netherlands is rapidly vanishing. Now that I'm well on my way with setting up my life here in Germany, it seems as though the only strong memories I have of the Netherlands involve the seeds for nightmares. Such as my nightmare last night of being at the medical disciplinary hearing in Amsterdam again, but getting ridiculed and dismissed instead of being treated properly.

It's so hard to continue to think of my time in the Netherlands - all three decades of them - as being anything but a dream, much as I described in my previous 'midsummer night's dream' post. It's just a very strong nightmare which I have trouble shaking off as it keeps lingering on the boundaries of my consciousness. Maybe it's how my mind insists on dealing with the traumas I have suffered at the hands of the institute Netherlands: by pushing it away to somewhere safe for dealing with at a later point.

Yesterday I went with the student at whose place I'm currently staying to the local glider club, where they're doing winter-time maintenance on their glider planes. Beyond the joys of being able to work in a proper workshop with my hands again as I'm used to from growing up on a farm, it also allowed me to experience being in a more rural environment again. Just the sheer lack of constant artificial noises and sounds alone, combined with the space confirmed for me that it's best for me to find somewhere quiet to live and avoid the cities altogether. As long as proper internet and the usual supermarkets etc. are within easy reach, this should suit me just fine.

Meanwhile I'm also practicing my German some with this student, which is really quite fun. I do not have much trouble understanding German unless it's spoken very quickly and multiple people at once, but speaking it is something I'm still pretty shy about as I'm never happy to sound like 'that foreigner'. Practicing it with someone you know won't make fun of you or look weird when you make a mistake does make this a lot easier, for sure.

Next up is thus finding a place, getting health insurance again, visiting the surgeon and hopefully get a surgery date set. That should wrap up the 'landing paws first' part of my time in Germany. Here's to hoping it goes off without a hitch from here.


Saturday, 21 December 2013

Longing For The Past. Longing For the Future.

Last night was the first time in a week that I slept in a real bed again and upon awaking I noticed that not only had I slept about thirteen hours, I was also hurting all over. Mostly my hands and arms/shoulders. All because things worked out in quite the opposite way that I had hoped with my move to Germany.

First there was the first moving attempt, now exactly one week ago on Saturday. The colleague driving a van from Germany to my place in the Netherlands got in a crash on the highway and while he was fine, there was no way to find a replacement van on such short notice. Then I learned that the house I was in had to be empty by 13.00 hours on Monday, forcing me to accept an offer from my older brother to drive a moving van for me against payment. Things had gone pretty wrong even on the Friday before, with my mother (at whose place I was staying) and my brother having unilaterally decided that I should be helping my mother move on that very same day, deep into the early morning hours, despite having my own move the next day and me already being exhausted.

That Friday ended with me getting mild hypothermia as I had to leave the house for a few hours despite it being around freezing outside as my older brother was yelling at me for being a useless, spoiled brat and all that. I only got back into the house again because I was noticing the hypothermia effects and knew that with another hour, maybe two I would be in no state to go anywhere, soon falling into unconsciousness. Upon returning home I was chided for being an utterly useless, ungrateful brat by both my brother and mother, but was allowed to stay in the house and sleep on a thin mattress on the floor in a by then virtually empty house aside from my own belongings.

Then the Saturday happened, leaving me almost panicked, not knowing where to go or what to do. This continued into Sunday, just feeling like there was no way I would ever leave the Netherlands and the current nightmare. I then learned that I didn't have a whole Monday either to come up with a solution, but just the morning. Out of options, I was thus forced to accept the much more expensive and less pleasant option. At least I was on my way, though, and would soon be at the apartment.

Thanks to my colleague 'hase' as his nickname goes, we were soon at the apartment after meeting up at the train station from which he guided us. Unloading the van, I said goodbye to my brother and set to prepare for dinner and my first night at my new apartment. It was a sub-basement apartment, part of an old 1920s villa, meant to store junk in, usually. That first night I found out just how unsuitable this apartment was for living in. First of all, despite the landlady insisting that the neighbours above me wouldn't disturb me, there was the near-constant noise of water. Falling, dripping, splashing water, as all the tubing from drains ran through that sub-basement. This continued through the night.

