I feel like a broken record sometimes, but some of the things I witness on this island are worth discussing over and over again as they turn around in my brain in the same manner.
Having lived here for so long, sometimes this place feels like a movie, something far more dramatic than actual life. The days go by like they do anywhere else and things start to feel normal, but when I’m able to grab some perspective, they’re…simply…not normal.
Yesterday evening, I felt a bit strange, so I decided to go for a jog up one of the more quiet roads of the island. As I started off, it began to rain. As I kept going, the rain increased, but I didn’t mind too much, I pressed on. Eventually it got to the point where I wanted to stop because I was getting a bit too drenched for my liking, so I stood under the only structure I could find around me, barely tucked under a small awning, out of the rain. It was dark where I was, but I could see some lights across the harbor. Just me and the rain and the sea. It was a nice moment to reset. No one knew where I was, but at the same time, no one was looking for me. It was really just me and the rain.
Looking out at the harbor, I thought about the ferry that would be arriving in a few hours. In all its glorious majesty, it would sail silently into the harbor, it’s glowing lights illuminating the blackness, giving a bit of hope to the waiting people on the docks. Hope, because a large number of residents of the Hotspot camp, many of whom have been students of mine these past months, were being moved to mainland Greece. This is their first time leaving the island since their arrival here. This is why this place can feel like a prison sometimes, so confining.
The island is beautiful, but it’s contradicted by the difficulty of the people who are trapped here, waiting to hear when or if they’ll be able to move on with their lives.
For me, I selfishly think sometimes about how I feel stuck here, even though this is far from the truth. I’m not stuck by any means, the only thing that makes me feel stuck here is my heart. It is so dramatic that there’s really only one way out of here for the inhabitants of this island.
That being said, being able to reflect on what this island feels like is a luxury in itself.
In the refugee community, which I run on the outskirts of at this point, rumors have been flying in Greece about a “march on the borders” known as “Convoy of Hope”. It is an extensive and elaborate plan for thousands of refugees in Greece to march on the borders at the north of the country and to push their way overland with their eventual destination goal being Germany. The general idea is that if enough people join the caravan, that the countries will have no choice but to open their borders to the group. All of this is being organized off of the internet, more less, with people communicating in large groups on Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, and text message. The rumors and the stories are growing. Many of the people I interact with everyday on the island want to leave in hopes of joining the convoy.
As I said before, the only way to get off the island is the ferry, which is being carefully monitored during this unique time. Some of my students have been trying each night to leave to no avail. They purchase a ticket, they go to the port, and they’re stopped by the police. This is, of course, is difficult to hear about when they return to school the next day and tell me a bit about their ordeals, but I was especially taken aback when I saw one of my most soft spoken students limping into the classroom. When I asked him what had happened, another student translated for him, telling me that the police had beaten him when he tried to leave the island.
And that, my friend, is worth publishing on this blog, because police brutality should never be tolerated. This is Europe. And even if it wasn’t, this situation would be ridiculous.
The organization I’m working with, along with most other NGOs in Greece are not in support of the convoy, as it could lead to arrests, violence, delayed asylum cases, and potentially even death. I’m waiting with baited breath to see what happens next, but in the mean time, I’m thankful each time I see the students I adore showing up to class each morning, because so many of them seem to keep evaporating into thin air.