‘overall impression is Brilliant!’; ‘many a gem’; ‘words that weigh you down with the truth in them’; ‘I can confidently say that it has the navarasas (the nine emotions in Indian aesthetics)’.
It’s this time of the year again: October 16, Blog Action Day approaching fast….
What is Blog Action Day? I’t’s a global event involving bloggers commenting on an issue that matters. The organisers say:
‘Every year since 2007, thousands of bloggers have come together for one day to talk about one important issue, like Poverty, Climate Change and Human Rights amongst others.’
I took part the last two years and thoroughly enjoyed the event.
This year, Blog Action Day is slightly different. Due to the fact that the theme is ‘Raise Your Voice’ — i.e. each individual blogger will be deciding for themselves which issue to write about — there will be a plethora of themes . . . and voices . . . let’s see how this plays out.
In 2013 I wrote about refugees crossing the Mediterranean – my post was one of three to be featured by Amnesty International. I am giving the link here because it is even more topical this year than it was in 2013. But repeating a blog post is not enough. I will have to make a choice. I could write a new post about refugees, about growing old, the treatment of old people by our society (a sort of ‘society refugees’), or about war and envy. Maybe there is a way of bringing all these topics together. We’ll see…
Meanwhile, these are the three tags for sharing information about the event:
#BAD2015 , #RaiseYourVoice #Oct16
the sound of dove’s wings
in my bones —
NaHaiWriMo prompt: inherit
emerging from their cocoons…
Rebetiko is the urban blues of the old port areas of the Eastern Mediterranean – Smyrna/Izmir, Istanbul, Syros, Piraeus, and Thessaloniki. If you happen to be in London, you can listen to this soulful music most Monday evenings at the JCR of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, lovingly performed by members of the SOAS Rebetiko Band. SOAS Rebetiko emerged out of music seminars organized by Ed Emery. It is a free event, you only need to sign-in as a visitor at the School entrance/Porter’s desk.
This year, a new event is being organzed by the rebet lovers: The Rebetiko Carnival.
Check it out, and if you can go, go!
NaHaiWriMo prompt: Effort
all the languages crossing
she turns into books
stories granny planted
in her ear…
caique journeys crisscross
the lines on her pages
PAD prompt: voyage
Every year, thousands of people try to enter Europe without permission. The last two years the numbers have increased. War, civil war, terrorism, famine, drought make their livelihoods untenable, their lives precarious. One of the major routes to the continent used to be via Evros, the river boundary between Greece and Turkey. Since 2012, however, when a fence was erected to block this entry point and after Frontex police increased their presence, new routes were followed: sea routes to Italy and Spain that are even more dangerous and deadly.
The rickety boats these refugees use to come in often sink; the borders they try to cross get more hazardous than the journeys. The European countries they enter, ignore or criminalize them, and often send them to holding centers where they are subjected to demeaning, abusive situations, torture, or worse; or sent back to the countries they fled from. And yet, they keep coming.
I saw some of those who made it. In Venice, Italy, without support, they bend down hiding their faces, and beg.
city of masks
the beggar hides
They hide and live in fear, yet they find this preferable to staying in countries where torture or death awaits them. Unlike those chosen to enter in one of the rare legal, though miniscule, programs of some European countries, these people exist in dire and life-threatening circumstances.
promising the earth
This odyssey is acted out all over the world, sometimes by people seeking work to improve their situation in places where they would not normally be entitled to work; most often by people fleeing conflict and persecution. In the Mediterranean countries, the recent conflicts have multiplied the magnitude of this problem.
Lately, hundreds of people arrived in Lampedusa and the Italian shores:* alive or dead, they reached this other country where those who survived the journey would have at least the opportunity to fight for a chance of a better life. Wouldn’t you too, in their position?
Wouldn’t you? If chance or circumstance placed you in such a predicament? The European Union, though, would not look favorably on your efforts to enter its borders with need and despair as the only passport. For instance, while the talk of new urgent measures is all about increasing funding towards detection of people in flight, as well as (allegedly) improved rescue at sea,* there is also the urge to repatriate and keep the refugees in the place they come from. An out of sight out of mind approach. Except that the situation in their home countries is so desperate that repatriated people try crossing the sea again, and again.
for hunter’s moon
A lot more is needed for the nations that make up Europe to acknowledge and accept the plight of the people affected by extreme poverty and poverty-driven wars, often the result of our aggressive policies, economic exploitation, and environmental abuse.
