February is about to conclude. This seems odd to me because I feel like I’ve been on this tiny island in the Mediterranean for much longer than just six weeks. In this brief span of time, I’ve witnessed more than two dozen volunteers come and go. Some stayed for stretches of time, prior to my arrival, spanning three months while others have come and gone within less than two week periods. It’s all part of the journey here on Leros. It’s part of what makes working at the Hub special, but at the same time, it makes the experience seem like it has stretched on forever as I reflect on all of the different combinations of people who have been here over this handful of weeks.
Over the course of this shortest month of the year, I’ve felt like I couldn’t have packed more into these 28 days. The people I’ve met continue to amaze me, and the work I continue to have the privilege of doing has me excited to get out of bed in the morning. Whenever I fall into a job where I don’t fret about waking up in the morning, tired or not, I know that I’ve hit a sweet spot. In this case, I’m golden, having found myself in the position where hearing the alarm at 7:15 isn’t depressing, and my relationship with the “snooze” button is non-existent.
As March is about to begin, I find myself a little sad thinking about what’s to come. My time on Leros and in Greece will have to conclude. While all of my students are stuck here on this island due to immigration laws and the slow process of asylum requests, I’m not legally allowed to stay on this continent. They’re not legally allowed to leave. This is a bit strange to take note of and to process. If I wanted to stay, I couldn’t. I have 90 days on my tourist visa and then I have to vacate. If they wanted to leave, they couldn’t, unless they wanted to go back to the countries in which they fled.
The word that comes to mind to sum all of this up is: unfair. This is all just so unfair.
One evening last week, I was walking the road that my current housing is positioned on and found myself staring at the waves as they crashed against the stone wall a meter or two below where my feet stood. A feeling washed over me, as it were. I’ve lived in many places that have had similar feels to them, but there is something different about this place. It seems like the perfect metaphor for life, this island. People arrive, they stay for a bit, and they go. Some come for two weeks, some come for six months, but they all leave. I thought about this as the water seemed to just do its thing, crash against the shore. And that was it, it just kind of moved away again, back into itself.
Time does a funny thing here, as I mentioned before. But for these refugees, I’m sure it’s an entirely different tale. But, nevertheless, brevity seems to be a theme. We arrive, we blink, and we go. Just like in life. The interesting piece to this whole thing is how quickly I find my mind moving on from the wonderful people I meet here. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism, perhaps I can attribute this to the powerful meaning I experience everyday in the work that I have the privilege of doing here, or maybe I’ve just trained myself to detach in such a way so that I’m not constantly living in the past. Whatever it is, my head spins when I think about who I’ve encountered throughout my time here. It feels like I’ve lived many times over some days. And the people who were here before did their “thing” and now they are gone. And…sometimes I think of them. This is like life, right?
And here I sit. Six weeks in, still on this island, now with a whole new batch of people, and a growing array of friends that are spreading themselves around the world as I type.
On towards March!