Then the next morning it was chilly outside, which translated into a very cold apartment as half of the radiators in the place didn't even work and especially from the doors came this massive draft. That morning I was sitting there in my winter coat and snow boots, desperately trying to stay warm. Then hase came to pick me up in the afternoon and drove me to the synyx offices. It was the first time that day that I actually felt warm. Figuring out what to do next was hard, though. Keeping the apartment and somehow having it fixed up seemed impossible as too much was just plain wrong or unfixable such as the drain pipes. With no other place to stay I had to spend the night on the office couch, something which I much preferred over another night at the cursed apartment. I also cooked dinner for myself at the office kitchen, which was kind of fun.

The next night I'd also spend on the office couch, as no other option had popped up yet, and everybody was going on vacation for the holidays, many travelling to family. At least I could have a shower at hase's place, where I stayed in September this year as well. I joined the end of year party there, which was lots of fun and got to see the new cats they have at the place. For Thursday until Sunday I could thus spend the night at a colleague's place who was going away during those days. I didn't make it to his place on Thursday, though, as after the year's end party we held with colleagues at a bowling alley and retro gaming museum it was too late for me. I walked back to the office and crashed there on the couch.

On Friday I went with a colleague at whose place I can stay starting early next year for a longer time back to my apartment to fetch most of my belongings from there and drive them to her place. I'll just have to figure out how to best cancel the contract. Keeping the landlady responsible for not disclosing the reality of living there (the noise) seems like a possible approach there, but I'll see. I'll just have to figure out where I'll be staying from Sunday onwards.

I did sleep quite well last night, everything considered. Even if I'm still feeling tired and stressed, and the pain in especially my right hand is quite severe. I can barely bend my right thumb due to some kind of bruising I suffered there over the past days. My shoulders and neck are also very stiff and painful. Today I still have to get food and I should force myself to work on my autobiography some at least, as it's important that I get those sample chapters submitted to my publisher. I haven't written a single letter for a week now due to this whole situation.

At least I'm getting some time to think about things. Such as moving to Germany. As I wrote before, I do not dislike the Netherlands itself, just the institute. The past days I found myself often longing to see the sights, shops and people at some places in the Netherlands again. Even if I'm well-aware that gradually I'm getting used to Germany in the same manner, especially once this insanity of couch-surfing is over with. I also find myself contemplating the future, which is where I can only see Germany and maybe other countries. I just have to get from my current, semi-homeless situation to this future. Once I'm at this colleague's place next year I can look for houses again to rent. If I can have some certainty and solid footing while arranging things, I'm sure it'll work out. Having to chase a place to sleep at for that day is a terrible thing. If I didn't have the office to sleep at, I'd have spent a few nights outdoors already.

Another thing which is kinda risky is that of my health insurance. I'm no longer insured as my Dutch health insurer has deemed me uninsurable due to living outside the Netherlands and getting all of my income from work in Germany. This means that until my new contract at synyx starts on January 1st and I can become insured again via the German Krankenkasse, I'll have to be quite careful. It's a quite naked feeling that even just going to a general practitioner isn't a realistic option at this point. I'm really glad I stocked up on medication right before I left the Netherlands. Unfortunately it also means that my first appointment with the surgeon will have to be postponed until I am insured again.

