Mixed feelings

Mixed feelings

I have mixed feelings. About almost everything happening here. 


After a day in Greece all I saw were happy faces and sunshine. The snow had just melted and suddenly the boats stopped coming. The warmer climate encouraging the crossing was dimished by the colder political climate. The Turkish coast guard  had made it their (EU funded) mission to stop all boats and trow the escapees in jail. The people we met had barely made it through their naval curtain and were just plain grateful for being safe. I feel glad to meet such joy, however I would have liked to feel somewhat more needed and that makes me feel guilty.


Me and my covolunteer Alemke were shown around Lesvos by two veteran volunteers. Two ladies who had been here before last autumn and had lived through horrific scenes. Rows of soaking wet and freezing people with nowhere to go and no carers to turn to. People in panic mode pushing their way to the front to get off boats first. And boats capsizing and sinking, people dying. When they had left the island they felt unsatisfied with the job they had done, eager to return. Returning now showed them much more peaceful shores and well organized camps. They sat in the sun staring over the sea, silently looking for boats that didn’t come all day. I wonder if they are satisfied now, or perhaps a bit disappointed as well.


Since there wasn’t much to do at the beach we volunteered at the local camp site. Designed to hold a few dozen people for a few hours it was falling short very quickly when another 120 people were dropped off by the coast guard and the ferry strike meant people had to stay overnight. Even though people were flooding in, we still felt useless and hung around the other volunteers. I felt like a cat frollicing around its owner’s legs and constantly being in the way. It started weighing on me; being here, being quite capable and yet not knowing where to start. 


We talked to some and heared about some of the people in the camp. Amongst the newcomers were many of Syrian descent, but also many with less obvious nationalities such as Iranian, Afghan and Iraqi. For some it was obvious why they fled; the war had destroyed their houses and families but others had different stories of denying military duty (Iran) or being threatened because of their humanistic (empowering women) work (Afghanistan). The first had a plan of pretending to be Syrian until reaching Germany, then counting on this degrees and thesises to speak for him. The latter produced a PDF letter on his phone in Arabic and a warning in English from his friend and dr. explaining he was under threat. Alemke explained to me she had worked with such letters before while working with human trafficking victems. They were often templates. We wondered if these two men stood a chance in Europe? Were their claims for asylum legal? At least they felt legitimate to me. I felt on one side it would be fair to explain to them that their journey might be in vain, but it would also be cruel. And perhaps they knew already and willfully manipulated me, in that case the joke is on me.

After little encourgement we soon set out on a mission to cheer up some of the smaller children by showing the art of bell blowing. It was appreciated with the biggest smiles to have the bells blow up in my own face, so I did. You could sense the parents ease up, seeing their children play for the first time since, perhaps literally, forever.


Later that afternoon we snuck into the childrens tent to help one lonely greek volunteer in her mission to entertain a group of 30 loud children. One little girl wanted me to do something and kept asking the same question over and over again. After shrugging my shoulders as a sign that I did not get it she started speaking louder, as if I were deaf. If anything she was very dedicated. Later that evening I found out she meant she was cold.


Another child, no older than 1.5, had been left in my arms by her mother. She quickly started crying and tried to run away to find her mummy, bearfoot across rocks and gravel. She did not like me stopping her at all and hit me in the face with her little soft hand. There was no doubt about it, she was very distressed and did not trust me to care for her at all. Finding her mother was the next ordeal, with the women all wearing dark coats and head scarfs. When I found her mother I was shocked by her indifference. She just took the child and kept fussing around with some of her belongings. Perhaps she was so tired she could not bear any drama, was it even fair of me to expect a thank you to me and some affection for the child?


On the other side there were people who were happy with me. I received drawings of a heart (broken, with a swoard through it?) and a rose from a boy. A girl drew me in her pictures. Or at least I think it was me, the figure had yellow hair. A third child kissed me and a mother told me over and over again she loved me. 


On my first day I have been hit and kissed by in the face. I must have made quite the impression…

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