The following emails were sent between my mother and I as I spent a couple of weeks volunteering in Greece. (some emails have been edited for privacy)
Thanks mom for supporting me in everything that I do.
I love you.
I know I haven't been gone that long but here's an update
From: Syd>Sun, May 29, 2016 at 8:51 PM
Greece is beautiful and challenging. It’s pretty intense because I feel just as challenged by the other volunteers as the refugees
And I'm on my own so I keep wanting to talk about it but there's no one around. There is this blonde white woman from Virginia (wearing culturally inappropriate short shorts) who just doesn't understand why people just don't "do the right thing" and feed those who are hungry. I believe she has never been hungry a day in her life, and her superiority seems totally unaware of how the country she pays taxes in has been a huge part of creating this situation.... There’s the racism within the refugee community who get upset that other nationalities are treated better than them, many of them are leaving being a at civil war and now are living side by side with their “enemies” while so incredibly vulnerable. The Nigerian immigrant who nervously tries to get me to fall in love with him because he doesn't have a passport and complains about how racist Greece is, still he wrinkles his nose with disdain when he says he can tell a group walking by is Syrian because they look like "gypsies." The child I have to stop from beating his little brother crying in the fetal position on the ground with a club because violence is what he's know even before the war.... Everyone is functioning deeply entrenched in their position and it's a trip to watch. And this is all day one when I'm floating in jet lag and pms... (I have to know that I am not watching from a place of objectivity, I was so concerned when I saw an infant roaming about the port by itself. Another volunteers took care to explain that there are major cultural differences in child rearing and that it’s totally normal for children to be far more independent. I felt a wave of shame and humility as I felt painfully aware of my own biases and judgments that I have to take the time to track through this process.)
Academically I'm getting so much understanding of trauma and its effects on children. I watched an infant display so many signs of unhealthy attachment due to PTSD, and when I explained the symptoms to my new Canadian friend I realized just how much I have learned at school. I spent a significant amount of time with a little girl who plopped down on my lap and proceeded to oscillate between cuddling and kissing me, to pretending to beat me. It felt so important to give her a chance to act out some of the violence she has experienced while not perpetuating this system where kids learn to take their suffering out on each other. It was a roller coaster of a first day and still I feel calm (thank goodness for beta blockers and antidepressants). I also really appreciate the session I did with my therapist right before I left where we explored why I was coming here. I am here in the spirit of nonviolence, that means I will try not to be violent with myself, and I will not be violent in thought to those that have grown up to believe violence is the only answer.
This angle of witnessing this situation keeps me calm and curious without getting too pulled into suffering around me.
Then I ducked into a restaurant called "zen place" while dehydrated, sunburnt, and lost after spending hours at the refugee camp at the port. A Zen place sounded nice with all I was digesting. It was a rooftop bar full of beautiful people wearing dark lipsticks, designer jeans, and taking selfies. It was loud and joyful and I seriously felt transported to some hip spot in the mission. I chugged water and sipped a margarita sadly and eventually found myself shaking in frustration. I wanted to stand up and yell in the face of this pretentiousness and apathy. And at the same time there are a lot of people suffering in SF and I manage to find ways to be joyful. I guess I have work to do with non-violent thought. It's a wild world we live in.
I love and miss you and feel so thankful for all your support in getting here.
From: K Sun, May 29, 2016 at 10:04 PM
To: Sydney Mcclune <email@example.com>
I love all updates even an hour after you are gone. Donʻt you know that I am vicariously living your trip. And I donʻt just mean the margarita at the “zen” bar. I wish I were with you to try to understand the trauma you are witnessing. Not only will you be a great therapist, but you are a great auntie, aside being just generally good with kids. And a wonderful daughter and sister as well.
The concept of non-violence interests me, especially the part about being non violent to yourself. And, of course, we know how kids in this country, think nothing of violence and guns and fighting and bullying- and all of it comes from growing up believing that is the only answer.
Talking about violence, you should have seen Z slam the bed when the Warriors either got a basket or didn’t get a basket last night. They won last night and so it is 3-3 going into the final game at “home”. Sports may be a good outlet for pent up emotion after all. I found that even I had to leap from my chair on several occasions. Better to beat up on a ball than your little brother. I wonder if Y’s kids are learning violence to music in capoiera.
