Surprise surprise! I didn’t go to Moria today. Dear readers, get used to my plans changing moment to moment, because it happens a lot. I arose late this fair morn, and was delighted to see the sun shining outside. A beautiful day at last! By the time I left the apartment at eleven it was warm enough that I had to take off a layer, and stow my hat and gloves in my day pack. What bliss!
I managed to find the yoga studio by dint of some judicious peering in windows, and proceeded to do an hour and a half of Bikram yoga. I’ve been doing yoga on and off for about ten years now, and I’ve tried a few different styles, but I’ve never done Bikram. Apparently the room was supposed to be hot, but I don’t think Greece knows about insulation, so we made do with a couple of heat lamps. I didn’t complain.
I’m not sure how I feel about Bikram. On the one hand it was fantastic to be doing some yoga again. It’s been too long, and it really got my heart pumping. I will be achy in the best way tomorrow! On the other hand… I miss the flow of Vinyasa. Bikram has certain poses to hold for certain lengths of time in a specific order, and the technique is different from anything I’ve ever done before. I’ll go back again, but I’m skeptical. Maybe it’ll grow on me.
After yoga I went to get my registration card from the old Town Hall. Recently the Greek government has started asking/requiring volunteers to register with the municipality if they want to work with refugees. This is a hassle and the idea of registering rubs me the wrong way, but I do understand that Greece has been inundated with foreigners of all nationalities, and they’d like to keep track of who is actually in the country, and for how long. So off I went like a good little volunteer and gave my information to The Man. It turned out to be a total nonevent; they photocopied my passport, asked how long I was staying, and gave me a bright yellow card on a lanyard. Now if I’m on a beach and the police come around I can show them my card and probably not get arrested! Excellent.
Upon leaving the Town Hall I intended to go to Moria, but I ran into Bruce and Dan, two volunteers I know who were having lunch in a little cafe, so I sat down with them and showed off my registration card. “Where did you get that?” asked Dan, “We’re trying to do that right now!” So I took them over to the Town Hall once they were done with lunch, and in return they gave me a lift to the No Borders Kitchen.
I’ve been hearing about the No Borders Kitchen since I got to Lesvos, but the only thing I knew for sure was that it was run by anarchists and it was on the beach somewhere near the port. I can now confirm that both of those facts are true. I walked onto the beach to a motley collection of tents and lean-tos. A group of women worked at putting up a dark green tent to my right, and on the other end of the beach a man was scrubbing vigorously at a giant metal cooking pot. Within the first thirty seconds I heard English spoken in three different accents, as well as Greek, German, and Arabic.
I offered my help for the day and was told that there wasn’t much to do, since there were only two refugees in the camp. Sometimes boats land on the beach and there are up to about 150 refugees sleeping and eating there, but there is a ferry strike happening right now (unrelated to the refugees) and many people left the island before it started so that they wouldn’t get stuck. Today was lovely weather though, so there were a lot of boats, and the camps are filling up fast. I suspect that there will be a lot to do in the next few days.
I ended up cleaning out a couple of big tents that got damaged during the last rainy day. Tomorrow they’ll turn them inside out and dry the insides, then raise them up on wooden pallets so if it rains again they won’t get so wet. By the time I finished it was dark outside and I was using my phone’s flashlight to see, so I headed back to the main kitchen area to help with dinner. I think I need to get a headlamp…
The No Borders Kitchen has a rotating group of volunteers, much like many of the camps here on Lesvos. I spoke to people from Switzerland, Poland, Ireland, and Germany who came to the beach either on purpose or by complete accident (one guy meant to go to a different island, but he slept through the stop on the ferry and wound up on Lesvos) and turned it into a homegrown, functional camp. There’s even a shower with hot water! Two guys were putting up solar panels when I arrived. Technically they’re squatting, and everyone knows that the police could come by at any time to shut them down, but they stay anyway, because it helps. They cook food every single day for anyone who needs it, they have an emergency tent in case they pull someone out of the water who needs urgent medical care, and they have no intention of moving just because someone tells them to.
Dinner was a vegetable and potato stew over bread, made from donated food and all vegan. I helped cook, and once again was reminded that cooking is a huge de-stressor for me. Watching a group of volunteers and a few refugees enjoy food I had a hand in making was one of the most satisfying moments of my time here so far.
When I came to Greece I expected English to be the most useful language, but my French is turning out to be very handy. There are a lot of migrants coming across the water from Morocco and a few other French-speaking African countries, and although many of them speak some basic English they all speak perfect French with accents of varying difficulty. Today I ended up translating for a young Tunisian man named Hassan who was trying to get in touch with his sister in Switzerland. We managed to connect them via WhatsApp, then figured out what his train would cost, where he needed to go, and how he should get there. By the time he hung up the phone he was beaming. He’s five years younger than me, and I cannot even imagine the difficulty of navigating across Europe on his own.
A good day today. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated after a few days of rain and frustration. Tomorrow will be busy and it’s going to be great!