Three lads and three lasses rush up to the dining table and sit down. Mark-Peter – aged 19 and wearing a gold cross on a chain round his neck – nevertheless takes off his cap and hangs it on the back of his chair. He folds his hands and the others close their eyes.
“Dear God, thank you for this food. Give us strength in all we do this evening.” This ritual takes place every day in the student house, located on the multicultural Mathenesserweg. Mark-Peter tells us that at least 80 members of the NSR student association are currently living on this street. Some members of this religious association work at the Vastgoedbeheer Rotterdam housing corporation. They tip off NSR if any rooms are free.
'Sex is something else'
All six occupants are 19 or 20 and enjoy student life to the full. There’s a half-empty bottle of Bacardi on the windowsill, so they obviously drink ‘enough’. And they share hugs, even with each other.
But sex is something else again. Everyone sitting round the table shuffles their feet when the word is mentioned. One-night stands aren’t actually unwelcome, but that kind of visit isn’t really encouraged. As Eefke (19) explains: “We’d ask the person a few questions the next day, about whether they’re OK. We’d be concerned. Nobody needs to act tougher than they are.”
Sponsorship by Heineken
The students finish off their meal with three cartons of custard and a container of Greek yoghurt. The eating area is clean and tidy, which isn’t surprising as only ladies live on this floor and a cleaning rota’s in force here.
On the next floor up, where cleaning chores are shared out through WhatsApp, there’s a sofa made of Heineken beer crates with old beer posters hanging above it. These come from 20-year old Johan’s dad, who had the very same posters up in his house as a student. The iron is another interesting item and was donated by Mark-Peter’s gran. The idea is to build a gateway out of beer crates to create a Heineken corner, with the posters and a flag. “We’re going to ask Heineken to sponsor us when it’s finished,” Mark-Peter says.
The lads are putting up other decorations in the meantime. Mark-Peter once got hold of a McDonald’s poster from a bus shelter after a night out. Another poster is a reproduction of Rembrandt’s Night Watch bought at Kwantum, “simply because it’s so beautiful.”
Mark-Peter drops another showpiece: his Bible. One of the lads comments on its dilapidated state: “You’ve read it to bits!” Which happens to be true as well.