June 26, 2016
I woke up today to another beautiful day here on Samos, Greece. We attempt to take our Sundays off, unless new arrivals show up the day before. Yesterday was one of the few days that we did not have new arrivals so today the majority of the team took the day off. We had 41 arrivals this morning. It takes half the day for the new arrivals registration, by the time that we can have access to them it’s well into the afternoon. We can only assess the critical needs because by high afternoon, the building we distribute out of is several degrees warmer than the outside temperature of 110 degrees. With the sun heating up the metal building, it becomes unbearable, almost impossible to work inside of the cabin.
I have been absent from the warehouse for the past few days. Three days ago we had 78 new arrivals we needed to distribute to. We had set up a new system in the distribution cabin, to both streamline distribution as well as to keep track of who receives what items since we are running direly low on several items. I find distribution mentally and psychologically exhausting in comparison to any other volunteer work I have had the opportunity to be a part of. In half a day, I interact with more people than I do in a month back home.
After 3 days of testing our new system at the warehouse, we decided that there were a few more things that needed to be adjusted. Two volunteers, Paul and Melanie, with the aid of one of refugee-helpers, spent the day reorganizing the cabin. Paul has a 26 year-old Soviet bike with a sidecar which happened to be the only resource we had for moving shelves from our warehouse to the distribution cabin. The look the Greeks gave us as we were driving holding on to the shelves strapped to the sidecar. I’m not sure if they were more intrigued by the bike and side-car or the contraption of straps and shelves balancing on top.
This past Thursday the UK voted to leave the EU. The biggest reason was about immigration, both the immigration of the Eastern-European countries, but more directly because of xenophobia. This decision will have little impact on the older generations, but will affect the younger generations the most. They have already seen a drop in the British pound on Friday, the lowest it has dropped in 30 years. The American Dollar has strengthened, which seem good, but it means that exports from the US will decrease. Domestic products will become more expensive for the American consumer, while imports will become cheaper. I had to chuckle at Donald Trumps’ tweet about the Brexit vote as he landed in Scotland. “@realDonaldTrump- Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!” Apparently the man who wishes to run America failed to keep up on current events or failed some geography classes, for Scotland voted to stay in the EU.
While I have 3 month’s reprieve from the American politics, Clinton and Trump still lead many of the dinner conversations with refugees, volunteers, and local Greeks. The world is terrified of what will happen if he is elected, as well as concerned how America got to the point that he is one of the two best options America has to represent them.
The backlashing has already become apparent as fellow American citizen friends have been ostracized for their ethnicity, of which they were neither Muslim or middle-eastern. By skin color they were categorized as not-belonging, though they were born and raised in America. One was a fellow military veteran who received both racial slurs as well as trash thrown at him. Even here I have felt some pressure from the rising xenophobia in the US. To be told, “I was born in this country, you weren’t, this is my country boy,” really shatters the core of a person. While I should not let words get to me, it devastates me to know that this is how many people in the states feel. This coming from someone who know me, that knew of my service to my country in the US Marine Corps, who has done nothing to contribute to our nation, felt like a stab in my back once again from my country I hail as home.
Though the actions of a few do not represent the actions of the whole, it troubles me to think that any work my fellow volunteers and I do is of any use. If those from our own home countries do not accept those who already live there, how can we expect them to accept and allow those we are helping to integrate into our society? For several hours I spiraled into depression, shaking and confused, trying to hold back tears, and refraining from screaming to the sky about the injustices of the world. I had a moment of weakness and contemplated returning home, because I felt what we were doing was fruitless. I had so many friends, family, and fellow volunteers reach out to me at my time of need and was able to find some peace. Yet, the issue will continue to nag at me, for there are those in the country I fought for, grew up in, that will never accept me as American simply due to race and where I was born.
I cannot end on such a negative point. Two nights ago my friends Saleh and Pru purchased some watermelons for their café in the camp. With the aid of the “Friendly Humans of Samos” we were able to distribute 500 slices of watermelon with the tea/chai and coffee, a most welcome surprise for those in the camp. It was quite the task cutting 8 watermelons up into 500 slices with nothing but a table-knife and fish filet knife, but well worth seeing the joy and happiness. Thank you all for your donations that made it possible to purchase items that are needed, fund the volunteers to continue our work, and for the opportunity to occasionally make purchases just to spread kindness and make smiles. Keep it up, for if it were not for giving souls like yourselves, none of this could happen.