Sorry that there is not much of a picture, but then again...I couldn't see then either.
I've packed-up and walked down to the cab rank well early because it's right next to my favourite cafe in Samos. It's kind of like the Greek version of Greggs, but cleaner, nicer, has a better selection. Hmmm... I take that back.....it's nothing like Greggs....anywhere.
Anyway, I thought that I would relax and have a nice breakfast and a leisurely lift to the airport, but coffee might have to wait until I'm on the plain. I didn't notice a cafe at the airport when I first arrived and it such a tiny place.
Not a good start.
07:00 Hoorah! For little coffee kiosks....sorted.
Looks like it might be a nice day here.
When I left London eight days ago I wasn't feeling that clever or smart. For personal reasons my self esteem was at a bit of a low ebb. I felt like the littlest fish in an ocean full of stingy Box-jellies.
If it hadn't been for Anneliese, I'd still be in a state.
Having come away from that situation and putting myself into a different one, I feel different now. For eight days I was part of a greater thing where I was needed to do a job that I could do.
In Samos I asked preform within my range of skills and experience. I feel like I've done that and hope the others working with me feel that I have also.
I now return to London to carry on the work I've been doing for the NHS and the Ambulance Services (LAS, St John and the community) and hope that I will be able to draw from this new experience and work forward.
All the best to these many refugees on their journey to wherever, my fellow volunteers, the caring people of Samos and especially Elena Housni and Dr. Manos Logothetis for the opportunity, faith and direction.
10minutes outside of Liverpool Street and my battery is going now and I might have to post this from home...if this doesn't work from here.
Thanks to readers who stuck with my two left thumbs on a tiny keyboard and all the shockingly awful grammar (at least I didn't swear....that much)......:-)
Although there are still about 600-700 people refugees here, the port seems empty since the last ferry left. Some of the volunteers that I've got on with well are leaving today and that's going to leave a hole in the works. I hope Elena will be able to find more of the right people to fill the gaps.
I would hate to think that there are those who would come here with there own agendas thinking that because they bring a significant donation can rearrange the hard work that has been done already. Most of the volunteers that I have met come here with no such notions.
We are running out of food on the lunchtime distribution. With the hard work and caring nature of the local Greek people the refugees have been served pint cups of pasta and tomato sauce with bread.
I notice a man in the queue with very hard angled, painted eyebrows. He is very tall and very skinny, almost emaciated but still quite mobile and agile. Judging by the type of hair loss anyone can tell this man has cancer. As it turned out he had not had his chemo since the hospital he was under had been destroyed. He said that although he was tired and was having bouts of nausea, he felt he was managing okay enough to get to a cancer centre in Athens.
The queue carried on.
The pasta has run out and they are serving bread and apples. That lasts about 15minutes and then just biscuits for the children and that lasts about 4 minutes and then nothing is left.
The rest of the queue is turned away until the morning.
Wish I knew the 'loaves and fishes' trick.
The local people give so much of themselves freely to give these refugees some shelter, nourishment and hope and I find it frustrating to see them struggling to help refugees when certain parties are taking all the credit without lifting a finger. I'm not mentioning names or oganisations.
There are so many things I want to say, but I am not a local and it's a local fight, so I hold my tongue.
I am standing outside the Emergency office redirecting people to the clothes drop some 200m down the port.
I've just had a really short FaceTime call with Anneliese and the boys. Feels a bit odd hearing about there friends coming over for a sleepover, movies, fun and games while I'm watching a couple of kids here doing pretend games with an old traffic cone "goodness sakes...don't put it on your head..ew!"
My morning coffee is wearing off.
It is never a good idea to distribute anything from the back of a van. Fortunately, the volunteer that made that decision wasn't handing out food or stampeded/injured.
It's definitely getting colder and windier in the daytimes.
A young lad I gave some dry clothes to yesterday walks by with is friend and gives me a thumbs'up and a smile. Yesterday he was distraught and almost hyperthermic. He's hoping to get his travel papers tomorrow, but I told him not to be disappointed if they tell him a few more days. Sometimes they wait as little as three days to be properly "processed" (Im really loathed to use that word when referring to people). Sometimes they wait for weeks on end. It's all up to the Police/Customs.
The local people, not the politicians have been making all this happen. They have been so welcoming to both the refugees and those who come to help. I have never been apart of anything like this before, nor do I know if I will ever have the opportunity again, so I am grateful for this short time on Samos and hope that I'm an included in amongst those who have made a difference.
