Monday, September 19, 2016

Some Days I Despair

I started a blog post a couple of days ago that I was really excited to write because I was feeling so positive about the topic, but I was falling asleep writing it and decided to finish it the next day--yesterday.

But then yesterday was awful.

The heat was oppressive, and in camp, amid the dirt and dust, and with all the glare off the pavement and the metal housing, no trees, no grass, trying to breathe felt like a struggle. Walking from the metro station, through the noisy flea market with Barbie and Monopoly and Dora the Explorer and Star Wars reminders of the globalization that accounted, at least in part, for the desperate poverty of those selling their dumpster-dived wares on dirty blankets in front of deserted and dilapidated industrial buildings baking in the sun was kind of horrifying. I was already drained by the time I reached the refugee camp.

Nothing went well yesterday. The camp of 1,500 probably has 800-900 children in it--children who have lived their whole lives in the horrors of war, children who left war behind only to become refugees--no school, no real home, impoverished, their parents on edge all the time...children without childhoods.

We volunteers try to do our best. We organize activities, dole out juice on the occasions we get enough for everybody, give hugs, whatever might alleviate the boredom and poverty and insecurity that is the day to day reality of refugee life, but there are only about 30 of us on any given day--sometimes even fewer, and resources are scarce. Many of the parents have trouble coping, too, and need our help with the children. They made the enormous decision to flee their homes and throw themselves on the mercy of a world which has ultimately shown little mercy. The world debates their future and they have no say over it. They traded the life-threatening horror of war for the life-eroding horror of human smugglers, a perilous sea journey, and an overcrowded, under-supplied camp with the hope of reaching a safe haven and a chance to restart their lives.

But then, one by one, the borders started closing. Nobody wanted them. Nobody was willing to share their nation. Very few actually give a damn.

And now, after months of living in a ghetto many are losing hope. Some talk of going back to Syria or Afghanistan, of risking bombs rather than continue their refugee existence without recourse or dignity, dependent.

And at times, like when the heat is as oppressive as it was yesterday, or the movie doesn't work like it didn't last night, the fear and the tensions and the anger and the despair are palpable. The children almost rioted over the movie and the respective parents of fighting children themselves began to fight.

It was a day where everything went wrong. It was a day that made me question why the hell I was putting myself through this when I could so easily ignore it all. It was a day that ended as dismally as it began, as I walked back to the metro by mountains of garbage, limping on a swollen painful ankle from a cluster of bites from who knows what, despairing that there was anything they, or I, or anyone could really do.

I took the day off today. My ankle was huge and inflamed and I couldn't put on my shoe, but more than I needed to rest my ankle, I needed to rest my eyes from the sights, my nose from the smells, and my heart from the hurt. My ankle benefitted from the rest and the swelling has gone down significantly, though it is still hot and painful, but my heart doesn't feel any better.

Today, via the Whatsapp of the Better Days at Moria group I was with on Lesvos, I heard the news that thousands of refugees and aid workers were evacuated as tents were burned in the camp. BBC said a riot started at the news that there would be mass deportations.

No, my heart doesn't feel any better. Some days it's hard to find any hope. Some days I despair. What have any of us done to deserve this?