(2) Seeking Refuge

Staying somewhere

We live in a society where the term wandering is connected to individual freedom. Having in mind  an independent seeker of new paths we don’t realize that those tens of thousands, who have been crossing European borders for more than two months, are wanderers seeking for a new living space. What we see are refugees. The TV camera which is following the endless trek of people from the height of a noisy helicopter, tries to convey the whole picture, the vast, global  dimension of a human situation – the refugee crisis. But not even for one single person from that mass of asylum-seekers could we tell how his displacement took place in the beginning or could we foresee how it will be settled in the end. No, we just watch migrant masses who seem to belong nowhere and need to stay somewhere. These images make us shake our heads in resignation: Too many people to be helped, too much asked of me and you, too big a challenge to be coped with. And such is our refugee crisis: we are utterly helpless in the midst of a good life.

Menta Cubana (Mentha Crispa)

Mentha Spicata Var. Crispa (Nana Mint)

I have arrived here in the middle of the night. These are our night lodgings, with two separate big rooms, like camping dorms, taking about 80 to 90 mattresses, no beds. In the lighted entrance hall there is water, cold food, hot beverages, some chairs to sit down for a while before you take a one-way blanket from an elderly refugee helper and find yourself a mattress in one of the darkened dorms. I am with my younger brother. We need to shower and are handed out cleaning utensils, tooth brushes, towels. Everything is stored in open shelves or on tables, so it’s easy to communicate, even without the young male refugee helpers who acted as interpreters and have taken us here from the train station. I look at the piles of towels in the shelf and point at a voluminous red bathing towel right at the bottom of the pile. The woman understands, smiles and takes it out for me. When my brother, who is ahead of me, discovers my red towel he returns to the woman and switches his blue towel for another red one. He makes me laugh, my brother. We wash and shave in the gym showers of a neighbouring school in the backyard. In the last days of the trekking I have grown a beard which is hard to shave off. Some time after my brother and the other men are already back to the night camp I am finally done. I look good, healthier, even though I’ve cut my skin with the unfamiliar shaver. Back in the entrance hall I deposit my used shaving things in a blue garbage bag. A woman standing near looks at me, as if startled. Perhaps she worries about the bleeding cut at my chin. I wave something like ‘no problem’ to her and go to sleep. The mint taste which is still in my palate from the toothpaste reminds me of refreshing nana-tea which at home we used to have after dinner.

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