Last of the postcards and letters going out for #thelandless campaign contributors! It's been quite a ride, and I couldn't have done it without your support. Forever grateful...
Final batch of letters going out to #thelandless campaign contributors. Keep an eye on that mailbox if you're still waiting to get yours.
My last day in Paris was all rain. I hid away in cafes, perused shops, and got hungry after visiting a culinary bookstore. That just made me go find another cafe to look out longingly from while writing in my journal. Alas, this too must come to an end. So I bid you aurevoir, Paris. Until we meet again, mon amour.
Postcards and letters leaving Paris for #thelandless campaign contributors. Big thank you once again for the amazing support you have given me this year!
Someone told me today that if you're not a Parisian you're a tourist, so that's most of us. Figured I might as well give up not wanting to be one and just enjoy what seems enjoyable. Little stop outside the Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries. Then a lot of stairs up towards Sacre-Coeur, but worth it for the views. I love those rooftops. Only problem is that every time I walk by a patisserie I have to fight the urge to buy another croissant. Let's just say that the 12 miles I walked today made me loose that fight many times.
Day two of failing to find Audrey Tautou and making her fall in love with me. Instead, I found another great cafe and ate more great food. Life is hard sometimes.
Goodbye Bremervörde! It was a magical time, and one that I have been looking forward to for a very long time. The story doesn't quite end here though. I'll be heading back soon, but first I'm taking a short side trip to find a childhood acquaintance who lived in the same, old apartment block with us in Wrocław. We just got in touch this year for the first time and I'm en route to visit her now... in Paris!
My favorite part of living in Bremervörde was always the lake. Voerder See, as it's known, is still a beautiful place that a lot of people come to enjoy. Its gathering quality makes it one of the best focal things I've ever known. I used to wander past it and along the Oste river all the time. Especially when I was stressed, sad, or just needed to get outside. Being in the surrounding forests always left me feeling rejuvenated and more serene. Whatever troubles we were facing in our life, the lush green surroundings could always be counted on to make things seem better. Walking these paths once again has filled me with a sense of groundedness yet again and I will always remember them fondly.
I am now in the last town we lived before leaving Germany in 1994. Our old apartment building still stands quietly as my childhood window overlooks the colorful sunsets on the horizon. The public pool continues to be filled with the voices of children as the summer grows late, and new trains now connect Bremervörde to bigger cities around it. A communications tower now looms over every street and alley I used to wander down countless times. The pedestrian walkway still has the same fountain bubbling by its bronze sculptures, some new shops, some old empty storefronts, and the ice cream cafe still serves up my scoop of banana, dipped in chocolate, in a waffle cone. I spent most of my time walking these streets alone and looking over my shoulder. There was a group of older kids that were always to be avoided and my few run-ins with them made me more vigilant each time. I could sometimes escape into the Steffen department store and play Super Mario World on their demo unit, waiting it out until it was safe to go home.
More postcards ready to leave Germany for #thelandless campaign contributors! Keep an eye on your mailbox.
When I transferred to Iselersheim in fourth grade, things began to get ugly. I often called this the worst year I ever spent in Germany. Not a week went by when I didn't get bullied or got my ass kicked. I was the dirty Polak that needed to be kept in line. I bled on these very grounds while the kids responsible got not even a slap on the wrist. My mother and stepfather tried phone calls, talking in person, writing letters to other parents but it did nothing. One day it got so bad that i started walking home. I didn't even know the way. Now this school has been closed. How fitting that this place should now stand abandoned and overgrown. A ghostly reminder of the former-soldier-turned-school-director's personal fiefdom. Like his name, Seifer, it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Its meaning seems derived from Seife, the German word for soap.
After three years in Gnarrenburg our family moved to an even tinier town a few miles away. This was around '91 and we lived there for only a short, but tumultuous time. I transferred to a new school, which was hard enough, but rural life after reunification came with its share of racism. Cute grandmas and grandpas working in their gardens would spew or mutter hate speech when the immigrants walked by their houses. It was a quiet and idyllic setting, when I wasn't being bullied by the neighboring kids or stared down by the adults. So I spent a lot of time playing in the fields and forests by myself, escaping into imaginary hiding places or trying to built real ones in the back yard. That winter I also got my first Nintendo console, making it easier to fight off monsters on the screen instead of having to face the real ones outside. It was hard enough to see them at the bus stop and school every day.
