You’re Just One of Many

With Sunday wrapping up now, it’s a little daunting to be staring down the face of Monday morning again. What’s going to happen? After last week’s flood of new arrivals and hectic schedule, will there be any sense of normalcy established going forward?

The weekends here on Leros are a peculiar thing for me. They fly by, but at the same time, there isn’t necessarily anything to do. Normally, I’d be pretty good at making my own fun, or my own way, but the weather was grey and rainy all day on Saturday, which limits the number of things to do. With only one day off per week, sacrificing the only day off that I can spend on top of a mountain, gawking at the sea is a bit troubling when it’s because of rain. I like being able to use nature to reset. Without that yesterday, I was left to my own inner strength to kickstart things today.

Our weekly team meeting was spent trying to talk ourselves through how to manage the immense number of refugees on the island. Has the population of the camp ever officially been this high? The Palestinians continue to pour into Greece. Fifty-five new arrivals just happened upon Leros again this morning. The numbers only continue to grow. I’m starting to wonder what actually happens once things balloon to the point of not being able to treat people with any dignity. Can you imagine being one of thirty men who have to all sleep together on the concrete ground inside of a large tent? And then it rains…and breakfast is a small piece of cake…and lunch is some boiled beans in oil…and dinner is some undercooked rice…and your only saving grace is a little school on the other side of town, but you can barely understand what is going on there, or how the rules work, or why the vans only come at certain times and they always seem to be full before you can get a seat.

I then think about the refugees who have been crammed in the camp for months or even over a year. What is it like for them to have their lives closing in on them? They’ve grown used to what life is like in the camp, it’s tough, but they’ve grown used to it being a certain way. And then the camp fills up, mostly with single men, which drastically changes the tone of things. It becomes harder to get your meals in a timely fashion, you need to watch your back a little bit more, and the school you’ve been going to for months, the one place you can count on for a break, for a little relief, it’s been overrun with the new people. You can’t get a seat in the vans anymore because there’s always dozens of people waiting to go to school ahead of you. So, you decide to walk the half hour to school, but when you get there, the building is so crowded that you have to shoulder past people just to check the schedule to see when your class is. You see that your class is due to start in five minutes, but the room is already jammed full and you’re being told there isn’t any room for you. The only thing you can think to do is try and get there sooner the next day, but the place that the school was for you before is now gone. It’s no longer the escape that you need it to be because it’s so crowded. And you’re no longer able to learn English because you’re never sure if you’ll make it into the classroom, and even if you do, you won’t necessarily be granted any individual attention, because you’re just one of many now.

So, as one of the three teachers currently on the ground, it feels a bit like going into battle in the morning. How can I possibly make sure the maximum number of students are learning? It’s so worrisome. If I’m failing at teaching, then what am I doing here?

Inshallah, this will be a good week. I could see it going either way.


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