Franziska, Felix und Katharina Build an Igloo

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”Mum, Dad, it snows!” Katharina is all excited.  15 cm of fresh snow have turned Rheinbach into a winter wonderland.  And Katharina knows exactly what to do.  “We must go sledding -- full throttle down Mount Michelsberg.”

Mecki and Mike look sleepily at each other.  They had their own plans for this Sunday, and those were plans for a peaceful Sunday, without doing anything at full throttle.  Maybe relaxing at full throttle, they might try that, but surely not sledding.  But Katharina isn’t alone with her opinion.  In one of those rare instances of solidarity among brothers and sisters, she gets solid support from both Felix and Franziska.  And she makes another point:  “I’m sure Carina wants to join us, than it’s four versus two in favour of sledding.”

Mecki and Mike haven’t really woken up yet, but the inevitable already dawns on them:  resistance is useless.  And why not. After all, Carina really wants to join them and there’s no denying that Mount Michelsberg is a wonderful place.  The sled runs are long and steep, just perfect for full throttle sledding.  So that’s what they do.  On their dash down the hill, Katharina and Carina scream with excitement.  A sled shared is a joy doubled and probably a speed doubled, too.

But that’s not all, Katharina is still full of ideas.

“Listen Dad, is that as much snow as in Canada?”

“Well, could be, ... kind of  ...”

“How Cool!  You know what we have to do?  We must build ourselves an igloo in our backyard.”

“Oh, Katharina.” ...     grumble, grumble

“Hey Daddy, it’s easy.  We learned at school that a skilled Inuit can do the job in 30 minutes.”

“At school in Rheinbach?  Not bad.”

“Nope.  In Halifax from Ms. Johnson and Ms. Wolfe.  They know their stuff.”

“I see.”

“And sure we’ll build a real big igloo with plenty of space for everyone.  And then we’re gonna have a big opening party with our Christmas cookies and candle light and all.  Guess what?   I wanna start tomorrow.”

“Oh, Katharina” ... grumble, grumble ... “But tomorrow is Monday.  Let’s wait for the next weekend”, replies Mike in the firm belief the delay will cancel this project.  In Rheinbach, snow rarely lasts longer than a week.

But this winter is special.  First, there’s no snow melt on Monday or Tuesday, then it gets even chillier on Wednesday and Thursday, and finally there’s fresh snow on Friday.  When Mike checks the mail box on Saturday morning to get the newspaper, Katharina already waits for him on the driveway behind a barrow full of snow.  “Hurry up, Dad, we have to start.  Felix is already in the backyard at the construction site.”

Felix at the construction site - that means you really have to hurry if you want to do a little bit of planning first.  And so pretty soon, four prospective igloo builders - three kids with itching fingers and one Dad still struggling to fully wake up - go into a huddle to discuss their plans for the day.

Mike had secretly checked the internet and tells the kids what he found out about igloo-building in the Arctics. He tells them that the Inuits saw their snow bricks out of dense snow, but in Rheinbach you have to press bricks into a plastic wash basin, that these bricks won’t tumble down because they stabilize each other, and more of that sort.  Franziska remarks that she wants to press the snow bricks, Felix reminds the others that it’s high time to start, and Katharina knows that a skilled Inuit would almost have completed the igloo by now because it would have taken him not more than 30 minutes, and that they’d better believe her because she learned that at school.  From Ms. Johnson and Ms. Wolfe.

Then the real work starts.  Mike shovels snow from the street onto the driveway.  There, Franziska presses the snow into the little plastic basin, Katharina carefully takes out the bricks to haul them in her barrow into the backyard were Felix assembles them into what is to become the igloo.

The kids start with a little tunnel to form the entrance and a first row of vertical bricks.  The second row of bricks is then already somewhat inclined marking the start of the dome.  The kids struggle, strive, and work, and they find out - although not everybody likes to talk about this - that not all theories live up to their promises.

“Daddy!”, Felix suddenly shouts, ”your self-stabilizing snow bricks tumble down!”

“Hey Felix, you know that this can’t be the case.”

“Yes it can!  Do something!  Get some support!”

How good to have Franziska.  A little mess can’t unsettle her.  She quickly gets some paddles and a sled from the garage.  With these supports, the snow bricks stay where they belong.  Of course Katharina has some helpful advice, too:

“This wouldn’t have happened to a skilled Inuit.  Actually, a skilled Inuit wouldn’t have to do anything by now any more, because he would be finished with the job in 30 minutes.”

Anyway, from now on things go fine.  Felix and Franziska build the dome together, which is a safe solution, and for the two of them setting the keystone isn’t much of a problem.

What about the results?  Well, the kids didn’t really manage to stay within Katharina’s time limit, they actually exceeded it by several 30 minutes.  But Katharina’s other wishes all came true.

A brand new igloo is now the pride of their back yard, with plenty of space to accommodate everyone and everything that belongs into it:  The three builders, two sleds serving as benches, and a large plate full of Christmas cookies for the opening party.  The party, by the way, was really great and lasted, to use Katharina’s favourite units of time, two times 30 minutes.

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