Spent a week at my grade school teacher's beautiful house. Her hospitality has been amazing, to the point where I feel a bit guilty about it. We have shared many wonderful meals and conversations and I'm incredibly grateful that I was able to tell her how much her kindness meant to me as a scared little immigrant boy in a new country and a new school. I never forgot her during the decades since we left, and when we met again I felt like we were old friends.
More postcards and letters ready to go out in the morning. With love, from Gnarrenburg, for #thelandless contributors.
While I was told that no records or photos existed from 30 years ago at the school, I wasn't about to give up. With Angelika's help, and a phone call to the former secretary, we found the old ledgers she used to keep before records went digital. Now we had first and last names of my old classmates. Then, much to our surprise, one of the other teachers had kept his own photo archive of all the classes he taught and mine happened to be one of them! What amazing luck. With this, I am finally able to reach out and find some of these kids. Faces and friendships half-remembered but ones I've never been able to forget.
When I entered first grade it was at this small elementary school in the country and I was afraid of everything. I didn't know German or how I would be welcomed. Soon I had a good grasp of the language and made friends with my classmates. I was still scared of many things but my teacher, Angelika, made sure I was treated fairly. I never forgot the kindness I was shown here despite being a weird foreign kid from beyond the wall. The three years I spent here were a safe and happy time despite the uncertainty of our asylum case. Today I am impressed by the growthful environment this school continues to offer. Angelika had no small part to play in its success and everyone around here knows it.
In this quiet, small town we lived on the top floor of an old dairy plant. This is cow and farmland after all. Now that building is gone and in it's place stands a Volksbank. I retraced my steps down the main road, past the church, and to the school bus stop where I stood each morning for three years. Further down the road, the public pool is still the most fun you can have around here. Even the toy store is still in business, but here I didn't steal anything as a kid. I had learned that lesson in Larvik. The things I did steal in Gnarrenburg were ears of corn from the fields just outside town when food was hard to come by.
Quick stop in Braunschweig, where the government sent us in 1988 to stay briefly in a crumbling old building. So I'm just passing through but managed to get another batch of postcards out to #thelandless contributors!
Postcards and letters going out from Berlin to #thelandless contributors. They do take a while to cross the Atlantic though...
Visiting remnants of the wall. East Side Gallery had some very interesting murals and graffiti. The Berlin Wall Memorial was fascinating and somberly beautiful. Juxtaposition of old crumbling sections, preserved parts, memorialized sculptural frameworks, and the evolving relationship of artists with this history makes for a multifaceted experience.
In March of 1988 we remained on a train we were not supposed to be on, at Friedrichstrasse station, on the Eastern side. Soldiers with guns and dogs came through the train and yet, we were not made to leave. The train rolled on and suddenly we found ourselves in West Berlin. At that moment we were free.
Great interview today at the @FluxFM studios in Berlin. Talking about #thelandless journey, what I've discovered up to this point, and what is still to come. Full interview available here (in English once you get past the German intro): https://goo.gl/info/75jx9w
The Larvik of today is a much different place from the dark and cold one of my memories. Like Sandholm before it, the town is brighter and more cheerful but also because I'm here in the summer. I'm happy and grateful for the opportunity to make new memories of these places, transforming the past by doing so. Everyone in in Larvik was kind and curious about my story. Also grateful to my hosts, Trygve and Oksana, the journalist Bjørn-Tore, and my local art guide Hege. They made me feel truly welcome.
Postcards ready to leave Norway for #thelandless contributors. Forever grateful for your faith in this project!
What I remember of Larvik from 1987 are fragments. The old hotel where refugees like us were housed with winding stairs I was scared to venture down alone, and the street that went uphill to the town square. The train station we arrived at one fateful night, the ships that would dock outside our window, and the cold wind that blew in with them. The stone covered beach and broken shells glistening in black water. Like Sandholm before it, Larvik felt dark and foreboding, clad in its winter skies. Now it is a different place again and I too am far from the same.
Bye bye Copenhagen! It's been an amazing and much needed time to work and reflect. Stay hygge and till next time.
First batch of postcards to #theLandless contributors ready to go out. Bon voyage!
Playing around with maps for #TheLandless #analog #vfx