Tag Archives: #LiamKlenk

The Greatest Sin of All

wiesel-photo

Elie Wiesel said in his Nobel Peace Price speech in 1986:

“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

In my opinion this is basic human decency and compassion. It shouldn’t need a holocaust survivor to remind us that human life is precious, diversity is beautiful, and mutual respect is essential for our survival.

And this should not be something we only remember when yet another person’s human rights have been violated in front of a running camera, briefly igniting our collective self-righteous indignation.

Look at your life. On a regular day, what do you do to protect the lives and hearts of others? Do you care what happens to the refugees in the camp only a few miles away from your house? Do you care about the transgender woman who is beaten to death in a dark alley simply for being who she is? Do you care about the man who is being bullied on the street for the color of his skin? Are you aware of your prejudices? Your unconscious biases? We all have them.

In order to build a better world, we need to care and be aware on a daily basis. Of course, none of us can carry the burden of the entire world on our shoulders. But we can each make a difference in our own private and public lives. We can be kind when it matters, we can say “I’m sorry” when it matters, we can forgive when it matters, we can be compassionate when it matters, and we can make the brave decision to not be silent when it matters.

Dad

papa and boo

Can I just say how grateful I am for my dad?
I mean, I am thinking daily, “Damn, I’m stuck here in Germany in this small apartment without any privacy, camping on the couch in the middle of the room.” True. There are no doors to close, and it’s a small one-bedroom apartment. Nowhere to hide from my dad’s loud snoring (or the even louder snoring of his cat for that matter). Nowhere to hide from the clattering of dishes when my dad (almost daily I might add) decides to unload the dishwasher right next to my ears at 7am…

Yet, while I’m feeling sorry for myself, I think again, yes, I’m camping in the middle of his living room. It’s been almost two months now… with no end in sight…
But, when I ask him, “Are you ok? This is your home. I know I’m disturbing your routine and there’s never a second for you to be alone. Let me know if it gets too much, ok?”, he just smiles and says, “I don’t mind. You can stay as long as you like.”

He doesn’t ask much of me either. I go shopping for us (“the fridge is so full,” he laughs) and I cook (“oh, spicy,” he says). In return, he takes out the garbage, and takes care of that dish washer.
He doesn’t ask me to do anything else, there are no conditions attached. We are just there, together for the moment, in the living room, him on one couch, me on the other, doing our separate things.

What would I do without him letting me stay here right now? I have no home to go to and my meager savings will barely keep me afloat for a couple of months if I have to pay any rent anywhere. And who knows when I’ll find employment again. It’s funny, too. Because, I rushed over here to make sure he is safe and to help him out in this global crisis. However, at the end of the day, it’s him, sharing his tiny living space so generously with me, who is saving my ass.

That being said, even before, his door was always open. What would we have done over the past decade, my partner and I, had he not sheltered us and helped us out financially over and over again? He took us in for months at a time when we needed a place to stay and shared all he had with us. He was there for us when no one else was. He was always happy to see us. And no matter how much he did for us, he never asked for anything in return. He was open-minded. Supportive. He never judged. He was just present, with his warm smile, accepting us as we were.

I probably don’t appreciate him enough. I know I criticize him way too often. I’m too impatient. Much better than I used to be, though. For that, I am grateful to my soulmate, who helped me see him through her eyes, and helped me realize that ancient past is just that – the past.

Most likely my dad will never see this post. I’ll make sure to tell him in person though, how much I appreciate him and all he’s done so selflessly for me, for us (when there was still an us).

This is what being family is all about, isn’t it? To be a safety net for each other. To be there for each other even if paths or opinions diverge. To care. To support. Unconditionally.
Thank you, Dad, for being in my life.

The Light

Candle by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

Photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

The light went out.

Thankfully, he had prepared for such emergencies.
He owned a flashlight. He was an organized guy.

Finding the nearest wall to lean on, he followed it towards the kitchen. Once there, his fingertips found the counter. They felt for the top drawer on the far left. Soon, the drawer handle rested firmly in the palm of his hand. Feeling the reassuring, cold steel, he pulled. The drawer opened. And yes, inside was the flashlight.

He turned it on and walked back towards the hallway. Grateful to have light again.
However, he had forgotten all about the garbage bag he had prepared for disposal. As he turned right towards the front door in the hallway, his gaze focused forward on the beam of light, he tripped over the large bag and fell. The flashlight hit the ground. The bulb broke. The light went out again.

