How living here ruins your language skills

One of the weird things living in an international city is what happens to languages. How they shift, merge, mix, and get combined in a 100.000 different ways. How this on one hand improves your language skills, and you start recognizing languages, even when you don’t speak one word. And on the other hand, you tend to lose the skills in each language by itself. Because. You start combining yourself. The languages merge in your head. Or because some words from a language are simply untranslatable and you need that one specific word to describe exactly what you mean. 

During my shift at the free shop, I take a small cigarette break outside. One of the many people bringing stuff pops outside quickly. Points at my shoes. What size do you have?  “38” She grabs into the bag she’s carrying, and takes out never-worn sport shoes “Here, for you, you take them”. Pushes them into my hands. I smile, sport shoes aren’t really my thing, but I appreciate the gesture. She goes through the t-shirts we have outside, looking for something for her 15-year old daughter. Tells one of our regular guests her daughter is much bigger than her. She’s vietnamese, the daddy is italian. “He’s a BIG daddy, so I have a big daughter, much bigger than me”. The other customer asks what language they speak at home. “Well, german of course”. “You didn’t teach your daughter vietnamese?” She shrugs. “We live here now, no use for my language”. She asks me how old I think she is. I’m really bad at estimating anyone’s age (and I don’t care anyway), so that’s what I tell her. “Ah, that’s always what people tell us asian people, that they can’t tell our age”. She shrugs again, this time at the prejudice, it’s just how it is.

Just a sunny day at Tempelhofer Feld. My family is visiting, and we’ve decided to take the kids for some biking, skate-boarding, kite-surfing, and well, anything else you can do at an old airport-made-free-space for all. While we walk around the collective garden, a young kid climbs one of the self-built constructions in that garden, a wooden airplane. In a mixture of german, american-english and chinese he starts pretending to be the pilot. Mummy and daddy arrive, combining words from the same languages. After we leave the collective garden, we walk past the barbecue area. Where, no matter were people are born, or wherever their parents or grandparents were born, they have all adopted the favorite german summer hobby “Grilling”. A few Roma families have started early by roasting whole pigs. One of their small dogs starts running with us, his not-so-skinny owner trying to catch up. We fetch the dog and give it to him. Hearing him “tut-tut”-ing and scolding the dog in his own language while carrying it back. We stop at a coffee stand, where the guy serving the coffee easily switches between italian, german and I guess russian, depending on who he’s serving. When we walk away, I ask the kids to listen to the people around them, and tell me how many languages they are hearing. After one hour, they give up counting.

In the back of the free shop when hanging the t-shirts to the t-shirts and the pants to the pants, I overhear some broad-shouldered guys going through the children’s clothing. They keep repeating “dobre, dobre”. Since this is the first word I ever learned in serbocroation/bosnian,  I can’t help to ask them what language they are speaking. We’re from Serbia, they tell me. Stop themselves: “but we’re not serbian,  we actually have our own language, but we also use many serbian words”. When I tell them I’m planning to learn serbocroation, and happy I at least recognized the language, they smile. “It’s a beautiful language”.

A woman comes in looking for black shoes and black pants. It’s not for her, but for her afghan friend. He’s looking for a job, has been invited for a job interview and wants to look smart. We go to the shoes and the pants department together, and find some, but she’s not sure about his size. I notice when she talks about him, she suddenly loses her german language skills, and starts using Farsi words, though she’s most certainly a native german, from Sachsen if I’m not mistaking her accent. In the end, she decides he better come to the shop himself to try the stuff on, she’ll come with him to translate.

While passing through the – rather full again – shop, I hear one of our older customers compliment a younger one trying on a beautiful velvet jacket. She excuses herself, she’s portuguese, her german isn’t that good yet. The older woman just automatically switches to english, repeats the compliment, and they discuss the problem of having a cat and velvet clothing.

I always like to play some weird music from all over the world when I do my shift. When I play some music from Lapland, a huge smile appears on the face of one of our guests. She hasn’t heard yoiking for quite some time, and starts singing along in Sami. Another time, when I was playing some music from the balkan, I couldn’t help dancing a bit, and one of our regulars, who likes the irish line-dancing starts wiggling her toes. While we combine my tribal fusion moves and her irish steps, from the corner of my eyes I see how the faces of a few women from somewhere south-east of here light up, and they stop going through the clothing and, giggling a bit, start moving to the music too. The language of dancing is universal, even when the moves are like different accents.

It’s always fun to surprise people by starting to talk to them in their own language because you recognize the accent in their german. Especially a not-so-common language like dutch. The short confusion on their face followed by a happy “what? you’re dutch?” is worth it. At work, some of the projects which I take care of like to surprise ME though, when they recognize the dutch accent in my german, and practice the (sometimes little, sometimes a bit more) of dutch they know. One of those people told me, though being german himself, he has a dutch wife. Funny how recognized where she was born because of the accent he had in his dutch (except the german one of course).

On a random friday at the free shop, I made some fresh peppermint tea with the herbs I saved with foodsharing the day before for our guests. Unfortunately, it’s not that popular. On a regular basis, people start telling me what kind of OTHER mint, from moroccan to vietnamese they prefer. Just not regular peppermint. In the end, a discussion arises between our guests how many sorts of mint there actually are, but the tea stays undrunk. Next time I’ll mix it, just like the languages we use.

Just after I close the Free Shop and start the cleaning and sorting, I hear a knock at the window. Two kids around age 12. I point to the sign, and say, sorry, we’re closed. They look a bit disappointed. But ah well. I go back cleaning. They persist in knocking. So I open the window. They point to a nice blue and yellow bike behind them. “We want to give it away”. I have to tell them we don’t have enough space for bikes. Oh. Disappointed faces. “We tried to give it away, since it’s such a good bike, and we’ve outgrown it. But everyone thinks we have stolen it.” They shrug, used to being misjudged: though speaking perfect german – except for the heavy berlin accent – they’re not exactly blond & blue-eyed. I go into the back, take a piece of paper and a pen. “Here, write “for free” on it, and park it against the fence over there, it will probably be gone soonish”. “Can’t you write it, we’re not german” “Neither am I”. Smiles on their faces. “You’re not?”. I laugh. This part of Berlin, how many people here are german, I wonder aloud. They start laughing with me. I write the sign for them, they stick it to the bike, park it against the fence, and themselves on a bench near it. Waiting for it to be taken. When I leave the shop, both the bike and the boys are gone.