This morning tried to find one of my patients to re-dress his feet, but couldn't find him. He had been travelling alone but helped his fellow shipwreck-mates to shore when their boat sank. In so doing, he cut his legs badly on the rocks and lacerated one of his right foot. When I got to where his tent had been, it was gone. I asked around and the only conclusion I could make was that he might have been taken to the detention centre before I arrived. I haven't been able to make any contact with medical staff at the detention centre and trying to find anyone up there is the 'needle vs haystack' theory again.
The 1200 ferry is very late and both refugees, commuters and long distance lorries are creating one very anxious port. I had a look around for Nasim (?spelling not so sure), but again, couldn't find him anywere nor do I know if he got on the ferry either.
Went for a late lunch with three of the volunteers in Samos town and then went back to the port for the afternoon clothes distribution. For a change, it was much more relaxed without 'the maddening crowd' and everyone was able to get something. The only thing that made it less enjoyable was 'Angry-guy'. I call him this because he always looks miserable as f%&k and always complains about everything.
"Shoes to small"
"Food taste no good"
"I want....I need......one more....one more...."
Nothing is ever right for this guy and I wonder how he managed not to get himself into trouble with his travel mates. Maybe it was just the volunteers or anyone trying to help him that annoyed him so much.
I drove the van to the warehouse and helped sort some of the incoming clothes donations. The rest of the afternoon was 'bagging and tagging' ....(the clothes, not the people...eh hem).
I finished around 1830 and was ravenous in need of a cold beeeeer'. One of the British volunteers, a guy named Rupert, and I went for pizza on the waterfront of Samos and rejuvenated.
Around 2100, Rupert hands me his phone. Laura is on the other end and says that there is another ill child down at the port.
We go ... fast.
When I enter the Emergency Office there is a very floppy looking child in his dad's arm. Next to them is the boy's mum and 'Angry-guy' who I later found out is the boy's uncle....of course (facepalm).
I examined the boy, but all his observations were all within normal limits for his age. He was a little cold, but dry and not hyperthermic. Then his mother tells me he hadn't been to the toilet to move his bowels for two days. After a bit more questioning via Google Translate I found out that none of them had eaten for nearly a week prior to coming to Samos. When the body has starved for more than 3-4 days after having (for the most part) a normal diet, having food again takes some getting used to. When I examined his stomach he made the 'ouch' sounds and tried to push my hand away as I would have expected.
As always, with children, its always best to move toward the side of caution and Rupert was happy to drive the van for me up to the Hospital. Once there the Doctor had confirmed my hand-over and gave them some him some children's Exlax. We then took them back to the port
Its my last day here and Im taking the day off. My back is a bit sore and an old shoulder complaint is playing-up.
I'm off to the internet cafe to print my boarding pass and book a cab for the morning
This morning as I was doing my usual morning patrol and follow-ups, I decided that I would attempt to hand out some of the toys from my sons to the refugee kids at the port. At first I thought it was going to be difficult to do as I thought that I might get rushed by a load of kids with their hands out....and I did. That little bag was gone in seconds, but I had another bag, out of eyeshot, in my medical bag, so I moved on to a different part of the port. Over by the Emergency Arrival office there were a large number of families that had just managed to survive another over-loaded boat that had sunk just off the Turkish militarised zone only 4km away from the safety of a beach, but still far enough away when you're....wet, tired, hungry and very frightened.
As they came through the port they were sorted out with dry clothes, some food and a place to sleep. The volunteers would point the injured and ill my way for an assessment, If there is a child among them of an appropriate age for the toys I brought (and if I remember) I'll let them have one. Most of them have no toys or books. Their faces light up to get anything. These tiny figures almost seemed little symbols of something I haven't quite figured out, Maybe its about getting tiny fragments of your life back or maybe its about have more than nothing.
One little boy about the same age as my youngest son was sitting with his mother and his older brother waiting for the lunch distribution. I had been holding a little action figure in my hand and wondering who to give it to. It just seemed kind of natural and my hand presented the toy in his direction. He looked up at me and gestured "...for me?" I knodded and he to the toy from me. His mother thanked me in Arabic and his brother, in one smooth action swiped the toy from his brothers hands and inspected it with a snear, then threw it to the ground and said something I didn't understand. The little one's lip began to do that thing little kids do before they errupt in tears, but he didn't break. He ran to the little toy and quickly stuffed it in his pocket and made a gesture to his older brother that I could only think meant "up yours". One of the other refugees who had seen the whole episode said that the older brother had told the little one "...you waste your time. There are no superheroes".
