Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Walking in my cloggs..

This is likely the last post I write from Europa. And this is the bittersweet conclusion of our two year stint on this marvelous continent.  I counted that I have visited 10 countries in the past two years, and lived in two. The last few months I have been feeling like I am walking towards a massive and dark thunderstorm, a few gusts of wild winds blowing as a warning ahead. 

I am feeling trepidatious about returning to the States in the current State as seen from over here. I am also completely excited to reunite with my friends, animals, the blue skies and mesa. I know there is a fight ahead, to face this new era and I am ready. As I saw so well written on the Berlin Wall.

We did a lot right in these adventures over here, and we did a lot wrong. 
It takes time to settle into somewhere, and every month, every year unfolds more layers of depth to a place and ones perspective of that place. One notable mistake was leaving each place after only one year. We did not get the benefits of our hard work figuring the cities out. What neighbourhoods to live in, what school Kodiak could go to, work spaces, where to get your groceries, favorite spots for sunset, new people you like. This takes time, about a year it turns out, and just as the pieces started falling in to place, we decided to keep moving.  
It has been a grand experiment, and I do think all three of us are better for it. Especially Kodiak. He will never believe the world is too small for big ideas. 

My last few pictures of Berlin include the "Ampelman", whose swagger and hat always made me smile and one of the many posters from one of the coolest clubs there- Urban Spree. I also have a plethora of monochromatic tall gothic church steeple pictures, which represent the austere part of Germany. No humor there. I will save those for another time. 
I definitely have a push pull relationship with Berlin, and it's fair to say that it was more push than pull in the last few months.
And within that experience was also inspiring nights watching aerial performer Laura Stokes be fabulous at Nirgendwo, and welding, festivaling and hanging out with fellow metalworker and great friend, Terril.  

It was a big push to help complete and ship off "With Open Arms" to Burning Man as well as decouple from German bureaucracy. It's really impressive how difficult the latter was, silly things like rental agreements, health insurance, electricity, school catering services, more required insurance, telecom services, internet providers, even more obtuse insurance. I have not written this many paper letters since 1989!
Working on With Open Arms with Christian has been a very rewarding experience, and we managed to show it for one evening in Berlin at KAOS, which was a major highlight for me. Many of our Berlin based friends came to see WOA that night, and witnessed a slice of what Christian and I do in our world of festival sculpture creation. I felt that we were seen and understood that night possibly for the first time. I can't wait to see this beautiful piece at BM, and in the great company of an almost exclusive European crew! 

After we loaded the container for shipping, we had two weeks to pack up our lives in Berlin. Every minute was busy. When we left for Sweden, the entire family took a big sigh of relief. **aaahhhh****

As it has been for most of my life, going back to Stockholm is a sweet homecoming. We stayed in an idyllic Swedish summer cottage, and did what all the Swedes do in the archipelago, relax. 
Between enjoying a trip to the Stockholm city on a commuter boat, eating salt licorice ice cream, swimming in a peaceful lake (no fishing, no motorboats) and taking long walks in the woods(in cloggs of course), it was a perfect wind-down from the months prior. 

We did play frisbee too. And read books.

Stockholm was overrun by tourists in the old city but I turned around on a whim and took this picture, which for that second had no people in the streets! Other than the bicycle this vista could be timeless, as Gamla Stan has not changed much since the middle ages. 
You can feel the history under your feet. of my favorite moments.

Now we are in Reykjavik, Iceland on our last leg before crossing the ocean wide. This volcanic, raw, ragged paradise happens to be Christian's favorite place on the planet. The three colors of Iceland are Black(lava rock), white(turbulent skies), and a flourescent green(moss and grass). It's such a stark and striking landscape, it's almost surreal. I have been here a few times and it's usually on a return leg of a flight back to the States, so it has a bit of a melancholy feel to it. I admit that hiking up a terrific mountainside with the weather alternating between rain, wind and fog to a spectacular hot spring river makes me quite giddy, and I always enjoy my time here.
Happy boys!

Tomorrow we end the many rich chapters of our Europa experience to start anew in a familiar place we call home. Home is but a word though, as I hold my open heart to the many places I belong.

Thanks for adventuring with me through this blog over the past two years.
With immense gratitude,

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

On Belonging...