Heading home, I pass the local squatting pub. I hear people discussing their favorite bands in german, english, spanish, french and dutch. The sign of the irish small restaurant on the corner advertises its meals in english with some  german and french words randomly put in between. I do some quick shopping. A woman and her boyfriend are discussing what food to take for their dog in a mixture of italian and swedish, sometimes falling back on another mixture of english and german to avoid misunderstanding. Outside the shop, a few guys balance their skateboards on the handlebar of their bike, stop to buy some mate. At least, that’s the only word I definitively recognized from their conversation, the rest was some kind of combination of at least four languages, which I stopped trying to match with the language patterns in my head.

Taking a shortcut through the park, a few adolescents rap along to some german hiphop music with a turkish accent. On the grass, a group of ravers is having an intense political discussion in english. I recognize at least a greek, a polish and some scandinavian accent in their english, and it’s littered with german words when they can’t find the right word in english. I pass the senior hooligans in their corner of the park. Where the differences between russian, hungarian and original berlin, or about which football team is the best, are smoothed out with cheap beer.  I greet the woman from my favorite evening shop, who stops talking to her friend in thai to say hello to me in german. At a recently opened little lunchroom, the owner corrects his dog sniffing another dog’s behind in arabic, before continuing to serve his customers. They are using yet another language – one I can’t place, indian? – between them. Coming home, the preparation for the african mass in the church behind our backyard has started, and through the open window I hear the preacher switching between english and french, both with a heavy african accent.

 

And at the playground, the kids don’t care about the languages, they just create their own.

 

 

Note: all doodles made by myself when enjoying the parks or getting transported. See Twisted Kritters if you want to see more of them.

Hell’s Aftermath

Contrary to common belief, the sun is still rising over Hamburg

The G20 is over. The aftershock, not only of what happened inside the luxury chambers, but especially what happened outside the sealed-off area, might linger a bit longer.

In the mean time, there’s screaming all over the internet, the papers and among politicians. About the burned down cars, the smashed windows. Screaming of the mainstream, that “the left” should condemn the actions. Screaming from the “other left” how a few ruined the chances of many to make a point. Others screaming that bombs are far worse than a few burned out cars, so what the Hell is everyone screaming about.

And I sit here in my neighborhood, gnawing my knuckles.

Hell’s Bells

Nope, I was not in Hamburg. Every “fact” I mention here either comes from the news, the big bad internet, or (woohoo) hearsay and rumors.

Nope, I didn’t go there to protest. Though everything the G20 stands for is a reason to protest. Climate change, the kind of political and economical deals which are made there, it’s a lot of issues I care about. Not to mention the fact a part of the city was hermetically sealed of, because of “security reasons”, and basically, human rights were switched off inside that area. Something I can’t stand.

Deep waters

Already weeks before, it became clear the people in charge were not keen on a strategy of “de-escalation”. The police boss in charge is known to be a hard-liner, and it showed. A little tent camp of people gathering for protests became the focus point of both physical, and juristic, confrontations. Also on the non-authority side things happened which weren’t really signs of peaceful protest . The first expensive cars were burned down, for example.

I have to admit, though I hate violence, most definitively against people, but also against objects, my reaction to those actions was *shrug*, that’s what you get when organizing something like the G20 a few 100 meters from an alternative neighborhood. If you want peace & quiet to make your deals, grab yourself a luxury castle in Bavaria or something. Plenty of those available. Already organizing the event exactly at that spot, and next sealing it hermetically off the rest of the city, was seen as a provocation by many, and not just the “lefties”.

Both in the city itself and in the media, the voices became louder, and more and more polarized. Even creative and artful protests such as the “1000 Gestalten” couldn’t change that anymore. The tone was set. Quite a few people I know had something like “Going there? I don’t feel like getting beaten up”.

So yep, the first layer of skin on my knuckles was already slightly damaged before the G20 even started.

Pushed against Hell’s Walls

I thoroughly began gnawing my knuckles after seeing how the “Welcome to Hell” demo was forced against a wall, people scrambling up that wall while part of the demo was being blown apart by water cannons, pepper-sprayed, and randomly charged by the police.

Now, the first stories I’ve heard was that it was all about the “mask ban” here in Germany. Bit of background: this is a law, which makes it a crime to make yourself unidentifiable during a demonstration. As in, wearing a scarf, sunglasses or even a red clown’s nose. And a crime. Not some petty offense, but a crime. As in one, where you can go to prison for. The reason why you are wearing a scarf, be it to indeed plan something really really criminal, or because it’s, well, cold, are not important anymore.
Hiding your face is a crime, and you should, and will, be arrested for it. Worse, some cops even feel it’s their duty to arrest you because you are hiding your face, and will charge into a completely peaceful demonstration to grab that one person who, maybe even for a few minutes, put a scarf in front of his mouth. I’ve witnessed this more than once. And I think the use of that much force for something which, in my humble opinion, should not be considered a crime, is most definitively excessive. What happened at the beginning of the Welcome to Hell demo was excessive.

2,5 Million Shades of Black

However, maybe because of that often violent reaction of  “Daddy State”, it has become a sort of, well, statement, to DO hide your face. Especially the so-called “Black Block” likes to make that statement over and over again. And dress in black (nothing wrong with that). And, indeed, march almost looking alike in a dense block, closed in by banners. So they can’t get dispersed easily. And yes, it looks scary from a distance.

Now, there might be occasions where this serves a purpose. Especially in other countries. From the Black Block with its masked, uniformly looking people, people actually take action outside the demonstration and then dive back in for protection. You might or might not agree with the action (sometimes no more than spray-painting a wall), but the strategy is effective. And it’s not only useful, but even necessary, in more totalitarian states, where just taking part in a peaceful demonstration might endanger your life. So better hide your face, better hide in a group.

Black Block. Pic by 20 Protestwelle, [CC by 2.0]
But here in Germany? Excuses to all the Black Block people out there, but. It has become a statement. A demo is not complete with the Black Block marching up front, shouting slogans, and holding on firmly to those banners. Oh, it does have its uses as a “buffer” between the peaceful demonstrators and the police. But the whole densely packed, almost identical looking, group up front nowadays causes aversion even with people who would side with the “cause”. On the other hand, the whole “panicking” in the media about the Black Block is so utterly pathetic. If I’m really sarcastic: the Black Block has become a bit the Scouts of the left scene.  In short, it’s more than slightly overrated.

The videos of the Welcome to Hell demonstration also showed exactly the weak point of the Black Block. Because they stick together. And keep sticking together. While behind them, the demonstration was broken up, and the Black Block was slowly but steadily forced up against the wall.

Later (hearsay) I’ve heard rumors the police charges weren’t aimed so much at the “Black Block” but at the Kurdish people right behind them. I don’t know if it’s true. And I really have no clue why the (Berlin) police charged the Kurdish people. But it broke the front of the demonstration, and set the mood for the rest of the weekend. Even though the demonstration went on – peacefully – ahead after this.

