Berlin – Park the bus, we’re here! Around 7:30 p.m. Thursday, bus and crew arrived at Eva Adams’ house, where we were welcomed with a wonderful potluck dinner prepared by the Berlin chapter. After dinner, Quaide showed local helpers photos and videos from previous voter registration drives and briefed them on the schedule for the next day.
And…break! Each host collects their roadie and we’re off to bed, under heavy, humid summer rain. The darkness adds to the claminess but at least it’s reassuring not to have daylight at two in the morning like in Scandinavia! I got to stay with Nicole, a fellow Franco-American. We had fun commenting on German baguette in true French fashion and she gave me helpful indications on what to see in Berlin next time I came.
As usual, we set up the tent, tables and a computer – without forgetting our American flags of course! For this event, we had permits for two locations: the Potsdamer Platz, where we did registrations and the Brandenburg Gate (wow!), where we called people’s attention to VoteFromAbroad.Org (VFA). Nancy, the head of the DA Berlin chapter, stood in front of the impresive monument with fellow members handing out VFA cards with all the necessary information to register.
From early in the afternoon to 6 p.m., we welcomed a steady flow of visitors, sometimes even having to ask people to wait a few minutes to register! The wait gave us an opportunity to chat with our fellow Americans living in Berlin, but also in Prague and Portugal. The chair of the DA country committee for the Czech Republic, Linda Vadasz, even stopped by to encourage us.
The composition of the bus team changed a lot in Berlin. Cynthia, Rob and his daughter Hanna got off and Gwendolyn joined us for the first time – welcome! Quaide, Jacqueline and I remain. As time passed, we came to form our own little bus family, complete with private jokes, habitual seats and defined roles within the nucleus. It’s a sad thing to see our master saleswoman Cynthia, professional photographer Rob and promising very young dem Hanna (15) leave us but we hope to see them soon in Venice, Stockholm, Munich or Paris, where we live!
What royal treatment we received from the Berlin chapter! Water, coffee, banana bread, sandwiches and popsicles kept hunger at bay and kept people standing in line busy. The weatherman promised, the weather delivered: 30 degrees! A thirty-something-year-old man, seeking refuge from the temperature as he waited to register, explained to us that he had become a citizen of the United States only two years ago and that this was his first time registering to vote as an American. What an honor for us to be the ones helping a new citizen to partake in our democracy!
American or not though, we still have to comply with German law, which the “Polizei” made sure we did when they came and checked our permits which we dutifully presented to them. At the stand, we could count on help from local volunteers, like Hilary and Florian, with everything from setting up tables to tourist information (for some reason, people keep asking us for directions…)
The day ended in front of the Brandenburg gate, where the Berlin chapter posed together with the bus team for some photos. We are now on our way to Frankfurt, where we will have our next voter registration drive. Auf Wiedersehen !