Breakfast in Turkey is a magical thing. First comes out the tea and the bread with little tiny spoons that make everything feel sophisticated. Then they bring out the spreads: whipped cheeses and blackberries in a compote, absolutely divine honey, red chilli pastes, three different kinds of olives and a savory cheese with herbs mixed into it. Then came out the eggs cooked sunny side up with slices of sausage, deep fried french toast that melted in your mouth and perfect scones.
The streets of Turkey are alive -you can hear the heartbeat of the city in the heavy tread of the shoppers looking for their steal in the markets. Ten Turkish Lira could get you a mountain of fruit so fresh it beats the Fresh Prince of Bel Air or a beautiful scarf made of cashmere so soft it feels like clouds. You can hear the call for prayer from anywhere in the city, a herald from a beautiful and painstakingly designed mosque standing stoic in the center of it all. The cafes there are stylish and rustic, the people milling in there are dressed straight out of a magazine. The coffee they serve is unlike anything you’ve ever had- it has a grit to it and their freshly squeezed orange juice is to die for!
We made this trip on our weekend off in Greece- the island of Lesvos is just five miles from Turkey’s little port city of Ayvalik. This cross was about an hour and half, cruising along in a cute little ferry at a steady pace with absolutely marvelous views. For some however, this is a trip that cost them their lives.
Throughout our day, this was something that stayed in the back of all of our minds- the unfairness of it all, the injustice, the crimes against these people that we had grown to truly care about in a short couple of weeks. People escaping from war zones and personal persecution have to put their trust into men who do not have their best interests in mind to illegally get them across the border to our little island, to a place where they have no other option but to blindly hope things will be better. We just hand over our passport with a smile and a nod, and we’re allowed to go out for a day of shopping and fun. It’s not right, but it is sadly is this way.
There is a graffiti piece we pass everyday on the way to Moria -a small phrase made from the few words in English everyone seems to know, a colloquium, stretched across a cobblestone gate it reads: “Patriarchy Big Problem My Friend”. If I could describe the whole situation out here in 4 words, this phrase would take the cake - "Big Problem My Friend"...
The guilt seems crippling at times but it quickly affirms that whatever we can do to help here -is what we need to do. Being here for only two weeks feels futile, but this first hand exposure allowed me to understand that this trip was imperative. The realizations that I have encountered about the refugee crisis in Greece are invaluable and an experience I believe everyone needs in order to fully comprehend the needs, how to fulfill them and all of the blood boiling reasons why they aren’t being achieved. We can turn hate, grief, guilt, and anger by putting our minds together and link arms into a future filled with unity, hope, love, and peace. So to anybody who is reading this: it’s worth it.
HELP Greece Volunteer, Vivian Applegate
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