"I don't want to leave here, I don't want to stay. It feels like pinching to me either way. And the places that I long for the most, are the places I have been. They are calling out to me like a long lost friend"
Sarah Groves

As an expatriate, I am again struggling with the idea of belonging. As we are getting ourselves ready to uproot once again and go "back" home I am reminded of my childhood and all the times we moved around the World. It was all that you would expect, difficult to leave friends and familiar routines, and exciting to learn new ways and meet new people. Transition is difficult for humans. Change is uncomfortable. I often feel like I'm floating between places, not belonging anywhere and sadly not able to belong anywhere. I am called a third culture citizen, and I know I am not alone. I wake not knowing where I am, which has an unsettling residue, it's hard to shake. Growing roots is a concept rather than a fact of my life. A rootless plant.

I attach to feeling European when I'm in the States, I attach to being Swedish when I'm in Europe and I attach to the experience of a Taoseño when I'm in Taos. It's complicated, yet I also could not imagine living without the wide perspective that expatriatism affords. It's a tribe in itself. A bunch of rootless plants. We find each other out there in the world and there is an unspoken understanding of what I'm describing. I found it in Barcelona, and I found it living in Berlin.

I have always been the outsider, as a kid living everywhere, "home" was where my passport said it was. I never belonged deeply to any culture and yet belong to them all in some way or another. Back to the third culture citizen, a description that did not exist yet when I was a kid. We just called ourselves world citizens with permanent culture shock. I will be going to a high school reunion in a week, in Paris, where I attended the American School in Paris. Possibly with people I have little in common with to date, other than this exact experience that defines us as adults today. This may sound extravagant, but Paris is a two hour flight from Berlin, at a commuter price of less than 50 bucks. That's Europe.

 Last week we took another trip, first to Prague then my friend Cedar and I went on to Poland. We visited Oświeçim, also known as Auschwitz, and the bustling city of Krakow. I could write plenty around the heartbreaking experience of seeing the concentration camps, (which I think should be mandatory for all in Europe to see) but not now.  I do have two lasting thoughts from that experience
How did so many people perish under everyones eyes? (Out of the 6 million Jews that were tortured and murdered, the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp alone brutally massacred 1.1 million Jews, and another several hundred thousand people of various ethnicities and abilities. People knew.) And, is it happening today under a different pretext? "Those who do not know history, are condemned to repeat it". Edmund Burke  This question is a debate we need to have, not one to wave away while buying another distraction.

No wonder Europeans drink so much! There's a lot of trauma and war on this continent. I still admire the lengths various warring nations have gone to keep the history alive, with the hope of changing the course for the future generations. Especially in Germany. If you visit here and did not notice the remnants of WWII or the East-West schism, you must have had your eyes closed. It's just that crazy juxtaposition as you walk by the bombed out church, (also the site of the 2016 Christmas market attack) with your flat white in hand looking for the Apple store.

My experience as a terminal outsider is a cultural one. I guess I feel as if I belong to my friends, my fellow expats, my experiences in all the various places I find myself in. In the end I simply belong here, on the planet, with the rest of you 7.5 billion humans.
I have a concept brewing around borders, boundaries on a globe, that act to divide people rather than bring them together.  Some sculptural manifestation of the softness and hardness of these lines, these territories on a map, and how they change so quickly at the whim of politics.

But for now, here in Berlin it's crunch time for us. Finishing Christian's sculpture With Open Arms, as well as packing logistics and moving logistics, and taming the certain anxiety of returning's a full plate, which goes well with a dry Sauvignon Blanc.

It's been two years since we embarked on this adventure. I like to think it's not the end, rather the beginning of new trail, and who knows where it will lead. Experience ages us well. Which reminds me of part of this tune on lingering..
"..and as time goes by...mmmm..I look at you an was goodnight and not good bye"

I am obsessed with this video and the song by The Blaze called Territory. I can't relate but yet I can, which pretty much sums up this post. A rootless plant, I tell you.
See you soon.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Germany for Germans

This post has been brewing for a while, and comes at the heels of a much welcomed travel adventure I had with Kodiak during his two week Spring break. While in Europe, I thought we would take full advantage of cheap flights and proximity to everything amazing.. 