Carrying on, I checked quite a few feet and re-dressed sores and wounds as required, handed out a few more toys here and there. At midday there was another clothing drop at the port. I've been purposely going getting involved in these because, as I might have mentioned previously, it gives me the opportunity to see and check for injuries and illnesses. Nothing wrong with this lot today and the drop seemed abut quiet for the most part.
Below: Clothing drop at the port
After lunch there were more people coming to the port buy coach and taxi. Many of them non-Syrian, but nonetheless had made the journey and were here. As I mentioned in a previous post, the non-Syrians usually get 'processed' by the police and sent to the Detention Centre outside of Samos Town and have to endure a much longer procedure of getting the right documents and permissions to travel.
Then someone dropped the bomb on me....
I had heard that a boat was leavng for Athens tonight and about 1500-2000 refugees would have the opportunity to move on with their progression and that was the 'good news'. The 'bad news' was that Slovenia and all the other boardering countries had just shut their doors to any more refugees and this was backed up with support from a certain Mr. Cameron to the tune of Billions of the UK taxpayers money. I have yet to varify this for myself as UK news is thin on the ground over here unless you make the time to look (and I've not been keeping up with other current events - I'll try to remedy that today).
Above are a couple of pics of the Detention Centre where we did the next clothing distribution. At the request of the Police no one is to take pictures or film anywhere inside the Centre without XYZ permissions etc. We unloaded the van with the clothes and spent the next two hours making sure people had jackets and hats as there was/is bad weather predicted soon. Ruth, one of the volunteers from the US was taking the lead in the clothing distributions and warehouse organisation, was also there to check the area for a possible clean-up operation and to set up more tents in and around the centre and hopefully before the rains come.
At the port around 21:35 one of the organisers Janus (hope I've spelled that correctly) came to me while I was at the dockside watching the ferry arrive to pick the refugees for 22:00.
"There is a sick kid you need to see right now!"
I grabbed my bag and he took me to child who was having difficulty in breathing, with a lot of noice from his upper respiratory tract. He was sat on a chair, held by his mother and was a bit of a handful. I checked him over and for the most part, all his observations were normal, apart from what sounded like a rough cough. His dad shoved a bottle of something infront of me and Ali (a different Ali - pictured below on my left) translated for me. Basically this kid a bit of a cough and someone had given him/the parents a bottle of liquid Piriton of an adult perscription strength only available in parts of Europe. I couldn't read the lable as it was not in English. This kid sounded bad, but then came the sound of the ferry horn back at the dock. The parents of grabbed the child and legged it for the dockside. Ali was leaving as well on the same ferry, so I made him promise to look out for them and to tell the staff on the ferry about the child. He was happy to do so and quickly wrote his name down so I could find him on facebook.
*I would just like to apologise for any poor grammar/spelling or general lack of clarity in these posts. Most of the time I have to do these quite fast from my phone and I don't get a chance to check them over as I would like to. Feel free to ask about anything and I will try to clarify as and when.
My chief editor and jam maker suggested that I amend some of what I've written for the sake of clarity and as usual, she's right.
So I'll start with a but if a location descriptor.
Samos and Vathi towns are located in the east side of Samos island settled in a natural harbour/bay with a combination of nearby ruins both ancient and modern. Opposite the main part of the town is a marina and a ferry port that extends out about 2500m from the natural arc of the bay. About two thirds of that is taken up by the refugee camp followed by and incorporating the ferry port. At its width, the camp is around 400-500m wide at its widest point and all covered by concrete and tarmac and surrounded by an old fence that is broken in several places. There is also a storm drain run-off that runs diagonally across the Tarmac. The seawater that gets caught under there carries in debris from the sea and heats up from the daytime sun, producing an oder of decomposition at certain times of the day. When I first arrived I thought there was a problem with the toilet block. The toilet facilities for the refugees are actually quite adequate now compared to a couple of weeks ago when they had porta-loos for 7000 people. Not even the shittiest festival in Britain could compete with that.
However, that a couple of refugees in wheelchairs (not travelling together) had arrived, a commode chair would be useful. I have already brought this to Dr Logothetis's attention. He has asked my to put together a list of things to consider buying for the site as they now have some money donations left.