Life here is one big mock epic. We worry about if we have enough bananas, whether to watch one more episode of the Americans, whether Nyquil will give X the night’s sleep he deserves, or is the beef stew is going to be tender. And so it goes. But make no mistake, that doesn’t mean for a moment that we aren’t feeling for you and hoping (knowing really) that you will make the right decisions. And that you will squeeze all that you can out of this experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. We are with you 100% with our love and support. We are a keyboard or a phone call away-any time.
Keep good notes. You will love looking back and remembering this day, months and years from now.
When you see a dog, I hope it thinks you are as cool as I do.
From: Syd 2016 at 10:44 PM
Thanks mom, it was a treat to get your email. I finally got a Greek SIM card yesterday and I read it as the gentleman was ringing me up and it brought tears to my eyes. Honestly, I have no idea what I am doing here. I had this fantasy of showing up with art supplies and an open heart and just being available. I imagined this loving space where children could be children and I don't think I was prepared for how the children have taken on so much of the violence that they have grown up with. I was the first in on the scene between two little boys yesterday. The force of the fight got that got so heated four larger adults had to intervene as I stepped away. I learned that there was a stabbing that happened at the port after I left the day before last and yesterday while playing with some kids I noticed men running in a certain direction and I asked what was going on and they shrugged and said it was the usual fist fight that involved 15 plus people. Things are tense. There is so much racism within the camp everyone is taking their fear out on someone else. The volunteers look like they are holding on by strings. The guy who runs the port is named W, and he is a fucking trip. He's this huge burly Irish ex cop that looks wild eyed because he got punched in the face while breaking up a fight and had his glasses broken. He kept talking about how he was going to walk around eating Gelato during Ramadan. I'm pretty sure he was joking and he kept repeating it over and over again until it got weird. He reminded me of the children, worn thin and desperate for some attention and validation.
And on top of all this I've fallen in love with Athens. Sunday was a ghost town, I wandered around deserted streets for hours trying to find signs of life. Monday I was blown away. All the shops opened and it felt like it was an explosion of spices, rugs, plants, cured Meats, olives, nuts and elderly people taking walks. I've been walking miles everyday back and forth from the anarchist squat kitchen to the port camp (with the chafing to prove it) and I'm constantly shocked by the busy metropolis with designer suits and swanky cafes... I gasped when I saw an H&M meanwhile at the port babies are wandering around by themselves eating off the ground and hundreds of people are laying in tents on a sweltering asphalt.
I finally moved out of the hotel with the less than friendly staff and the nearby junky community. I found an airbnb close to a subway station in a more Residential area. Waiting outside for my host to come and let me in an elder lady came by and started talking to me. I had all my stuff and I was sitting on the sidewalk like a vagrant and I guess I looked sad, Honestly I felt pretty sad.... This grandma tried to talk to me and when it didn't work through the language barrier she reached into her bag and gave me a tomato from her groceries for a snack with the sweetest loving eating gestures. The sweet sincerity of this gesture with everything that is happening in this country touched me so deeply I just about lost it. I think the Greek culture is ultimately really generous and caring and it's really a shame that the compassion they have is leaving them with such a burden with the refugee crisis. I had a long conversation with my Airbnb host about Greece and their relationship with the rest of the EU today. In talking, multiple times he clarified that the problem wasn't that there were refugees in Greece, the problem was that refugees were needlessly dying. This spoke volumes to his compassion for the humanity of the situation beyond the politics.
After that conversation I kind of hit a wall. I finally cried a little bit about how overwhelming the situation was and was at a loss because it was only 3pm and I just wanted the day to be over. I finally pulled myself together and made the trip to the Port to hang out in the kid safe space which both cheered me up and disturbed me. Some of the best moments have been holding a child as lovingly as possible and having them melt and kiss my face and feel them really calm down. From the last subway station there is roughly 20min walk to the refugee camp and it involves walking through wide open lots in sweltering heat. I have taken to wearing a scarf over my head to protect me both from he heat and from the stares that I get with my strange haircut, tattoos, and odd clothing. I had a moment when I had to ask myself, what the fuck was I thinking, coming here alone? I haven't really thought twice about navigating a foreign language, a new subway system, a complex racial/economic/political dynamic.... But what was I thinking doing this alone? A woman with a confusing gender presentation, who is already prone to depression and isolation... What was I thinking?
Today I'm going to opt out of the kitchen work to nurture what I hope is not a cold and see if I can brainstorm some clearer goals and intention so that I don't lose it entirely. I was thinking about brining soccer balls to the squat and maybe seeing if I can offer massage so some of he volunteers.... I just want to feel like I'm doing something that makes sense, because nothing seems to make sense here any more. Part of me can't wait to leave Greece, and I'm curious what I will take with me.
