I’m off of my rock in the Aegean and sitting in the country of Wales in the United Kingdom. It’s nearly 10pm and overcast, with a bit of gray mist hanging in the air and despite the clouds, the daylight will persist for another hour or so. The birds sound different here, and the temperature is a welcomed relief from what I was experiencing in Greece. I was never bothered by the heat and humidity of Leros, but coming to Great Britain now in late June, I’m reminded of just how wonderful cooler temperatures and cloudy days are. Greece is all sun and heat these days.
I’m at Atlantic College on the southern coast of Wales taking a two week intensive course on learning how to launch lifeboats and perform CPR and other minor medical procedures.
When I initially came over to Europe, I figured over the course of the year I would go to many different places. I thought I’d hang out on Leros for some time and then bop around to other camps in Greece. I figured I’d work on the shores and help bring in boats of newly arriving refugees and when I had my fill of that, I’d travel to the mainland and perhaps hop over into Serbia or France to see the conditions of camps in those areas. I also had the idea of coming over to the UK and taking this course, but it was really only in the back of my mind.
All of a sudden, it was March and I was still on Leros. I had been continually and consciously extending my stay over and over again, each time recognizing how rewarding it felt to fall deeper and deeper into a community of people. But when the application deadline for this course was looming, I knew it was something I didn’t want to pass up. Certainly, I’m out of my element here, having taught English to refugees for nearly a year now, but the whole “refugee experience” for a volunteer can be more comprehensive than what is happening literally on the ground. Refugees come over from Turkey to Greece on boats or through the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy and Spain, and more often than not, they need assistance.
I thought by taking this course I’d be furthering my understanding of the overall story being told in this corner of the world.
Having arrived yesterday, I’m just getting a feel for how things will be around here, but so far, I can see myself learning a lot. The people I’m taking this course with all seem to be intertwined through the volunteer work that they’ve done in the Mediterranean and on the island of Lesvos. As everyone was introducing themselves yesterday evening, I was one of only two people in the group of thirty that named a different Greek island as the place that they’ve been based in. I found this curious, but it makes sense, Lesvos has always had the highest number of refugees, by far. I feel like a bit of an odd ball, having not been involved with rescue operations like so many of these people seem to have been, but at the same time, it’s good to open the horizons a bit more and see a different crop of people with the same hearts.
Today, for Day 1, we spent 9 hours learning how to triage trauma situations. Sitting down at 9:00, knowing that I was stepping into my first day of intensive classes, I really wanted to stay focused. It’s too easy to let time zone changes and intense social situations take control. I’m also using these brief few days to practice getting back into the headspace of school. I want to be here. I really want to learn all of this information that is not usually my speed. I want to learn medical mumbo jumbo and all of this crap about putting boats into the water. Why not try something new? But, on that note, this is why I have to pay such close attention.
I felt my brain trying to drift at one point today and immediately forced myself back into the moment. Everything the instructor is teaching us is fascinating, I just need to remind myself of this every so often since it’s not usually information I’m intrigued by.
The first two sessions of lectures were interesting, but then we actually got to practice CPR and triage scenarios for the third part of the day. This helped stimulate my brain a bit more and likely assisted in cementing some of the lessons into my memory.
The two weeks ahead are setup to be intense. There isn’t much downtime at all. But this is why I’m going to try to stay so focused, because I want to absorb it all!
I’ll try to keep the updates coming.