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When global warming meets childhood memories

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Last summer I finally made it back to Germany after being stuck in Iceland thanks to Covid. The first two weeks me and my family went to Belgium, staying in the same summer house we used to stay in when we were kids. We had perfect summer weather, the waffles were as good as I remembered and the whole trip was very laid back and relaxing. My father and his wife stayed for one more week, this time with the wife side of the family and I stayed in my fathers place. The first day I just walked around in the fields, went to coffee and cake at my sisters, and relaxed in the sun a lot. Summer holiday seemed to be turning out amazing...

The day after I decided to take care of all my banking business. In Iceland everything is possible to do online, but in Germany they like to make you go to the bank in person. Usually that is not so much of an issue, the bank has a branch just across the street, but the internet told me it was still closed, due to covid. So I had to go to a different branch. But not any branch! As I found out German bureaucracy is especially potent in the banking industry, the branch of Aachen, the town 20 minutes away by bus was another department, only a branch of my particular area would do. So I had to make my way to the small provincial town of Stolberg, where I went to high school. After another 20 minute bus ride I arrived. The town had only gotten sadder in the past 20 years. I found out that banks in Germany take a one and half hour lunch break, which I arrived half an hour into. I walked around for an hour, saw a lot of empty store fronts, some 1€ stores, tanning saloons and finally a bakery to spent the rest of the hour drinking coffee, reliving high school memories and congratulating me for having escaped this town. When the bank finally opened I took care of all my banking business looking forward to escaping the town and not coming back. When I finally came home it had started raining, so I retreated inside with my book.

The rain kept on going. Our part of Germany is quite famous for rain, so I did not think much of it. Late at night suddenly the electricity went out. It was pitch dark, the street lights outside had gone out as well. There was a strange noise coming from the living room. I turned on the light from my phone (30% charge, no network) and looked around for a weapon. All I could find was the rod of the vacuum cleaner. I held it in one hand, phone in the other and stormed in the living room. My fathers roomba had lost the connection with it's charging station due to the black out and was moving around the living room, searching for it. I caught it and switched it off.
Neighbours had come out on the street and turned on their cars, which confused me. The next day it dawned on me that they were listening to the radio in their cars and charging their phones. Meanwhile I went looking for candles and matches. In an attempt to make his flat into something of an escape room, my father did not keep these objects together, but in completely different rooms of the flat. I finally found them, put them next to my bed and then decided there was really nothing else to do but sleep. My guess was that a tree had fallen over in the rain and had taken out an electric line. I fully expected it to be back in the morning. I was very wrong.

The next day the electricity wasn't back. My Icelandic phone was useless, as routing somehow required something now disconnected. Not being able to reach me over phone, my sister came over in person. She had been in contact with both my father and brother and was tasked with checking on basements (both my fathers and brothers basement were relying on pumps to keep groundwater out. Pumps which needed electricity to work). By their demeanor she suspected something more than a temporary loss of electricity was going on. Her phone was quickly running out of battery, too. We went to my brothers and checked on the basement. The only water came from the rapidly defrosting freezer, which we got rid of quickly. We decided to go back to her house and make some coffee on her camping cooker. On the way we listened to the radio in the car. It was worse than we could have ever imagined.

My village is on a hill. I never before appreciated that fact. For this reason we were spared from the flood that was destroying villages and towns around us. Little brooks had become rivers. Houses were flooded up to the second floor. Warnings had been given too late, but even in places were there had been warning, the usual preparations (sandbags in front of windows) did very little against a flood more than twice as severe as ever before. As the morning progressed the sun came out and birds were singing. It was a perfectly lovely summer day. The sirens from the emergency services driving to towns around us were a constant reminder that the sunny idyll was only an illusion. My sister drove to pick up her youngest son from summer camp, the damn she drove over was deemed unstable a few hours later, the villages under the reservoir evacuated. We used to go and watch fireworks at this reservoir. Stolberg was one of the worst affected. On the way from the bus station to my high school I had always crossed the bridge over the little brook far below. Now it had flooded the centre of town I had loathed to spent an hour in a day ago.

My emotional Nadir happened a few days later. The electricity was still gone and we had to use bottled water instead of tap water. Oil fired central heating is common in our area and the boilers in the basements had been flooded, causing oil to leak into the groundwater. Our days were quiet, but felt a bit post-apocalyptic. Evenings were spent playing board games in candlelight (my sister said it was the first time since forever that she had sat down with her kids and played a game, usually they would vanish into their rooms and in front of their computers) and coffee cooked on my sisters camping cooker was a luxury. We had developed a system of charging our phones in the car, while listening to news. My phone was still not connecting, though. I was looking forward to going to Aachen to meet my friend. Aachen had electricity. Aachen had wifi. I could finally tell everyone I was ok. Before I left for the town (my father had checked which roads were possible to travel again) his wife reminded me to take masks with me. I suddenly felt endlessly exhausted. There was still a pandemic going on. I wonder if there is something like a catastrophe burn out.

The poster sais "Finally summer!". It is from the CDU (German Democratic Party) who had been in power for the last 16 years and had distinguished itself by non-action when it came to climate change, missing the opportunity to switch to renewable energy as opposed to fossil fuels (mainly due to lobbying from the coal industry).