I hope this email isn't too dark or disturbing. I keep having to remind myself that yesterday was only day 2, I'm jet lagged, alone and I just got my period. Things will get easier. Monica will come meet up and hopefully I won't be as lonely.
It's nice to be able to write to you. I keep logging onto Facebook thinking I'll connect with people and I Honestly don't know what to say. I don't want to make this a performance like the engagement photos, or the selfies at concerts.... And I feel sheepish letting my larger community know what I'm doing because those who do know seem impressed and proud, and honestly I don't know how long I'll last, people have been here for months and I don't know if I'll last the whole two weeks... I also don't want to preach about this global situation because I don't think patronizing or spreading fear of panic over Facebook is the answer. Not next to memes about game of thrones and pictures of people's food.... This feels too big to present it in a form that will most likely be ignored...
So it's nice to be able to write a small novel to you. This iPad has been a lifesaver. I watched a crappy movie last night while eating kebabs and drinking beer. It was a nice break.
Ok, I'm going to shower and try to get my feeling of purpose back.
Please send my love to the fam. It’s funny how many people have kept me up to date with the basketball. I've got sweet friends.
From: K Tue, May 31, 2016 at 10:15 PM
I have waited all day to reply, because unlike you, I don't know the right thing to say. My feeling is that if you have made a day easier for a child who needs to be held, you are doing enough. All you can offer is your best and your best is always enough.
I had so many similar feelings in Peace Corps in India. You are handling things in a much more "grown up", thoughtful and compassionate way than I ever could. I suspect the difference you can make will be on a one to one basis and those children or the massages or the food you help prepare or serve will be the better for your involvement. When Q arrives you may find a communal focus. Meanwhile you will harden a bit to the sadness (isn't that how we protect ourselves?) and continue to make smart, loving choices.
We are on bart heading home after a play reading in Berkeley. There was wine and stuffed potatoes and cookies and roasted veggies. X snoozed through the play and I was thinking of your day and the troubles you are trying to assuage. I took R to Costco and wiped up dog pee. Life's not fair. By accident of birth we, you, have easy choices and opportunity. It isn't our fault. It just is. Don't beat yourself up; just be good, sweet Sydney, willing to help where it is needed.
When life gives you lemons, just give them back, 'cause you don't want to hold stuff. Think on that!
" I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring." David Bowie
From: Syd Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 2:33 AM
Oh I don't think there is a right thing to say. It's just nice for me to vent. Yesterday was a lot better and I think I found my place in a way. I didn't go to the kitchen and instead to the morning to sleep in and relax. I think I'm getting over the jet lag finally and that's giving me a lot of internal strength. I brought the copies of the refugee phrase book I printed out and it was such a huge hit that I went into the city and printed out 50 more copies and have been giving them out. It’s really lovely to see the young men pouring over the information with great focus. I've noticed that I haven't seen many women out in the open so I've decided to seek them out. The young men that hang out near the stone house are very friendly and open and smiley. They have nightly volleyball games and fool around with the kids at times and come and flirt with the younger volunteers. The women seem a lot more reclusive. I sat down with one woman and he baby for a bit (the cutest most smiley baby I've ever met) to give her a phrase book and was so touched when she fed me biscuits and nuts. It's incredible how this vulnerable community that has suffered so much still has such generosity. It's also touching to see how much these women love their babies..... Yesterday was marked but such highs and lows. I finally found the mental health providers at the camp and started a dialogue with them. Most people don't even know that there is a trained psychologist available from 9am to 11am. Most of the refugees that are severely depressed stay in the tents all day in the sweltering heat. So there is this resource that is not being used. I went and spoke to them about this and they really took it to heart. The mental health team decided to discuss doing rounds and wandering around to the tents and checking on people. I'm trying to figure out a system that can train a volunteer to do this daily to create relationships with the most at risk people (I say most because everyone is suffering) to monitor their situation. What was really lovely about connecting with Solidarity Now group was it was just nice to talk to a trained professional that understood how much I, as an empathetic person, was taking on. There is a quality of listening that can't be replicated that these women really have. The liberating part of about connecting with hem was saying out loud and really honoring the fact that I am a student, I am not a trained professional. I can try the best I can to get people into their care but I am not yet equipped to fully care for them. What a relief to realize that not having intuitively acquired extensive specialized training is not a shortcoming but a very reasonable reality. I met another psychologist that was very excited about both the phrase book project and the tent visit she is trying to convince me to go to another camp that is an hour away to talk to the NGOs there. I realize that I need to set a date of departure because the more effective I feel the more people are asking how long I will stay and the harder it will be to leave. And I know I can't handle too much of this. I imagine I will harden but I don't know if I want to.
