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The Scruffman Chronicles: Triumphant Return to Europe

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Jun 10th, 2010, 09:28 AM
  #1
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The Scruffman Chronicles: Triumphant Return to Europe

This thread continues the story from four previous threads:

The preparatory thread:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ing-the-uk.cfm

The United States adventure:
http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...e-building.cfm

The European adventure:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-in-europe.cfm

The Asian adventure:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...n-in-india.cfm

To set the stage for newcomers, my very personable, adventurous, now 22-year-old son Greg, he of dreadlocks and scruffy beard and thrift store clothes - now dubbed the Scruffman - is engaged in a trip more or less around the world until his money runs out. Because he wants to be gone a year but doesn't have the usual sort of funding required for that, he is hitchhiking, ride-sharing, couchsurfing, and camping his way around. He left home (San Francisco Bay area) on September 27, 2009.

I'll be updating here as I am able. I am dependent on the Scruffman's very intermittent internet access and willingness to correspond with his mom.
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Jun 10th, 2010, 09:33 AM
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So Great to see him back in the Netherlands after his adventures in India! Hope he is feeling better, and we are all looking forward to hearing more.
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Jun 10th, 2010, 10:17 AM
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Any update on his health status?
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Jun 10th, 2010, 11:36 AM
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Posting so I make sure to get the updates! Hope Greg is feeling better.
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Jun 10th, 2010, 01:18 PM
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Still following with rapt attention. Hoping for good news when you get a medical update.
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Jun 10th, 2010, 01:50 PM
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Hi, Scruffman and Scruffman's Mom!
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Jun 10th, 2010, 02:35 PM
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Hi Arts
Hope the Scruffman sloughs off his lurgy soon.
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Jun 10th, 2010, 02:46 PM
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Hi AnL - so glad you're hearing from the world traveler. His journey has kept me and many others entranced since his departure. Hope Scruffman is feeling well and I'm looking forward to hearing about his latest adventures.
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Jun 11th, 2010, 07:38 AM
  #9
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Back at Home in Leiden

The Scruffman landed back in Leiden on May 6 to decompress with his friends at The Couch, the squatted bar where he lived for six weeks in December and January, which he considers a second home. Tony, the one official resident of The Couch, was of course still there, as were a handful of other couchsurfers from Denmark, Wales, and Sweden.

Unfortunately, his stay didn’t begin in a relaxed fashion. While he was in Asia, one of the residents had a breakdown and became violent, which got to everyone in different ways. Everyone was fighting with each other, money had been stolen, and nothing was getting done – the place was a mess. Two weeks of mayhem, the Scruffman reported. He didn’t say so, but I imagine his calm presence was helpful in getting things settled back down. He helped clean out The Couch, paint three of the walls, and build some counters.

BTW, his friend in Florence, who wasn’t able to extract Greg’s guitar from Italian customs before Greg left for India, has mailed the guitar to The Couch, so he should be musically armed before long. He is pretty sure his iPod is in with the guitar, as well – that’s the last place he saw it. It will all be a big surprise, but he'll be very glad to have all his music back.
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Jun 11th, 2010, 07:46 AM
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What goes around, comes around; You sometimes have to free your hands by giving, in order to be ready to receive again. He gave away his guitar in an act of kindness, and now he's getting one back....
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Jun 11th, 2010, 09:19 AM
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Joining the Squatting Scene

So, having helped put “the house” in order, he dove back into being an activist. Squatting will become illegal in the Netherlands at the beginning of October, so the squatting movement is busy squatting everything they can in advance. They don’t believe the authorities will evict people from existing squats. There are 50,000 people living in squats in the Netherlands, and evicting them would create a huge homeless population.

In order to squat a building, it must have been vacant for more than a year with no preparation for anyone to occupy it – no remodeling, etc. - essentially an abandoned building. Contrary to what you might expect, squatters typically make improvements to the building to make it more habitable. Greg described one squatted building that is a seven-story office multiplex; the squatters installed showers, among other things, so it could be used as housing. While it is expensive to renovate, it isn’t expensive to squat-renovate. Greg says they are able to get everything they need from what others have thrown out - ”the benefits of living in a consumer society.” This is also how they are able to dumpster-dive an adequate diet. Greg says they eat better than anyone they know can afford to from the dumpsters: food, but also 10 kilos of chocolate, beer, a big jug of wine.