The worst part of this in between situation is that of feeling pulled apart by both past and future, while feeling powerless to ever reach this future. It's also not quite how I had imagined the first Christmas and New Year's for me in Germany would go. Not quite the girl with the matchsticks in the snow, but without a place of residence and the like as well as sleeping on couches at random places I feel somewhat like a vagabond. Interesting for sure, but as I noticed with last night's first real sleep, it's taking a very heavy toll on me, both physically and mentally.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Sayonara Netherlands, And Thanks For All The Fish

So it has all worked out in the end. I have an apartment in Germany, and a colleague will in a few days drive a van to where I am staying in the Netherlands to move me and my belongings to the new place. I have a German bank account, work at a German company, go to German doctors, am insured via the German national system and pay only taxes to the German state. I'll only be Dutch as a formality, a trivial detail in my passport and other official registrations. With three years even that can change, with me switching to a German nationality. The hold which the Netherlands had over me has been broken.

It could be that I'm just over-thinking things here, but I think that matters are more complex than portrayed above. Questioning my feelings I have to admit that the thought that I'm now well and truly leaving the Netherlands to never live there again fills me with a mixture of relief, sadness, bitterness and homesickness. Of course I'm joyful that I will not have to risk my health and sanity to Dutch physicians, psychologists or politicians for that matter, but they merely represent the institute of the Netherlands. While I'm the first to admit that the average Dutch person has a lot of flaws and that the Netherlands could become a lot more relaxed, open and tolerant, I do absolutely not think that the Dutch are somehow bad people. Far from it.

While writing my autobiography I'm confronted sometimes for the first time in decades with memories and images of things I have experienced, seen and enjoyed in the part of the Netherlands where I was born and grew up. Of course I know that the way I was treated by the Dutch medical community wasn't solely to blame for that changing, as they weren't involved in my father cheating on my mother, resulting in the divorce and endless moving around the country. Yet I am aware deep inside that if I had received immediate and proper medical help in 2005 or even sooner, things would have ended up completely differently from this. In that sense I am forced to leave the country, while otherwise I would likely have stayed.

Of course I'll miss many things and I'm not sure I'll ever feel at home in this world. Maybe that explains this bitter feeling. Me, fighting and losing against the giant that is the Dutch medical system. Being crushed and tossed aside no matter how many Dutch and German judges and physicians backed me up. I never stood a chance. It's just unfair that things had to go like this.

I'm leaving the Netherlands because I am not allowed to exist there. All the truths about me as a person are actively being denied there. And I don't know why. Nobody has ever explained to me why it was necessary for Dutch physicians to treat me like this, and for psychologists to join the lynching. I feel angry and frustrated just thinking about this. The nine years they have stolen from me and the many deep emotional scars they have left me with.

I can not just cast off the Netherlands like that. Not as a whole. The problem is not the country. Just some people in it, yet that's enough, because they are Important People, and I'm just a lowly citizen. It hurts to realize that the country I never wanted to leave to begin with is where I can never return again. Not after everything which has happened. Not while the system as-is remains intact.

Hopefully that writing this autobiography and having it published in the Netherlands and maybe internationally will help me put things in order for myself emotionally at least. While I do not think that the Netherlands will change any time soon, I do really hope that my experiences and the sharing of it with a world-wide audience will do some good.

That Germany may truly become my new home.


Friday, 6 December 2013

Requiring Help; Where Hope And Terror Collide

Today I nearly managed to light myself on fire and it wasn't even the worst thing I experienced this day. The lighting on fire part was due to a fireball which formed when the gas stove I was using to cook dinner had some trouble igniting the gas. Apparently enough gas had built-up to explode outwards when it finally did ignite. It only left me with some mildly singed hairs and a fright, fortunately. Far worse than it was bursting out in tears before all this when I merely had to make some decisions about what I would have for dinner. It's testament to my fragile emotional state at this point.

In the end it can all be led back to me having a body. It being a bothersome, annoying thing which causes me endless grief. I realize this when it has to be fed like earlier. I realize it when I have to find a place for it to be put into, where it can sleep and feed and clean itself. And now that I have finally found such a place the possessions it has hoarded have to be transferred hundreds of kilometers to this new location. For this I require someone else to drive from that location (being Karlsruhe, Germany) to my current location in the Netherlands with a moving van and back again with said body and its possessions. I truly hope that I can find someone next week willing to take on this annoying task, as come Saturday next week this moving will have to take place. No ifs or buts.

