Helper syndrome – Part 1

Fall 2015: Super proudly and excited I went to the guys in front of the building of the German and tutoring meeting point, where I was volunteering as „refugee helper“, which was happening on every Sunday afternoon. I was positive that I would impress everyone with my superficial knowledge on Afghanistan from overheard conversations, the news and a Wikipedia article I had scanned, and we would be able to have some chill conversations.

The participants, almost exclusively refugees from Afghanistan, often spent the time after the meeting chain-smoking, while they patiently waited for the bus and the tram. Later they went into the city centre and hang out at the shopping mall, which was equipped with obligatory shopping mall wifi and was used by the guys to stream and download Hollywood movies with chinese subtitles. They spent hours waiting at public offices and clinically dead waiting rooms, where they were not really welcomed by unfriendly and overwhelmed office worker, but tolerated – the tolerance of the right-winged.

I didn’t like the German word „Flüchtling“ which was the colloquial term for „refugee“. It sounded like „Winzling“ („midget“) or even worse „Säugling“ („infant“). And no, these guys were no midgets or infants. And no again, they were no helpless infants I weekly spent my time with. They were grown-up men with strong growth of beard, who were thrilled to bits when someone invited them to a funny board game night with culinary treats, just as potatoe salad or pretzel sticks.

After a week of smalltalk, about 42 000 Facebook friend requests and weird chats, I realized that almost everyone’s birthday was on the 1st of January and that there were many ethnical, linguistic and religious differences between the participants. There was for example Mr. McDonald’s, which wasn’t his real name of course, but all the volunteers used to call him that behind his back. He told me proudly that he had studied Anglistics in Herat and that Alice in Wonderland was the overrated fantasy of a paedophile; I stopped him before he could get to Harry Potter. With the same indiscretion he told me about his Pashtu roots and his “right” Sunni belief. He used to laugh piercingly and even more and louder, when one of the new volunteers gallantly mentioned “war” or “Taliban”. Weirdly he got very serious when the nice fortysomething deathmetal hobby singer Thorsten bought him every now and then burger and fries at McDonald’s. Apparently his nickname was not by chance.

All in all, the guys at the building seemed to be a bit different. I arrived at the cloud of smoke and I asked them gasping for air and sharply, if they crossed the Usbek or the Tajik border. For some time they stared at me and then they cordially started laughing.

Even A squared burst into laughter, even though he was one of the calmer guys. He got his nickname because he had spent a year eagerly studying German and still couldn’t pass the A2 test. Everyone knew him because he was a damn good hobby cook and could make the best samosas in the world.
After the forth failed A2 test they figured out that A2 squared was not a hopeless analphabet but simply dyslexic and required inidividual education. In the Afghan village he was from, there was no money for more than elementary school. In those years of school he had had the same problems and had been labeled as stupid. Even in ever so sophisticated Germany no one realised it, thanks to integration in no time at all.
All the more amusing it was when he tried to flirt with me via messager by copy/paste. He sounded like a mix of Google Translate and Tinder. „A Tinder match for his toughts“, I often thought.

Cansev Duru

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