Short portrays

Short portrays

The hike on the mountain was one of my favourite things. Late afternoon, we would gather children and teenagers to go watch the sunset over Thessaloniki, from the hills surrounding the camp. I particularly remember the small details, the fragments of time: a young woman, laughing, running down the hill hand in hand with her little daughter. She is usually quiet and shy, though behind a fragile facade hides an extraordinary strong woman. So strong that she walked her way from Aleppo to Greece, with four children, the oldest one barely 10 years old. When I first arrived at Elpida she used to keep to herself but lately, she started attending English classes and interacting more with residents and volunteers. From the beginning I had a soft spot for her children: for H. who taught me a kids song in Arabic, for M. who would ask me “Jabbal elyom?” (Mountain today?) every time he saw me. For S. who used to follow me wherever I went, and for little A., the boy with the longest eyelashes I have ever seen. Continue reading “Short portrays”

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Watermelon days

Watermelon days

The Elpida refugee camp is set up in an abandoned jeans factory on the outskirts of Thessaloniki. Here, standards are higher than in other camps around Greece, though we must not forget that everything is relative and very much so. At the moment, there are about 170 residents, mostly Syrians and a few Kurdish families. However, the full capacity of the camp is estimated to be 600, that is when the building works will be completed. Every family has a room of their own, which means they do not have to share with some random others. There is a spacious playground with a basketball field, fig trees, an olive grove, a wood oven and an activities tent. A communal kitchen is being built, which will allow residents to cook their own meals as they please, rather than having to rely on catered food. Clothing distribution is organized in the form of a shop: everything has been sorted carefully in sizes and gender giving the shop a very tidy and colorful look, so residents can come during opening times and choose their clothes. Activities include English classes for residents, Arabic classes for volunteers and evening hikes to watch the sunset from the mountains around the city.  Continue reading “Watermelon days”

The hidden pitfalls of travelling

After several months of restlessness and brain numbing boredom, I am on the move again. Around January, the idea of coming to Greece as a volunteer started creeping up in my mind. I was sitting in my office carrying out futile tasks for seven hours a day and eventually the question dawned on me: “What am I doing here?”. I have a fundamental problem with feeling content, and actually, I believe we should regard this very feeling as deeply worrying. Being comfortable should be a red flag, a high pitch alarm for everybody. Continue reading “The hidden pitfalls of travelling”