Merry Christmas everyone!
I actually ended up having a very nice evening with two other volunteers last night, so it wasn’t a totally solitary Christmas. Today was nice, because everyone who was working was very festive in their greetings to one another, so while it still didn’t feel anything like a holiday on many levels, people’s spirits were up at least.
The GoFundMe campaign has been a huge success… Over $5,000 is 48 hours. Again, thanks so much!!! I’m starting to look for opportunities about where this can be wisely spent.
I haven’t mentioned the weather at all, but it’s been gorgeous since I’ve been here. It hasn’t rained once and it’s sunny every day. Thankfully. I can’t imagine what rain would do to this entire operation. As the refugees get into Central Europe, they must be dealing with rain, snow and extreme cold. Ugh. It’s cold at night here, quite miserable for refugees sleeping in areas barely protected by the elements, but at least sunny during the day and upwards of 63 F/16 C.
Since the winds were calm, refugees were constantly arriving today starting at 5:00 in the morning. But, things have been running relatively smoothly, so it wasn’t a frantic day by any stretch. Kind of a lot of what I have been doing already, but a mix throughout the day. I will write a few short anecdotes for this post:
- The NRC did not have enough staff today, so I started my day by working the Snake again (see description here). People were pressed up against the fence door so I was real close to them for a while and struck up a conversation with one who was Afghani and had worked with US government at Bagram Airfield. It took him 18 days to reach Greece from Afghanistan by foot, car, bus and boat. Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iran to Turkey to Greece. He told me on the sly that many of the men in line with him there were Iranians trying to pass off as Afghanis to gain entry into Europe.
- I went to the port to stock the boutique there, because several hundred people have been arriving through there per day for the past few days. The picture above is a typical seaside sight in Greece and you’ve probably seen such a photo before. Tens of thousands of life preservers, some genuine, some fake (costing them up $120+) lay strewn everywhere.
- When walking back to Tabakika, there was a family (a middle-aged man and his parents, in their 60s), who needed directions to get back there, so I walked with them. They were Syrian Christians who had fled via Lebanon and had stayed in the nice hotel the previous night where all the expat NGO/UN workers stay in town. We’ll say they were looking far more refreshed than the other refugees sleeping on the concrete at Tabakika.
- I finally got to see Souda, the camp where the refugees go after registering at Tabakika. An old woman needed to be wheel-chaired there from Tabakika, so another volunteer and I, along with 11 of her family members, made the 10-minute walk to the camp (in reality, two elders of the family weren’t going to make it after 100 meters, so I took them and their 8 blankets in a taxi to the camp – first use of the campaign funds). There are UNHCR hard-frame tents set up there with capacity for over 1,000. It’s much, much nicer than Tabakika, but they still don’t offer food. Souda is almost like a little town.
- Container unclustered ahead of schedule. Have not decided whether I will take tomorrow off or not after 11 straight days… Fatigue is setting in. We’ll see.
That’s all I got for today!