As far as he remembered, there were matches and candles in one of the other kitchen drawers. He got up from the floor and kicked the air until he hit the garbage bag. It tumbled out of the way. His path now unobstructed, he felt his way back to the kitchen counter. Growing increasingly irritated, he opened drawers roughly with contents falling painfully onto his bare feet. The fourth drawer held the matches and candles he had remembered. He lit a match, burned his fingers, but managed to light the stubborn wick. Instantly, his home was illuminated again, albeit minimal and flickering.

But enough to carefully venture out into the hallway once more. He made his way to the front door and opened it. From the porch he could just make out his nearest neighbor’s house in the distance. The lights seemed to be on over there. This wasn’t a general power outage affecting the entire neighborhood.

The wind almost snuffed out the candle, forcing him to step back inside quickly. He needed to check the fuses in the basement. But could they all have blown at the same time? He quickly walked from room to room. None of the light switches worked. The house was utterly without sound. No humming refrigerator, no softly buzzing appliances.

Back in the hallway, he opened the door to the basement and, carefully, made his way down the raw concrete stairway into the dank, windowless underworld. The candle flickered and was almost blown out twice due to a slight draft following him from the ground floor like a whispering wave.

He opened the fuse box and was astonished to see nothing. All sockets were empty. All spares were gone.

Instead, a handwritten note inside the fuse box read, “You made it this far. Come into the boiler room.”
What? Why? Who was toying with him?
He walked down the hallway, carefully protecting the candlelight with the cup of his hand.
At the end of the short hallway was the boiler room.
The metal door stood open.
It shouldn’t be open.
Fear and unease almost made him turn around right then and there, but curiosity and mounting confusion drove him forward.

He stepped into the boiler room. Nothing but darkness.
He said, “Hello?”
No answer.
He took a few more steps.

The door behind him slammed shut with a bang. As he whirled around, he heard the outside bolts sliding into place.

The candle flickered violently, smothered, on the brink of going out. It gave just enough light so he could see a poster on the door. Large, black letters proclaimed:

“Now you have more time than you think.”

The candle didn’t recover. It suffocated.

The matches were in the kitchen.

The ordeal began.

Enveloped

liam dave going night diving copy

Dreaming of my days traveling and exploring the oceans. Like here in Palau, getting ready to submerge for a night dive with one of my best friends. Underwater, you are profoundly yourself. You rely on your skills, on the integrity of your mind. There are no doubts. There is only peace and focus. Your buddy and you are side by side, enveloped by the sea. Trusting each other. Living intensely in the moment. Together.

Masks

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The German tendency to have everything well-organized and structured has irritated me ever since I can remember. To be fair, amazing things come of this kind of ingrained discipline. German craftsmanship, efficiency, and timeliness, for example are indisputably amazing.

I see my German roots in my own behavior. Always on time. Perfectionist. Disciplined. Hard working. Stubborn. Overexplaining. Straight forward. Many of those things not bad things at all. However, my free spirit bristles when I observe people following everything the authorities decree. Growing up, how often have I heard the sentiment, “Yes, it’s not good and it’s annoying. But the government is keeping us safe and we are so well taken care of. It’s ok. Let’s just go along with it.” Me, personally, I’d rather have a bit of discomfort and less security, but have my life less regulated in turn.

When it comes to apocalypses and pandemics, however, I must admit the German sense of obedience comes in quite handy. For the last few weeks, the local populace in my dad’s county (and the rest of Germany, too, according to the news) followed all new rules to a T. Everything deemed mandatory was dutifully adhered to.

Recommendations, however, were largely ignored. My fellow countrymen and women are precise even then. Words matter. Be careful how you phrase them. Be clear. Because they’ll take you at your word. Which, again, isn’t a bad thing at all.

Masks were one of the recommendations. Because we Germans have a thing about masks. Even politicians. They didn’t want to wear them either. So, they only recommended them as a voluntary precaution. Masks make us feel uncomfortable. We are not used to wearing them. So why should we do so now? Or so the thinking goes. And, anyhow, masks don’t help at all. It’s just a myth. Right?

Having traveled extensively through Asia, as well as having lived in Hong Kong and Macau for many years, I try to explain to people that, no, Asians in general are not paranoid. They are not strange for wearing masks. For decades now, they have gotten used to wearing them. It’s not even to protect themselves from someone in the crowd who sniffles and coughs. No. Most times it is quite the opposite. As soon as a person feels ill, they put on a mask. Immediately. To protect others.