Last night before going back to the billet I helped Steph and Maureen to get some large brushes and cleaning supplies from a local supermarket
I feel better for sleeping and seemed to have corrected my body-clock. I quickly have a tidy of my billet and realise that I'm quite hungry. Last couple of days just been eating snacky' stuff "on the fly" and the occasional sandwich, but not a proper meal.
Make my way over to Elena's office to leave a note for Gordon - if he needs a hand this morning with shifting boxes about etc. On arrival there are two with suitcases standing at the bottom of the town hall stairs looking a bit lost. Turns out this is someone I've seen on the Facebook pare named Pru, and friend (I can really be crap at remembering names). They're eating for Elena. I go up to the warehouse, but no one is there, so breakfast it is!
Okay...got coffee now...
Wangled my way into a lift with one of the Sweedish Red Cross volunteers and got to the port. Today was the day for a distribution drop at the detention centre and I was curious as to how that was going to turn out. We loaded boxes of clothes into a van plus two car loads of volunteers and headed up the hill.
It was a picture of more desparation the way the refugees had campted on the side of the hill next to a prison-looking structure surrounded by a barbed wire topped fence. There were people sleeping in tents around the compound also. Most of these people are not Syrian refugees and apparently there is a lot of politics surrounding the reason why. People who know me know that I am not an overly political person, so I'm not writing this to make political statements. Pain and suffering don't have a political view, albeit, usually being the cause.
We spent the better part of two hours handing out clothes and for the most part it ran rather smoothly. Elena seemed happy that it went well and no arguments or fights had broken out. We had the usual hangers-on and hawkers, but thats quite normal and to be expected in these situations. Most are alright when you move them on when they've received an item, while a few want to 'stop-n-shop'.
Back at the port there were these two male refugees that had been given hats. Unfortunately, whoever had received the hats as a donation didn't read the emroidered stitching on the fronts. Emblazoned in bold type face where the words....
"I WANT TO F@#K RIHANNA" (using the actual spelling)
Quite unbeknown to the wearers they carried on there day moving through the camp getting bemused looks from a few of the volunteers and NGOs until someone had a quiet word as it were. One of the men was absolutely mortified that he had been wearing an rude word and was hoping that he hadn't offended anyone, where the other one continued to where is with certain pride. I think he might have been asked to remove it before the Greek Orthodox Arch Bishop arrived with the Mayor of Samos.
Another 250 (aprox) have arrived at the port (at various times) today and there have been a few injuries, a couple of infections, a child up at the detention centre with a leg fracture, and all cold, hungry and damp. when not treating people, I spent the rest of the day helping Gordon with the van running back and forth between the warehouses and the port with supplies.
A volunteer turned up today and she brought a little battery powered projector and a couple of SD cards full of Mr Bean episodes (no language required) and the Arabic version of the Simpsons. She set this up and projected against one of the walls of the Med Centre and immediately drew a small crowd. I stop to consider that my kids actually expect me to bring the projector when we go camping and sometimes complain because I haven't changed the films for the last year and they do this from the comfort of our bell tent with lots of air beds and pillows, popcorn and treats. Children here are happy to be outside sat on pallets because they're off the grim floor watching and laughing.
Nearby a small group of young people are doing a little dance and trying to get some of the volunteers in on the act. Some do, while others immediately find something to do.
It has been a very full day. Three of us decide to call it a day and go into the town for some food and
and a drink.
First proper meal I will have had here.
Woke to the smell of cat wee.
Attemped to have a cold shower while cleverly avoiding the hanging sleeping bag suspended from the towel rail. One of the last things Anneliese said to me before I left was "please don't leave it there. It's one our best and warmest ones." Sadly, the putrid pseudo amonia.... shall we say...bouquette is something in my 53 years of being on this planet, have ever grown a tolerance for. Makes me want to vom' actually, so taking it back to Blighty might not be on the cards.
So glad I didn't face-plant in it.
Had a sandwich and did an update before looking for a lift back to the port.
Helping Gordon and Jess move an couple van loads of donations to one of the warehouses. Then went back to the port for more patrolling and to see if I could get any follow-up on Ali and the patient with the spinal injury.
I must be one the oldest vollies here.
Walking around a corner I see some children playing. Some of them are not playing 'nice' and there is a little girl left to sit on a pallet on her own looking a bit dispondent. I hand over a small toy and the look on her face makes the day's effort worth it even more. "Minion!" I don't need to show her how it works, she's kid they work that stuff out okay for themselves.
