Category Archives: Where I came from & where I’m at…

Updated Ascheffel video

The last year has really been quite a rush for me. Actually the last few ones have been. When I dropped by my parents last sumemr some time and just shot this mini-docu, it was in-between a million other things and I had to leave to Oslo the day after. I had never expected that it would take me so much time and that it would be stretched out over so long to finally get it fixed to where it is viewable. But finally this week, before going to London on Wednesday, I had some time at my parents’ computers, where it has been sitting for all that time. So if you have not seen it yet or did not understand much of it due to subtitle problems, now is he time.

And go and check out the original post for the discussion!

“Super student” – minor corrections…

For those who have read the article on “Super Students” in Universitas (university newspaper of the University of Oslo) here is one minor correction:

Update: another thing is that I never was the (national) leder of the Pedagogy Students. The only thing I have ever been was the leader of the University of Oslo chapter of the Pedagogy Students.

In the article it says I had to take 115 ECTS points (SP) one semester (you are supposed to take no less and no more than exactly 30SP every semester) because I had failed all courses the first two years and therefore I had to take courses corresponding to about two years simultaneously so I wouldn’t loose my Danish student stipend.

While it is correct that I failed a lot of courses during my first two years, this is not really the reason.

If you look at my record it is something like:

Continue reading “Super student” – minor corrections…

Just found a record…

of my past — and my future? Apparently I wrote it during my first three weeks in Norway (back in 2000). And it’s written in German — and I’m quite amazed at the level of proficiency I had in the language back then. It might have been writing as part of an email for a family member, but now I just found it in an old folder on my computer that I had not looked in for a long, long time. The things that amazed me the most are:

– I thought 20 kr to be too much to use for the subway, so I walked for hours on end (with all my belongings on my back!) instead.

– I was afraid of the students.

– I was childish enough to knock on other people’s doors and swap around their key cards on the way up here (on a trip to emigrate to another country after having tricked German and Danish authorities into letting me go!)
– One of my main concerns was not “stay around nationalists” of various nationalities (boy, I managed that well), and it almost seems as if I’m on some kind of spiritual trip (well, getting close to saying one can “grow” by staying around the right kind of people, etc.).

Johannes, May 2006 -- in need of an exit strategy?
Johannes, May 2006 — in need of an exit strategy?

Now you might wonder why I’m suddenly seemingly living in the past again. Well, fact is that May is the absolutely last month that I’m receiving my student stipend from Denmark. Since 1998 I have been receiving money from them, and now it finally comes to an end. And so does my education, at least officially. That is why gave up my room in the student house at the beginning of this month, and I’ll have to be moved out before the 1st of June this year. And then what? “Don’t do something silly like giving everything up in order to be ‘free’ and then storing all your books at some railway toilet the way your grandmother would do it,” my mother Pia already told me in fear over the phone when I told my parents that I’l be homeless in a few weeks. Although Pia is exaggerating, she probably is quite correct in terms of what kinds of ideas I actually might be able to get.

Instead though, I currently have two alternate plans: either move into my tent back where I was when I had just arrived here. That might be a nice way to end my university career — although, as it would have no planned end to it, it might just be the right recipe for throwing myself into some large scale depression: “What have I done? What did I do these past 6 years? Where did my youth go? etc.” Another plan is that when I met Shawn/Sean the other day, I asked him for his address. Apparently there are quite a few other immigrant workers living there, and it’s cheap. Even cheaper than Berit’s place! I might want to check that out…

German Readers read on for the entire letter I wrote back then (and remember: if you’re a government official, all of this is mere fiction)
Continue reading Just found a record…

The foreign working class

I just met Shawn. He was picking out vegetables outside my favorite grocery store at Torggata, a street known for it’s immigrant family owned corner stores, and just a few blocks away from here. “Hey, hey!” I shouted from behind until he turned around, “remember me?” Shawn scanned me with his eyes for a while, trying to recognize any prominent features he might remember.
So who is Shawn? Well, Shawn was my very first room mate when I moved to Oslo. Or rather one of them.
But let me start from the beginning. it all started like this: the day when i received my draft card from the German military, I was to leave for Norway. That was pure coincidence. Another coincidence was that I hadn’t received my new passport yet. So I went to my parents’ village’s people’s registry and unregistered that very morning, before I took the train to Kiel where I was to catch a ferry to take me to Oslo. I told the registry office that I’d had a huge fight with my parents and that I was now off to go camping towards Russia — for 20 years…

Continue reading The foreign working class

Freezing in Berlin

Ok, so here it finally is: my posting on Berlin. I really wanted to write this after my first trip down there, but it simply did not happen. I was trying to convince myself that it was due to an overly large work load right now, but it might also just be cause I am a bit afraid to write about things that are too close to me. Anyways, as I already wrote in the last few posts, I went to Berlin twice this year already: the first time over New Years from Dec. 31st until January 5th, and the second time from last Thursday (the 12th or so) and then I took the bus to Copenhagen, Denmark on Sunday (15th) and slept there at my grandmothers before I took the plane back to Oslo Monday morning – in order to be back for an English pedagogy course with obligatory attendance at noon.

