When I think about the larger human picture, sometimes I get a little freaked out. It’s worrisome to think about the future, especially in regard to resources. One of the things I heard years ago, that I really liked, that was used to remedy the worry, was the phrase “there is enough”. This used to be mantra when I worried about the inevitable demise of human existence. With the human population constantly on the rise, this is something that crosses my mind every so often. If, indeed, people continue to arrive to this planet in the way that they are now, we may have a resource problem eventually. For those of us based in the west, this isn’t nearly as concerning as it is for those in nations under more pressure economically and environmentally.
When the conflict in Syria first burst into what was known as the “crisis” in 2015, people flooded the Greek islands from Turkey. They arrived everyday in the hundreds. I wasn’t here, but some of the volunteers who are here with me now were, and they’ve explained to me in detail about what it was like. The streets were makeshift camps, the town was overrun, the population of the island doubled, people waited in herds to board the coming ferries to take them to Athens (and further into Europe). Desperation was everywhere.
When the people were waiting, it would sometimes take a few days to process them before they would be allowed to leave the island. During this time, volunteers were in charge of distributing food to the refugees. At first, the refugees were unaware about the amount of food that there was for everyone, so they were (understandably) nervous, wanting to make sure that their families were fed. Fights would break out, “it was war”. But, after a day or two, everyone would understand that there was, in fact, enough, and everyone would be fed. The lines weren’t as crammed, people were more casual about getting their food, and everything was fine. Then, after a new ferry arrived, the people would all leave and new ones would arrive and not understand the rules again, therefore, creating more chaos, more “war”.
Right now, at the Hub. We are having the opposite problem. People initially had trust in us, they figured we had enough to offer. But, we don’t. There is not enough. And word is getting out. We don’t have space. We don’t have teachers. We don’t have time. There are too many refugees. STOP. THE. WAR. IN. PALESTINE.
As I’ve stated in previous posts, I remember a time when I hadn’t met a single refugee from Palestine. Come to think of it, three weeks ago, I hadn’t met anyone from Palestine. Now, these are the only people who are managing to find their way into the Hub. I don’t know where all of our “usuals” went from before Christmas, but it’s so sad not to see them anymore.
At present, I’m teaching English classes throughout the entire morning from Monday to Friday and driving in the afternoons. I can wrap my head around what is happening from the safety of the classroom. I know that people are at the Hotspot flooding the vans, trying to grab a seat before they’re full and they become late for class, but when I’m at the school, I only have control over who is delivered to me and how much room I have in the class. I’ve actually been able to get a little bit of teaching in the last few times I’ve tried. My first class was filled with genuine bonafide beginners. I taught them how to write the letters “A” through “J” over the space of 45 minutes. Then, later in the morning, I taught A1/B2, which is a class for people who are really starting to grasp the structure of the English language. This second class is fun because the students understand what I’m saying and they’re able to keep up with the lesson a bit more easily than those who are just figuring out what shapes the letters in the alphabet look like. It’s genuinely fun to teach adults who want to be learning, it’s just that the classroom is designed for ten students, and with the situation as dire as it is, 15 or 16 end up cramming inside, just to have an hour where they don’t have to worry about being in the Hotspot.
My introvert brain is overwhelmed by the never ending stream of refugees coming through our doors, but I pretend that I’m here for a reason, I put on a brave face, mostly because I have to. But when I have to jump into one of the vans and start shuttling people to the Hotspot and picking new people up to bring them to lessons in the afternoon, it’s completely exhausting to be policing people over and over again, trying to maintain some sort of order, trying to be fair, trying to keep things organized. We’re struggling to process how to deal with the current number of people, and trial and error is the only way we can adjust things, which only throws people off, only causes more confusion, only causes more frustration.
I wish I could bottle up the tension in my brain and body when I’ve concluded a day with hours and hours of driving, just to remember later on what it is like. I carry so much of the anguish with me as I try to keep things truckin’ and fair. It’s so bizarre, being able to let something go the moment it’s over, but suffering fully through it as it’s happening. But this is reality for today, and tomorrow and maybe for a little while after that.
The Leros Hotspot in 2016, before the overcrowding began.