Well, let’s be honest. No matter how disciplined you behave. No matter how non-pacifist and full of resistance and power you feel. No matter how much you shout, or sing songs to keep the spirit up.

Neuer Pferdemarkt I
Schanzenviertel. Pic by R. Anders [CC BY 2.0]
Daddy State has more resources than you. They have more vehicles, weaponry, gas, and can keep pouring in more forces. And will use those forces. Forces who might be individual human beings, but not in that situation. They have given away their individual responsibility, their conscience to a line of command.

Unless you are capable, and willing, to use the same amount of force as Daddy State, militarizing yourself is not a real option. The last thing anyone wants, is a full blown civil war in the middle of what is actually a peaceful demonstration. No individual in a demonstration wants that on their conscience. The only other option is indeed non-violent resistance.

And get beaten up, bruised by water cannons, poisoned by pepper-spray and so on. Indeed. It was not for nothing even in mainstream media the discussion about the excessive use of force started.

So, the skin on the back of my hand was slightly damaged, but at least something good came out of it, that discussion was long overdue.

Enter Hell

Gnawing away, I started reaching the bones of my knuckles, when I saw what was happening in the “Schanzeviertel”. And the not-so-immediate reaction of “the authorities”. I was shocked to see the images of cops with machine guns “securing the area” house by house, pointing their guns at people standing in the window.

Mit Pumpgun, Patronengürtel und Maschinenpistole an der Feldstraße
Special police forces in the Schanzenviertel. Yes, that’s a machine gun. Pic by T. Schröder [CC BY 2.0]

Why are my knuckles bleeding by now?

Because the neighborhood I live in isn’t that much different than the one in Hamburg. It’s a poor neighborhood with lots of people coming from different countries. Lots of strange artists and musicians. Weird little shops, “house projects” and quite a few DIY-initiatives. A bit of a free zone.

And our little neighborhood is subject to gentrification. Because, you know, those weirdos make an area lively. Pubs, clubs, shops and small initiatives pop up. Making it more interesting. So people want to move there. So investors come. Rents are raised, or houses are for sale instead of to let. And the newcomers start complaining about the mess, the garbage, the alcoholics, the homeless, the music on the streets and in the pubs, the graffiti, well, everything that comes with a lively neighborhood. So the people and the initiatives are forced to leave. Can’t afford the rent, pubs are closed.

And there’s protest against it. Just like in that neighborhood in Hamburg.

Occasionally, an expensive car is burned down. Or stones fly when “the authorities” are trying to take control. Just like in that neighborhood in Hamburg.

Dangerous goods

We had house searches where dangerous materials such as fire extinguishers were confiscated, just like in Hamburg when toilet brushes were confiscated. (if you ever wonder why people hold toilet brushes during demonstrations, it’s because they have been confiscated as “dangerous weapons” in the past).    We’ve had the “danger zone” with 300 riot cops stationed for months in front of a house project because there were lose “suspicions” there was some kind of link between that house and the burning of cars.

All this kinda stuff was also happening in that neighborhood in Hamburg. The good stuff as well as the bad stuff.

Would the G20 been held 200 meters from our neighborhood, the chances would have been huge the same things would have happened here.

After the demonstration and everything building up, tenses would have gone up here too. Now rumors say the whole car burning and shop smashing was a deliberate action, where only big supermarkets and rich man shops were a target, no small shop owners were attacked. I don’t know if this is true. And not that this makes it ok. But it wasn’t just a wrong way of anger management. Other sources, including a few of the shops being attacked, state it wasn’t the alternative scene doing the really bad stuff, but drunk partygoers. They even state the so-called black-block people tried to prevent damage to small shops (sorry, post is in German, but if you can read it, do… it’s one of the most sensible reactions, and from people directly facing the consequences.)

Also here, there would probably be rumors about molotov cocktails and sidewalk tiles lying on roofs. It is still strange with all those rumors and the authorities waiting for army equipment to go “secure” the neighborhood, not one molotov cocktails has been thrown, or a tile fell down. But who am I.

Something’s burning

There probably would have been improvised barricades here to. Ok, now I’m not a professional, but to be honest, those barricades looked not really effective. Bit of wood, a thin fence or two, maybe a piece of furniture. *Goes into grandma mode* In the old days of the squatting movement, barricades actually held. Sometimes for days. They consisted of for example long steel wire hammered in between the houses, were at least 3 meter high and firmly build in a short time. And only burned when the “enemy” started approaching. *grandma mode off*.

I’ve seen plenty of these “barricades” at May 1st too. When you watch a band in Kreuzberg, smell a bit of burning plastic, see the “barricade”, turn around and watch the band again, every now and then taking a step back to let the riot cops run free.

I’m not saying it’s ok to do this. Or burn cars. Or smash shops. Heck, I wouldn’t have liked to see my neighborhood turned into that kind of mess. Like a friend of mine once told people lightning up a garbage can on May 1st: “do you really have to mess up our neighborhood? If you’re so fixed on burning the rich, go burn the rich.” (which utterly btw, they actually did in Hamburg). The usual mess we have is fine, including the dog shit and the heaps of rotten garbage, but I just don’t like the smell of burned plastic, or the risk of collateral damage when cars are burned down.

Smoke over the water

Now, except the fact I wouldn’t like it when somebody burned my bike down (I kinda depend on it), and my general aversion to violence,  I don’t see why a few individuals would have to be “punished” for something which is a far bigger thing. I also have my doubts if it would really stop gentrification. If it would keep my rent low, well, I would probably secretly support it. But I don’t think it matters. They’ll just park their car somewhere else. Heck, I actually know of one of my friends, – no, without much money – who left the neighborhood because of multiple reasons, but one of them was being afraid of collateral damage of a car burning down beneath her window, the other one was witnessing a squat being evicted, and people being beat up shitless by the cops beneath that same window. So it might actually have the opposite effect.

So, no, the end doesn’t justify the means. Especially since I have sincere doubts if those means would make a difference.

However, the reaction of “Daddy State” was pretty frikkin scary. I was glued to my monitor. Reading every live report I could find.

G20 Summit in Hamburg
Pic by K. Friese [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
I could identify too much. Could imagine how it would be if uniformed cops in full riot gear would march into my street as if it was a war zone. Holding machine guns. Pointing them at windows.

I’d be scared out of my wits. And angry. Really really angry. Not with the people making the mess (honestly, though I do feel sorry for the owners of the damaged property, the actions itself I find mostly bloody frikkin stupid). But angry at the over-reaction of Daddy State.