We took a speed train from Berlin to Paris, going a whooping 308km/hour, which took about 7 hours. Impressive! After a week in Paris, exploring a fraction of what the city has to offer, we spent a day at the Louvre, which was a highlight. Not only to see the Mona Lisa's eyes following you as you walk by her, but the sheer volume of incredible artworks and sculptures within the lavishly beautiful space is truly un-comparable. This classical art is especially fun w/ kids as it's so saucy, gory with lots of strange subject matters, it's an interesting challenge for a parent to answer the "why's". I kept thinking about the opera, why I love it so much, for the same reasons, this exploration of human nature which seems to come down to all of our cardinal vices; greed, sloth, pride, jealousy, murder(wrath), lust, gluttony and war! Explaining this stuff in "PG" makes for hilarious and involved conversations with a 7 year old.

And there was the Eiffel tower of course, viewed from my favorite place, Trocadero. I hope Kodiak will remember a little bit of this trip, and even if not it will have imprinted on him of some of the wonders of the world. 
There have been few other times that traveling has been as much fun as with my little goofball son. Exhausting for sure, but his outlook on places and how he interacts with his world is really inspiring. Kids are very punk rock.

After Paris, we explored Tenerife, one of the Canary islands off the coast of North Africa. It is considered part of Spain, but like Cataluñya is also an autonomous region. It is famous for its volcanic activity and it looks like a southern version of Iceland. What we did find there for the first time in many months was the sun. It was a much needed infusion of vitamin D, something I had been lacking in Berlin for the last 5 months. After a glorious week spent in a yurt in the dry highlands of the island, we moved on and flew to Madrid. 

Madrid was the expected bustle, and our main goal was to visit the museum that houses Picasso's "Guernica".  I have been longing to see this masterpiece in person, and I was not disappointed. The Museo Reina Sofia was the highlight, lots of interesting work mainly addressing the war and post war era. As a city goes, Madrid's flavor is more conservative and less gritty than Barcelona. One other highlight was our visit to one of the oldest barber shops in Spain, "El Kinze de Cuchilleros". Kodiak got his first professional hair cut here, pampered between Spanish men getting their beards trimmed to perfection. And all this for €13! 

Then we returned to Germany. Land of rules and ways that I believe only really Germans understand. As an old punk and do-I-what-I-wanter, I have to admit there is quite a bit of a culture clash between us. Granted we do live in the South of Berlin, a beautiful and boring suburb far from the more exotic multi cultural Berlin you hear about, but truly it feels more German than Kreuzberg. Although there are amazing resources in Berlin, especially for artists, there is a lack of a warm inclusive community. Like most northern European cultures(I do belong to one) it takes a long time to really meet and make friends here. Most all my friends in Berlin, are not German! British, Kiwis, Americans, Italians, Spanish..but no Germans. I think there is an inherently thicker shell around Northerners, and the general sourpuss attitudes, especially prevalent in the Winter months is tough to live around. In stark contrast, in Spain, the people (like the weather) are warm, loud, relaxed and mostly smiling. It's funny because I'm Swedish, and I understand the Northern way in my bones and blood but my heart thrives in the Southern cultures. But I digress..

We came back here, school started, and I joined the full swing production of Christian's new sculpture, With Open Arms. We are working in an enormous warehouse, BBK. The rent is cheap, the space is a fully outfitted metal workshop, and all tools are available for use, including rollers and shears and massive brakes. It also houses a fully equipped wood shop, clay studio and stone carving studio. This is one of those resources that is just incredible. And when I'm not there welding with Christian, I am at KAOS, working in the metal shop and forge. I started teaching welding workshops, which has been very gratifying and I will be starting my second run in a few weeks. All this familiar creative work is feeding my soul and I am so grateful for it. Between the workshops and the new sculpture life is full. And time will pass quickly as it does when one is busy, and soon I will be sharing more stories in person with old friends in Taos. I am looking forward to it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When Centimeters become the new black...

It's when centimeters replace inches in your head, when you start to understand how long you've been in Europe. It's been a while. 
Recently some major shifts have tilted us towards heading back home in the Summer. One is the excellent news that Burning Man awarded Christian a grant to build a new huge sculpture. You can see more details on his BLOG. We are super excited, it seemed that much of our future was hanging on this decision. Not only does it present a true challenge on how to pull this off in Berlin, and only using metric measurements at that, but it gives us  a ceremonious welcome home via BRC. I can't think of a better return.

One of the best things about Berlin has been the ability to work at KAOS, the community art space both Christian and I are part of now.  We are continuously meeting new interesting people a wide variety of mad skills. Forging friendships is a slow process but we landed in the right pool of fellow "maker folk", which feels good.  