Moving on I stop in at the Medical Centre - newly moved and improved thanks to the help of a local builder giving his time to help. The Spanish Red Cross are there also and we exchange information on patients in the camp. They, and some of the other aidworkers from various organisation are telling me about the Refugee Detention Centre, located some 4-5km away and how they think the medical assessors might be over-run with ailments. Apparently I need to approach the Port Police regarding a visit, so maybe I'll give it a go tomorrow afternoon when I get some more info. Heard more than one nasty story about infections and injuries there.
I've spent the last couple of hours patrolling the port. On inlet side where the port meets a marina some of the volunteers are distributing shoes to the refugees. I've never had to triage shoes, but without the organisation of getting them queued, it would be a rediculous stampede of people running for the shoes - Black Friday style. Never in Europe have I ever seen a child in need of a pair of shoes. I'm not saying they don't exist, but I've never seen one. The difficult task is differentiating those who have shoes and those who have hidden their perfectly good shoes to get another pair of shoes...then there's the ones who(m) are really in need. Most of the time you can tell. The attitude is different and impacting. Where the others are just happy to get something for free. Keeping them in the queue is difficult when you don't speak the language and they all rush you, but things, for the most part remained calm and all who needed shoes where so happy not to be barefoot on the tarmac and grime. This gave me a good opportunity to check a lot of their feet for sores and infections. Sometimes they wont tell you until its really bad.
Shoes and clothes have been donated from all over the world, but the level of some of them was almost comical. There was even a pair of mid-thigh plastic spike-heel with 'London' printed all overthem with various other photos of Big Ben, London Eye and Tower Bridge. Thankfully the sensible, practical and otherwise boring versions were more prevelant. Even saw a pair of 'spankin' new green Dunlop Wellies.
After all the shoes had gone for the day, I made my way over to the Emergency Office where Elena (head organiser) was handing out sandwiches and apples to the children. As you might imagine, there's alway one or two that take the mick' by trying to claim food for a child they don't actually have, only to be seen centimeters away eating the spoils of their attempt. Most of the organisers are wise to a lot of these shenanagans and were able to handle the 'wise-guys' in a non-aggresive, but firm/fair way.
While I was waiting for a lift back to the town I heard this familiar voice call my name. When I turned, there was this young man in clean clothes and scrubbed up fairly well, smiling and holding an envelope.
It was Ali from the night before and he definately looked more alive and rested. Now he was also a happier man for having his new papers given to him with a travel document and a ticket for the ferry to Athens and he could carry on his journey to Denmark.
Going to get a beer.
00:01 Wednesday 18 November 2015
I went down to the port with Maureen and Steph (my next door neighbours in the billets.
Lots had left in last boat out, but srull lots remaining
Doing the rounds through the camp and no crying babies tonight.
A bit erie, but calm..".oops..lets not get to close to the water" no railings.
Met a couple of men who had been forced into the water at gunpoint and seems to be the common method when coming from the Turkish coast.
A young man takes me to have a look at his uncle who is in a wheelchair. The man had been shot in the back about two weeks previous and was still in a lot of pain. Consisdering the injury to his spine, I was quite suprised that he had any mobility at all. Like all the others, he was cold, but his nephew had managed to keep him dry. His biggest concern was using the toilet with a level of dignity. They were both determined to manage their situation, but were extremely grateful for the assistance they received.
Unlike previous nights, all the children seemed to be tucked up in their tents and all was quite calm and peaceful, albeit cold and windy. We patroled the port camp further and stopped where pallet fires were keeping some people warm, keeping their spirits up and feeling a bit of hope regardless of what many had experiences as great loss.
It was quite a sureal sight when an enormous ferry came flying into port, doing what seemed to be a handbreak-turn and coming about to put the aft literally on the portside. I don'[t think I want to see this pilot driving a car anytime soon. The people coming off were such a contrast to the people they were navigating through to get to taxis and cars.
Met a third man (Ali) who also had been forced into the water.
He had lost all his papers, but most important, his medical notes. He had left Syria for medical treatmeant with a Liver specialist in Denmark that offered treatment for free so long as he could get there. That was arranged almost a year ago....and then stuff 'happened' in Syria. His wife and child are still in Syria as he thought it was to dangerous for her to make the journey (their daughter is only a month old).
