Day 9: Midpoint reflection


Part of a series on my journalism faculty-led program through Italy and Greece.

OK, we're not exactly at the midpoint yet, but this is a better time than never to start a reflection.

In total I think I've interviewed (in depth) with around 10 refugees/migrants, and about 5 people who work in support of them. One topic that constantly comes up (partly because one of my group members keeps asking about it) is that of mental health.

One thing that constantly amazes me is the mental toughness of everyone I speak to. When they describe the incredible horrors that they've been forced to go through, it's unnerving that they do so with a straight face.

I'm a pretty priviledged person, and I think I could probably survive the journey that they had to go through...but only due to my extensive experience and training in camping and wilderness survival. They've had none of that, and made it through.

As I mentioned earlier, they often look and act like their typical selves, but you get a sense that something is wrong. With one boy it was a strained voice, and with another it was the way he talked about his asthma (a very personal subject for me).

At the most recent center we went to, we interviewed a psychologist who served as an educator for the refugees/migrants staying there. She was more comfortable speaking in Italian, so our tour guide (actually the brother of the psychologist, but that's another story), served as a live translator. We'd ask the question in English, she'd answer in Italian, and then he'd translate the answer to English, so we could ask the next question.

She had unique insights into their mental health, but I actually didn't learn the most from her. When we started asking about how they're able to maintain their culture, our translator (mid-40s with children), broke down and started crying. We ended the interview then, but he had inadvertently impressed upon me a very important lesson: this stuff is messed up, and it's OK to show your true feelings.

I ended up quietly crying a bit in the car on the way back, and went to my happy place (Skittles and T. Swift) to calm down.

We're on to a new chapter now, hello Greece.

Sidenote: How did neither the Catania nor Athens airports sell Skittles?