I have been working on a slightly different project for about three plus months there, building a small house which hosts an installation. It has almost no metal work and is made up of wood and paper and some old cell phones. Not my usual repertoire of mediums. It's almost done, so I feel like it's time to share it with you. It's called Mitt Uthus, which means My Outhouse in Swedish, and is a replica of a traditional outhouse found almost anywhere in the country side in Sweden. The inside of the house is not really an outhouse, rather a place to sit and contemplate for a while. 

The inside walls are completely covered with images acting as wallpaper. My earliest sense of the world came through the images plastered within my grandparents' outhouse, and I came to understood the world based on those images. Today we have viral media, and internet memes. Short, sometimes funny phrases upon circulated images from the news, movies, and cartoons. I have included images that are meaningful to me personally as well as images that represent my time to date. I also added three smart phone screens, embedded into the walls, displaying images and text as well. I want this juxtaposition of technology and memes and vernacular architecture to meld into an immersive experience related to global human impact, familiar and yet disturbing. In a short blurb:

Mitt Uthus is an exploration into contemporary viral media and the power wielded by these iconic visual sound bites of our culture.

I feel like the timing of this installation is spot on, as parts of the concept have been echoed in various lectures and movies I saw recently at the Berlin Transmediale festival as well as a current exhibit at the CCCB (in Barcelona) relating to memes and politics in our culture.

I am in the process of making a video of the piece, as I think it's the best way to share the concept, but I will post some simple pictures first..

 This is the beginning. I guess it also reflects that I feel uprooted and love to build houses... This process was a bit challenging as it has to come a part into several flat panels for transport.

All the walls separate with a few screws and the roof is two sections fastened onto the ends and a middle beam(not in the picture yet).

I built a floating floor with old palette wood as well.

I then sheathed the panels and started planning the interior bench and hidden electric to power the one light bulb as well as charging the phones.

 I found beautiful Scandinavian wall paper with a distressed bird motif, which ended up being perfect for the space. The newspaper clippings and most images are printed on really thin paper, exposing some of the underlying design. I love the textured feel that gives to the walls, making them feel old.
I spent some time designing the door, with a slightly frightened moon face and a five pointed star. I forged the handle in the KAOS metal shop(more pics on that soon)

Now the first coat of paint is on the outside. I still have trim and finishing
touches to paint..

Then the inside..this is a dark pano shot of the walls seen from the bench.

..and a little detail from a section of one wall. 

Hopefully I can get the video done soon to be able to show you more! It's always a bit scary sharing a new project for the first time, especially one that is more personal and outside the usual constraints of what sculpture or visual art is. 
Thanks for reading- more to come.

~Bis Bald! (nothing to do with hair loss)

Thursday, February 15, 2018


It's been a while since my last post, and it's largely due to the Berlin winter. I feel like a hibernating animal, like a bear who is quite content sleeping in a cave waiting for the weather to turn warm and the sun to appear once again. 
I have crawled out of my cocoon for a few events over the past few months, one was visiting Greece over Christmas, which was lovely. Here's our mandatory Acropolis family portrait. Interestingly, the Acropolis looks roughly the same as it did when I saw it in 1992.

We spent many days with Christian's brother Cles and his wife-to-be Eleni, and Nonnah. It was a sweet family affair. Cles is the master mind behind The Thing About Greece, a sustainable adventure site and film about how amazing Greece is.  Thanks to Cles and Eleni and their passion for all that is beautiful there, we got to ski not far from Athens, visit Hydra, swim in a large hot pool within a bat cave, and celebrate a serenely beautiful New Years Eve on a beach. 
And what is becoming our European custom, Christian and I swam in the ocean on the first day of 2018. A good way to start the new year!

The idyllic little island of Hydra, where Leonard Cohen found his inspiration and where time seems to be frozen in a simpler past. It's a walking and donkey island only(no cars).

Once back in the  d a r k  wet cold of Berlin, I managed to check out a digital media/tech and art festival called Transmediale , where our Italian friend Mitra Azar was speaking. It's an interesting festival that explores the topic of technology, media, politics and art and its impact on our culture and society. I have been working for a few months now on an installation piece that examines our relationship to our world through media and memes and how it shapes our relative understanding of identity. 
This installation/sculpture is within a full sized outhouse that I fashioned from my memories of an outhouse I had while growing up in rural Sweden. 

