I tell you the story in the way Irina would tell you the story. That’s why, it will be in English, as this language was mainly used during our conversation. However, Irina had once learned German during her studies in South Africa. The dream was to work in Heidelberg later. Obviously that dream did not come true, meaning for her to search for fortune in her home country. What is left from her German now, is „Willkommen“ and „Guten Abend“, pieces of the language which she used to reassure me at some point in our conversation. Reassure me by responding me in my mother tongue. Of course, I was surprised, then I laughed, enjoying the familiar words. It was as if all the sweat I had collected during my desert walk, disappeared, was washed away. Now, what is this desert story about? I tell you Irina’s version, which is certainly a bit exaggerated, ironic and metaphoric, but much funnier!
In the late afternoon, and early evening, when the sun slowly falls and wanders along the light walls of the houses faced to the West, Irene was standing on the schoolyard talking to another teacher. It seemed to be a serious conversation. Thus, it took a while until both were able to recognize the girl stumbling towards them. Except her skin colour, and her hippie clothes, the women would have probably expected her to be a gypsy. So, the figure they saw seemed as if she had walked four days through the desert, without anyone to meet, to talk to or share what there was to share. Literally like a lonely soul searching for water. Yes, water. That was how her face looked like. Dry and „overrayed“ from the sun. And that was also what the girl asked for, when she finally reached the two women. The latter were surely confused. Someone asking for water in an environment where water is no luxury good, where water can be indeed granted to the population. At least any water, the quality is a different question. The situation was weird, and the women did not seem to understand. Though, for the girl they had been already the third pair of people to ask, and the first pair of people being able to understand the girl’s language. To clarify, the tribal language that is spoken by the people in the desert is a rare one. Finding herself in this strange, lonely and helpless situation, the girl was at the end of her tether. Being not understood by anyone. Being looked at as she was a foreigner, what she was indeed. Her body was nearly dehydrated, because she had renounced searching for water during her four days walk through the desert. She had been too shy to ask for help. She had been in hope that everything would turn out fine. Her legs were wiggling, not being able anymore to hold the rest of the body. Her head was probably at the temperature of a comet rushing down to mother earth, while the girl’s head was probably rather rushing down to the schoolyard or the women’s feet. She saved herself from falling by strolling to a nearby bank. The women, still very confused, and probably a bit overstrained with the situation, came closer. In their faces: a lack of understanding. The girl was close to give up. Give up her desire to drink some water, give up the necessity of staying awake, give up this one sunny day, to wake up another rather rainy day. The mimic of the two women signalled even more loneliness to the girl. She would not find anyone to help her. Helping her by buying that damn water. She realized that she should have cared for the water issue earlier in the day, when she had a bit more strength. One of the women commented that the girl could care for the water by herself, the shop was not too far away. Three tears rolled off the girl’s eyes, she could not do anything. The heat caused the salty tears to burn on the skin. “Why are you crying?”, asked one of the women, who later became to be known as Irina. “Because you are lonely or because you feel bad?” The girl wiped the tears away. Because she felt bad, was her answer. The other woman was clearly in a rush, so seeing that this situation could be handled somehow, she exchanged some sentences with Irina in a language the girl could not understand and then started off with her car. Irina would then ask further questions to understand the girl’s situation, among them the age of the girl. When that one question came, the girl new what the answer would be. Indeed, “but with that age you are old enough to care for yourself”, was the predicted remark. The girl wished that she was. Old enough. Responsible enough. To not let herself be dehydrated during that four days desert walk. So, you went away from home, concluded the woman. The girl nodded. “And what did your parents say?”, was the next question. The woman herself realized that for the first minutes the conversation had turned to tackle quite intimate topics. Thus, she answered the question herself. “They must have said: In this country you want to go? Where there is such a bad living standard? That far away? They must have asked many questions…”, the woman said under her breath, and started to smile. The girl smiled as well. Both knew the answer now, nothing had to be vocalized anymore. “And why did you come this way?”, she wanted to know. But before the girl could answer, she was taken the answer away by another question. “Or did you flee?”, the woman continued. The girl continued smiling. Silently. And calmly. Then the two finally agreed upon that Irina would buy 5 Litres of water, and that they would meet in the house adjoining the schoolyard. That the girl should take off her jacket to cool down meanwhile, was another hint she was given. It did not take a long time until Irina returned. Thirstily the girl drank two litres in one. She was handed some medicaments, and some advises on when to take the pills. Enjoying someone’s company, she asked Irina what her profession was. “I am a psychologist”, Irina answered. “I have a practice not far from here.” The woman felt the girl’s excitement. How it was to be a psychologist in this country, she was asked. “Easy”, Irene said. The girl was confused. Weren’t there so many kinds of psychological problems that could occur and make people’s life more difficult? Especially in countries like this one, weren’t the people here even more prone to a depression and other mental illnesses because of their relatively worse living standard? Their worse physical situation, didn’t it have any effects on people’s mental health? “I think that people have the same problems everywhere all over world, don’t you think?”, Irina interrupted the girl’s thoughts. Hmm…, yes, but to a different extent, no?, the girl thought. “Well, there is indeed one special phenomenon here. When the Iron Curtain was opened in the 90s, many people went overseas to earn more money in better paid jobs. Often the children stayed at home, they were supplied by the money earned by their moms and dads far away from their home country. And when the parents decided to return home, being convinced that they had earned enough money, the children were grown up. Grown up and sad, cause what they needed was not money, but love.”
Some minutes later Irina said, ‘Good Bye’, and left her phone number there “in case of another dehydration”, she smiled ironically. After taking the pills my fever slowly diminished. I fell asleep, still with this mixture of a warm and cold body temperature. Sweating and freezing at the same time. But I smiled deeply. Because this was certainly a very exciting psychologist I got to know in one of the most weird and ironic situations. Or, rather it was an oasis I had found in one of the most weird and ironic situations. This is how Irina would probably tell you the story.