No-Places, and news from Germany

Karen Naundorf

For the first time ever, my Argentinean friends have asked me what the heck was happening in Germany, and laughed about it: “What, are you going to be a banana republic?”

In the last years nobody was interested at all in internal German issues, why should they. When some reports arrived about the economic crisis in Germany, they were: A) dismissed, or B) smiled at (“so, now you know how it feels like!”). Neither can I exclude myself from that. I Often have to hear arrogant remarks when I report from South America: “Tsk, what won’t happen down there, in those Southern countries”. Always with that undertone: “Something like that could never happen to US”.

But now my friends are suddenly collecting press clippings and bringing them to me: Republic’s President backs out, offended. An octopus is an oracle. The Euro, threatened. Corruption scandals in Ferrostaal and Siemens. It’s possible to hire demonstrators and to buy driving licences. Loveparade’s tragedy in Duisburg, organizers miscalculated and expected just a couple of hundred thousand assistants, people was squeezed to death. Germany robbed Nefertiti and wants to keep it. Old nuclear power stations may keep functioning after 30 years of use (even though probably 98% of Germans would plainly refuse to drive a 30-year old car because it lacks airbags).

My friends ask ironically to me, “So, what is happening in Germany?” I have to disappoint them. Germany will never be a banana republic. A banana republic lays South, is full of exotic beauties, a little corrupt and not really serious. Germany will never lay South, and exotism… we simply don’t wangle it.

What aspect dominates my life? Many answers come to me, but there’s always a common aspect: absence. Like a pop-up window that you could always click away, I arise in my German friends’ life and in my Argentinean’s. When am I longer than three weeks at the same place? When I come back to Buenos Aires after a research, often I’m there and I’m not. I confine myself there to work, I don’t answer the phone. I’m free, as free as I could never have imagined. And at the same time I’m imprisoned in the constant absence that makes impossible to understand, what life’s about: to share moments with other people. Good and bad. Absence destroyed friendships and one love. It’s a wail that many people do not understand; since I adopt a lifestyle that they would love to have (I would love too, sometimes I’m not able to believe that this life is mine). But they forget: it’s a life model that only allows one true and inseparable partner, a person and its laptop.

Absence has a stranglehold on me, the hub of missed routines are the No-Places, like airports. There I switch myself to Stand-By and allow both feelings to come, those that trigger an erratic life: elation and melancholy.

Karen Naundorf

Translation: Ralph del Valle

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