To this end, he helped squat another building, his second – he helped open a squat in a church in Haarlem on Christmas Day during his previous stay in Leiden. This is a house that was bought four years ago for €1 million but has never been occupied since. It’s the nicest building he’s seen squatted; it’s three stories, in a nice part of town, overlooking a canal, with a huge space in back for a garden - ”the perfect backyard for a barbecue or a garden party” - the image of a crowd of squatters having a garden party gave me a smile. He described it as practically a manor with big windows and really detailed engravings and carvings on the ceilings and two cupids carved into the wall, built perhaps in the 1920s, ”like walking into an art museum.” However, it was stripped and not salable at the moment. They were putting in a toilet the day the Scruffman called me and had started working on the floors; it will be in much more livable in a month or two.

This particular effort was very organized. The squatters didn’t have to break in. In preparation, someone had found a place to squeeze in to take photos and found a door key, so they didn’t need to break down the door. They also notified the police once the operation was in motion so there would be no complaints, usually called in by neighbors who realize what is happening. When the police came, Greg was out front being a spokesperson; he was asked for his ID and the police accepted his passport without comment. Their main spokesperson is a lawyer who helps the squatters with all legal matters. The police were gruff at first, but once the lawyer showed up, they calmed down and were quite pleasant.

As some of you know, I am out of work at present. The Scruffman suggested I should come to Leiden, and he’d arrange a squat for me to stay in. He further offered, in a manful voice, ”You won’t have to dumpster-dive. I’ll bring you food.” I won’t say it isn’t tempting, terribly tempting, but the rest of my life goes on, and I’ll have to come back to it eventually, and it will be a worse mess if I take a break from it. Sigh. His descriptions of the lovely old town and the golden light reflecting off the canals really make me long to go.
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Jun 11th, 2010, 12:21 PM
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Ah Arts - How our children expand our horizons! I can understand how you would be tempted. Best of luck to you in your job hunt. I have enjoyed this journey of Greg's. (And am so happy 'we' are back on the europe board.) CJ
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Jun 11th, 2010, 12:45 PM
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Going to Leiden sounds like an excellent idea. Just ask Greg not to bring you food from the dumpsters even if you are exempted from the food expeditions.

Don't forget that you and he can write the book that this adventure deserves, and that will put you out of financial worry for quite some time.
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Jun 11th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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Wonderful news for him to get his guitar back!
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Jun 11th, 2010, 01:10 PM
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Arts, I keep seeing the similarities between Greg and my boys. Not to step on your story, but my Son, Chris, squatted at the Libyan People's Bureau in London in 1984, when the Libyans shot a British policewoman during a protest. The Libyans were thrown out of the country, and my boy and some friends moved in.

When the police came, they said, "Get out!". The squatters said that since the building was diplomatically Libyan territory the British plods had no authority. This tickled the police, who had no love for the Libyans, and the press. So our heroes lived there quite comfortably. A cop stood at the door, and checked to see that only the original squatters entered, and turned a blind eye as office equipment and furniture walked out the back door.

Dumpster diving was in vogue 25 years ago, too, but I was never sent an invitation to dinner, like you.

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Jun 11th, 2010, 01:12 PM
  #16
kja
 
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With each new installment, I feel an even more powerful affection for you and your son. I hope you realize what a gift you are giving each of us by sharing this wonderful saga!
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Jun 11th, 2010, 01:15 PM
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The scruffy around-the-world aga continues--still enjoying the updates.
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Jun 11th, 2010, 01:48 PM
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You are the greatest mum any young traveller could have.
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Jun 11th, 2010, 05:55 PM
  #19
 
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Love your updates. Any more news on his health?
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Jun 15th, 2010, 06:17 PM
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Checking in on the Europe board for an update....

Robyn
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