Mytilene, Lesvos, Day 7

I can’t believe it’s only been a week!  Time seems distorted here where many volunteers only stay for a week or two, then leave to go back to their jobs and families.  Since I’m staying for several months I feel like an old-timer already, even though I’m still settling in.

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The coast of Turkey on the other side of the water.  Refugees cross in tiny rubber dinghies, sometimes in weather worse than this.

Today started out cloudy and cold, so I decided to hitchhike from Panagiouda to Mytilene with all my stuff.  I hadn’t even stuck out my thumb before someone picked me up.  I’ve been hitching for a few days now and it’s proved a good way to get around.  As long as I’m on a main road I usually get picked up within a few cars.  This particular woman turned out to be a volunteer translator from Australia, so we exchanged contact information and will probably meet up at Moria sometime in the next week or two.  This is one of my favourite things about volunteering here; everyone has a shared mission, a shared sense of duty, a shared urge to help in whatever way they can help best, and it creates an instant bond between people.  I stepped into Lali’s car and five minutes later we were exchanging information so that we could go explore a new place together.

Lali dropped me in Mytilene and I made my way back to the first apartment I stayed in.  I’ll be here for another week or ten days before I have to find more permanent accommodation, but I don’t want to book ahead too far because sometimes great opportunities fall out of the sky, and I like to be ready for them.  Nobody picked me up for a while on my way to Pikpa, so I walked for half an hour enjoying the weather, then climbed in with a Greek woman who sometimes works in our kitchen.

It started to rain soon after I arrived, so I spent the morning cleaning the communal kitchen and dining area, then went back into town to register myself with the municipality.  This turned out to be way easier than I thought it would be – I handed them my passport, they took a photocopy of it, and told me to come back the next morning to pick up my official volunteer badge.  The whole process took two minutes, so I headed back to Pikpa.  I cleaned up some more, fixed the clogged coffee maker, helped set up a movie for the kids (Ratatouille in Arabic), and helped finish up a project with the life jackets.  We’re pulling them apart and using the stuffing to make mattresses for refugee tents.  It may not be good for keeping them afloat, but at least it’s useful for something!

Rainy days at the camp are slow in terms of work but can be fun in other ways.  Everyone hangs out in the communal kitchen and chats, or sings, or plays with the kids.  There are two guitars in the camp and they get passed around a lot.  Today two other volunteers and I taught three little refugee girls the Hokey Pokey.  They were adorable and very enthusiastic, even though they couldn’t understand a word we were saying.  Everyone understands the language of music and dance, and by the time we got to the end everyone in the room was either singing along or dancing, and we got a standing ovation.  The girls took about fifteen bows.  As a side note: apparently in England they do a slightly different version of the Hokey Pokey and it was very confusing for me.

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Clara from Switzerland and refugee-turned-volunteer Dani from Syria do some serious rainy-day jamming

Tomorrow I’m going to a volunteer yoga class in the morning, and then I think I’ll go check out Moria in the afternoon.  I like Pikpa but I’d like to see more of the island before deciding to spend my entire time here.  Moria is the camp where refugees register once they’ve come off the boats, and it’s a very different place from Pikpa, by all accounts.  They have a new medical barn, a giant distribution center, living spaces, a tea tent, and all sorts of systems that Pikpa doesn’t need, because we’re so small.  We cook 200-700 meals every day for them as part of our daily routine.  I’d like to see where all that food goes.

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