Friday, December 29, 2017

Post Journey

The first month after Greece I ate Pringle's potato chips and played Candy Crush every day. Re-entry was tough. Answering the question, "So, how was Greece?" was impossible. There was no one word - unimaginable? Astonishing? Tragic? I stumbled and faltered. I finally said I would tell everyone on December 10 at a forum at church. Ready or not I found

The best way to convey it and conclude this blog is the link to that forum.

Thank you all for making the journey with me - and as always to Bob for support and love.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Moving out

What an amazing climactic to our weeks here! Today 17 families were relocated to apartments in Athens. The UN has just bought up a large block of apartments to settle transition families while they wait. Many of these may remain in Greece. Most left at the site have firm commitments from relatives in Europe to sponsor them and plan to go as soon as the paper work is done. Suddenly the census dropped 100 or so.

People are talking about months now, not years.

And all the CCS volunteers are going by bus, train, boat and plane, on to what comes next: home, Greek tour, Italy; rest, new sites, family, work, routine.

Looking the same but changed in ways it will take months to convey. And some things will never been unseen or forgotten.

The left behind stuff at the camp had a trickle down effect. All the bikes and balls and riding toys were not deemed necessary in Athens and were claimed by the still waiting residents.

The left behind efforts of the volunteers are harder to identify. For our team, the issue was a space. Preschoolers have an area with toys and teachers. Youth 13+ have a space (alternating days by sex) with games and activites. Our kids are supposed to be in school and some are taking a few lessons, but there are no organized sports or after school activities or any place to be. We took the only shade in the site and in 2 weeks upgraded it to a play area with balance beam, swing (20 swings each only!) and music wall, plus padded area for yoga poses.( it is called  "body magic" by the kids) It is not secure so must be assembled and unassembled each day but it was a start. Next week they can add.

For others the results of 2 weeks was progresses in someone's English, small children grasping "standing in line," 400 baskets of clean laundry. Next week they can add.

Time to meet Bob and tour Ancient Greece for a few days. After October 8 I will add pictures and reflections.

And I got at least 6 sermons!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dance dance revolution

Actually I like Arabic music better than US right now probably because if there are words I can'T understand them. But any music in a small room at many decibels is...wearing.

So Wednesday was girl dance day. We use a private room because parents do not want either girls to boys to dance in public (where do they learn to do it?). No sooner had we announced that it was time to start Than 6 boys had scaled two stories of scaffolding to peek in the windows. It was my job to hold the window closed since th latch was broken. And balance cardboard against the Glass. And hold te blanket curtains to cover the rest. That was gymnastic but not dancing. 2 older girls danced and others watched. It was torture to get them to leave - one more song!

And Thursday was boy dance day. Same room - windows and curtains open. No one cared. 2 older boys started but soon everyone was involved and the rest clapped. It ended when the only kid with Bluetooth had to go. And that was that.

As far as I could tell they danced - or not - to the same songs. Loudly.

But - in the book of volunteer activities - more successful than crafts with straws.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


We are strictly forbidden for taking photos of any person anytime at the site. on FB i have put a few shots around the site early in the morning,  but the children making crafts or dancing, or playing will just have to be 1000+ words.

They are in general happy as children can be who have parents or parent with them and enough to eat. Shockingly it does not require video games for happiness! They don't mind lack of supervision or the heat or nothing but rocks to throw. They play, they sometimes punch, they run. If a bike shows up they ride and do not want to share. 11 year old girls form cliques, although there is no ostracism for unfashionable dressing since they have only one outfit each to wear every day. 

They also fetch and carry, watch siblings, sweep, wash clothes, and sleep in the same 8x12 room with their whole family. The bathroom is a porta pot. The kitchen and washing area are not conveniently located near anything. They have been taken from the language and life they know with only the promise of something better.

The volunteer placement has been harder than most to imagine the future of these children. Next week or next month or never they may get clearance to Europe. There they may be safe but never accepted. The contrast of old customs with new life will be more stark. Or they may be sent back to Afghanistan and find a that even after the struggles at the Greek site, "home" is far harder than being here.

For us who come with the fore knowledge of  departure, the snap shot of their lives can be framed with hope and prayer  but never certainty. 

40 minute bathroom breaks

This site has many locks and keys and because what is on the other side of the door is always suspect to be more interesting that's what is on the outside, it is necessary each time to unlock and relock - bolt and deadbolt both. So 2 clicks.

So leaving the youth room, stopping by the supply room and going to the bathroom requires: open youth room click click, lock youth room, click click, open bathroom, click click, lock bathroom, click click, reopen bathroom, click click, lock bathroom, click click, open supply room, click click, lock supply room, click, click,  get supplies, click, click, unlock supply room, click click relock supply room, click click, unlock youth room, click click, lock youth room behind you click click. By then you have to go to the bathroom again.....

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bangladesh and drinking straws

From Bangladesh we have seen a repeated clip on the news of the refugees grabbing food off the truck without allowing anyone to establish an orderly and equitable distribution. Whatever your reaction, it has the implied Western comprehension of order and fairness.

We have never known true desperation.

I saw this same reaction on the ground yesterday as we tried to distribute drinking straws for a craft project. 2 or 3 children grabbed all the straws and ran off, denying any others the chance to participate. We quickly tore strips of paper to replace them so no one left empty handed, but watching the children and the clip I think how quick we are to view others through the lens of abundance. It is impossible to get my mind around this behavior,  but I have now seems it in microform and can no longer judge it.

Perhaps this is how compassion begins.

Monday, September 18, 2017


The wonderful new yesterday is that some of the kids announced they are leaving - heading next week to an apartment in Athens and Then to a relative in Switzerland. At the other site, two bus loads left for Athens and beyond, papers in order and cleared to go. Most of the people have waited for 2 years for the gears to grinds slowly through the paperwork. And if the family has a new baby, that person is classified as a new resident and the family goes to the bottom of the list to start over.

These camps - and there are 50+ in Greece, many more in Italy - are as organized and humane as helping groups can make them. The life is limbo and frustration with delay is the primary source of discontent and suffering. The EU-Turkey agreement has essentially closed the border from Turkey to Greece and giving a great deal of money to Turkey to set up camps some so that will be the point of entry to Europe. Slowly that will impact the boat traffic to Greece and close these camps. The hope is that with the new emphasis on these Turkish camps those persons waiting in Greece will not be forgotten. Both the transient residents and Greeks from wha our tour guide said will be glad when this phase is over.

The pictures of Bangladesh camps are a far cry from what the sites here have become but it has taken several years to reach this point. My heart aches for those countries and people just starting through the process.