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Photo by Alex Potter

The New Berliners

On a chilly April morning in 2016, at a newly converted shelter in southern Berlin, Om Belal struggled as she maneuvered her ten-year-old son, Jad, in his wheelchair out the building’s front door. They were on their way to see a pediatrician, to begin the process of assessing whether Jad would ever walk again. Once outside, she carefully eased Jad backward down the front steps, then hurried awkwardly across the street, the wheelchair rattling along: One of its back wheels was leaking air. Om Belal had meant to have it fixed that morning, but she didn’t speak German or English, and she couldn’t find any of the shelter’s Arabic-speaking staffers to ask for help. Communicating with them was pointless otherwise.

Photo by Valerie Schmidt

The Useful Village

There is no cinema in Sumte. There are no general stores, no pubs, gyms, cafés, markets, schools, doctors, florists, auto shops, or libraries. There are no playgrounds. Some roads are paved, but others scarcely distinguish themselves from the scrub grass and swampy tractor trails surrounding each house, modest plots that grade into the farmland and medieval forests of Lower Saxony. There is no meeting hall. All is private and premodern. You can’t quite hear the eddying rills of the Elbe—the river lies a few miles to the west—but in the cathedral silence of an afternoon in Sumte you might easily imagine you hear flowing water, or a pan flute, or the voice of God. You’re in the great European nowhere, where cows outnumber people and the darkness at night is as unalloyed and mysterious as a silent undersea trench.

VQR Online

The Guardy and the Shame

January 6, 2015

Jamaicans are primed to contend with all who speak ill of their country. As someone who grew up and lived in Jamaica until my midtwenties—although I now live in the US—I understand how the culture reacts to criticism.