It is not only able-bodied people making the crossing to Lesvos on these boats. There are many disabled and elderly people, and many pregnant women. And the five day-old baby well… it was so tiny I hadn’t noticed it until the father asked me to help the mother, who had taken a nasty fall in Turkey. It was very shocking to see the baby so tiny and vulnerable, and much harder for me to accept how the mother must be feeling, both physically and mentally. What an incredible woman still carrying herself with great dignity and strength. There were several other children, an incredibly beautiful family, all looking closely after each other.
It has been flat out since yesterday morning. The weather has improved. Elections are over. The boats just keep coming. It’s overwhelming.
The first call came at 7 this morning. Mid-shampoo. “A beeg boat, one hundred people, coming now, please come now”. It was a wooden boat. A leisure boat. A very nice boat, in my opinion. “That is make-up, make-up,” a local said. “Inside, no good, very bad”.
It was really hard getting the people off that boat. The shore is not sandy, there are huge boulders. It is hard to get your footing on dry land, let alone in the water. The boat ran aground several metres from dry land. When I arrived, Nikos, a local hero, was already engineering the rescue but he was alone. It was hard. The people were afraid and there were a lot of them. In the water, we are heavy. They were heavy. They were getting off the boat from the bow, a couple of metres above the water, and clambering down was hard. Several men from the boat held two ropes tight to hold onto. Slowly but surely, everyone got off. It upset me a great deal to see two journalists, both men, snapping away and filming. Their help was needed. They were much better built for carrying the children than I was but they weren’t up for getting wet or helping too much. That’s just another reality of being here. Cameras are in these poor people’s faces all the time, at their most private and vulnerable moments. They have no privacy. No one asks (except us) if they mind having their pictures taken.
On one trip back to carry a child, I looked up at the people still left to come off. I noticed for the first time a wheelchair. Someone on that boat needed a wheelchair. And they had brought it with them. And I was ready to cry then.
On a very positive note, there has been a lot of laughter in camp, both with the refugees and the volunteers. I think it is borderline insanity. Intense relief at a change of thought, an interruption of so much intensity. I have finally hired the van (YES!!!! more on that later) and until I started driving, was very worried about driving it. Some advice came from a Norwegian friend. It created a huge amount of hilarity last night. It went like this.
“When it comes to the car – the gear box is rather bad and it is hard getting it in 1st gear. So train a little first. I was really worried myself about driving there, but just drive. The worst part is the first hill. It is incredible that the car has traction, but it does as long as you keep a steady pace. So don’t stop and be confident when you go uphill. You will need to experiment a little to find the right track in that first hill, there is quite a lot of holes and rocks there.”
Yeah, filled me with confidence! And gave us all a good laugh.
You will all be pleased to hear that the van you have all very kindly donated to is now hired and in action and I am driving it very well. It is extremely useful, we can fit a lot of people in it and a lot of stuff. The gear box seems to be working so far. I will keep updating as much as I can, when I can, but the days here are very unpredictable…
Thank you all so much for your continued support. The people we meet thank you too, every day.