Lesvos - First Day at Work
I ride the van to Moria and many people pile into the seats. Daniel, a man with a huge smile (yes, he has just spent the night in the camp) squeezes in next to me and we start talking. Within less than two minutes, he asks me "what I believe in." No small talk, no fluff. Heart to heart right from the start. The conversation we have on the way back to the Center in a mixture of English and French is more substantial than many conversations I have had with people I have known for years. That's 20 minutes into the job.
She walks into the makeshift boutique and looks for a coat to wear instead of the pretty one her neighbor lent her. None of the ones we have hanging fit her small body so I tell her that I will look into the stock and to come back in a few minutes. She returns and tries on the two coats I set aside for her, picks one she likes and walks away out of the store holding her bag and saying: thank you for giving me a chance.
He is less than 4 years old with big green eyes. He follows me around the Center and flashes a bright shiny green paper heart at me as though he is doing some sort of magical mischief.
Memory and I are working together in the shop, getting it ready to open. She is fast and super efficient, while laughing and trying on coats for herself. She too, woke up in Moria this morning. At lunchtime, she shows me where to go to get food and I find her later reading a book called The Secrets to Happiness. When I mention chocolate, later in the afternoon, she reaches into her backpack and hands me a bar of Crunch.
A beautiful young couple from Afghanistan tells me about how the engine of their boat died on the passage to the island, in the pouring rain four months ago, and how much they prayed to get here safely. Mehdi's eyes light up like a Christmas tree when he tells me about his vision of becoming a soccer coach somewhere in Europe. Somehow, I think he is going to do just that.
She looks tired, sitting on a bench and gently rocking a stroller back and forth in front of her. We catch each other's eyes and smile in recognition of that universal, primal movement.
We are much more alike than we are different.
After a "first night in a new place" kind of sleep, I had an hour to get ready. My housemate had been kind enough to pre-heat the shower water for me (it's one of the little quirks, here) and after a big bowl of muesli scrounged from the wonderful kitchen, off I went, ready for whatever Life had in store for me for this first day of 2018.
I arrived at 9:32, concerned about my two minutes tardiness for my first day on the job, to find a whole bunch of quiet and the gate to the center... locked. It took very little time to get informed that the place was indeed closed today.
I was not thrilled.
My understanding being that I was to start today, I had foregone what promised to be a super joyful New Year's eve in Thessaloniki. For a minute or two, what I had missed was in the forefront. Pretty soon, I was ready to meet The Gift, the reason for the misunderstanding, the reason I was standing there with a little white car and the first brand new day of this brand new year, all to myself. The sun was shining brightly and the air smelled good.
I decided to unwrap that baby.
What a day.
First, I made my way to the nearest village and its dainty port, where I sat for a long time with my legs dangling over the deep blue water and looked over at Turkey across the way, the little closed restaurants, the dogs walking around. I closed my eyes and soaked up the sun. I saw the beauty that I had not been able to catch yesterday on my way back from the airport. I smiled and I shook my head. I shook my head at the Universe who seems to always add plenty of sweetness to whatever dish I choose to order from the menu.
I realized how "ready for war" I had been, in getting here. Not war-war of course, but something potentially hard that called for me to get armored up a bit. I was okay with that. I was going to take it and I was going to give whatever goodness I could in return. I was ready to be uncomfortable and to push past it.
I got on the plane ready and I woke up ready.
And then this. This day. A day of sunshine, serene water, small villages, dogs and cats. No hurry, no pushing. Just a tender "get acquainted" sort of day.
I remembered my interview with One Happy Family, several weeks ago. How I mainly had two concerns with the position I was seeking: one was the schedule. I had read that the work day was from noon to 9:30 pm, and I was worried about how I would do my coaching, which is usually around 6 pm my time. Maybe I would have to coach super early in the morning, or very late at night. It would be challenging but I would do it. Then, the lodging. The Volunteer House sounded like something I may have had fun with, thirty years ago. Shared rooms, sleeping bags, ten people to a bathroom. All this after a 9 1/2 hour day of working in crowded conditions. It scared me. Would I be able to keep up, to get enough rest? Again, I told myself that I would make it work. So I applied. And at the very end of the interview, I was told that the work hours had changed to 9:30 am to 6 pm and that "unfortunately" there was not enough room at the Volunteer House for me, and that I would have to find my own lodging. Within minutes, I had been invited to rent a wonderful room in a beautiful house overlooking the sea, with other women. And a heated blanket. My two main concerns had vanished in ten minutes. It was as though Life was giving me a hug and tell me "honey, it's okay to do good work and be a little comfortable while you do it." Just like I tell my clients so often: stretch, but don't tear.
Today was just like this. A Gift. A day to meet this place, its people, its roads. To breathe deeply in the Gratitude and to soften up. To welcome the new year and allow it to welcome me.
So I did just that. I drove around, I walked, I smiled at strangers (a local Greek man mistook me for an Afghan refugee), I talked to dogs. I called my daughter, spoke with good friends, took photos. Gently, in the sun. Then came home for a bowl of curry and a deep nap, the drooly kind of nap, which is the best.
I tried to make my way to Moria, which I heard being referred to as "the bad camp" but did not find it. I saw the entrance to Kara Tepe, "the less bad camp," and I saw many refugees walking around on the island roads. Mostly men, a lot of them young, some women with kids, too. The sun seemed to be giving every one a break and there were many smiles.
I know so little. And I have no doubt that tomorrow may be tough. I read that two new boats arrived yesterday. Where did they go? Who decides which camp they move into? Who decides how long they'll stay on the island? I know a little bit about the terrible things that happen, too. And yet, I know so little.
Tomorrow, I will be at the open gate at 9:30 and a new chapter will begin.
I am deeply thankful for today's Gift. The Gift of softening me up and reminding me that someone has my back, always.
Wishing YOU a sweet and easy first day of the year.
May we all learn to accept Life's Gifts, so that we may be fully equipped to share our own.