While being anti social, which is surprisingly easy in a large urban sprawl like Berlin, I have been working daily on this installation project at an art space called KAOS. This is where we showed the Hand of Man, a very snowy eve at the Weihnachtsmarkt! Both Christian and I rent space within this makerspace/co working space about a half an hours drive from our little apartment. I will dedicate a short blog to my project later.

We also make it out for strange multi disciplinary events like this, where our friends Nova and Grey are creating music for a 6 hour long organic dance and object manipulation performance. It's always exciting to see new ideas take flight and expose Kodiak to colorful performance art.

I leave you with a few observations, one being that the endless white winter skies here provide an unusual and dramatic backdrop for the many leafless trees. Their network of branches are reflected in nature in rivers and water ways, and in our own bodies vascular system. I'm not sure why I find this so intriguing and beautiful, but I get to see it everywhere in Berlin. Below are examples of the trees and an image of rivers seen from space.

And here is the view from our apartment window.

The other observation is that Berlin is always under construction. 

It's construction cranes are as iconic a fixture as the bare trees. Due to the destruction during WWII and the division of the East, it has a very unique and hodgepodge style to its architecture and layout. And it's a huge city. Large empty spaces within downtown (which were flattened in the war) and East block utilitarian style buildings lining swaths of the city, mixed in with the historic monuments like the Brandenburger Tor, the Fernsehturm and the many Gothic style churches. I was inspired to make a drawing about this juxtaposition...and also the destruction/construction aspect of the city's history. That reminded me of the movie poster of the 50Ft tall woman, 
and this is the result:

So for now, Auf Wiedersehen, biß bald!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Germans, Crickets and Cataluñya

Only a little over a month from my last blog post, there seems to be so much that has happened, from a personal perspective as well as a global one. It's hard to keep the balance, between the local and global news and one's own daily victories and defeats. Somehow all these events intersect somewhere in the psyche to create a smörgåsbord of emotions that inadvertently effect one's daily life.

I don't quite understand why, but the Catalan independence movement which led to the current debacle in Cataluñya has been poignant for me and has evoked feelings of solidarity for all that struggle for their rights. Since we left Barcelona, the situation there has been riddled with recovery and strife.
It's hard to imagine such a historically rich and culturally colorful place could spiral into chaos in such a short time. And it did. It's been a bitter reality for my friends there, walking, living and working on the streets of such polarizing politics as the independence movement conjures.  How the Spanish government chose to deal with the very historically complex uprising is one of the bigger disappointments for me. Not unlike many nations across the globe, there seems to be excess hubris and a shortage of tolerance at the table, if there even is a table to discuss the conflicts at hand. 

How about a big fucking "we are sorry" for whatever atrocities a nation committed against the various peoples who were perceived to be on the wrong side of right in the eyes of the ruling powers?

Even in parenting, an acknowledgment of ones mistakes is the most important first step towards mending trust and building new and peaceful ways of communicating. It translates from our individual behaviour to our national behaviour. Admitting a wrong is an important step to begin making a right.

And here is the segue from Spain to Germany... I just finished reading the book: The Shortest History of Germany by James Hawes, and it describes the absolutely crazy history of war laden lands of what are today known as Germany from 500 BCE to the present. It's fascinating.
One thing I took to heart as the book approached the mid 20th century: The Holocaust
"it's tempting to print an entire page in solid black and and just go sit in some blessed English garden, trying to forget what happened among the railways-sidings and birch-forests of Mitteleuropa. Here, if anywhere, is something too awful for rational discussion or comprehension. But we can't leave it at that."
The book then continues to portray the darkest sides of humankind in chronological time. And the mass reckoning that inevitably followed. And I will mention, still, there is reckoning in the air in Berlin. I feel it here daily.

More interesting graffiti in the Friedrichshain Kiez (German for "hood").

And then there is the day to day stuff.... The different etiquette of the German culture, is not an easy one to work around.
Could they please stop honking their car horns? They honk the second you, as a driver or pedestrian or bicyclist, step out of "order". 
It is clear that I am wired for a more organic approach to human movement in urban areas, and thus here, I experience plenty of honking.
And how about a smile? Come on people! Those facial muscles seem a bit under developed here. Luckily I have a super silly 7 year old, who makes me laugh and smile most of the time, so we turn the goof factor up to 11 when we are out in the city.

