Herbst – harvest

Harvest is a superb word to talk about language roots. Quite obviously, the German and English words of the headline share the same word root, one that is backed by shared cultural and climatic geography: Herbst is harvest time. Autumn, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to the English language, one of the hundreds and thousands of words borrowed (and never given back, to quote a bonmot well known amongst English language historians) from Latin and/or French. What fascinates me about plucking out linguistic roots is that it’s like opening a window into the history of a speech community, and ultimately of all of mankind. Language roots are ultimately shared by all humanity, even if language should have developed independently in different places. Over time, we kept on mixing – genetically as well as culturally. So, especially for those who believe in cultural purity, or the existence of ‘pure’ nations and races – let me propose this challenging piece of language history: German Herbst (‘autumn’) and English harvest apparently have Semitic roots!

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National Holiday: 30 years of German Unity

This morning my wife, from Malawi and still somewhat disappointed by the German government that doesn’t give us the Monday off, asks me: “So this is your Independence Day?!” Uhmm, I’m from East Germany, that got me thinking. Isn’t it rather Dependence Day? … Now, I intend this ironically, in all seriousness! 😉

Actually, I get the sense that this 30th anniversary is more meaningful: I think we, as East Germans, are becoming who we are. I find it is noticeable, especially these days, and it feels healthy. Less victim of circumstances and world history, more confident. Wir sind der Osten is just one of the shapes this has taken.

Webseite der Initiative Wir sind der Osten
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Ten choice pics

This goes back to a Facebook nomination chain post, which I shall simply replicate here. Now, since I’m somewhat unruly, I did provide commentaries (contrary to the request), but refrained from nominating anyone – I’m actually not a big fan of these requests and I usually opt out from them.

So, if you like, see ten of my favourite travel pics. It’s not a top ten or anything, just a start in roughly chronological order. In this recap, I made it up to 1994. Now that’s a few months ago, so to say, and I reckon I’ll do this “10 choice pics” thing more often.

Number 1/10

1988, Kaluga – then Soviet Union, now Russia. As the East German schoolkid that I still was, I had sucked up the slogans about our “big brother”, the Soviet Union. “To learn from the Soviet Union is to win” (Von der Sowjetunion lernen heißt Siegen lernen). When I went there at the end of the eighties for a one-week school exchange trip, I saw actual poverty for the first time, and even the family I visited, who was not poor, lived way below the standards I was used to. I saw beggars for the first time of my life, in Moscow. And yet, there was the Perestroika going on, Michael Gorbachev’s reform movement. For us East German teenagers it was almost shocking to see, and as the relationships between the East German government under Honecker and Gorbachev started to sour, they were refreshing. The slogan in the picture calls upon on Kalugans to put all their strengths into the Perestroika, more Democracy and economical reforms.

France 2020

Travelling in the times of Corona is not easy, and risky. Still, we decided to head over to France, where I haven’t been in over a decade, and for Chimz it would be the first time. Göttingen to Paris, where we went camping, took barely eight hours. Two days later we went further south, to near Royan, north of the Gironde estuary, and north of Bordeaux. On the way back we managed to spend a few days in the Bretagne, and stopped over in Aachen and Cologne.

paläon – research museum

On my way to Magdeburg I used to pass by the signpost many times. Now it was about time to pay a visit to the paläon research museum in Schöningen (near Braunschweig). When you’re in the region, go. It’s worth it! Here are just some pictures.

Covid-19, music events, and the global North

30 May 2020

Würzburg Africafestival

eSwatini Bushfire Festival

Aggregate result

Africafestival/Germany/Europe : Bushfire/eSwatini/Africa
0 : 1

Wasn’t there always talk of “developing countries” vs. the “developed world”? I guess that was right: some countries indeed were developing while others started whingeing more and more, and rested comfortably on their “achievements”, and whinged some more when they were asked to share those, or give back. Pathetic.

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Privileged to hold my breath

I have been given the privilege
To hold my breath
To make this choice:
I cannot watch that video
I will not watch that video
To see
          How George Floyd is being killed
To hear
          How George Floyd is being killed
To hear
          His breath failing as he tells the whole world so
And Derek Chauvin
          On duty
To see
         Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd
         On duty

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“Thanks for supporting me!”

The other day, as I was passing by the small flower shop on the way back from the bakery, one of the differences between my life in Africa and my life here in Europe came to mind: Shop keepers everywhere I’d been in Africa would send me off saying “Thanks for supporting me!” Initially I found it surprising. Here in Europe, buying something is a business transaction, object-centred, usually. You’re not meant to bond with the shop keeper, usually. If there’s emotions involved, they’re yours, only to be shared with friends & family. Usually. Shopping in Africa, on the other hand, seemed more people-centred: you chat, connect in various ways – like actual people. As a customer, you wouldn’t just buy a thing, instead in doing so you quite consciously supported somebody who’s earning a living with that business.

You may have noticed that I added “usually” a few times in the previous paragraph. You’ll probably agree that whatever “usually” usually refers to has seen a severe rupture these past few weeks during which we’ve been struggling with a virus that is invisible to the naked eye while it is leaving a trail of mortality, vulnerability, anxiety and polarization behind. Whereas the virus is only visible with the help of the strongest microscopes (or so I think), its impact works like a microscope popped onto society, under which various structures, our pre-existing conditions, become more magnified, and hence better visible. Pre-existing conditions, they say, make you more vulnerable to it. I find that quite rich.

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