I went and talked to the woman that is heading the child safe play zone (such an uplifting and disturbing place where kids are finally playing like kids while simultaneously punching each other in the face like adults) I told her about the professionals at Solidarity Now and how there are resources that are available to help with children that are really suffering. The new system immediately went into action as she asked for support for a particular disruptive boy named S. This was a boy that I had to pull out of a dramatic fight the other day and when I went to check on him he was on top of a shipping container wailing as other boys were throwing things at him. I got a man that speaks Arabic to help me get him down and talk him into taking me to his tent in the guise of giving his father a language packet. S really didn't want to go. He clearly does not trust me, but finally allowed it. When we got there, the neighbors spoke to my friend, and when I insisted he translated he told me that they warned that the father was crazy. The man that came out the tent did not seem well, and I felt so sure that S never felt safe. I went straight to Solidarity Now and talked to them about it and we made an appointment have one of them come over and check out the situation. The relief is that I feel like I can hopefully help get him some help. The fear is that there is little they can do. But to at least create more of a system for them to get access to mental health concerns feels very satisfying. And so it goes. Yesterday there were both terrible fights including a stabbing, and visiting clowns that came and brought joy to these little ones. I watched them make wonderful paper crowns, was welcomed onto a blanket to munch nuts and giggle with a baby, and met and was warned against the local pedophile. What a fucking world we live in. I am happy to find my groove a little bit. And I really look forward to making more friends to relax with and honestly I'm really looking forward to leaving. The one psychologist that was trying to get me to come to her camp will be in Athens until September and she said she will be my point of contact as I continue to develop some ideas about how to work with this population. I am so relieved because I think I could feel a lot better working with this from a distance.
I love you for being there to write to, for not hitting me as a child, and for just being the wonderful person you are.
It's going to be very nice to come home.
More ramblings from abroad...
From: Syd>Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 1:24 AM
Things have continued to be complex over here. Q has arrived and it is interesting to notice how different we are in dealing with all this.
She has been on Lesvos already and has witnessed the atrocities of the refugee camps turned prison camps. As we spoke about different current events and projects I noticed how she has a lot of anger that I haven’t accessed yet.
It's reminding me of what I have been thinking about with nonviolence.
I’ve had a few conversations with other volunteers about how I’ve been trying to use mindfulness and a certain sweetness/ loving kindness that I associate with Buddhist meditation and my strange spiritual path to myself and others in this process. This sweetness has been extremely rewarding in my interactions with locals, volunteers, refugees, and myself. It's the sweetness I feel towards and from W(my niece), as well as everyone suffering here. There are others that are more in a state of anger, pissed at the NGOs and governments. This anger is righteous. The Moria camp on Lesbos has been on fire for days. People are rioting and being beaten by racist police, internal racial wars are spiraling out of control and resulting in death. Evidently the Afghanis at Moria are too scared to be in the camp so they are camping outside. Many of their papers have been maliciously burned which leaves them totally fucked. This last week had a devastatingly high death count and it really feels like the EU is turning their back on the situation. Anger is an appropriate reaction. I also know that in being overwhelmed with anger there are others experiences on the spectrum of human emotions that are needed and get neglected. I was speaking about the Buddhist loving kindness that I am trying to practice (Metta) that I've been working on with my therapist.
A few conversations on the topic of politics and spirituality have gotten heated. I feel strongly that the work I am doing is spiritual, and others insist that the spiritual is political. What I find myself noting is the quality of conversation that can happen between people. Sometimes I feel like heated debates embody the violence that I'm trying to combat with every cell of my body. I listened to one young man from Turkey insist that God does not exist and that anyone who is religious is stupid. He has been torn from his home, family, and studies by extremity and has first hand experience of the potential destructive uses of religion. I felt myself saddened by his remarks until I felt calmed when another friend, an Iraqi soldier turned philosopher, quieted and told him to have respect for all people. Too many are convinced that they are right and others are wrong, and people are dying. This shows up in so many different ways and it seems like this violent self preservation and insistence on righteousness in the place of curiosity and connection feels like a source of a lot of suffering. I guess in the end trying to hold space for the other volunteers as they feel frustration is exhausting but necessary.
Maybe I'm delusional, some idealistic hippy that is avoiding political action by focusing on "peace and love" but I don't feel avoidant with it. I am not naive, I just don't see myself being effective on a political level unless I learn how to be kind to myself and learn to be kind to others.