Because, to be honest? Except for the so-called “political background” of the whole thing. I would really like to invite all the parties to an average New Year’s Eve in Rotterdam Zuid. No, nothing political about it. And yes, cars burned down & shops were plundered, so it was not just common goods. But the mess after that one night of “party’ is a multitude of what happened in Hamburg. Or even the worst May 1st in Berlin. And the solution there and then was to just let it burn out, clean up and repair (or not… some bus stops never ever got replaced) in the days & weeks after.

So the reaction of Daddy State was, again, excessive. Probably because it was political, and not just some random party night gone wild. Erdogan probably felt at home indeed.

And I gnawed my knuckles down to the bone.

Beyond Hell

Pinkiness

The weekend is over. Wounds are licked. Streets are cleaned.

Humor kicks in. Yes, contrary to common belief, Germans do have a sense of humor. Like posting a picture of a street in the Schanzenviertel with people shopping, kids & musicians playing, and the caption “look at our neighborhood in Hamburg near Aleppo/Syria, it will never be the same!” Or a meme of “Je suis Auto”

Unfortunately, these are exceptions.

There’s a lot of confusion. A lot of accusations. From all sides.

There’s a lot of screaming. Pointing fingers. Condemning. On all sides.

The willingness of Daddy State to use this much excessive force scares me shitless. Especially the machine guns. It takes it all to a whole new level.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/ak-analyse-kritik-Zeitung-f%C3%BCr-linke-Debatte-und-Praxis-183921262475/But the worst is yet to come. Already in politics the discussion has moved from that excessive force to deeming what happened in the Schanzenviertel as a “terrorist action”. Putting burned down cars and plundered shops on the same level as killing dozens of people. Screaming for more “screening” of would-be activists. Of exchanging databases with other countries. Taking profiling, and therefore, being guilty until proven otherwise, to a whole new level.

And this means I’m now slowly running out of knuckles to chew on…

 

 

Frays and Strays: More Tales from the Seamy Side

Ever since I started volunteering with the foodsharing and the free-shop, I’ve become more and more familiar, and known to, the people who have no choice but to live of the scraps of this society. I started this work to preserve resources, mostly out of an environmental perspective. But I’ve learned a lot about how it is to lose out in the rat-race, never been able to participate in the first place, or restart from absolutely zipzeronothing again.

When I bring bread to the homeless, sometimes I find them hiding from the rain like these stray dogs in Sarajevo

Even though the foodsharing brunch is history, since the place where we gave out the food has been gentrified away, every homeless person knows me, and asks if and when the brunch will be started up again. I guess I’ll never get rid of the nickname “Lady of the cold kitchen”.

So much stuff, but still..

I meet many of the former guests at other initiatives: when I bring bread to the “Cold Aid” for the homeless. The queue starts at 6pm, even though the place only opens up at 9pm for people to sleep. The main language in that queue is russian. 99% of them are healthy, broad-shouldered males. They are the so-called luck-seekers. I’ve met some of those “economical migrants” back on the Balkan. When they shared their stories about being exploited in the EU. And still earning more, or at least something, than back home. They just laugh cynically when I ask them “why don’t you organize, why don’t you unionize?”. For each “luck-seeker” protesting against being exploited, there’s 10 who won’t protest. I meet them when I go to the bank, where I can open an account, and pull money out of the wall. For months, a Rumanian sat there begging. One of the people who did contracted, legal, work here, and never got paid. Since the sub-sub-sub-sub-contractor simply disappeared.

Other people fall through the holes in the “social” net. Because they are mentally unstable. The homeless woman I’m joking with one day, when she found a wok in the free shop  “woman with wok looking for room” next disappears for months. Then she comes back. She only comes back when she’s mentally feeling good. Otherwise, she hides. Under bushes. Trying to grab a few hours sleep in a shopping mall, until she’s kicked out. Too afraid of people.  Too afraid to take care of simple stuff, like getting her allowance from a bank account. Too afraid of filling out forms, and answering questions of strangers. And she’s a nice, friendly, open woman. She shared the story of her trauma with me. What happened to her as a child. And I understand why she is so afraid…

At the free-shop, sometimes clothing is hanging there for months, or too damaged. So, to make room, we hang those pieces on a “Stand of the last hope” for another few weeks, then bring it to other places, or, as a last resort, to a clothing container so it can be recycled one way or another. When I bring a huge bag to one of those containers on a cold evening, a guy calls me from the other side of the fence “is there anything warm in that bag?”. Shivering in his way too thin jeans jacket. Another “luck-seeker” from east from here. Since I know there’s nothing useful in the bag I’m carrying, I tell him about the free-shop. One week later he pops up.  Carefully selects one coat, a warm hat and some gloves. Next week he’s back. Taking a friend of him with him. Showing him the children’s clothing. I hear him explain how we work, and the other guy politely listening. Also, that you can bring the stuff back, so other people can use it, and re-use it, and re-use it again and again. Funny how poverty makes people environmental friendly…

My best friend in Sarajevo, a black streetwise tomcat.

When the weather is a bit ok, we put some stuff outside in front of the free-shop. Sometimes people are bit scared to come in, and we’re very much aware of that. I’m hanging some more clothing on the stand outside, and a young woman approaches me. “If there’s anything you can’t sell, could you maybe spare it for me?”. I look at her. Point to our sign. It’s a FREE shop. Anything is for free. Seeing she’s a little shy, I take her inside. She just stands there, looking at the racks of clothing. Looks at me. “For free? All for free?” I say yes. “The books too?” I say yes. Her jaw drops, literally. And she starts jumping a bit up and down and dances in place. Turns around and gives me a huge hug. She takes very little, just a few pieces of clothing and one book. No place for storage when you live on the streets.

In the face of surplus, need can turn into greed, or into giving

Unfortunately for others, everything for free opens all sluices of hell. That’s why we have the rule of “no more than 5 pieces per person per visit”. Unfortunately, we have found our free stuff being sold on flea markets, in second-hand-shops or online. Recently, a second-hand shop opened up a few houses from our shop. You do wonder who would be stupid enough to open up a second-hand-shop this close to a free shop, but still. The joke in our little collective was immediately “well, at least they don’t have to worry about getting supplied”. And we already did spot one of our guests immediately stopping at that shop after leaving ours.. Of course, the stuff at least gets re-used, but one of our basic ideas is an economy based on giving, not on greed.