I have only the deepest respect for this level of thoughtfulness and politeness. Taking responsibility not only for your own life, but also for the lives of the human beings you meet and, possibly, infect, on a daily basis.

We Germans, well Central Europeans in general, can learn something there.

None of the positive arguments presented by anyone were enough to break through the inherent German stubbornness though. People were religious about the two meters distance as soon as it was so ordered. They gave each other dirty looks if someone came too close. I was surprised to not see them carry measuring tape to make sure the distancing was adhered to as precisely as possible. Astonishingly, in this case, eyeballing it seemed to work well enough for all involved.

But masks, no. Endless discussions on TV argued the pros and cons. I got so exasperated, I wanted to build my own cabin in the woods. On the other hand, it was a mirror, helping me to better understand my own need to repeat myself. Or, rather, I had to admit I was far more German than I’d like to be. This is exacerbated by growing up with parents who always lived so much in their own world that we didn’t have proper conversations. Rather, I grew up listening to monologues. My own thoughts and opinions mostly discredited. It’s a work in progress. Training myself to overcome. To allay my need to be heard. To not regurgitate things over and over. To simply say them once and trust them to be acknowledged in a conversation. Or not. In the end, what I have to say doesn’t always have to reach everyone. Or it will be received by the right people. Trust is key.

But I digress. Thousands of discussions later, masks became mandatory in Germany. A week ago, actually, to be Teutonic and precise. And… lo and behold… everyone is wearing masks now.

For the first time, I am glad to see German obedience in action. Because even though the majority of the population still hates wearing masks, this needs to be done. I don’t like wearing them either. I feel constricted and dangerous somehow when I do. Like I won’t be able to restrain myself from robbing a bank if I just wear the mask long enough. But, if I can protect someone else as well as protect myself in the process just now, it’s well worth wearing it nevertheless.

Boo, Lara, and Bocelli

Thinking of this little family today.

06 2011

I found them in a pet store in Macau, in 2010. They had just been rescued from the street. A cat with three kittens. All of them were horribly sick. They had any infection you could think of… cat flu, ear infections, eye infections, ringworm, etc. One of the little ones was so tiny, he could fit in a tea cup. He looked like Gollum. Barely any fur left on him, huge eyes, and a greyish, wrinkly face. I wanted to adopt all the babies but the volunteers in the store told me honestly that Gollum wouldn’t make it. The other two stood a fighting chance. Only one of them seemed strong though. He was the largest of the babies… and the loudest… meowing non-stop. The other one didn’t look quite as bad as Gollum, but she was extremely tiny and scrawny for a five to six-week-old kitten. She had patchy, dark brown fur. What was left of it stood on end, making her look as if she had stuck her little paw into an electrical socket.

I decided to take the two healthier babies home. As we took them out of their cage, their mom crawled into my arms and didn’t seem to want to let me go. She was small for an adult cat, cuddly, with huge, expressive, green eyes. However, I had really only come for the babies. I left without her.

Arriving at home, her offspring soon crawled into every corner and jumped on every shelf. They made quick friends with the parrot I fostered at the time – a cheeky, red-lored Amazon named Cebi (short for Cebola… ‘onion’ in Portuguese. Since he was Brazilian, I had figured he needed a name reflecting his heritage at least linguistically). The first couple of days were mayhem with medicating the fur babies around the clock, plus trying to keep Cebi from pecking at their tails the entire time.

While I had my hands full with my ‘menagerie a trois’, I kept thinking about the kittens’ mom. The chances of anyone ever adopting her were slim to none. She was now together with Gollum in the cramped cage in the back of the pet store. Watching him die. It occurred to me how horribly alone and abandoned she must feel. Over the next few days, no matter how much the antics of baby cats and parrot made me laugh, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. “Screw this,” I finally thought on day five, “one more cat won’t make a difference.”

I went back to the pet store. Gollum had died already. And here was his mom. Huddled all by herself in the corner of her cage. The animal charity volunteers were more than happy to let me take her as well. I had brought a transport box with me, and off we went, to reunite her with her other two babies. As soon as we came through the door, however, her kittens didn’t welcome her. It seemed they had already made my apartment their territory. For two days straight, they hissed at their mom, and skulked around like John Wayne and Lara Croft, ready to draw their guns at any time. Thankfully, on the third day after the initial, slightly flawed homecoming, the kittens began cuddling with their mom again as if they had never been separated. One day later, she was nursing them as well. As they were massaging her tits with their paws, the babies were purring as loudly as twin tractor engines.

