The memory of water

Constant dripping, so the saying goes, wears away the stone. Yet, everyone who has visited a karst cave with their often astounding richness in rock formations will know otherwise: constant dripping creates the stone! Now, any speleologist (academese for cave expert) may frown over my lax use of the term “stone”. Fine, of course I mean those pillars and bumps and other formations expertly called stalagtites, stalagmites and stalagnates. Water drops, sintering through the earth and rocks that form the ceiling of a cave, containing minerals and other material, carry that material into the cave, where it slowly builds up into said formations. Talk about slowly – think tens of thousands of years, and then some.

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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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Lake of Stars 2019

This, my third trip to Lake of Stars, was going to be a great celebration – of an LoS-friends anniversary and naturally of the music. It became a rather mixed experience, unfortunately.

4 hours of waiting at the entrance gate – only to pitch our tent
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