Stuff just left to rot in an abandoned farm

But sometimes it’s hard to stick to that rule, if you know people need it, like children’s clothing. Or, if a refugee family finally got their own place, but still need all the basics, cooking utensils, bedding. So we keep that rule loosely. However for some people, it’s just hard to not get greedy when facing so much stuff. We had to throw people out because they tried to take our speakers, or our own pots & pans. “But I need it”. So does everyone visiting our shop. Or our collective old guitar. Even putting it up in at least 5 different languages doesn’t help, if a guy tries to take the guitar (which spells on all sides “not for free, inventory”), and you ask, “can’t you read?” and he simply answers “no”. He can’t read….. This is how unfortunately some stuff we actually needed (a small lamp at the old pc we have for people to use, a little thingie we used for storing small stuff like jewelry) disappears…

However, people learn, and can completely turn around. We had to warn an elderly refugee couple multiple times, and I even went as far as packing out their bags, waving fingers about “no more than 5” until I realized I was actually unpacking her personal handbag… But they settled. And probably realized the free shop would always be there. And always full. So they started bringing stuff back they didn’t need. And now, every time they visit, first they bring us a pack of coffee, and a few packages of juice, and usually some sweet stuff. Then they disappear to the back, unload stuff, and yes, take stuff again, but no more than 5 pieces per person per visit.

Just like a little girl, also a refugee, quickly runs into the shop, drops the hat she’s carrying in the hat box and runs out telling us “I don’t need it anymore, someone else should wear it, it’s a beautiful hat”. Oh yes, another one of those people only coming here to abuse our wonderful western system. Right. They have more respect and understand the principles of “giving” quicker than quite a few of our regular, native, guests who come here every day, for years now, and still try to sneak out behind our backs with more than the 5 items. Heck, I even had a good-looking, well-clad woman asking another guest to distract me so she could run out with a small bag of clothing, probably holding 7 items instead of 5.. I just looked at one of our other regulars and asked “did someone just actually tried to trick me so someone else could “steal” in a free shop?” That kinda behavior I can only meet with contempt.

Needs that can’t be fulfilled…

Not needed anymore…

When it comes to true needs. Socks. We can’t have enough socks. It sounds crazy. Socks are cheap right? But yes, socks. This friday a homeless guy came in. You got socks? I point him to our socks place. It’s always close to empty. He sighs, yep, socks are hard to find. We have tons of everything, but socks go like crazy. Socks and warm long underwear.. He didn’t look at anything else. Just socks he needed…

Living on the streets is even harder for a woman. Since there are only a few shelters with a place for women. And if no woman shows up til a certain time, they give the bed to a man. Homeless people are easy victims. They get beaten up more than most people. And this can be devastating.

Broken & Abandoned

One of our regular guests was doing well. She was looking better and better. Sometimes kept our toilet busy for 30 minutes, came out all made up with a new set of clothing, and the toilet smelling like cheap parfum for hours. Ok, most definitively not my style, but each his own. A few weeks ago she came in, I hardly recognized her. Wearing a hoodie, cowering. Her face one big mess. Hands shaking. Wrong time, wrong place, easy victim. Gone was all her confidence. Gone was also her concentration. Panicking cause she couldn’t find her bag. Which we later found outside, forgotten on the bench in front of our shop. One incident. Back to square one. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it…

Not even the officials can say how many people are living on the streets in this city. Guesses go between 3.000 and 10.000. Why? Because many don’t show up in the statistics. Since they’re illegal. Looking for work, and not having any luck. Or they did work here, and never got paid, and are too ashamed to go back home. Or, because their mental condition is so unstable, they simple don’t show up in anyone’s dossier. Strangely enough, those are the people who tend to give, even when they’re the ones lacking almost everything.

The Pros and Cons of Biking (and Public Transport) – Or: Shit, I have become a Berliner

It’s official. After 12,5 years in this city – with its wonderful public transport, that is, INSIDE the “Ring” – today I lost an important aspect of my dutchie-ness.

No, this is not the state of my own bike. It’s hasn’t been THIS unused (yet)

Wanted to see a gig in a nice location In Schöneweide/Lichtenberg. Outside the Ring. So, public transport is close tot non-existent after midnight.
So. I take my bike. 25 minute ride is nothing for a dutchie right?
No matter what weather conditions, right?

I DID get on my bike. Managed to get to Ostkreuz. Shitty rain, and fighting against the wind. Knowing I would have to bike for another 4km along a looong, straaaaight, road crossing an industrial park, and probably facing more wind straight in my face.

I turned around and went home… I actually turned around and went home.

Fck that Sht. I have become a Berliner. The kind of person who runs for the metro, even though the next one will be in 5 minutes. For whom the worst curse is “Schienersatzvekehr” (SEV, look it up…first page will be the Berlin Public Transport Company – BVG). Who efficiently waits on the platform there, where you know it will be closest to the exit when you get off. Who counts distances not in km, but in how far it is from the nearest metro station, and how many times you have to change trains. Who plans routes through the city by how many stairs you have to go up or down, not the fastest one, since there’s usually at least 5 ways to get anywhere.

Bikes in my Backyard.
Note the fact the snow heaps on the saddles are 20 cms or more.
No, you don’t ride your bike in Berlin Winters

There was a time I didn’t understand the question “till when do you bike?”
This has changed…
OMG.. this has changed…

I.. have.. been.. berlinerized…

The Dangers of Biking when Work & Party Traffic Cross

Berlin is a musical city. There’s very talented people playing in the metro every day (and quite some untalented, but that’s another story). There’s tons of gigs all over the city, every day. There’s not even one “guide”, on paper, or online, which will, or can, give a complete overview. And this is like, every day. Not just the weekend. Every day.

On workdays however, when four bands are playing in one place, because of the “neighbor-problem”, the set of each band will be too short. It doesn’t matter though, if it ends up with the the audience drumming on stage, and the singer/base-player in the audience. Quality over quantity is the attitude by now of both bands and audience.

Sometimes you have to chose unfortunately.  But when you’re lucky, you can combine two gigs, depending on where the neighbors start complaining on what hour and the bands have to stop playing (Prenzlauerberg and Mitte around 10pm, Kreuzberg around midnight, Friedrichshain, well.. errmm… you relocate the band to a park or so) . And if you have a good mode of transport. A bike works pretty well.
It can be risky though.

On a workday, traffic around 8pm is busy. Late-shift-commuters meet the early party tourists. So, on the 15 minute bike-ride from Friedrichshain to a gig in Kreuzberg I got almost driven over by a bus, two taxis, and a wheelchair.
Yes. A Wheelchair.
Not to mention I almost drove over a woman on bike staring at her phone, and quite a few tourist who don’t have a clue something like bike paths exist.

Oh. And this is Berlin. So on the way back you see a guy taking a pic of his girlfriend on the Oberbaumbrücke, she wearing nothing more than a latex bikini, a floppy hat and an open raincoat. It was after midnight, temperatures drop to 5 degrees celsius.

