Commentary

What limbo sounds like

In Idomeni, the future doesn’t exist and the past only evokes sadness. Every conversation walks a slippery slope in Idomeni. An uncomfortable silence prevails.

Hara Hotel, once a stopping point for the journey, now a jerry-built camp site.

A woman approached me to ask about repairing her broken tent. Tents often broke because too many people would have to pack into tents not made to be houses for two months, and the winds of the hills of Northern Greece have really picked up. The job of a volunteer is hectic — you never cross the camp without being swarmed by people asking for help or simply a chat.

While I was speaking with her, three young men about my age walked by me and one asked in a quiet voice, ‘you got the stuff?’ I reached in my pocket, pulled out nothing, and we fumbled with our hands, looking away in opposite directions. He thanked me in the espionage-like voice, and we went about our business with no acknowledgement of what had just happened.

The ‘stuff’ he implied were drugs, and to clarify, no drugs were exchanged. What had just happened was that we had a hilarious exchange, and both of knew exactly what the other meant. We probably had both seen that kind of encounter over TV or YouTube — two things that had left everyday life for those in Idomeni.

The camps have found a way to freeze time. Some may say they have been forced to create it, and it is much like others zones of comfort that they fill with the ideas they want. But this bubble has an eerie silence; the residents of the bubble have halted time.

Inside the bubble is a static happiness, created by conversation and destroyed by it. Outsiders often pop the time-machine-bubble and their publications (articlesvideos, and photographs) often emphasize desperation and devastation. Nobody doubts that the living situation is abysmal– and the future bleak — but the culture of conversation has found a way around it: don’t talk about it. Every conversation walks a slippery slope.

Continue reading “What limbo sounds like”

People

The Tent Designer

The only time we met was for a brief conversation. We stood by his tent and spoke, and although I didn’t see him again, his tent remained and was occupied by others. I mad sure I asked him his name, which was Aqil.

When I asked his name, it was as though I opened the window on a speeding car. Maybe he hadn’t had to introduce himself to someone in a while. He told me about his story. Continue reading “The Tent Designer”

People

Khaled and the snake family

Khaled had a pretty big family. It was hard to miss his mischievous young step brothers causing havoc all around the camp. His parents had come to the request table often. And Khaled and his wife had become kind of friends with me. I only found they were all related when Khaled killed a snake in his family’s tent. Everybody crowded around. The snake’s head was crushed, but its body still flailed about.

Our first concern was whether there would be more and whether they were venomous. There was about a 50/50 chance the one Khaled found could send you to the hospital, and Doctors without Borders had no protocol for snake bites. Build a tall wall around your tent, they said.

We passed on the information, and the family remains ‘the snake family’.  Continue reading “Khaled and the snake family”