AFN Berlin - The Bear

Berlin - and the consequences

The factory

When I stood at Tempelhof Airport in mid-May 1969 with my travel bag and 191.60 DM in my pocket that I had earned from slaving for weeks at my hometown’s Jadedienst ship’s store, I knew that there was no picnic lying ahead of me. But what did it matter because I was finally FREE!?! I found lodging on a Kreuzberg factory floor near the famous Kottbusser Tor (Kotti). The residents were people from my hometown who granted me temporary shelter. I got fully involved in the alternative scene and got to know people I had only read about in the newspaper: poetspaintersmusicians, other artists, political activists, deserters, and – yes! – even terrorists. And quite a few psycho cases. I got to know new books and music and became politically aware – to a degree. Demonstrations were my daily bread. Unfortunately, after a few months, I had to move out of the commune and start looking for an apartment. Finally, I found a one-and-a-half-room apartment on the other side of the Kotti at Dresdener Str. 16, back yard wing, 2nd floor. No bathroom and toilet in the attic. Although I turned every penny three times, my savings were soon gone. To establish a household, even in a dump like mine, costs money. So, it was time to get a job. At first, things went pretty well,  as my well-connected friends got me one job or another. I remember Boye Kuhlmann’s publishing house, where one of them was a warehouse worker. At some point, I ended up with the dregs of the Berlin job market: the employment office’s express service on Beusselmarkt!  Toiling for 40 Deutschmarks a day. Or, even worse, slave traders – trivialized as loading services. After a short time, my shack became the meeting point for young people from my hometown. At times, there were eight of us staying together! They were all stoners and not adverse to other drugs like LSD. It didn’t take long before I joined them. Wonderful times!

At some point, I decided to look for an apprenticeship as a forwarding agent to complete my professional training. I found what I was looking for at Schier, Otten & Co. After a year, it was done: apprentice of the year! However, I was not interested in a job in the industry. I left Kreuzberg and moved to the Wedding quarter. In September 1970, I became a postman at post office branch 19, later I was transferred to branch 12. My goal was to get into second-chance education. With my admission to the Berlin-Kolleg   (1972), it was done. I received BAFöG and was able to join the student employment agency TUSMA. Those jobs were well paid and mostly not too strenuous: tutoring, typing theses, etc. In 1974, I graduated from the Berlin Kolleg and began to study geography at the Free University of Berlin ( FU ). I specialized in tourism and wrote my thesis in Sri Lanka. 

I was an untalented student, and it was foreseeable that I would not finish my studies in the regular time – goodbye BAFöG! What to do? What will I live on in the future? I received the answer during my first trip to Southeast Asia: start a trade in goods from Asia! It began at the flea market and ended on Berlin’s Kudamm , where we opened our first shop in 1983. But before that, I had to pass the toughest test of my life. According to the motto: If it rains, it pours! In April 1983, I failed the final examination at the FU. That meant a punitive field trip in the Alps. In addition, there was the stress of opening the store and an exhausting shopping tour to Asia. When I came back from Asia, my mother had died. To make matters worse, the house I lived in was being renovated. Which meant I had to move temporarily. The most brutal blow, however, was yet to come. My girlfriend, with whom I had stayed for three years, had married someone else during my six-week trip. I was amazed that my house didn’t burn down or that I suffered a severe accident. Hard times in Berlin! At the end of the year, I was back on top again. Never give up! Our shop was booming, especially since we moved to Bahnhof Zoo. 1996, I sold my share to my business partners and emigrated to Myanmar.