Five days ago he was standing on the beach in Turkey. People that he had paid money to handed all passengers over to pirates who forced them into the water. Those that didn't comply were shot. Those with no more money were shot and left in the surf. Ali and another man (he didn't know) managed to hang on to the side of the already over-stuffed boat. Designed to hold 14 tourists was now a scow for 50-60 refugees. Roughly 1km from the Samos shores he could see the lights from a couple of houses on the island, but he thought he would die in the water. The boat had run against some rocks that ripped the hull of the small boat appart. In a matter of seconds everyone was in the water and struggling to get to the shore that seemed still too far away. Thankfully the tide became shallow at about 300-400 meters out. Those that managed to get away from the rocks trudged on foot to another outcropping of rocks that they ended up having to be rescued from by the Greeks as the tide came in again. Ali didn't know how many were lost when the boat broke up, but others that he spoke to said that it might have been half a dozen. All of them wet and very tired they were brought to the port camp at Samos and given dry clothes and food. Ali had been given a tent, but within ten minues of building it, it had been stolen and moved to another part of the camp. Needle in a haystack theory comes into play. He ended up sleeping rough on the pier only to get wet again. When we found him, I gave him as much of a full examination as he would allow. He was borderline hyperthermic with an unbelievably low blood sugar count, he was damp and had bruises on his legs from the knees down. I was amazed at his resolve and determination to get to where he needs to be. He didn't want to take anything from us and getting some soup down him was hard work, but we made him promise to stay with us at the Emergency Centre until he had warmed up, eaten, got some dry clothes and daybreak. I wont go into more of the detail regarding this man, but after three+ hours it was a bit of an emotional goodbye.
We finished out shift just after 06:00 and went back to the billets.
Moments later I put this on the Volunteers Facebook Message Page:
"Volunteers staying at the accommodation near the Town Hall please make sure that you check your rooms thoroughly, especially under beds, for cats. I came back from the nightshift this morning to find a rather smelly puddle on my own sleeping bag on my bed. At first I thought someone had got into the room, but the door was locked. Hmmm? A white moggy (wild street cat) with black and ginger spots was finally found, sat very frightened underneath a bed. He must have been hiding under there for at least 24hrs or more. Let's just say the puddle was quite large. Thankfully my neighbours Maureen and Steph loaned me one of their sleeping bags/sheets. Good the smell hit me first and I didn't do my usual "plop face-down" on the bed thing when I got in. Just be careful when you open or leave open your doors people."
So far, my children are safe in our home....
On board the train to Liverpool Street and my stomach is doing flips.
I'm a bit choked because my boys are in school, my daughter is at work(I think) and I've really been able to say goodbye properly to either.
It's weird because I'm more worried about their safety than my own and I would be telling fibs if I said that since the bombings last Friday I wasn't anymore nervous, but I am.
The infamous 'they' say that London could be next', but in my head, so could anywhere.
I'm thinking of that photo of the dead kid on the beach and hoping that if such a tragedy struck where I live, that others would help. That's just one of the reasons why I'm doing this.
On a happier note, at the end of my time away, I just hope I would have been of use.
Whether it's dressing an injury or handing out soup, I'm just going out there to help.
Just spoke to Anneliese. I could hear the boys in the background fighting over something. "Sit down and eat your ice cream!"
We are not 'loaded' financially by any stretch of imagination, but those boys are lucky to be where they are, with what they have and have absolutely no idea about outside their own little bubble. I hope that never have to.
I wonder what the reaction would be of the children I give the little Lego figures to...
Earlier this afternoon, Anneliese and I spent some time sorting through my oldest son's Lego discards and put together some complete figures to give to some of the kids on Samos. How would they feel about that and what toys wold they have left behind? In light of what they have been through to get to where they are, I'm guessing they might be a hard audience to make smile. I'll still have a go.
Ryan Air FR11 is taxi'ing out to the main runway and I'm still freezing from
standing on the tarmac.
The Samos Facebook group put another Londoner in touch with me as she was meant to be on the same flight. I haven't spotted her yet, but then it was a bit of a push and shove getting on the plane. Anneliese would have been proud of my restraint toward all the piss-takers cutting in, taking over sections of the pre-allocated seating plan and dangerously putting glass bottles (plural) in the overhead after being specifically told not to. I did say to the guy 'look, if that's booze and it falls on me I'm keeping it." To which he replied "eef' bottle falls on you I will let you have it". To be honest I didn't know quite which way he meant that, sufficed to say that when the attendant asked him a third time, he moved it under the seat in Front of him.
