Today I took my first day off from volunteering since I arrived 12 days ago. I will get into that a bit later, but first wanted to share a few things with you that I’ve seen posted/sent to me by friends or things that I found in looking into the refugee crisis further.
First, since I don’t take pictures of people, I wanted to share a link of Buzzfeed’s most powerful photos of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015. These are absolutely incredible photos. When I first opened this, I was wondering how “close to home” they would be, but I can assure you that I see some version of these images almost every day. They are the indelible marks I have, ones that will never leave me. I have a hard time looking at them. It’s wonderful that there are people that can capture these moments. They are not contrived or events that are infrequent, but are happening every day all over Europe.
For those of you who like statistics, I found out that UNHCR does “snapshots” of both Lesvos (every day) and Chios (every 7 days) of the current situation. You can find the general data website here and the most recent Chios statistics here. In brief:
- Chios has had 115,085 refugees arrive in 2015 (14% of Europe total)
- This month, it’s been 16,147
- Nationalities: Syria: 43%, Afghanistan: 25%, Iraq: 21%, Iran 5%, Morocco: 4%
- From 16-22 December, a 7-day period, which I’ve been here for, 4,039 refugees have arrived
Earlier this month, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, António Guterres, had a TED Talk conversation, which very well lays out the issues surrounding the global refugee crisis.
If you are into poetry, you will enjoy this webpage (including an amazing photo, which portrays so well that this is still just people living their lives, but in a horribly desperate situation). Part of this poem is something I heard some months ago and bears repeating:
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
On that powerful note (that people tend to not think about) now onto my day off (with photos included)… I wish I could have slept in, but (1) can’t do that anymore and (2) was awake already when two of my volunteer friends, Karen and Lucie, texted me at 8:00 to be ready in 5 minutes to go on a sailboat ride with Remi, a French guy, that was staying in their same hotel. So, I quickly prepared and we boarded a decent-sized, rough around the edges sailboat that he had to move to a secure port (instead of being parked in front of the hotel in the harbor) a half-hour away. Not a bad little jaunt to start the day.
Chios from the water
We stopped for a coffee and beignets on our return walking from the winter port and when I got back, I thought that I was going to spend the rest of the day napping, catching up on email and thank you notes for the GoFundMe campaign and just life in general. Karen and Lucie texted me again, however, to see if I wanted to go with Remi for lunch in a Greek village on the southern part of the island. Why not?
So, in a rented car, we drove 30 minutes south to a small town I didn’t catch the name of to have some Ouzo, bread and olives on the water (hard life, yes). And then went up to the small mountain village of Patrika where we had lunch in a small local restaurant with Greek 1950s movies playing in the background. Remi owned an apartment there that he had recently bought and was fixing up. His foreman joined us and we had quite an incredible meal (with white wine and tsipouro, a Greek alcohol). For any high school friends that are reading this, the cook/owner could have been Psaros’ uncle. The mannerisms, physiology and facial expressions were the same.
Small town on the coast where we drank some ouzo
The remains of our meal
Patrika (and those below)
Had to laugh at seeing this in Patrika with the UNHCR wrapping
Then back to Chios for a quick ice cream (bursting at this point) to drop Remi at the airport for his return to France. And then I had to meet Camilla, a Fletcher friend, at the hotel, because she’s here to also volunteer for the next week. Quite a nice day off, but not sure how rested I feel!
Back to work tomorrow. I think there were no new arrivals today, as it was very windy with fairly large waves, so things could be very slow. I might escape for another day here soon as well, but we’ll see.