Another taxi driver makes room for you to pass a cop car in full alarm, parked on the bike lane, with a roadwork in the middle of the bridge and the tramtracks somewhere there too, because something happened again at the RAW again (how come they station 300 cops for months in a row in front of a squat, but they can’t seem to manage what happens at the RAW, where there’s actually crime, and victims..).

At the boxi square, after avoiding clashing your bike into many tourists again, and again, you pass a couple of guys pushing a cart which was filled with the usual protest gear. I almost shouted “which demo did I miss this time?”

Oh, and of course I forgot to bring a bag to the gig. Even though I KNOW I will buy vinyl at an event like this. Long the multi-functional pali shawl, which can be folded in anything including a bag. And then awkwardly holding it with one hand, while preventing accidents with your other hand when driving a bike through Kreuzberg & Friedrichshain on a night out… One eye on the traffic, one eye on that (hopefully still) unbroken record.

Still very thankful for that one taxi driver, who made room for me and my fragile record.

Note: all doodles made by myself when enjoying the not-so-risky public transport. See Twisted Kritters if you want to see more of them.

Blurp: This Boots Were Made for Walking…


Some 20 years ago, I walked past a “girlie boutique” (yes, the one’s I never frequent) which had a sale. In the window, a pair of heavy boots was for sale for only 5 guilden (2,50 euros). I bought them.

 

And wore them, and wore them. I think everyone knows me on these boots.

After 20 years of hiking up and down jagged mountains, carrying me through snow and heavy rain showers, after 20 years of wild dancing on parties, months of heavy work on the ship, and 20 years of muddy festivals… After at least 3 times new soles…

They have holes in the leather itself… They’re goners…

 

And I want them back. Or the same ones.

 

 

Now, I never really discovered a “brand” on them. Only a serial number (yes, seriously), and “hilace” as the type. Only after examining them this weekend, I found two small letters “A&A”. Which is probably the brand.

 

And the only thing the internet gave me is a small shoe manufacturer which makes fetish shoes.

Don’t tell me the best hiking boots I ever had were actually a pair of fetish boots…

P.S. Of course some people will be curious about the manufacturer. It’s indeed a very small, very specialist, british company called A&A Shoes Ltd.

 

Berlin – 48 hours later

We Berliners live dangerously. We’re used to crossing busy streets and jumping out of the way of that crazy idiot ignoring a red light. We warm up our Döner from two days ago. In the middle of winter, we dance in our T-shirts in front of some street musicians (IF we like the music). We breathe the most polluted air in Europe and smoke a smuggled cigarette on top. When some Imbiss has tables outside, we will use them,  even when it’s -10. One of our favorite districts for going out is the battleground of a full-fledged gang-war.  We eat raw fish when the summers are so hot, the parks look like the Sahara. If the S-Bahn breaks down (like almost every winter) and we’re stuck for hours somewhere in the snow, we start singing christmas songs loudly with complete strangers.  And at May 1st, we just take a small step backwards to let the riot go past & keep watching the bands while barricades are burning behind our back.

It is not easy to get us shocked. Or scared. Or randomly hate groups of people. We leave that to the luckily still relatively small amount of “worried citizens”.

A view through the wall (from 1989)
A view through the wall (from 1989). There will always be something pink hidden somewhere

We’re from France. From Holland. From Venezuela and Brazil. From Pakistan, Lebanon and Egypt. Some of us come from Spain, from Greece. From Poland or Bosnia. From Turkey, South-Africa or Japan. Some of us are import from Baden-Württemberg, the Ruhrpot, Ost-Friesland or Sachsen-Anhalt, or a “Fischkopf” from Hamburg. Some of us are “original”-Berliners.

But no matter where we come from, we all soon adopt the Berlin attitude: we don’t believe the hype.

After the incident last monday, we’re shocked, yes. But the general attitude is “You won’t get our fear, you won’t get our hate”.

By now, everyone having some sort of connection to the outer world must know about what happened in Berlin, this monday around 8pm.
For those who didn’t, just the bare facts. Someone hijacked a truck, and drove it through a crowd of people at one of the most popular Berlin Christmas markets. Twelve people died, many got injured. That’s all we know for certain. Everything else is not known. Though this might change in the time that I’m typing this.

Twelve people died just because they were at the wrong time at the wrong place, by the act of a criminal insane person. I call this person criminally insane. No matter your motives, be it personal, political or maybe for money, if you kidnap a truck driver, stab him quite a few times, drive his truck through a random crowd killing people, and shoot that driver, you’re insane, and you’re a criminal.

So yes. We’re shocked.
Even as Berliners, we’re shocked. But we leave fear and hate to others.

Shock

The most common, and very human, reaction is shock. Though we stay calm, we’re still shocked.

Now, violence, or people dying, is not uncommon on this planet. So why are we shocked if a relatively small amount of people die or get injured?
First of all, I think being shocked is still a good thing. It means what happened is still a rare thing. People die because of car accidents all the time. Or heart attacks. Or getting their purses stolen. We’re not even shocked anymore by rape (sadly enough). It is common. We’re all aware this can happen to us too. We’re weary when crossing a busy street. We try to sort of look after our health. We watch our bags when walking through a crowd. A woman walking alone in a dark street, tends to walk faster. But we’re not shocked when we read about an elderly lady being killed by a drunk driver. Unless we know her of course. We feel sorry for the person who just got her purse stolen, but well, shit happens.  And rape, well, unfortunately, most women are way too aware it can happen any time, any place, to be shocked to read about it in the newspapers.

Luckily we’re still shocked if someone randomly drives through a market and kills people.
Or, as another recent incident showed, shocked about the almost casual way some hooligans kicked a woman down the stairs at a metro station. What was most shocking about it, was the utter indifference of the kicker. Walking by, seeing the woman, kicking her hard in her back, grabbing his beer, and walking on, laughing with his friends. It had a very strong “Clockwork Orange” feeling for me. And I was shocked mostly about the complete ruthlessness and lack of conscience of the kicker.
Or shocked when a “confused person” pushes a complete stranger in front of a subway train, which happened in january this year here in Berlin.
Or another mentally not stable person flies a passenger plane into a mountain.
Thank goodness, these are still incidents. Not common…

Next, we’re shocked because we can identify with the victims or their family.
Though I’m personally not a big fan of christmas markets (I don’t like hot wine, I don’t get the fun of christmas-hats with glowlights, or over-expensive heartshaped sweets) and probably lack the cultural background to enjoy them, it could have happened to me. One of my colleagues or friends might have tried to convince me to at least try a christmas market and dragged me there. Or it might have been one of my friends or colleagues visiting that market.
In the case of the woman being kicked down the stairs, it could have been any of us. We could have been the one trying to catch a metro and suddenly finding ourselves down the stairs with a broken arm.
We could have been in that plane. Being pushed in front of the subway.
And just like these people, if we were in their situation, we wouldn’t be aware we were at risk, were a target, or maybe could have been prepared for it.

