A busy shopping street, seen from above. It's hard to make out individuals within the crowds of people.

Freedom Fortress

The change from my cozy third-floor studio in Berlin to a 20th-floor hotel room with a view that reminded me of Blade Runner was one thing. The cultural difference was probably bigger. “Cultural” here takes a very abstract yet specific meaning – after all I haven’t really interacted with “the culture” at all.

No, the stark cultural difference took the form of laughter and loud music from musicians, street performers, and shoppers from the pedestrian streets and malls below. It was the contrast between Germany’s “you are only allowed to celebrate you wedding with three other people”-lockdown mode and Taiwan’s “lol, everything goes, we did our homework” Zero Covid success. (Which was of course embraced with sincerity and respect towards other countries and their shit-show! The “lol” was the dark jester inside me.)

After learning to treat other people like the literal plague for a year, it was strange to see the crowds of people underneath when pressing against the window. The fact that it was hardly possible to make out actual people from so far up made this contrast even stronger.

Anyway. The memories have faded since. We had our vaccines, outbreaks, herd immunity here as well, the masks have come off. But during that time it was of course central, I spent 15 days alone in a hotel room, after all, leaning out of the room to grab my food three times a day, careful not to step over the threshold, pressing “1” on my phone each morning after getting a text from the health department asking whether the pest had awaken within me.

It is hard to capture the weirdness of that time with photos when they look so normal again. I hope the once-more cinematic editing can translate a little bit of this feeling…

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