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This weekend I got to vote in Iceland for the first time! We dirty foreigners are only allowed to vote in local elections. The law was just change to reduce the waiting time from 5 to 3 years of residency. I have lived on and off in Iceland for 20 years now, but due to my wanderlust I never reached the 5 consecutive years I needed. But that is over now.
Icelandic voting is different from German voting in that you do not have a first and second (direct and proportional) vote, but you vote for a list of people from a party (proportional). The cool thing is that you can edit the list you vote for, change the seats of candidates (put someone on a lower seat to the first for example) and cross people out. I have been long enough in Iceland to have personal grudges and friendships with people on the list, so I had a lot of fun doing that.
There were also local elections in Germany, but I missed the deadline to apply for voting by post. I managed to do that in the last parliament elections in Germany. I had a lot of fun reading all the names of the fringe parties (there is a HipHop party) and wonder about the envelope sizes (the ballot needs to be folded strangely to fit in the inner envelope, causing me to read and reread the instructions).

Pictures of the German ballot, obviously I couldn't take pictures in the voting booth

A very inside joke

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Today is Good Friday, and in Germany and Iceland it means that by law one is not allowed to dance, gamble or make jokes. I'm nothing but not a rebel, so here is my very inside joke for today:

The office of Efling union is restructuring. To safe costs all employees are fired and replaced by Andri Sigurðsson and his never to be finished web site.

My childhood friend and all the times she traumatised me

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My oldest friend is finally coming to visit me in Iceland (it has been 20 years, Judith...). This is a good opportunity to talk about all the times she traumatised me when we were children. A bit of background. We are from the same village and became friends in kindergarten. Her father is a teacher and she always was more aware of things than me. As a kid, I used to live in my own world far away from reality. When we started primary school we would walk home together. This is when we had our "deep" conversations, and this is when she would tell me sone hard and traumatising truths.

1. The world has no end I do not really know why we talked about it, maybe because of some movie we saw, but even though I knew the world was round, travelling to the end of the world was such a common story telling trope that I never realised it is not a thing in the real world. A bit of magic vanished from the world for me that day.

2. The world can end any time I have no idea where she got that from or what she even meant by that. In my (hazy) memory she just blurted it out and then walked away. I did not sleep for days.

3. Germany started both world wars We had just started to learn about the horrors of the world wars in school (I think 3rd or 4th grade). Complete with a movie about Auschwitz, which for some reason I was not traumatised by (who shows this kind of movie to 9 year olds? My teachers were hardcore). I think the footage was to grainy to register as real to me. I generally seemed to have paid little attention to class that day, because it was my friend who informed me that Germany had started both world wars. I was horrified, it was my own private "are we the baddies?" moment.

4. "Are you also scared there will be a third world war?" It must have been some time after the above. The first Iraq war (90-91) had just started. I had not really been aware of what was going on, I was to young to pay attention to the new, but my friend must have heard something from her parents. I remember being really scared through all the winter holidays.


I got back at her. When I was six or seven I stayed over in her place and peed in the bed we both slept in (accidentally). She remembers none of the above, but this is burned in her memory.
I also teased her about being afraid to jump from the 3m and 5m diving board in swim class. She always wanted to be "Ronja Robbers Daughter" when we played together (because she has dark black hair like her), so I had to be Birk, which bugged me. Not because he is a boy, but because Ronja is the main protagonist. So I told her that she needs to be brave enough to jump from the diving board if she wants to be Ronja. She did not talk to me for days until I apologised. I was a bit of a bitch when I was a kid.
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Wedding speech

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So my friend whom I made give a Büttenrede to me for my birthday got married a few weeks ago and he decided this is the time to ask me to return the favour. His funeral (and wedding), I guess:

I was asked to give a speech that has to be funny and rhyme,
do you guys really think I have this much time?
And your decision making here has me a bit worried,
that legally you might not be allowed to be married.
Should you not be of sound mind?
You know you cannot trust me to be kind!

So what can I say about these two people getting married here?
I have witnessed their relationship closely over many a year.
Let's start with Mariska
my sister from another mista.
She used to be an adventuress hitchhiking across the far north of this island.
She found refuge on my couch for a while and
I like to think her decision to move here was partly to try and find me again,
though she did not need to search long, for we sat next to her on the plane.
Is she a stalker? Am I? No way to know that,
but before long we were sharing a flat.

This flat soon saw a frequent visitor
and this is how I met this mister.
At first I thought he disliked me and I was quite shaken,
but at brunch he kept feeding me bacon.
I'm simple this way, I cannot pretend
give me food and I'll be your friend.
Now, we still like to make fun of each other and be a bother
- but he is my brother from another mother.

And last there is Maia, the cutest of them all.
Having us wrapped around her finger so small.
Together they are "meine Ersatzfamilie" on this cold rock in the middle of the Atlantic.
I will conclude this speech now, before you all panic
and think you will have to listen to me waffle on forever.
Let us now celebrate with them together!

Thank god for rhyming dictionaries!

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