An old Arab gentleman ushers a curious volunteer into his tent and gestures with his wiry thin arms to have a seat. Sit, he says with his eyes. The shrapnel wounds down his legs tell more than his words.
Min-ga-la-ba she smiles, uh, hello, she corrects herself. But it’s her clear, shining eyes that express the sentiment, not the broken Burmese-English. Her shaved head and pink robe tell their own story, one of sacrifice and commitment.
Stories are so much more than just the words that are used.
Since the first time I set out alone as a wide-eyed backpacker into Indonesia, I sought out the storytellers. Not one for tourist traps, I have always believed you learn more about a culture by its people, it’s language and its food than by its monuments and attractions. I seek out the fairy tales, the mythologies and the histories – the mysteries, tragedies and comedies just waiting to burst out. I have become increasingly fascinated by what brought people to where they are now, those pivotal moments in their life that changed their trajectory forever. The one that lead them to become a refugee traveling to Germany, or that brought them to Malaysia to live as a nun.
For some time, I believed that everybody had a story inside of them. Now that’s changed.
Now I believe everyone has hundreds.
Even the most simple moments in time can be expressed with beauty and depth.
Now the time has come for me to tell my own story, to write my book. Of course I wont be telling the tales of my whole life, just a short vignette. 90 days of of my own narrative.
We dream in narrative, daydream in narrative, remember, anticipate, hope, despair, believe, doubt, plan, revise, criticize, construct, gossip, learn, hate and love by narrative. – Barabara Hardy
In plotting my story I begin to see the beauty of layer narrative arc upon arc, weaving stories that intertwine and in the process strengthen each other. By telling other peoples stories, whether gathered around a wine with good company or tapped with trepidation into my blog, my own narrative becomes clearer.
Narration is not a still life; it’s a moving picture – Ted Cheney
As I write myself in as the lead character of my own story I need to find the plot points of this brief moment in time. How do I make the points of tension rise and fall like the breath of the baby I carried along that beach? Should I assume my reader knows the wretched smell of burning plastic or the way the breeze off the Aegean feels different on bare shoulders than one sweeping through the dusty streets of a small border town? Was it me who changed in the end or was it the world around me? Perhaps both, but it’s hard to pin an ending when my own story is only just beginning.
“you can resolve a complication, in other words, by changing the world or changing yourself” – Jack Hart
I spend a lot of time walking since I left Idomeni. I’ve been watching with great interest the small details of the world, hoping to absorb them to recount later. How the fresh fronds of wild strawberry plants give way to towering clusters of buttercups as spring eases into summer. How pupils dilate the tiniest bit when I talk about my experiences, their posture recoiling inward, just slightly, at the horrid realization that humanity isn’t this beautiful fairy-tale that they’ve constructed.
The way his voice catches when he talks of his sisters back in Turkey ‘It’s not safe for women, they rape there’.
I have horrifying stories, I also have beautiful ones. Such is life.
But like all fairy-tales, each life and in fact each moment holds a story inside of it. A narrative that carries it’s own momentum and eventual resolution. Even if, like the original fairy-tales, it is brutal and depressing, there’s a lesson and a beauty in there for everyone, and a story to be told.
So over the coming weeks I will be traveling north to Romania, stopping in at Ruse on the way to visit with the Danube. By the beginning of May I will be in Spain, and then Portugal.
So I write this post as a reminder.
Just because what follows might not be that of the refugees, my blogging perhaps taking that direction of a traveler more than a humanitarian, be assured the cause is still close to my heart. In sacrificing a few blog posts along the way, It makes way for a much greater piece of writing, a book I am working on that is coming along behind the scenes, very slowly but surely.