My first day of school
It's an hour's drive to the village of Antissa from Ipsilometopo. Saturday, I packed the car with my school bag and the usual - water, bread and my new piece of information a map of the island courtesy of my friends Michael Honegger and Timothy Jay Smith. This map wasn't any old map it had vital information written in Arabic translated by their good friend working for the UN environmental division.
At the junction of Gavathas, 3 km outside of Antissa, I saw a Syrian family walking up the steep hill.
They flagged me down and I gave them water and bread and they begged me for a ride. I told them I could take the woman and children and one man. The other two men would have to walk to the village.
If you look at the map Antissa is the 2nd village to the left of the (2) in the South West region of Lesvos follow the road down to the coast and that's where this family's boat arrived in Gavathas.
This was the third time that I've been to the village of Antissa. I hadn't met any of my students, yet. So, the Syrian family and I walked into the agora where we met one of my new students, Dimitris, who was looking at a folder.
I introduced myself, "Hi, I'm Andriana your new teacher. I just picked up these refugees can you bring us to the police station?
"Oh, I help the refugees."
He smiled and said, "Come with me."
At the police station, I walked in and said in Greek, "I'm the new English teacher and I just picked up this refugee family outside of Antissa. Is there a bus to Mytilini? Where do they go?" The refugee family was behind me.
One police man who was at the entrance, he turned his back to talk to the other police man in the office and said bring them to the "statue at the beginning of the village."
Because I had come in the other direction I didn't know what direction the statue was so I made him clarify.
In english, "The statue at the beginning of the village."
"Is there a bus?" "Is there a place where they stay?" - In Greek.
The head police from inside was now walking down the hall away from me.
In Greek, he said, "Apouyema." - "Afternoon"
It was obvious I was getting no other information partly because there was no system in place and partly because this mass migration is moving fast. I was a bit embarrassed as well as in a hurry.
So I took the family out and asked my new student what was the direction of the statue? There was a pregnant pause combined with a moment of awkwardness and then it was broken by two other refugees walking into the village. The map I had given the family had fallen on the ground.
"I said don't lose that, look, you are here - Antissa and you have to get registered here - Mytilini."
The woman gasped as I pointed the way.
"Wait for the bus and go to the statue. And wait for the other two men in your family. I have to go, I have a lesson."
"She said, we are scared." Her child started to cry.
I said, "I know, alot of people are trying to help you. I have to go!"
"Thank You! Thank You!"
I met my new students and taught another two lesssons. The students are in their first year of junior high school and I am impressed with all of their speaking and writing skills. They are musicians, play volleyball and overall really good kids.
Four and a half hours later, I left Antissa. It's dark, I drove slowly because the road had many curves. As I approached one curve outside of Vatoussa there was a group of refugees on the road. No they were almost in the road sleeping near a lit garage. I wanted to take some with me but I was alone and it's dark and it's a long road ahead. I was cautious. I didn't stop and I felt guilty until I arrived outside of Skalachori, where I saw a bus and women with head scarves entering the bus door. I felt ok again.
At the crossroad of Petra and Anaxos, I stopped to email and text the Immigration Reporter for The Boston Globe. We were supposed to have dinner in Molyvos. I tell her I will wait ten minutes and then head up the mountain if I didn't hear from her. I have attempted twice before to meet her with no avail.
Two men walked to my window and pointed toward Anaxos - "Mytilini?," in broken english.
"No, you need to go this way. Are you Syrian?"
I gave them the map and showed them where they were. Petra below (1) coast line 21 km Kalloni the star.
I checked them out before I said get in the car. I drove them to the crossroad across from the "controversial army barracks," (next blog) and gave them the rest of my water.
I said, "Go that way and walk at night but be careful! Go to Kalloni there is an Organization next to the police station called "The Hug!" They will feed you and help you."
As I drove up the mountain toward Stypsi through Petri, I felt guilty again and said to myself, I should have brought them to the Stypsi crossroad from here.
And that was my first day of school!
This story will be continued.....