Ane Gyllstrøm volunteered with A Drop in the Ocean on Chios. Here are some of her reflections from her time on the island.
Clouds. Rainbows. Two of them. Small drops of rain which hit your forehead and reluctantly let go and leave traces on the cheek. A warm breeze which caresses your hair. Flowers. An explosion of colours. Three of them. At least. You stretch out a finger, maybe you can reach them. You are so close. There is a loud bang on the door and you get pulled out of sleep. It’s 2 am. You are not expecting any visitors at this hour.
What if you had woken one night and had your life turned upside down? The dream you had is a vague memory. What if you had a knife against your throat and were told that you are going to die. Not this night, maybe tomorrow. Maybe the day after tomorrow. This night you pack everything you have. This night you flee your home. This night you survive, but you are not alive. Tomorrow you don’t know where you are heading.
What if you were too afraid to sleep at night and were forced to stay awake while everyone else is asleep. Because you were scared of closing your eyes. Afraid of forgetting what it’s like to dream good dreams. Afraid of having nightmares. Afraid of being mugged. Beaten. Or worse. Would you have allowed yourself to daydream more, or would you have said that daydreaming is only for children?
What if you had to queue every day to get food. You get placed in an fenced queue system with coupons and barcodes. You, you are a barcode. Maybe you are not though, but then you won’t get any food. Only if there are portions left over. Would you have become annoyed if you had to wait two extra minutes for a cafe latte then?
What if the dinner choices you got everyday were either whatever you got served, or nothing. Would you have complained if you got tomato in your salad when you said you didn’t like tomato then?
What if your competence one day didn’t matter. Maybe you are a lawyer. Engineer. Teacher. Now you clean the stairs. You empty the rubbish. Would you have taken your job for granted then?What if you had to flee from a home which is in ruins. Now you and your children have to move into a tent, in a different country together with people you don’t know. They have lived there for a long time. You are new. Maybe they look different than you. Maybe they believe in something different than you. Would you have raised your children with fear and built up hate towards everything which is different and unknown then?
What if you bathed with trousers because you didn’t want to scare those you bathed with. You are covered in bruises after months of torture. Would you have skipped meals to get the summer body to go to the beach with your friends then?
What if everything which was safe one day was all a dream? What if everyone you knew were miles away.
What if everything you owned no longer was yours. What if the life you lived only was a memory.
What if you knew all this would happen to you tomorrow.
Would you have hugged a bit longer, laughed a bit louder, dreamed in capital letters, smiled until your cheeks ached, thanked once too many, been more patient, smelled the flowers for longer, lifted your gaze more often, listened with both ears, held hands, taken longer time to see the love everywhere?
Would you have loved a bit harder then?