In the news we read a lot about death and violence. And the acts themselves are actually quite shocking. But we somehow manage to shrug them off. Because.. it won’t happen to us.

  • Doctors or nurses shot at an abortion clinic? We don’t work at an abortion clinic, and heck, that’s far away anyway.
  • A politician or ambassador being killed? We’re not politicians or ambassadors, and again, that’s some other country.
  • The death penalty for atheists? Luckily we don’t live in a country like that.
  • A banker’s son being kidnapped for ransom? We’re not rich.
  • People at a mosque being shot? We’re not muslims.
  • A homeless guy being set on fire? We’re not homeless.
  • A drug dealer being stabbed to death at the RAW Gelände? We’re not drug dealers. Though this might get close, we could get involved in something like that just by being around at that time.
  • A few gay people being beaten up at Alexanderplatz? We’re not… ho, wait-a-sec, we have a lot of gay friends or might not be completely straight ourselves. Now this IS getting close.
    Maybe next time, when I travel with them over Alexanderplatz, I have to warn them not to act too gay. I don’t want to get beaten up by association.

Ho. Wait-a-sec. Again.
Why would I warn my friends not to be too obviously gay?
Why would I become scared? And start acting upon it?
Isn’t that exactly what those homophobic people want??

Fear

No, we won't paint it black. Though it's tempting
No, we won’t paint it black. Though it’s tempting (pic from personal archive)

One of the things which very unpleasantly surprised me yesterday was how soon it was deemed an “attack”.
Though nobody knew what exactly happened, and most important, the motives of the truck-driver, it was an attack almost immediately after the news got out.
The first thing I noticed was how fast facebook-friends declared themselves safe during the “Attack on Berlin”. Facebook later renamed the safety check to “Violent Incident”, but the damage was done.
Though the german media, even the tabloids, adopted a far more “wait and see what actually happened” attitude, facebook immediately jumped to a conclusion. It was an ATTACK. And of course, all over the world, people jumped to conclusions. It was an attack, it was an act of TERRRRORRR. But please don’t panic. Right.

One of the results was that friends and family, who really knew I was not the kind of person for visiting a christmas market, fervently tried to text, message or email me asking if I was safe. And I know a lot of fellow-Berliners, many not too big fans of christmas markets, had the same thing happening.
When in a city of a few million people, 12 people die because of some kind of freak incident, probably no one would have worried. But call it an attack, as facebook did, start talking about a terrorist act (like a lot of international, also mainstream, media did) and panic starts.

Even if later, it turns out to be not a terrorist act, but for example, a drunk or overworked driver, a criminal act gone horribly wrong, or some “confused” person running amok. Or other motives. The damage is done. The fear is sown.

As for example happened with the truck driver in Nice (who wasn’t a fanatic muslim, but a mentally ill person), or an axe-wielder in a train in Germany, the crazy guy in a train from Holland to Paris, or a burned-out nerd doing a coupe in dutch television. Too many examples of amok-runners (which is sad anyway) which were, sometimes only temporarily, deemed a terrorist act.

We’re not afraid of confused people running amok. They’re just, you know, crazy. And there’s not much we can do about crazy people suddenly deciding to, well, go crazy. They are so unpredictable, we adapt the “shit happens” attitude.
We’re not too afraid of violent criminals. Because, there’s still some sort of logic, an understandable motive, greed. They are nicely (relatively) predictable.

But we are o-so afraid of terrorists. Because they do not seem to be crazy. They seem to have some kind of rationality. We just don’t get their logic. We don’t get their fanaticism. But they seem to have a purpose.

Indeed they do.
One of reasons terrorists perform terrorist acts, is not the act themselves. They want to inflict fear. It’s not the few people killed. They don’t really matter. It is the fear for that we, personally, might be next.
See above. Random acts of violence that could happen to us.

And anything which helps create the fear, helps the terrorists.
That’s what facebook did. That’s what quite a few mainstream media from outside Germany do.
I’ve heard stories about school trips to Berlin being cancelled. Because, you know, Alexanderplatz isn’t safe.
This is exactly doing what the terrorists want you to do. Start cowering.
Just like me telling my gay friends not to act too gay when traveling in the metro. That’s helping the homophobics.

The best you can do is stay calm. Don’t panic. Don’t give in to fear. Proceed as normally. That way you are taking away the terrorists main instrument.
Luckily the Berlin people acted that way. We mourn, we’re in shock. But we don’t let ourselves intimidated (IF it was a terrorist act, we won’t give them what they want). The christmas markets were open today.

Hate

Omg, how we would love to have someone to blame. Someone who is guilty of this. Well. There is. The truck driver.

Things you can hate. Or love. Or mourn.
Things you can hate. Or love. Or mourn.

But he (or maybe a she?) is the only we can blame. For now.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few people who happily jumped the bandwagon and used this utter tragedy for their own agenda, or personal gain.

And the worst has been seen. Especially after a (later deemed innocent) refugee from Pakistan was arrested. But already before this.

On the social media. Facebook, Twitter. Even before the innocent guy from Pakistan was arrested, immediately especially the xenophobes started screaming and throwing mud. Of course it was an attack. And a terrorist one too. And one to blame on refugees, migrants, or muslims. Close all the borders! Deport anyone with a skin color darker than bright white! Shave off all beards! Remove any female headcover!

After the refugee was arrested it got even worse. The german xenophobic party started using terminology such as “Merkel’s dead”. Memes started to pop up with the german chancellor with bloody hands. This also internationally.

But the social media were only the start. Especially from mainstream media from outside germany, the finger-pointing started. Immigrants. Muslims. Refugees. The german open borders. They were all to blame. Close the borders! Start deporting! Stop any humanitarian help! More security! More surveillance! Less privacy!

Then there were all the politicians. Using it to further their own agenda. Though I was never a big fan of Trump (*cough*) his reaction to the violence in Turkey, Zürich and Berlin was utterly disgusting. Nothing was known at that time. And he already started blaming immigrants and calling it an attack on christianity. I almost had to puke.

Every xenophobic politician in Europe followed suit.

And then it turns out, the refugee from Pakistan was innocent. And they became silent again.

But the damage was done. The past 48 hours, random acts of violence against refugees increased dramatically. Very dramatically. And motives and purpose of the committers of these crimes were very, very clear. No speculation needed.