 One weekend we found excellent Thai and Indonesian street food in a small Berlin park. Christian really enjoyed a plate of fried crickets!

On a much more personal note, I am experiencing bouts of anxiety around not being productive enough. I have to constantly remind myself that this grand adventure has many layers to it, some evidently hidden, and that even though I feel displaced, change like this is good for me. With all this moving and resettling it has been hard to finish any creative project I have started. I began doing research on residency programs in Berlin where you can immerse yourself in your project with support from other artists. Perfect I thought.
I applied for several residency programs, and got accepted to one that is a potential good fit for a sculpture I have been dreaming up. But then the reality set in. The intense residency timetable is nowhere near my current situation, as a mom, living in the South of Berlin, with a sobering schedule around my sons school and extra curricular activities. Like all moms, I just don't have a lot of work(me) time in a day. So, I pass on the opportunity and move on to a work space in a collective space with access to many familiar tools and hope for the best. The cost of participating in the co-op makerspace is a fraction of the residency and that in the end alleviates the pressure of over-commitment. I hope to use this resource and get at least one new sculpture out into the world!

It makes me grateful for all that we built at home, a shop next to our house, a supportive community for our family.  Space, peace and quiet to do our work. Space!
Cities are catalysts of the opposite, great places to get swept away by the urban distractions, noise, lights, mass volume of humans, truly impressive art.  Places to gestate ideas, meet interesting minds, expose oneself to uncomfortable experiences. To be impressed by innovation, to exist within the buzz. To be like a sponge, soaking it all up.  And to remain present, as hard as that is.

We travel a lot, especially now with our little wonder car, the Skoda. It's amazingly fuel efficient and is a solid little ride for our family. We traveled to Denmark. I went back to Barcelona for a short visit, and to take advantage of our dental insurance. We drove to Amsterdam a few weekends ago, to attend the infamous ADM (art squat) birthday party festival. They are the collective that was behind Robodock, the festival where I got to operate my very first pulse jet engine from SRL, which subsequently inspired Caged Pulse Jets. A perfect example of how an urban cultural experience can inspire new work.

I hope that Kodiak will remember some of these adventures later. Even if it's deep down, he, like all of us adventurers, is a global human. Hopefully, even if no true memory remains, he will know that the world is full of possibility and that he holds the key.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Homage to Berlin

Ok, it's been a while since I have written, and much has happened, as it does. The world keeps turning whether you make a note of it or not.

After Maker Faire Berlin, Christian and I had a "aha" moment on the plane back to Barcelona. Maybe Berlin was a better fit? We discovered that Berlin is a freak show of great proportions, with active squats, punks, queer culture, freaks of all ages, truly amazing graffiti and public art works, a healthy dose of green forests and bustling family scenes. Lots of playgrounds, where parents enjoy a picnic with beer and kids jump on the many public trampolines. It's a colorful city. 
Upon returning to Barcelona, the old Catalan city was overflowing with tourists (literally) and life there suddenly seemed a bit conservative all around.

Within a few weeks I was back scouting for schools, found an amazing International, IB/UN* school taught in American English that had space for Kodiak, and that was that. Our remaining days in Barcelona were filled with beautiful coastal escapes from the city, the heat and the masses. We moved to Berlin a few weeks later.
This time we took the opportunity to not make the same mistakes and found an apartment close to the school. Now, we bicycle to and from school, through a section of forest no less. After school we bike to a nearby lake and take a swim, have a beer and bike home. It's dreamy.

*International Baccalaureate and United Nations School (ie. students from all over the world)

Christian started taking German lessons and in good German tradition there was a special handmade "SchulTüte" given to both of my boys. It made the first day of school all the much better. I speak pretty decent German, so we kind of flipped roles here from Spain (my Spanish is still at beginner level, unfortunately). 
As I was making Kodiak's Schultüte, I glued some sparkly sprinkles to the design and shook the few extras off on our balcony. Well, I guess the sparkles flew down to the neighbors terrace and when I saw her in the hallway the next day she told me in a stern voice that it was strictly "Verboten!"* to have fairy sprinkles in the building. I thought it was a bit strong, but hey, we are in Germany.

