I returned to the United States on the first day of July, but I feel like I left behind my entire life in Greece. It is a strange feeling, and after almost a week of being back, the strangeness continues to linger. Honestly, this is a very hard post to write – every time I try to start I find an excuse to get distracted, because writing this post seems to just really signify the reality that I am no longer in Greece and so far from the people and places I came to love.
Since being back I have definitely experienced anxiety – perhaps separation anxiety from Lesbos. For three months I lived in a small village, on a small island. A place where I could walk from my house to just about anywhere in the village in ten minutes and run into twenty local people I had befriended. Here I would be no closer to downtown if I walked ten minutes than if I walked sixty, and I could go weeks without running into anybody I know without trying. When my friends or family ask where I want to go to eat my first thought is to go to Friends (the pita/gyros place we frequented in Molyvos). There have been moments when I forgot I was back in Oregon, and moments where I feel like that last three months of my life was just a dream. A friend back in Athens best described what I am feeling as reverse culture shock. And I am feeling it hard.
Despite being ‘home’ and in what was once familiar territory (compared to what used to be just ‘an island on the other side of the world’), I feel isolated. One of the best things about my experience in Greece was the community of people I was able to surround myself in – from locals, to boys at the camp, and my fellow volunteers. Being around and living with people that share a common purpose as you, who can understand the joys and pains of the work we do each day. While the majority of the time spent working with the unaccompanied minors were the best days of my life (dancing in the rain, watching football matches, creating at Uno), there were also hard days (unbearable heat, being unwanted at the beach, tensions, and the guilt of being able to go home at the end of the day), and being able to have other people who felt the same way made it a little easier.
These people became like my family. I can’t describe how hard it is to go from seeing them, talking to them, working with them everyday to being cut off. Maybe not completely cut off. Of course we exchanged emails, phone numbers for Whatsapp, and added each other on Facebook, but exchanging a few words once a week just isn’t the same. That will be one of the things I miss the most. The midnight swims, the gatherings at Friends, playing pool at two in the morning, eating breakfast on the front steps of the house, the drives to the camp in the Beast, and of course the camp and the boys. I will carry the faces of each and every one of those boys with me for the rest of my days.
Right now I have plans to return to the island in the winter. I am counting down the days until I get to go ‘home’.
That’s all for now!
Oregon, USA (07.07.16)
You can see more pictures from my European adventure here.