Out of this awareness, the Europeans themselves would be able to develop better policies than this drive to isolate, separate, and remove the perceived problem: a concerted European asylum seeker and immigration policy, grounded on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (and the full United Nations Charter), with a budget and facilities for care and integration (rather than just border control) to back it up.
The first models to help us think and plan are already here: A tiny Italian village opened its doors to migrants who braved the sea offering them jobs and homes, creating in the process jobs for the entire village. Even though there is no ideal solution, and new problems arise in new situations, the will, the means, the examples, the aspiration are already here.
– This post is written for Blog Action Day, 2013 on 16 October 2013. Bloggers from different countries, languages, and interests will have a global conversation about Human Rights. I have published elsewhere a number of stories featuring refugees and their plight – including stories from refugees crossing the Aegean in 1922 – some of which are included in my short story collection: Feeding the Doves, Neusaess, Fruit Dove Press, 2013.
*Gazmend Kapplani, Albanian-born journalist, poet, and writer, in one of his FB posts suggests the least the EU could do would be to erect a Monument of the Unknown Refugee. Kapplani’s excellent book, A Short Border Handbook, relates the experiences of Albanian people crossing the border to Greece.
**Frontex, the European Agency for external border control, according to a statement of its site, “promotes, coordinates and develops European border management in line with the EU fundamental rights charter applying the concept of Integrated Border Management.” Unfortunately, what this comes down to is that the management of borders takes precedence over human rights.
Frontex has expanded the number of countries where it can send the people it ‘rescues’. “Nobody, however, is monitoring what exactly Frontex is doing in these countries of transit and origin with the goal of “stemming migration”. There is a serious risk of human rights simply being breached or refugees dying in places that are farther away from our attention.”
See also Spiegel online
“Spoon sweets are the best. Have you ever had spoon sweets?” She looks at her customer with such intensity from behind the counter that I am surprised to hear the woman find the strength to answer.
“Pardon, spoon sweets?” she replies in her phrasebook Greek.
The shop owner reaches for a jar from a bulging shelf – the cherries preserved in syrup clearly visible.
“Here, this is it; this is a cherry spoon sweet. Here, present for you,” she says, sliding the jar across the counter.
The woman receives it with both hands and a big smile.
I try to decipher the patisserie owner’s expression. She is not smiling, her face pulled into what I read as contempt. I could be wrong, of course. So many years away from this country, I can no longer claim insider knowledge. Still, witnessing the scene the day after my return home, I shudder from shame and envy, in equal measure. The directness of the shop owner embarrasses me; she shows the worst of herself to a stranger: the impetuousness, the loud, gestural arrogance that goes with this kind of self-assurance. I blush on her behalf. At the same time, I envy her unselfconscious manner of being. She’ll never know how she comes across, while I am forever stepping back for fear of appearing wrong, or appearing confident about the wrong things. Something inside me snaps,
“I hate spoon sweets!” I say, “hate them!” Both women turn, their eyes wide.
“Mind your business, Kyria,” the proprietor says. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
I know she will. But I have made up my mind, and turning swiftly, I walk out. In my head, the lines of a haiku appear:
……………………………spoon sweets / tangy taste of a song / long forgotten
dreaming at the back of my mind stories from my childhood
NaHaiWriMo prompt: alley
I am very pleased to report that two of my haibun set in Athens, Greece, have been published by Contemporary Haibun Online: Feeding the Doves, a story inspired by a photograph on Robert Geiss’ wonderful blog “daily Athens photo”; and “The Haircut”, exploring the hardships Greek people are facing in the current economic crisis.
The actual photograph of the man feeding the doves that inspired this story can be seen here. In fact, visiting the site to look for the link, I realise that a version I’d sent Robert thanking him for the photograph, had been posted on his blog! So, let us keep feeding the doves!