I named the two-year-old mom ‘Boo’, because of her big, round eyes, which made her look startled as well as inquisitive. She reminded me of Boo in the movie Monsters Inc. Boo’s little girl was fearless. Only a third the body size of her brother, she was the one who explored everything first, climbed up everywhere, and battled her illness with much courage and cheerfulness. She had a warrior spirit. I named her Lara. Her brother was easy to find a name for as well. He had never stopped meowing since the moment I had laid eyes on him and generally sounded like a mix between a goat and a squeaky door in need of WD-40. Henceforth, his name was Bocelli. My own little opera singer.

It took over a month for me to nurse them all back to good health. This not without them infecting me with ringworm first as well. We ended up being quarantined in the apartment together for four weeks, since the fungus infection was highly contagious. Thankfully, Cebi’s parrot feathers at least seemed to be resistant to fungus.

Six months later, despite all bravery, Lara lost her battle. At first, she had seemed to become healthy just as the rest of her feline family. But then, she had begun to show strange symptoms. She didn’t grow. While her brother became ever bigger, she remained so tiny, she could sit on my hand. Something seemed to be wrong with her muscles and nervous system as well. Five months in, she could barely walk anymore or lift her little head to eat from her food dish. Her muscles gave out every so often and she would just collapse on the floor. Nevertheless, she was still as cheerful as ever, snuggling in the crook of my elbow and purring her little heart out. I consulted with a veterinary and we both came to the unanimous decision that it was kinder to help Lara along and let her go.
She enjoyed one last meal with her family. Then, I carried her to the vet. I kept holding her in my arms as the injection was gently working its way through her bloodstream and putting her to sleep. I buried her in a niche high up on a rock wall along the coast of Coloane with her favorite toy, a little stuffed sun with a smiling face, pouty red lips, and blue eyelashes. Lara’s final resting place overlooked a beautiful pagoda and the South China Sea. She still rests there today and I feel more at home when I am close by, able to every so often walk past her resting place to tell her she is not forgotten.

Three years later, in 2013, I left Macau for the first time and shipped Boo and Bocelli to my dad’s place in Germany. They took to him faster than you can say “hello.” I moved on towards a more nomadic life.

Meanwhile, the cats contentedly snuggled with my dad and with each other. They still do. Boo is now twelve years old, Bocelli is ten. He still meows constantly. His mom is still as cuddly, loving, and caring towards both her son and her human companion as ever. She listens to and seems to understand every word my dad says. She licks his forehead and rubs her head on his hand. Whenever her son, Bocelli, sidles up to her in need of affection, she gently licks her son’s ears and face. Often, she lets him snuggle close. Then, of course, there are the inevitable, territorial wrestling matches when Boo needs to assert her dominance and make it clear that she can take the spot on the window sill or on top of the aquarium whenever she wants to. Bocelli usually doesn’t put up much of a fight but rather let’s her have whatever she desires.
Unless it is a box. He is passionate about his boxes.
He is a shy and anxious boy. Which is why he is also Boo’s admiring, respectful student. He watches her every move to learn and see what is safe and what isn’t. It took him five years of longingly watching Boo interact with my dad before Bocelli gathered enough courage to relax and snuggle with the tall, smiling human being, too. Now he rarely leaves his side.

My dad spends much of his days either feeding Boo and Bocelli or sitting on the couch with both cats curled up together in his lap. I am happy, I can visit them every so often. Each time, the felines are on a different diet, alternating between looking rather like furry balloons, or looking more like the little, muscular, former street cats they are. They both love snoozing in patches of sunlight. When sleeping deeply, Boo now snores as loud as a lumberjack…

I’ve gone back to Lara as well. Back home for a couple of years. Looking out over the South China Sea, remembering her, just underneath her resting place. Wondering if her little stuffed sun is still shining for her. Somehow, I am sure it is.

Entertainment With a Splash: a History of Aquatic Shows

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Ever wondered when the first aquatic theatres with moving lifts were built? When the first performer fell off a bridge into an artificial lake beneath? Or how it felt to be underwater with wild circus cats, goats, and pigs?

Aquatic circus shows are technological wonders of our time…
or so we think.

In this stunning historical deep dive, find out more about the origins of aquatic theatres. Find out when it all began. Discover when moving lifts, deep aquatic pools, and water effects like jets and fountains began to be implemented in custom-built circus arenas around the world…

Read the full article here.