I made myself busy with the inflight mag and tried to determine how much I was gone no to get fleeced by the airline for a sandwich and a beer.
Then my stomach went again.
The lady next to me found a passport. The writing was in Arabic and, hand on heart, I am ashamed to admit that first reaction was wrongfully associating it with the passport that was found in the carnage of the auditorium in Paris last Friday. How stupid is that? Like I said...ashamed. It turned out to belong to the lady in the next seat in front who was more than harmlessly stuffing her face with snacks from her hand bag. She obviously had more vision of fore-thought than I did and came prepared. I begrudgingly prepared myself to hand over some euros. The trolley-dolly from New Castle, who just had to tell me he'd moved to Greece eventually let me know that what I wanted was no longer available, so stuck to booze.
Three hours to Athens then a six hour wait for the flight to Samos. I haven't been inside the Athens airport since The mid 1980s so I have never idea what I'll find there. Last time it was worse than Naples and someone tried to dip into my camera bag thinking I wasn't paying attention. That episode didn't end well for me or him (that's another story), but I'm trying to keep an open mind and a hand on my wallet this time.
On my second boiler-maker and considering braving the toilet.
The lady next to me, so far, has been the ideal airline seat-row-mate and has kept buried in her iPad. Her native tongue is definitely not English, so I am curious as to what she is reading because it is.
The tannoy has come on, but I can't hear it for the din of the aircon and the roar of the engines. The air-hostess....sorry flight attendant is standing down the isle holding up Greek scratch cards for some lottery, but again, "I cannae' hear a thing." Then she begins to describe various items of duty-free with profound conviction and in perfect incoherence. I just hope the trolley is well out of my way before I attempt the loo. They still haven't brought my change, but will I make a noise over it?
The woman who dropped her passport and the guy next to her are clearly from London and very loud (most probably because of the abject noise in the cabin. They are enjoying the conversation and she can swear like a trooper! I don't know why I'm at all surprised...really. Why shouldn't she be able to use the odd colourful metaphor now and again, and again.....and again. I guess I just never thought about a woman wearing a hijab swearing. Most probably because the ones I have met and worked with in the past usually are a bit more prim and proper and not usually the type to allude to fornication in the vernacular.
I am so sheltered!
Still haven't got my change.
There is a certain Jason Mraz song in my head just now and usually I'm okay with flying.
"If the plane goes down...damn...."
Grant Lopez....I take it all back. And just for the record...leopard printed anything should be made internationally illegal...oh geez' I want to yak (and not referring to a long-haired buffalo)(nuff' said on that...I even deleted the photo....no one needs to see that).
Trolley dolly just asked me again if I'm 'goin'non'noliday'
>Foo fighters - learn to fly<
20:46...and he (not me) had the curry.
...two bags a handful of wet wipes later...lovely...curry and Jäger-bombs...
Got to hand it to the cabin crew, they were on it like nothing ever happened and even provided odour cover with a magic spray.
Released more than impressed, but hey...that's entertainment.
I was freezing earlier, now it's 32deg (I have tympanic thermometer ....okay sad, but true).
I'm watching everything to a Foo's soundtrack and it's actually quite good.
Still haven't got my change. Sod it.
Allegedly it 23:20 local time, so I'm turning off the phone to turn it on again once inside the terminal....there go my ears.
Once upon a time I knew the movements of an aircraft at any given airport once the landing procedure was in affect. Theses days...not a clue.
I'm sat at the free internet computers in the main terminal of Athens International and can't work out how to change the screen to English or even Spanish. There is like soft wake-stroking music going on on the terminal speakers and the night workers are diligently going about their work. I've just sent Anneliese a text saying I would try to update the blog 'soon as...' but there's this lingo barrier. The hip-hop version of Vivaldi's four seasons is now filling the nearly empty terminus and I need to find some place to be...other than right here.
Admittedly, it is a vast improvement on what I remember from before.
Just had a text from Anneliese. It's like she's in my head. I like.
Also been contacted by the good doctor Logothetis who says he'll have some o e there at the port waiting for me. I can't tell you how reassuring that is. I've just tried to order a sandwich from the nice man in the airport and although he's trying and I'm trying neither of us are making any sense to each other. "You like pint?"
