Days ago....in the sleepy town of Sumte in Germany....they went through the initial stage of accepting refugees. The town of roughly 150 residents....was told to prepare for up to 1,000 refugees. Presently, the number is around 750.
News people kinda followed the story. It's a rural town in the middle of nowhere....there's no industry, no jobs, and no real urban identification. You'd have to drive for an hour to get to any place with real jobs or real potential. The locals noted that weeks ago when this discussion came up about offering up a place for refugees. It just didn't make any sense to them.
So the only industrial-sized building in town was set-up as a refugee center. It was empty and not being used....logically it was a perfect fit.
Days have passed now. Oddly, some journalists have stuck around....thinking there's going to be more to the story.
Two or three days after arrivals started....journalists noted this odd phenomenon. These new refugees having arrived in Sumte....have taken to walking down the streets of the town. There are only five streets in the town.
Some were asked and simply noted that they expected 'more'. They wanted that urbanized feeling....a real city....honking.....streetcars.....traffic.....etc. They were in some form of questioning the logic of coming to Sumte.
But after a while, the journalists noted this second odd factor. The refugees all had cellphones and were holding them in the air as they walked around town. With hands risen and cellphones within sight of their face.....they walked and walked, and walked.
The journalists finally asked some locals about this habit and what it meant.
The locals mostly just grinned. For the past decade, while most all Germans enjoyed fine reception and a modern lifestyle of Facebook, chat, sharing of stupid cat pictures and such.....the people of Sumte lived in what they referred as a 'telecommunications black hole'. There is no reception.
They've discussed this at city council meetings and with various providers for months and months. Vodafone says it's on the list but they haven't reached Sumte yet.
So, this town without a cafe, a grocery, a bank, a pub......is a sort of twilight zone episode for the refugees.
My humble guess is that some will quietly pack bags and start walking to find another refugee center in a more urbanized area. After a week or two where a hundred people quietly walk out.....the bulk will start talking of a massive walk, and one afternoon the director of the facility will note that he's down to one single family.
I went looking at the history of the town. It's never really thrived or done anything much. It was a part of old DDR (East Germany) and it probably looks mostly the same way as it did in the 1960s. It's a farming community where people don't expect much and the biggest chaos of the week is some cow broke down a fence, or some guy's tractor had a flat tire.
When you've made up your mind and determined that walking 2,000 kilometers....across five or six countries....doing this off a marginal amount of money....to be honest, you just never thought about the layout of the new land that you've chosen.
Oh, you saw the images of people driving BMWs, eating big heaping plates of schnitzel, riding fancy sleek trains that never seem to crash, and everyone seeming happy and overjoyed.
Your research might have included some discussion over Facebook with your cousin who made the trip six months ago and resides in Wiesbaden. He chats of cafes, beautiful blondes, German language classes, integration going well, and an urban area that you simply dreamed about in Damascus.
So, you stand there on Haupt Strasse in Sumte, gazing at both sides of the street. There's just not much there. A bus stop indicates a bus stops a couple of times between 6:00 and 8:00, then goes to a once-an-hour schedule. You can ride to some nearby train station or to the local hardware stop five kilometers away (Baumarkt). That's your only escape from the town.
You as the refugee....don't really have much of a say on such matters. You are the guest in Germany and have to contend with this situation as it is. But quietly, you just wonder how Germans themselves could stand to live in such a rural environment.
Germany is like an ice cream with forty different flavors. And one of those flavors is a rather dull vanilla without much taste.