Put this against the stark contrast of the details and environment of my early youth, which is the first part the autobiography I'm writing covers. Beyond the very house I was born in burning down when I was just seven months old and me getting bullied during my primary school time, it was a very carefree, happy time. It was the time where my love for science and technology comes from, and when I was given every freedom to develop myself through reading as well as through more physical activities.

In some ways it's beyond cruel that I am forcing myself to relive those happy memories next to the shambles of my current life, where I'm literally rebuilding everything from scratch, while harassed by frequent periods of depression and PTSD, such as today and yesterday. To add to this the hope that everything will be fine now is just cruel beyond words. Hope is what kept me going during the past nine years, but hope is also that which has betrayed me most often.

So too with this German surgeon I'll be visiting after I move to Germany. For me it'll mean reliving the whole nightmare again, as me as a human being will be put to the test again. Everything I believe about my body to be true can still turn out to be a lie, or so it feels. There's every chance of disappointment even if this surgeon does decide to perform the surgeon. This does also indicate why it is that I need to have this surgery performed. Not out of some sexual desire, or to complete my body or anything like that. It's purely to confront this cold terror I feel inside, which keeps whispering to me that everything I think is true is still a lie. I'm not a girl. I'm not a woman. I'm not even a sane human being. This surgery will prove it once and for all.

Of course, with the surgery a success it would mean banishing these dark spirits away forever, but to walk this road towards it is worse than to face one's own execution. It means the final battle in this war I have fought with myself since even before puberty. As I'm compiling notes for my autobiography this pattern is becoming eerily clear. From the innocent youth I gradually turn into this lost, confused and oh so very lonely person, slowly drifting away from its body as nothing makes sense any more.

My war didn't end in early 2012 as many still think. It's still raging, and I can not finish it without people to support and guide me. Even if it's with something as silly as driving a van and helping me put up curtains in my apartment.

Please help me win my war by assisting me with some household chores? *smiles* I guess that's one way to put it.


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

My Name Is Maya Posch, Author

After my appearance on the Dutch Pauw & Witteman show of November the 1st I was approached by a publisher, with the simple question of whether I intended to write down my story in book format and have it published. Having answered 'yes' to this question, I thus found myself in the train to Amsterdam yesterday, to discuss said book with this publisher. Although I'm hardly unfamiliar with the literary world, it would be the first time ever that a book of mine would actually ever get published by an actual publisher. Self-publishing such as on Scribd doesn't quite compare.

The train journey to Amsterdam itself was rather uneventful, although instead of doing actual work on my laptop I mostly found myself talking with my boss on IRC, to discuss details around the apartment I intended to rent in Karlsruhe. I definitely wasn't feeling bored during this trip with so many distractions, though I reckon the guy who was sitting behind me in one intercity train didn't agree with that judging by the heavy sawing noises heard throughout most of the journey. As usual the Dutch rail (NS) was messing things up again with track errors and shortages of trains, but this didn't prevent me from arriving in Amsterdam on time.

Finding the publisher's office wasn't hard either, being located near the central station. It mostly took me along the Singel street, which I guess is one of the better (read: more expensive) sections of central Amsterdam. Shaking off the smell of weed still stuck to my clothes after walking past two dozen coffeeshops, I arrived at the office and had to wait shortly before the publisher herself came to meet me. Walking up to her office, we settled in for a chat over a cup of tea and - in my case - a glass of water.

This chat turned into two hours during which we discussed both my story, the book, the planning, and most important of all which language to write it in. My suggestion that I would write it in English and translate it myself into Dutch once the English version became stable enough was accepted. I'm not even the first author at this publisher to do things this way, as it turned out. My thought hereby is that by writing it in English I can feel more unrestrained and natural while writing it, while also making the option of an international publication much easier, as the English-language market is one of the biggest out there. I'd not feel comfortable translating it into Japanese or German, though :)

Though no contract got signed yet, I didn't leave empty-handed. We agreed that I would start writing some sample chapters and send those in for approval by the end of January next year. I also got a chance to look at some of the other books published by them and got to take a few of these books home with me, including the newest book by Arnon Grunberg and Jan van Aken. With how many adult-oriented Dutch language books I had in my possession before yesterday (zero) it at least provides me with some nice study and reference material while I am writing my own book.

