News From the Refugee Trail: March Edition

I’ve been writing this edition of Refugee Trail in my mind for two weeks at this point, but I just keep scribbling down a few sentences and then putting it away. It’s now nearly mid-April and I haven’t sent out an update from all of the happenings in March. It hit me yesterday evening though, as I was thinking about how late I was on this post, that I don’t need to do a full breakdown of everything that happened over the course of 31 days. I was going to talk about the changes in the weather, some specific details about what’s been happening with the refugees and all of the goings on at school, but…I won’t.

Instead, I just want to babble for a little bit, because the entirety of this experience can be summed up in a few sentences, really.

I’m a veteran volunteer now on this island. I’ve been here for 5 months and have totaled 8 months with Echo since 2018 began. Dozens of volunteers have rotated in and out since my arrival and 5 of us have stuck around since before the Christmas holiday. Some of us are starting to feel the timeline. There are multiple benefits to this, but there are small negative things that we’re noticing too.

For example, one of my long-term comrades recently went away for the weekend, off of the island. When she came back, she said she realized she was talking in circles to the people around her. She just kept saying the same things over and over and over again. She needed to leave the island to get this perspective, but when she brought it back to me and told me this morning about what she had noticed, I couldn’t help but agree completely with her. Of course we talk about the same things over and over again, because we’re experiencing the same things over and over again. We see and deal with trauma everyday that is being brought directly to us by people who have fled war and torture and corruption and human greed. And, because we need our school/community center to operate correctly, we try to follow a certain number of rules and guidelines.

This takes up a lot of brain space and time. How do you create a safe, welcoming place for people who are dealing with past and current traumas and difficult situations while still trying to run a school? And that’s it. Our thoughts spin and spin in the same direction. We say the same things, we’re caught in the same routine and the same scenarios. Even still, just this morning, I was walking from my home to the school and experiencing the strange feeling of knowing how perfect the moment was, but not feeling the perfection. I love the work that I do everyday, the weather is perfect, the people I’m around are totally special, and this is a place I’ve worked hard to be able to call home for this period of time. The only hiccup is my bogged down thoughts, which leave me spinning in circles.

The asylum process is tedious and confusing, I still don’t understand why certain things happen and do not happen in reference to individual cases. This is the thing that looms over all of my students, so my lack of understanding is frustrating. I’ve watched people I interact with and love with everyday get deported, thrown in jail, refused basic human rights, get beaten by the police, get forced off of the island against their will, get forced to remain on the island against their will, and, perhaps worst of all, just generally suffer under the over-crowded conditions of the camp that they live in. My mind gets caught in this weird place between wanting to just hug everyone all of the time and seeing the great benefit to strictly following the rules and making sure the school stays in working order, because structure is good.

I realize after writing this that I don’t even know what I’m trying to say with this post. Maybe I just don’t feel the need to recap my month because everything seems to be spinning in the same direction that it always has been. I don’t know.

Until Next Time,


Just for kicks, here are the few paragraphs I was able to pull together for this “March Edition” before I ultimately gave up:

Winter has retreated and spring is in full swing here on the island, with temperature regularly between 14 and 17 degrees Celsius throughout the month. It’s also been considerably less rainy and the power hasn’t gone out half as much as it did in January. It’s a relief to be heading into better weather, not to mention the addition of Daylight Savings Time has made it so there is light in the sky as late as 8:00, which I’m really grateful for. With nicer whether; however, comes the fear that more boats will be making their way from Turkey to Greece as the seas are calmer and the chances of encountering environmental problems become slimmer. This means more people are risking there lives and this year has already proven to be a deadly one with many refugees drowning in the waters when they attempt the crossing.


About mattylife

"And no one is a stranger...for long."
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