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I arrived in Klein Warnow, a small village in Karlstädt nestled in a towering beech forest. The village, roughly equidistant from Berlin and Hambourg, was a popular stop back when the railroad opened in 1840s.

The three-story storage shed by this defunct train stop will be my home for the next month. Sharon and Cheb, my hosts, prepared a welcome dinner (hefty bowl of quinoa with veggies and goat cheese). After the meal, Sharon offered to show me around. Despite traveling some 6,000 miles, I was alert, likely overwhelmed with the sudden change of scenery—so I said yes. Out we went, on unwieldy loud steel bikes.  

“Look,” I said, “look, there are holes.”

On the forest floor, on the reclining bodies of struck trees, in moldy trunks, the place was covered with holes. 

Inside lived a bee, a snake, a squirrel, a mole, a groundhog, or some creature I don’t even know exists. I saw them haul out soil, going in and out, until finally they had a nice enough place to rest during the cold, unpredictable night.

The holes, deeply private, are signs of security that we all desire.

Something caught my eye when I was washing my hands in the bathroom: a cluster of dots two three inches above the soap box. Up close, they turned out to be a family of ant. Their bodies were tinged with dark reddish hue. They were not moving so fast, or not at all, at times. On a much smaller scale, they mirrored the image of a climber gripping a tiny hold to move up a cliff. Mor said, “I’m not allowing you to kill them in this house.”

We took our seats at the large wooden table in the middle of the kitchen. Klaus and his four friends were done eating, but they were still chatting, a drink or two maybe. It was Klaus’ birthday breakfast. Blue was the color of the room and therefore my memory of it.
“You’re from America, but you don’t look American because your family is from Asia, no?” Klaus said, with a smile, because that’s how he is.  “Yes,” I said, also with a smile.

At Grabow, I met Gerhard, likely in his 70s, with a thick white beard and a bald head covered with several streaks of hair. He had a rotund body and wore bright green overalls, which he said was his old uniform. I didn’t ask him why he was still wearing them.
Gerhard was extremely affable or curious, perhaps, which didn’t sit well with Mor. I asked him about the abandoned fabrik in front of us. The imposing brick building was the first thing I saw as we drove in town. Gerhard pointed at the plaque near the entrance. Although my German was rudimentary, I somehow understood that it was a corn mill factory back in 14th century. Pipes, cut open, wide enough for me to crawl inside, were sticking out from the solid brick wall. 

Stepping on a damp, springy forest bed gives me an illusion that there’s a body underneath: thousands of ligaments, finger bones, soft skin, scabs, and holes.