Walking back to the station after all this it was already getting dark. I decided to not follow the same route back, but instead cross the canal first and take another street back to the station. While initially this street I walked on seemed more pleasant, with much wider sidewalks and such, I quickly got a nasty surprise. Maybe the leering by the men I passed was a hint, or maybe something else tipped me off, but when the string of red windows appeared and I walked past them I realized that I was much closer to the infamous part of De Wallen - Amsterdam's Red Light district - than I had figured. It were less than ten windows total, but it did fill me with a sensation of... wrongness, as though I was seeing something which should not exist.

The first window I saw didn't even have a red light behind it when I approached it. It was some side room of a building, with windows on the side and front. Inside in harsh, white light a girl was standing in her underwear, shaking loose her hair. The room she was standing in was sterile, with tiles everywhere and a black, plastic-like 'bed' in the center. The first comparison which popped up in my head was that of an abattoir. Having seen the latter plenty of times, seeing this scene made me realize how similar both places are. In one humanity is murdered with every cow's, sheep's or pig's eyes which turn glassy as the struggling ceases. In the other humanity is murdered by reducing a thinking, breathing human being into a mere blow-up doll.

While I wouldn't call myself a rabid anti-meat activist and though I didn't become a vegetarian because of 'those poor animals', I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have never felt comfortable with seeing an animal getting killed and butchered. Similarly, the thought of what happens in those abattoirs of love and intimacy fills my mouth with bile. It's such an affront of the pretence we like to wrap around things which could be uncomfortable. Those images of happy cattle in the sunshine in stark contrast to both sides of their corpses dangling from the ceiling of an abattoir's storage room. The images of a happy couple, embracing and kissing, in stark contrast to the heavy grunting and wet sounds on top of a hygienics-approved sterile surface, cast in a red glow with nary a word or gesture of tenderness exchanged.

Makes one wonder what one would call someone who gives up on sex because of how icky it is after realizing the above, much like how someone becomes a vegetarian after seeing how cows get to suffer before they end up priced really cheap in the refrigerator of the local supermarket.

A next thought was that it would be easy for me to step inside one of those rooms and within moments lie there, grunting like that. The thought immediately following that one was that it would probably take a lot of explaining and embarrassment to let the other side figure what exactly was going on with this quaint body of mine. Not that I would ever actually attempt anything like that. To me sexuality in general and sex in particular is something I loathe and resent almost more than Dutch physicians. To me sex means pain, frustration and traumatic memories. Maybe that's why I hate seeing those red windows even more, as what I feel inside resonates with the cold, uncaring world I know exists behind them, making me even more aware of this pain inside of me.

Such thoughts pass through one's mind before reaching the station and boarding the first train home. Going online on my laptop I was greeted by my boss who told me that he had received a copy of the rental contract from the landlady of the apartment and thus I probably had too. This turned out to be the case. I told him that I would be snail mailing her the requested copies of the contract the next day. That just left me with organizing the logistics of moving a few boxes with belongings from my current location in the Netherlands to the apartment in Karlsruhe. The current idea I have and which hopefully works out is to have one of my colleagues drive a van from Karlsruhe to my location after which we can put the boxes in and after ensuring everyone is well-rested and fed, drive back to Karlsruhe.

If that works out, then I just have to get settled in my new place, find or buy the furniture, curtains etc. I still need and start the negotiations about my new job contract as I'll be living in Germany instead. Still enough things to worry about after moving, in other words, but it should mean that my new life can finally start. As a person, a woman, a developer, author and also intersex activist.

Interesting times ahead, indeed.