I feel drawn to help with the anarchist squats, and continue to bring support to the port and the people there. I have fallen in love with Athens (as I fell for Chiangmai) and would love to stay and I know it would be lovely to see the islands and get out of the city.
The airbnb that I have is not the cheapest and it feels really decadent, but it is a wonderful neighborhood that is filled with art, counterculture, and developing squats... I am tempted to stay.
There are also so many moments of sweetness here in Athens, and I feel very dependent on them. It’s a strange feeling to loose so much faith in the goodness of the world and gain so much faith in the goodness of these individuals I meet. From the sweet fearless cuddles of the little ones to the hilarious banter between those more grown. I'm nervous that I am successfully being wooed by a handsome and sweet 20 something year old Afghani... I didn't occur to me that I would connect so deeply with these lovely people and that some of them would be young men and some of these young men would be complete hunks.
I bought a radio/iPod speaker yesterday and brought it to the camp and the resulting joy was incredible. I heard so much music from all over the world and my heart just about exploded as I watched a gaggle of preteens singing every word along with Syrian pop songs. Then we created this mural with the kids and teenagers on this linens shower curtain I had bought at the store. L, the hilarious, bodacious, ferociously caring, and opinionated Greek woman that tends to the kids has taught the children to chant "open the borders!" during many of the art project. This was touching. The kids drew faces and peace signs as well as their country flags. I was so proud to have helped create this precious object and proud that something kept them busy for that long and that there were no fistfights during.
I also managed to get the psychologists to come and meet the little boy S that I have been keeping an eye on. Of course he was having his best day in weeks so he presented like an angel and the psychologists did not see any concern but would continue to check on him. What I was most excited about was seeing the teachers talk to the mental health support so that they could be in contact more fluidly. I felt so happy to get that connection going so that if a child has a mental break down a professional could come in and help instead of these women having to take on everything. I feel kind of teary eyed just thinking about how this may impact some of the children.
After the port, Q and I sipped on my new favorite thing called a "Rambler." It's beer mixed with lemonade, the perfect post port refreshment after hours of stifling heat and running back and forth between helping the young men with their English/ thwarting their flirtatious advances, pulling children off of each other, swinging children around, finding toys for the infants and their tired young mothers, sitting with sad men and listening to their stories of lost loved ones, and joking around with other volunteers or discussing the newest devastating news of violence or corruption all the while trying to stay in the shade and keep track of my sunglasses. With all this nothing feels more satisfying than drinking a rambler in Erachia square in the artist/ anarchist district in Athens. I've never felt so satisfied by a beverage!
Yesterday I was filled with art and music and sweetness and I feel more hopeful about what I am doing here and what can give meaning to this silly world. I am officially sick, which felt inevitable with the dehydration and all if the cuddles and kisses I've been getting from these little ones. So today I will rest and gurgle salt and try to focus on me as much as possible. It might be nice to have a day away from the port to avoid getting pulled into a hopeless and generally inappropriate and possibly unethical romance as well as get my immune system up to snuff to continue on.
I mentioned to a friend how lovely it has been to write to you and they mentioned that it was a lot of pressure to put onto one person. I immediately felt super guilty that I might be overwhelming you with information. I hope you don't feel pressured to respond in anyway. It's just nice to get some of this out and sometimes journaling feels like it can turn into a weird spiral of thoughts.
It's wild, I sit down to write a simple update and then I just can't stop until I've written a fucking novel. It's great to get out and I will love to have these emails later. Please don't feel any obligation to respond, it was my choice to go to Greece and it's just nice to write knowing someone is on other end.
Sorry for being so self involved!!! I hope training is going well!! I hope jack is doing ok! I hope you have enough bananas! :)
Send everyone my love!
From: K Sat, Jun 4, 2016 at 9:36 PM
Nuts and Bolts- I donʻt have much time, so there are some things I need to get done before I forget:
When I am gone, I will have access to email on occasion. Please don’t feel guilty about writing to me. It doesn’t burden me in any way. I love your writing and your thoughts and your process and your accomplishments more than you know. I am very proud of you. The mural idea was genius. ( I wonder if you will be the kind of therapist with a sand table.) It’s great that the kids are able to express themselves through art instead of violence.
The AirBnB sounds like a real bargain and it is beneficial for you to get away from the trauma and sip Ramblers. I am glad you are, and hope you continue, taking care of yourself. If you aren’t well, you aren’t much use to others.
