After a long, sleepless, overnight ferry, I have arrived into the port of Mytilene, windswept and dark-eyed but with unyielding enthusiasm.
I will be based for at least the next few days. I will spend my first few days on the ground working at a warehouse and assisting to sort donations before heading out to volunteer with other organisations, in different capacities. It is a bit of a rite of passage and general requirement that all volunteers arriving on the island spend at least their first two days like this before branching out and moving on to where they plan to work.
First impressions of Mytilene
This evening was spent wandering around the harbourfront of Mytilene, taking in the delicious sunset over the water, spotting rainbows and trying out local Greek cuisine. Walking down past the ferry dock brought on waves of emotion and heartache, being surrounded by an air of displacement and energy of people wandering lost.
Spotting the camp issued/donated orange backpacks dotted around and busses packed full of refugees being brought over for their next long journey out to Athens by sea nearly brought me to tears, and had my stomach in knots. The reality and hugeness of the situation finally settling in. I got a very brief glimpse into this world I’m about to throw myself into – head first. It feels right to be here. Expansive and heart opening. But at the same time I am aware of emotional sensitivity building up in me, a strong push to be here for as long as I can, to do as much as is needed for these people.
I am house sharing a sweet little apartment with colourful walls and orange trees outside the window for a few nights with two other volunteers that I shared the ferry journey with. Once I have spent a few days talking with others and clarifying which part of the island I plan to root myself in I will look for more long term accommodation.
A Terrible Crisis on a Beautiful Island
The city of Mytilene is absolutely stunning. Breathtaking vistas across the semi-circled harbour, hills of pine hang over the gently sloping hills of picturesque housing with sailboats bobbing in front. Thanks to both the economic and refugee crises, tourism in Mytilene will be down as much as 80%-90% this summer, which is absolutely devastating for local business owners.
It is still a wonderful destination with so much beauty to see, and Greek culture to experience, that a big part of helping the island stabilise and hold all these refugees is by helping to promote tourism on the island, and show people that it really still is a wonderful place to visit. The weather was beautiful in Athens, and remained clear in Mytilene other than a brief period of showers and claps of thunder.
No refugee boats arrived yesterday due to such dangerous conditions out on the sea brought by storms, this means that more and more refugees will be collecting over at the Turkish coast and we will be expecting a massive influx to arrive over the next few days. Life is about to get interesting I am sure.
So for now I have an evening to relax into the calm before the storm, everything will begin tomorrow…