Three South Schleswigans - One has moved to Copenhagen, DK, the others to Berlin
Three South Schleswigans – One has moved to Copenhagen, DK, the others to Berlin

So what was up with Berlin? Well, there are two groups that I know down there: on one side there are all my Danish minority friends from high school, and on the other, there are those I know through my activism in the youth organization [‘solid] (youth of the new Linkspartei). Now I’ve written about the two groups before, when I visited them last summer. Basically my activist friends are from East Germany (although not neccesarily Berlin), while my high school friends are from West Germany (on top of being Danish-like). Now you would of course imagine that to be a difference mainly of wealth, and yes, that probably has something to say – but not quite the way one would think. Let us try to look a bit at my “ethnic friends.”
Continue reading Freezing in Berlin

Ethnicised christmas

Well, it sure has been a while seen I’ve been writing here. The thing is that I have spend quite a lot of time reviewing my book (“On the Margins” – see here) and getting it ready for global distribution. And before that I prepared for way too many examinations…

Christmas with some of the Wilms
Christmas with some of the Wilms

For christmas I went down south – first by bus to my grandmother in Copenhagen, Denmark where my mother and the youngest brother had been for a few days already, and then another few days later on to the German/Danish border land.

a present for me
a present for me

Lately, I have had a discussion with one of my co-students in Oslo on the matter of nationalism/racism. If I get him right, he claims something to the extent of that there is somehow a problem with immigrants not having the same “culture” inside themselfs that Norwegians have and that it somehow leads to a problem of increased lisening to macho-music and the rol back of women’s rights. To me all that sounds like a bunch of hidden racism, and our discussions got quite heated. Most of all though, I was surprised by his reaction – of me identifying with other immigrant groups, although… well, basically although I’m white and from another West European country (or several).

Well, I thought of this, and I rediscovered much of my starting point down here in Schleswig/Slesvig (the border land). On December 20, the Danish newspaper for Schleswig-Holstein ran a one-page story on how my family celebrates christmas (below in English):

Continue reading Ethnicised christmas

My grandma rides her bike no more

I crashed my bike last night while riding around inner Oslo on my way home from the university. Or rather, I couldn’t handle it for a few split seconds after shifting gears as somehow the chain got loose. I managed to get home and scared one person that I had chosen to tell about it over mobile messaging, just in case I had some more severe commotio cerebri that would make it impossible for me to communicate this morning in which case the person could call the ambulance the net day. Of course nothing happened,and so I’m sitting here with nothing left but a right foot with a few scrapes which renders me sick enough not to make plans to leave this room too much for the next day or so.

Grossmutti & me in Rostock, January 2004
Grossmutti & me in Rostock, January 2004

It is much worse with my grandmother. My grandmother has been living on her bike. And now she won’t be able to ride it any more. My grandmother without a bike? Not something I can think of. But she likes to ride trains too – usually along that route that she fled along on her bike during the end of WWII.
Continue reading My grandma rides her bike no more

My identity

Ok, could there be a term more self-reflective than “my identity”? I think it would be hard to match. My thought on the subject are therefore mainly not meant as a look into my own personal psychology, but rather as an example of how non-nationals create identity or identities from a person who has tried to get passed the most obvious contradictions.

First and foremost, one of the main problems for non-nationals in reflecting on their identity is the complexity that their status gives them. Most people can cook their identity down to a few attributes like race (in the US) or nationality (in Europe), but multi-nationals can not do that in the same way. Not only is it a matter of adding another word, but as at leats two of the attributes will be defined in opposition to oneanother, so further explanations will be neccesary to communicate one’s identity correctly. Whenever one is stuck in a situation of having to present oneself, one will have to choose between either using a few hours on explanations or cutting out all but one of the attributes within a given category (nation or race).

After having reflected upon it, I have tried to stop letting myself be reduced to one of those categories, however, as the examples in my personal history show, the most common strategy is probably to deny one of the attributes, simply by “forgetting” all about it (language, cultural codes, etc.)

Here we have a few examples of how I tried to handle identity in different ways: In Bisbee, AZ, I managed to use enough space to represent all of Germnay, Denmark and Norway as well as showing my sympathy for US-Americans and dfferentiating myself from the Europan population at large. In Molde, N, I do not manage to have just as broad a profile and for the international press, I choose to be Norwegian. While in this student newspaper in Oslo, N, I am simply a “border person”. I think it is due to the surplus of knowledge on the matter in Flensburg, D, that I can not only give a view that I am from several countries, but also be abl to critisize the “Danishness” that people carry at large.

As we can notice, it is not only about the amount of information that is given, it is also about the way it is presented. Being German and Danish can mean many things, as the above excerpts show.

My history

I was born into the Danish minority, my mother being from Copenhagen and my father being from Kiel. As many born into an ethnic or national minority, I did have mixed feelings about the national agenda that many of the 50,000 people strong group’s ‘nation builders’. On the one hand, there have been pictures of me in the local (German) newspaper in the early nineties, when I and three other class mates decided to paint our faces with Danish flags during a visit of the Danish queen to Schleswig. On the other hand, I was kicked out of the Danish minority scouts in 7th grade (although the scouts have different amounts of power across Sydslesvig, they are generally tied very close to the Danish schools and it is hard to do good in school without being a member), amongst other things, because I refused to swear to “god, king and fatherland”, arguing that most of us were not believers in gods, certainly I was a republican (and felt that I had the right to be just that without being discredited as being ‘un-Danish’), and I argued that most of us did not have some certain ‘fatherland’ that we could relate to completely.

Nevertheless, the only place where they seem to be willing to publish just about anything I send in is in the Danish minorities daily newspaper Flensborg Avis. Mostly it’s reader’s letters, but see for yourself