We willed it

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m a married man! My partner Chimwemwe “Chimz” and I got married on Valentine’s Day this year. Four and a half years ago we first met at Lake of Stars in Malawi, stayed in touch, met up when I travelled Africa in 2017. After that, Chimz would come to join me in Jo’burg as often as was possible (here and here and here), and we’d travel quite a bit through Zim and Zam (here and here), and of course through her homeland Malawi, last in September 2019. Two trips to Germany later (here and here and here), we’d made it happen – against all odds. For us.

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When you want to get married in Germany

We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and now that we’re happily married it may seem strange to go back to all those obstacles that were raised by one authority or another, by all those snide remarks that were thrown at us, racist micro aggressions which people here in this country are still largely unaware of. Although some of my friends avoided the trouble of getting married here in Germany and went to Denmark where things are easier, I didn’t want that to become a wedding tourist. I find as a citizen of this country I can expect service delivery re what the laws entitle me to get. I didn’t want the local authorities to get away with making it sound difficult. I wanted to make them work for us!

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First generation: “Zivildienst” in East Germany

Thirty years ago, I was one of those who for the first time in East German history were allowed to do Zivildienst, an alternative service instead of the compulsory military service. I received the letter around 15 March 1990, three days ahead of the national elections that were my first (I had turned 18 in January) – and due to to the victory of the CDU were known to be the last of an independent East Germany. Months later, in the night of 23 August 1990, the East German parliament decided to join the jurisdiction and political structure etc. of West Germany. They submitted (sic!) their decision to the West Germans after monetary union had already become effective by the end of June, and a decision for re-unification had been agreed on between the governments. At midnight 3 October 1990, East Germany a.k.a. GDR seized being an independent political unit, and until then we were her first and last Zivildientleistenden.

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9 November ’89 – the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and I’m tired

October and kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on
And on.

(U2 – October, 1982)

I have two beginnings for this blog post. I’m not sure I have a suitable ending.

Opening one: I’m just back from a discussion, with Naika Foroutan, about East-German migration analogies and prejudices against East-Germans, here at the local Literarisches Zentrum. “Here” means: Göttingen, West-Germany, for me, an East German by origin, my home of seven years now. Diaspora as well as home. “Here” also means: amongst an audience of, primarily, West-Germans. Naika Foroutan and host Robert Pausch are West Germans, too. They (“they”) speak about East Germans (“us”). Some of “us” are in the room. Their safeguard is the “objectivity” of the (social) sciences. “Objectivity” implies an object. An object implies a subject. Who’s who? I can feel I am one of the objects here, regardless whether I want to or not, and someone else assumes the role of the subject-agent. I observe.

on the other side (west) in 1989
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9 October 1989

30 years ago today, the “Wende”, the peaceful revolution in East Germany, truly started. After the brutal crack down of police on protesters and bystanders alike in Magdeburg two days earlier, everyone knew that something would happen. October 9 was a Monday, and hence I was at school (EOS Humbodt) in the morning hours. Directors and staff leaders in pretty much every institution and company approached their staff or students or even children at kindergarten, threatening that if they went out into the streets tonight their (or their parents’!) safety could not be guaranteed.

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DDR 40 – 7 October 1989

… 30 Years Revolution, part II

30 years ago today, the German Democratic Republic was meant to celebrate her 40th anniversary. There was little to celebrate, though. Thousands had fled the country in previous months, and illegal demonstrations happened in every major town, notably on Mondays. This though was a Saturday afternoon, and Sandow were playing in Magdeburg, by the banks of the river Elbe. Heavy rains delayed the soundcheck, and in the meantime lots of police trucks had pulled up and the police surrounded. Men that were much too old for punk music in groups of two or three infiltrated the crowd.

Concert with Sandow
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Prerow’s Last Legion

August 1989, and we were the “last legion” to be trained in one of East Germany’s paramilitary camps – one of the things that had become part and parcel of growing up in East Germany. Now we were there for a last time, though we didn’t know that yet.

Source
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30 Years Revolution, 1989-2019. Part 1

I was 17 in the summer of 1989, my last school holidays in-between grade eleven and twelve. Amidst irritating news about an increasing number of fellow East Germans who tried to flee across a newly opened Hungarian-Austrian border to western countries, a friend and I travelled the Isle of Rügen before we had to serve in a GST-Lager, a paramilitary camp, for a last time.

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Exotic me

30 years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Three weeks ago I was looking for a present for dad, and as a late thought I considered Gert Dietrich’s Cultural History of East Germany (Kulturgeschichte der DDR) a good idea, albeit an expensive one, perhaps a joint present for us all. So I went to Göttingen’s best academic bookshop, which happens to be located down the road from the publishing house where the book was made. I couldn’t find it on their shelves and asked for it. Their response: it’s “too exotic” for them to have it on stock. East German matters are “too exotic” some 60km from the old border, I get it. You wonder why I feel at home in Africa, kkkkkkkk! Have a happy anniversary next year, you re-united Germany!

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