I find myself feeling a bit sorry for this awkward teen age kid who is travelling g with his mum (I think) and she looks like she has just come from out of Club UK Battersea circa 1996. The kid obviously has problems as mum is chatting up the barman (scrape scrape).
"You should learn a bit'o greek mate....you might like it."
What the crab-nuggets does that mean?
Non-the-less...she was advertising. What? I don't want to know, but it was out there to be had.
Shit...poor kid. And what's he doing here is on a school night anyway?
People are sheeting around me by the dozen. Got set my alarm, lest I miss my flight.
...nevermind the ladder.
Sometime I think it's no wonder that I've got an identity issue. Some people I have met I. My travels are really lovely people, where others are absolute arse holes. Americans in particular. A particular age group. A particular wealth-based pigeon hole they've put themselves into. Case in point. Two retired couples from the East Coast vs a couple of retired women from the west. I know both these types extremely well and have, in the past, been endeared by both. Well...one of the East Coasters, just being friendly, said to one of the California 'girls' "hey, you two going to Samos?" To which one turned her back and the other raised a finger to her chin in an 'I can't figure you out' pose and said "no...we're going to Paris.
I was astounded at the rude tone and the look of distaste. Really out of order and just damned mean to a fellow traveler. The man who asked kept his reserve and turned his attention back to his group. I just turning my head left and right as if I was at Wimbledon in the centre line. Although the volley was short lived, it left an impression on everyone and the cafe went quiet (tumbleweed moment) until the old rude one sat down, letting out the most flapient' (I just invented that word) fart sound I think I've ever heard in public. Personally, my previous perturbent melted away in her embarrassment. The two men laughed while their wives chided them,albeit halfheartedly. The woman was visibly upset but refused to give in to it and pretended nothing happened. That just made it worse as her friend, with mouth aghast, kept asking her "are you okay?"
"Just shut up..,.shut up!"
Poor miserable cow.
Seated, belted and appropriately sweetened, we are about to leave Athens. The smell of AV-gas coming through the fuselage doesn't worry me in the slightest....no....really.
About half an hour ago I met Tricia, the lady Anneliese had introduced me to on Facebook. She is traveling with her niece and they have come from Somerset. As we take off I catch a glimpse of a Christmas tree in the distance...next to an Ikea bill board
The props are droning as the lights of Athens are beginning to fall away in the distance. We are already over the water.
Samos is now an hour away.
Could do with a coffee.
By now most have heard the expression a mother would not put her child on a boat if the water wasn't safer than the land". On the Island of Samos in Greece refugees fleeing from Syria have attempted to defy the Aegean Sea, the weather, the oppression they are fleeing from in order for their most basic right... to exist.
So far the amount of life lost and mamed in pursuit of these freedoms, that many take for granted, has been far too many. I won't go into the numbers quite simply because x1 is to many.
As a health care professional, I personally feel compelled to assist where I can because I can.
That being said....
On Tuesday next (17 November 2015) I will find myself in a situation of other's desperation and hopefully be of some use. I have been in touch with the volunteer organisers and medical Clinical leads there on the island. I will be taking a donation of medical diagnostic equipment and first aid supplies. I only wish I could take more as they are immediately in need of a great range of things.
Okay...so I'll back up a bit. Last Friday (The 13th Nov) was the day after my 53rd birthday and, not being superstitious, still wasn't a brilliant day for me. To cut a long and boring story short, I had been granted leave from work and it had been suggested to me to do something productive with that time. Sure...I could have capitulated to the publishers that have been relentlessly emailing me for the sequel of my last novel and bidding for the other book in the works, I could have caught up on updating images on my website or simply gone to Crystal Palace with my sons and hung out skateboarding all day. Hmmm?
Anneliese, my other half, significant other, dearest betrothed and mother of my three boys, in her usually supportive self, suggested that I get in touch with some of the people she had been volunteering for in Anerley, South London. The Calais Action Community is a group that have tirelessly given their time and energy to organising the collection of donations gratefully received from the public and sending them to the refugees coming to Europe who need them, anywhere. From there the possibilities became realities and now, today, I will be going out there to do what I can.
Over the next week I hope to bring a day by day account of what I've seen and experienced in the hopes that others will gain another insight to what is happening there.
I am very happy to accept comments, questions and pass on any information to relevant parties etc.
Let me know if there are any other links I can add here for further information.
All the best