I wasn’t sure how I would feel being back in Athens. It is a place of such emotional contrasts for me — its wonderful history and the warmth of the Greeks alongside the tragedy that comes with a collapsed economy, not to mention the heat and pollution of summer. But arriving in Athens on Wednesday, I felt a sweet familiarity. Athens was a partner during the life-changing time I was here among a community of refugees. Continue reading
It has been more than two years since I first arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos where overloaded boats brought refugees to the island’s windy beaches. The people in the boats were mostly young and many were children — wet, cold and hungry, escaping war and persecution in their home countries. Continue reading
Greece is a place of great history, gorgeous islands and rustic countryside. It is the magic of the Acropolis, Delphi, Santorini, Crete and a thousand other Greek places with antiquities, hillsides of olive trees, ouzo, moussaka and dancing like Zorba on a sandy beach. Continue reading
I spent most of my fall in Athens even though it is not the kind of place I would normally want to visit for more than a day or two. Athens is a train wreck — dirty, ugly, full of hazards like slippery sidewalks, crazy drivers and railings on sixth floor verandas that are easily scaled by ambitious toddlers. Continue reading
The air is breezy and warm on the balcony of Sayed and Nahid’s 6th floor apartment. The top of a large plastic table is a mosaic of plates piled high with rice and meat and vegetable dishes, mostly Afghan. From the table, we can see the Acropolis — 17 of us perched on rickety chairs or lounging on a small sofa that looks like early Ikea. Continue reading
This morning I walked up the street three blocks to see the damage at a squat called Notara 26. Last night it was set on fire with 120 people inside, among them, a large number of children. When I arrived, residents and volunteers were throwing burned debris out of second story windows and hauling buckets of ashes to dumpsters. The bottom two floors are gutted. Continue reading
Skaramangas is a harbor west of central Athens named after a wealthy English family. It is also a refugee camp at the harbor west of central Athens named after a wealthy English family. Since April, Skaramangas Camp is what must pass for home for about 3,000 people from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. It is considered to be one of the good camps.
I am back in Athens, Greece. I have returned to write, to find ways to be useful in the refugee community and to spend time with my Afghan family. So far, I am doing pretty well with one thing on my list. Sayed and Nahid and their children have enriched my life immeasurably, and they are making the most of the dramatic changes in their lives since they left Afghanistan. Continue reading