Sunday, September 21, 2008

3km to Turkey

I sit on the beach a few minutes from where we are staying and I think...I could swim to Turkey from here. It almost seems crazy that this is Greece and that is Turkey and they are so completely different, but not all that different in so many ways. Looking at borders in this part of the world is just absurd, talking about them is even more absurd. At the turn af the last century when nationalism was just being born, people in the fields of modern day Greece identified themselves as Christian or Muslim or Jewish and not Greek, or Bulgarian, or Turkish. The trouble in this region comes from the fact that the lines are so blurry and the people such a historical migrating hodge podge of things. This migrating hodge podge continues just the same as it always has.

I can't count the number of times a local has leaned in to us and told us that the place is being taken over by Albanians. Yet I have seen a little of everything working behind the scenes in Greece, legals and illegals alike - Poles, Bulgarians, Albanians, Ethiopians, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Afghanis...

Almost every day when we ride down the beautiful switchbacks into Vathy, we pass two or three young men who are clearly making their way up from where they beached in Murtia to register as refugees with the Samos police. I can't help but wonder what they've left behind and what mix of hope and despair must reside in their bellies as they make that walk over the island and a little closer to the next chapter of their lives. As I see them walking into their new lives with just one small plastic bag of "stuff" and the clothes on their back, I feel trivial riding past them with my perfectly planned bike with all the right technical gear that allows me to play adventurer in just the smartest way.

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