Today I cried for the first time since I got here. It wasn't very cathartic but it was something. I'm learning that grief comes in many forms. These days, for me, it's not in the form of tears. The pain is manifesting itself in my physical body. I feel like I'm under water. My legs are heavy. My mind is slower. All of my strength is leaking away. I feel trapped. Like I'm starting to go crazy. I have so many layers of emotion bearing down on me I can't distinguish one from another.
We took a bus to Molyvos and hiked along sparkling blue water, the richest shades of azure and cobalt, through green rolling hills speckled with terracotta roofs. The air was hot and breezy and the afternoon sun kissed my already sunburnt face. As the paved road turned to dirt, we rounded a corner and there it was. So abrupt. Tragedy draped across the lush landscape.
Emotions washed over each of us in rhythm. We stood stunned. We wept. We sat in reverent silence, honoring each life in that graveyard.
I thought about the lives behind each of the lifejackets. I thought of the people I've met at camp. The young parents from Afghanistan. The student halfway through dental school. The pregnant mom. The 17 and 15 year old sisters from Syria. The law school student. The wife who wonders if her husband is alive or dead. The young man who was tortured for daring to educate girls. The grandmother celebrating after her whole family made it safely to shore. The teenager who lost everything. The boys whose faces are aged beyond their years, until they crack those mischievous grins, those certain expressions that look exactly like my younger brother.
My mind flashed back to the moment I sat on the floor of an ISO box with Anna, gathered around a big dish of spicy chicken a couple of minors from Pakistan cooked for us to celebrate her last day as a volunteer. We scooped it up with warm bread, laughing and talking in between bites. I remembered when one of them walked up to me with a mischievous glimmer in his eye and said, "hold out your hand" then proceeded to hand me a baby turtle, his new pet.
I remembered the time another friend told me about his childhood in Afghanistan and how he got in trouble as a kid for stealing pomegranates and blueberries from the neighbor's garden. His story of childish mischief reminded me of when my brother got in trouble for shooting blueberries out of a nerf gun in my parents newly remodeled kitchen.
I thought of the people I now call friends running from home, leaving their best friends, their pets, maybe their families. I thought of them passing their favorite childhood spots, their schools, everything familiar. Risking it all to maybe survive a treacherous months long journey. To endure beatings and robberies. To be stripped of their possessions. Stripped of their dignity. To walk for miles barefoot. To give their kids sleeping pills so their cries wouldn't give them away to the police. To cross borders. To cross oceans. To maybe make it.
I thought about how they left in the middle of their lives. In the middle of their careers. Halfway through school. Or about to retire. Maybe they were cooking lunch when they knew it was time to flee.
Among the piles of black rafts and faded orange lifejackets, there was a little neon pink arm floaty with cartoons printed on it, the kind my parents used to fasten onto my arms for swim lessons at our neighborhood pool or when we went to the beach each summer. I thought about the parents who fastened that pink floaty to their child's arm before getting on a crowded raft to cross the ocean. I wondered if that family made it.
I looked down, opening my purse to get my camera out, and saw my U.S. passport. A tangible piece of my privilege.
I don't know why I was born into privilege and opulence while others were born into war and danger and uncertain futures and a world that sometimes seems to turn its back. To reduce their human experience to a purely political issue. A topic to be avoided at the dinner table because it's uncomfortable to talk about. Why does it have to be this way.
I thought about how as humans, we have the ability to make ugliness out of beauty. But we also have the ability to make things beautiful again. To build a monument of lifejackets. To rebuild a life from nothing. To blast music and dance the night away and drink tea in a camp filled with ISO boxes and barbed wire and concrete. To engage. To care. To use our gifts and spheres of influence to shape the world into what it's meant to be. To see the divine light in each human life and honor the glorious reflection of God in each other.
Thanks for stopping by. A little about me — I have a latte each morning and drink about 7 cups of tea a day (not exaggerating.) I live in Atlanta where I'm going to law school. I like long distance running and I love my city and I love exploring our beautiful earth. I believe in following our passions & being free.
I started this blog to document and share my favorite moments while traveling. This is a place where I process my ideas, share the aches and joys of my heart, speak truth, and shine light on the beauty I see in the world.
I've realized that what I probably love most about traveling is the same thing I love about writing — the way it connects me to myself and other people. I hope as you read my words, you feel connected to our shared humanity.
Thank you for reading. :)
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