After he was robbed in Heidelberg, L went straight to the town hall which he mistook for a police station. There he filled in an asylum application form. From there he was transported to Dülmen, which is 360 kilometers away from Heidelberg.

 

In a series of unfortunate Kafkaesque happenstances, a Chinese tourist in Germany recently ended up in a refugee asylum. According to a report in The Guardian, Mr. L, who speaks only Mandarin, kept trying to convey his message to the German authorities and the inmates of the asylum for 12 days, without any success. He is probably touring the rest of Europe now, with an epic of lost-in-translation anecdotes to report back home.

After he was robbed in Heidelberg, L went straight to the town hall which he mistook for a police station. There he filled in an asylum application form. From there he was transported to Dülmen, which is 360 kilometers away from Heidelberg. L did as was asked of him, under the impression that he was being taken to where he might find his wallet back.

At Dülmen, L’s fingerprints were taken and he was medically examined. He was offered food and some money. Christoph Schlütermann, an official at the German Red Cross which runs the asylum home, told the DPA news that L was very different from the other refugees, and much too well-dressed. He kept asking for his passport “which is the opposite of what most refugees do.”

In the last year, more than a million refugees, mostly Syrian, Afghani and Iraqi victims of war and poverty had sought asylum in Germany. Accidentally, L became a part of a tiny Chinese population of refugees in the country, for the two weeks.

Finally, some meaning transpired in L’s predicament, when with the help of a Chinese translation app and a translator at a Chinese restaurant his story was pieced together. All along L had been wanting to convey that he wanted to tour France and Italy, not become a refugee in Germany.

Europe, said L, was not what he had expected it to be. After being trapped in the “bureaucratic jungle” that German asylums are today, Mr. L was happy to take leave of the country.

Professor William Gould, from the University of Leeds, wrote on hearing the story, that Franz Kafka could “eat his heart out,” given how much stranger than fiction the reality of the Chinese tourist had become in Germany.

 

Coldnoon Bureau

Coldnoon Bureau

Coldnoon (International Journal of Travel Writing & Travelling Cultures) is one of the largest online literary magazines published from Asia. It has published authors from all over the world, largely from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Russia, United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, among others.

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