Today a xenophobic spin-off of the Pegida organized an “anti-Merkel” demonstration at the market. To claim this horrible incident to further your agenda is so… plainly disgusting. It reminds me of the reaction of the xenophobes to the acts of sexual violence against women during New Year’s Eve in Cologne. All of a sudden, these white male chauvinists would protect women’s right. Well, if I was sexually assaulted, the last “knight in shining armor” I would look to for protection, would be one of the same kind of people as the ones that (in a group) pushed me up to the wall in a subway station, calling me a “leftish slut”. A “slut” because I was female, and “leftish”, since I happen to live in an alternative neighbourhood.

(Update: the xenophobic demonstration was met with a huge crowd of people holding hearts up. We don’t let hate win.)

And talking about pointing fingers. That video of the people kicking a woman down the stairs in a subway station? The guys looked dark-skinned. I’ve seen so much hate going on. The video was posted as “Afghan refugees attacking woman”. And other accusations without any real back-up. After it turned out, the kicker was an european hooligan, they went silent. Very, very silent.
But the damage was done. Not everyone (the video went quite viral) who saw the video, has also gotten the information of who the actual committer of the crime was. The story went on its own.

The same thing is happening again. We still have no clue what the motives of the driver are. Or who he is. Or she. The person is still on the lose. Which is kinda scary, since it’s the kind of person who is capable of stabbing someone multiple times and shooting him. But we don’t even know if the driving into the crowd was on purpose. It might have been a result of the struggle between the driver and his kidnapper. Or the kidnapper simply having no clue how to drive a truck. We don’t know.

But the fingers are pointed. And as so many examples from the (recent) past have shown, they might very well point in the wrong direction. What about the 60+ Israeli lady who is missing? Maybe she was behind all of it (not seriously meant, just pointing the finger to a very unlikely suspect).. At the moment, only rumors and suspicions exist. About smuggling cigarettes. About the hijacking having a criminal background (and gone horribly wrong). Now, the papers of a Tunesian have been found in the truck. A Tunesian, about to be deported, a known small criminal, someone who had the attention of the secret service for some time, and who’s phone had been tapped because he might have been planning an armored robbery. Someone who might have been “radicalized”. But we still don’t know if it was him. Leaving your purse with identity papers on the scene of a crime doesn’t really sound… smart? It’s not something your average burglar would do.

But even if it was this person, we’re still not sure about his motives. If it was someone with a muslim background, seeking asylum… Don’t generalize. Don’t point fingers. “You won’t get our hate”.  As quite a lot of people from here, from Berlin have said, posted, put notes on the scene of the crime. And that’s the right attitude. Shock. Yes. Fear, don’t. Hate. No. The only ones profiting from fear and hate are the terrorists and the xenophobes.

No one is to blame. Not refugees. Not muslims. Not “Gutmenschen”. Only the driver of the truck.

A message to the xenophobes: Stop crying wolf. Unfortunately, people still believe you. But you have been crying wolf wrongly so many times now, they might stop believing you.
Same to the terrorists. Really, nobody believes you anymore when you claim a violent crime as your own terrorist act days later. Just give up, will you?

You won’t get our fear. You won’t get our hate. Just give up and get lost.

Blurp: Another level for my guardian angel

Boing. My guardian angel just gained enough experience points to level up again.

By utter coincidence and complete stupidity I managed to get in the middle of the action (again), watch riot cops charge into an otherwise very peaceful antifascist demonstration (again), wonder if I should do something heroic, see the streetlights reflect in helmet and clubs, decide against the heroic thing, and just shake my old head while the “riot” (which consisted of two small smoke-bombs thrown on the pavement from the demo, and lots of pushing and clubbing from the cops) went back & forth for my eyes.

And am completely unaffected by it. Physically (hence the xp for the guardian angel) as well as mentally. Only worried about the kids in the demo, or the people who were hit.

I just get very, very tired of this, it is so unnecessary. But I guess if they had let the demo walk peacefully to the end point, the tabloids would lack headliners tomorrow, and certain conservative politicians can’t scream for more police to control our neighborhood.

*sighs deeply again and congratulates guardian angel on another level*

Blurp – An even darker view

I always hear I’m a pessimist. But today one of my colleagues managed to top even my blackest views.

During a meeting, we were worrying about the impact of the US elections on global environmental policy, considering the candidates for positions of power (for example, the EPA).

All of a sudden, one my colleagues loosely remarks “ah well, extrapolating the current trend, we might have to deal with the AfD leading the Environmental Ministry in a year time”.

I literally spit out my coffee…

(for people not living in germany: the AfD is the leading xenophobic party here, and shares the tendency towards conspiracy theories as well as a firm disbelief in anything having to do with (natural) science. They won considerably lately. Though still marginal compared to the trend in other countries)

Hot in the city

It’s hot, so in the evening, I open my windows to let the cooler air in. My cat likes this and sits in the front window. I’m working on my computer, and all of a sudden I hear strange noises. There’s an elderly man trying to pet my cat through the open window and the occasional plant, but she runs off. I walk up to him, and he tells me, he always wanted a cat. I ask him why he doesn’t pick up a cat from the shelter. He looks at me with sad eyes: “you need a house first before you can give a  stray a home.”

I work in the tourist part of Berlin. So I’m actually quite used to people asking me if they could ask something, usually the way. So, when I cross one of the busiest streets in Berlin, and an well-dressed, white-haired, balding guy asks me if he could ask me something, I answer “sure” and walk up to him. Then he tells me “did you know Hitler was an english agent?”. I sigh, wave dismissively and turn around. Behind me, he shouts the address of his website. I roll my eyes and think “another one for the list”. When I walk down to the coolness of the metro station (it’s almost 40 degrees celsius outside), I pass a guy wearing a full cover plastic asbestos-overall, chewing his sandwich utterly relaxed. The sun sure brought out the freaks…

Redoodled drawing of my cat when I was 5

When I put the cat basket on the back of my bike to bring her to the vet, my cat usually announces World War III. A black guy with a grey beard walks past, makes “poor kitty” noises. The moment I secure the basket, I see him stop in his steps. He walks back, gives me a sympathetic look, opens the box of chocolates he is carrying, and offers me one.

Sunday morning 7 am, I wake up because of some drunk people talking really loudly in front of my house. I sigh, turn on the other side and wrap my pillow around my head, hoping they will walk on quickly. They don’t. I’m slowly but steadily getting really annoyed. So I sigh again, aggressively pull up the blinds, and stick my head out of the window: ey.. people, mind moving on a bit, trying to get some sleep here. They tell me “oh we’re really really really sorry, we’ll be quieter”. Only when I go back to bed I realize one of the two was wearing a one meter tall, at least 50 cm diameter, brightly colored velvet hat. I still hear their discussion over the traffic noise when they moved to the busier street a few 100 meters further.

It is said hot weather brings out hot tempers.
If this is the hot temper of the people of this city, it can get a lot hotter still.