We had been in Berlin 14 days when the terrorist attack happened in Barcelona. The van that pointlessly took so many lives on the Ramblas that afternoon was a block from our old apartment. My heart broke with sadness and anger that this happened there, next to my neighbourhood defined by its diversity and tolerance. Of course that is beside the point, but I am grateful that friends and loved ones are still with me, existing in this very temporary state on this planet. No Tenim Por! (We Have No Fear, in Catalan)

Berlin exists in Germany, and I say it this way because it is quite an unusual city in Germany. I will admit I was never excited to move to Germany, having lived here once before in the 1970's in the capitol of those times, Bonn. My mother was born in Mainz and survived the insanity of WWII as a kid, about Kodiak's age. The trauma of that experience remains with her today.  I too, carry some of this German weight. Back when we where trying to decide where to move, Christian stipulated "never France" and I said "never Germany", which is kind of comical now, as sweeping generalizations of places usually hold as much water as an old paper bag. 

But, let me generalize a bit...
I think it's clear that Germans are a more serious and possibly grumpy lot, especially in comparison to the Catalans in Spain. And why wouldn't they be? There seems to be plenty of soul searching going on here, which has led to a very progressive society. Granted, Germany is facing some major problems at the moment, with the refugee crisis, and they seem to be looking at these issues straight on, debating what will be the future road to take. They are considered the leaders of Europe and the EU, with everyone watching closely on how to set a new precedent of action. 

The German elections are coming up and it's so interesting to see how they advertise their various parties (oh yeah, many, many political parties)The CDU(Merkel), SPD, FPD, LKR, Die Linke, Die Alternative, Die Grünen, NPD, The Pirate Party, the list does go on. The CDU, which is the current ruling party, actually describes itself with two words that would not be in the same room in the States, 
as Liberal Conservatism.
Impressive. The adverts address their parties' platform (imagine that) with witty phrases. I have not seen one personal smear advert out there.
Christian took this Pirate party picture. She's having fun!

And then there's their history. Ugly and dark it is, but not unlike other often forgotten human-made atrocities around the world. German history in Berlin is everywhere. 

There are reminders of WWII, the Holocaust and the Wall everywhere. It's in the form of some powerful architectural carnage, large open spaces where buildings once stood, disturbing old street signs next to regular street signs, site-specific memorials, my favorite the stumbling stones, public memorials, subway photographs of old Berlin, sections of the Wall displayed in the city, markings on the streets where the Wall once stood, signs denoting the old division between East and West Berlin. There is probably more, but this is what I have experienced in the month being here now. The Jewish Museum interior was built by Daniel Liebeskind and is one of the most powerful architectural memorials I have experienced. 

The Bunker Museum, in an old war bunker, asks the simple question: how could it happen? Inside are three floors filled with historical memorabilia and truly amazing and disturbing photographs with a focus on Berlin, and its role in both world wars, as well as the holocaust to the end of the war, the time of reckoning. The ticket stub has the word Hitler printed in all caps on it, and I had to throw it out when I got home, it made me so uncomfortable. 

And what would this look like in the United States! I can see artists tackling the darker parts of America's past, right there, everywhere, so everyone can see it. Peppered in amongst the memorials of victories and of the discoveries. The brutal colonization of the Native populations, about their displacement, slavery, the civil war and consequent racism, immigration and its consequent xenophobia.
Could be important for the politically challenged college students(!) in the States...

I'm imagining something way more inspired than a sign post by a road- side pull off. Show people their history in an all accessible, truthful, creative way, and would this not help in the healing of a nation so fractured today?

I'm sure one could add in the history of industry and technology and its subsequent affect on the well being of the planet. And the obvious link from our excess consumption to Global warming and the apocalyptic weather we are having.

What I find so inspiring in Berlin (and Barcelona, too) is that all these reminders serve the new generation to deeply know their past, and hopefully allows for a collective new way of thinking to emerge. The common thread for me, is the accessibility of these stories. It's relevant and within public space. Not only hidden away in a museum, or a remote landmark. And that it's creative- it should evoke wonder.

Indeed, "to know your future, you must know your past" by Spanish literary and philosopher, Santayana.

and lastly,
I took a picture of our desk/office area in our new apartment- a little old with the new.  I love that Kodiak will learn to use this extinct dinosaur of a phone!

Next up- "currywurst" (why mix those two?), the German Forests, and Berlin's amazing Graffiti!
'Till then, Tschüss!*