Our Lens

Interview: Hamid, Stardom, and the Difference Threshold

It's November of last year and Kelly and I are visiting relatives of mine in Soest, a small town of under 50,000 in Northwestern Germany. We're hanging out in the kitchen, chatting over a cup of coffee, when one of my cousin's friends walks in. He pauses with one arm holding open the door, staring at us like a deer in headlights. Before we have the chance to say Hallo he's turned and raced up the stairs to my cousin's room. Teenage boys, we initially chuckled... [Read More!]

Lens: With Wings, Roots, and Sweaty Hands

"Punctual. Exact. Productive. Closed off. Careful. Inflexible. Humorless." And some "Goethe" and "Einstein" thrown in for good measure. Was this really all a group of seemingly well-educated professionals had to say about German identity? No wonder the facilitator had started to draw sad faces on the list... [Read More!]

Lens: Coming (home)

I'm pretty sure it was the 1st grade. We were drawing pictures of our families and I carefully wrote Mami under the lopsided stick figure cast as my mother. A kid next to me leaned over and inspected my work. "That's not how you write 'Mommy'!" he squealed. "Yes it is!" I responded fiercely, confident that this was exactly how my Mami had taught me to spell it. Our teacher overheard the bickering and swooped in for the rescue. We were both right, she explained patiently. Mami was just "Mommy" in a different language... [Read More!]

Lens: Going (away)

Human beings are mobile, in part due to the wonder of air travel, whose planes make relationship and imagination possible in spite of vast distances. Preparing to leave Berlin for my other home far away, I could not help but reflect on how mobility has changed what it means to love, to belong, to connect. Will my father’s face have aged? My mother’s mind? I turn toward the security line, into the place I am going. Umbrellas and the smell of moist newspapers, dreary winters full of long conversations near the sea... [Read More!]

Reviewing the Rave: “We are the We”

We're so used to talking all the time that words tend to lose their effect. Especially when the talking is predominantly happening in one direction, as it so often does in immigration discourse. The Migrantas organization is unleashing an alternate voice within immigrant women in Germany that is arguably just as powerful: their artistic creativity... [Read More!]

Lens: Becoming Foreign at the Ausländerbehörde

By nature of my non-German blood and laws requiring third-party nationals (non-EU citizens) to obtain a residence permit on the basis of one of usually twelve categories, I found myself arguing to simply be allowed to remain in a country which has, in truth, no obligation to allow me to do so. The task of convincing a state that your residence is to their benefit is the ultimate test of not letting the ‘foreign feeling’ get to your head or your heart…or at least not in front of the Berlin Beamte (bureaucrat). Friday evening in winter 2012. This is my last shot... [Read More!]

Lens: Becoming Berlinerin at the Bürgeramt

Bureaucracy is there to keep the rules in check, to decide who can be a part of the stacks of paper and benefits that make up either citizenship or the ominous category of legal (or illegal) residency status. Oftentimes, the line between these two categories is arbitrary, not reflective of individuals but of rules and their guardians. This is my story in a two-part lens about how blood and ink can define who you are in a city, how, as a German citizen, a ruler was used to cleanly draw a line in my passport across my former American city of residence, replacing it with a German one... [Read More!]

Lens: Linsanity and Linguine

Looking up, I notice a young black man across the street. I immediately scold myself for thinking it's B, but then realize it really is him. He has a book bag swung over one shoulder and an amused look on his face. We haven't seen each other for a few weeks and never in this neighborhood, so it's a happy, albeit slightly disorienting, coincidence. B's done with school for the day and I'm famished, so we go to an Italian cafeteria adjacent to the Wilmersdorfer Strasse subway stop. He orders something creamy and rich. I ask for something "spicy" with extra spice. The men behind the counter wear shirts splattered with grease and yell in Italian when it's ready... [Read More!]

Lens: Lamb on Fridays

The children may eat Milka and Haribo but they will tolerate spice. Broiled fish in chili or ribs of lamb in a bed of sour stew. Onions sweated in pepper and vinegar on oily rice. Pineapple with salt. Dried cod fried in dough. Tamarind in everything. Sour, spicy, and sweet stuck to the curtains. “Africa” - as the boy says - in the carpet, on the tablecloth, in each and every pot and pan, making its way into daily life in the apartment of a Lichtenberg concrete sky-scraper. It is Friday and A is making lamb... [Read More!]

Welcome to Collidoscope Berlin!

The term Collidoscope was bornon a train ride, when we (Kelly and Sophia, hello!) were taking a trip together to a small town in Northwest Germany. We wanted a word to describe the imperfect yet spectacular collision of cultures that takes place within a city. A word to represent the many varied and distinct people, perspectives, and spaces contained within one metropolis... [Read More!]
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