Sweetness, peace and love, always triumphs over violence. Don’t give up and get drawn into the negativity.
I look forward to the next installment should there be one.
Much love, K
Sydney McClune <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I will keep writing
From: Syd Mon, Jun 6, 2016 at 12:43 AM
I will keep writing if that is ok. I've abandoned the idea of keeping a journal for now. When I'm alone in transit I find myself lost in thought and when I am not volunteering I rather be in contact with friends and family, or unplugging entirely with some crappy TV show or rom comm. ( you can take the girl out of her parents basement but you can't take the parents basement out of the girl)
Life continues to be a roller coaster here but I feel so much calmer in the face of it. I went from being a random face at the port, due to not being affiliated with any NGO, to feeling like a member of a community. My newest project has been a 12 year old boy named D who has been communicating through drawings that he plans to kill himself in four days. I have contacted the psychology team and we will try to get him psychiatric support. I think he may be on the autism spectrum, he is obsessed with numbers and playing cards and spends a lot of time alone.
I'm noticing that alienation is one of the most harmful experiences here. I have begun actively seeking out contact for myself regularly because I am painfully aware of the potential for downward spirals.
What strikes me is how much love is a common topic of conversation here. S, the boy I was focused on before and happens to be a lot better, made me a really sweet drawing with hearts saying he loves me, J the young guy who is very sweet and very stubbornly holding onto the hope that I, or any of the female volunteers for that matter, will someday have sex with him has carved "I love" in his arm with a Gillette razor. Last night I sat with an amazing orthopedic surgeon named N who explained how even after being hunted down by Isis, and having to amputate legs of little children that were casualties of car bombs he still believes that we should all love each other and that love is the most important thing. It's hard not to cry when I hear some of their stories, it's also hard to know how to react. All I can do is listen and at times allow myself to be outraged. These are some of the most resilient people I have ever met. Even D who plans to die in four days, is counting down daily and telling a volunteer. In his own way he is asking for help and giving us time to find it. I spent hours yesterday conversing in his strange language of numbers making shapes within shapes, some game we created between us. It was so beautiful to see the excitement in his bright blue eyes as we discovered triangles within squares within triangles. I felt so close to him and his vitality. Even J who keeps flirtatiously asking when he can come to my apartment or when I will come to his tent is demonstrating his will to continue being a teenager despite the fact that his world has been turned upside down. Yesterday I found out that he may have some broken ribs after the cops roughed him up when he was arrested for fighting. It turns out his broken rib is in a similar area that he got shot by the Taliban. Part of me feels like if he wants to dangle his arm over my shoulder and tell his friends I am his girlfriend, fuck it, go ahead. Today I will try to link him up with N who specializes in fractures, which will be a gift to both because N is so passionate about medicine he continued to open up clinics even when Isis was hunting him down. I really hope this can work out.
My new Canadian friend and I spent a full day together and we talked about how strange it was to feel so strangely comfortable in different environments. We started in the kitchen chopping endless amounts of parsley and peeling mountains of potatoes. Then we went to the anarchist squat he's been living in. This was a crumbling old building filled with graffiti, broken furniture and bare mattresses. I sat and crumbled Rosemary with the folks there that they hope to sell to some guy who makes soap so that they can get gas for their stove and cook for the day. Then we went to my posh (in comparison) airbnb and drank chilled wine and ate spanakopita in what felt like an entirely different universe. Our day brought us to the port, including being led by the hand by a little girl who sat us down for tea and dates with a family and brainstorming how they can get more food (because the NGO food is awful and few weeks ago everyone got food poisoning from spoiled chicken) to meeting D and seeing a volunteer have a complete breakdown when she heard he wanted to die. The kids saw her crying and descended like a swarm of bees wiping her tears and kissing her face. After the port we went out for a glorious meal with wine and moussaka and tons of laughter... Each moment can hold so much joy and sadness at the same time... It feels like part of the experience is being open to both.
I look forward to going to Germany to unpack some of this and figure out how to move forward... I've read articles and seen pictures but there is nothing quite like hearing about it late night over ouzo one on one. I don't think I have the strength to saturate my life in this kind of suffering... And there is no way this experience will not impact me.
For now, today I will do the best I can, with no expectation that I can save the world, but the hope that I can make someone anyone feel less alone in this harrowing process. Every day I feel so fucking lucky to witness the bravery, resilience, generosity, and loving kindness of these men women and children.
It's so humbling and I hope someday to aspire to such greatness.
I love you so much