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
So well, I have a very small problem. I no longer know whether I have a travel blog or a blog about the world I am seeing. Since I began my serious traveling in August 2014, I have been writing mostly chirpy stories. Travel makes me happy. Although I have seen hardship, I guess I saw it through my own optimistic lens. Continue reading
My hero, Pope Francis, came to Lesvos on my birthday. He was not visiting me personally, as you might guess, but his visit felt personal. He came because so many victims of war, oppression and persecution are not getting the benefit of global leadership that treats them according to Christian values. Or Jewish values. Or Muslim values. Or Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, Shinto, B’hai, Crips and Bloods values.
It is very hard to comprehend what has happened on the Island of Lesvos in a very short time. For more than a year, Lesvos was a place of kindness and generosity to half a million refugees. Local residents and international volunteers scrounged up resources with almost no help from government or large NGOs. Food, sanitation and shelter were inadequate but compassion and mutual understanding were in abundant supply.
I returned to Lesvos today after a week at the Port of Piraeus in Athens. Lesvos has changed. Continue reading