Friday April 22, 2011
On Friday, we arrived at camp around 9:30 am, because we had a meeting with all the refugees at 10 am. The meeting covered the logistics of the
camp. At the end, the refugees were allowed to ask any questions. They
made it very clear that Good Friday was a day for prayer. After the meeting, Caitlin played the card game Rummy with them. As soon as I realized what they were doing, I joined them. Sissy and I decided to teach them a game. We thought the easiest to learn was Go Fish. They are very very smart and picked it up very quickly. We then taught them Crazy 8s. They picked this one up quickly as well.
Around 2 pm, we left for church. We walked for a little bit and then took a bus. It was very, very hot. I was sweating. There were so many of us in the bus that I did not have a strong grip and I kept falling into the refugees. It was nice though, as I could tell that they felt like they were protecting me. When we arrived at the church, I just sat back and observed. I loved watching their rituals. There were many people in line waiting to go to the shrine in the center of the cathedral. When the first refugees arrived at the shrine, the priests started to move some things around in the church. I thought to myself that there could not have been a worse time. However, it did not seem to bother the refugees. They just kept praying. After a while, I went outside and sat on the steps. I had a wonderful conversation with one of the refugees. We all took many pictures together.
The day was a very low-key day with many phone calls but we still had a really nice time together. In addition to going to the meeting, going to church, and playing cards, we also fit in one game of soccer and I even tried cricket with the Pakistani asylum seekers.
What a day… what an experience!
Saturday April 23, 2011
Saturday was a magical day. When I arrived, Caitlin was teaching the refugees how to make friendship bracelets. I immediately joined in on the fun. I was not the best teacher. I tried helping someone and it was not successful. Caitlin had to do all the hard work. One time I stopped to count the number of refugees making bracelets. There was over a 1/3 of them participating, around 11 or 12. Some of them caught on very quickly, while others did not. Once we were done, we started to play volleyball in a circle. When there were enough people for a game, we moved to the court. We exchanged our different ways of playing. I felt like a novice, a little lost and disoriented, which was interesting, as I have played volleyball competitively for many years. They kick the ball with their feet. I wonder if this is because the ground is so hard that they do not want to dive for fear of getting hurt. They also are very good futbol players so they have a lot of control with their feet. As time progressed, we began to give each other high fives. I even taught them how to fist pump. It is pretty awesome! In the end, some of them were even doing “exploding fist pumps”. At the end of the game if your team lost, the winning team would tell you to “kneel down” which means that you have to do 5 pushups. After
the games (and we played so many games), they told Caitlin that I play like a man. I did not know how to take this, but Caitlin assured me that it was the nicest of compliments.
Saturday April 23, 2011 – Sunday April 24, 2011: Easter Vigil Mass
The street during mass
Caitlin, Naomi and I arrived at the camp around 9:30 pm, because we were leaving for church at 10 pm. The two women that were going to mass looked absolutely beautiful in their traditional Eritrean dresses. When we arrived at the church, they began their rituals. It was VERY moving. Chairs lined the inside walls of the church. We all took our seats until older Romanian women arrived. We waited for
two hours and then the sermon began. During the sermon, the lights go off and then come back on. When the lights come back on, the priest lights everyone’s’ candle. When the priest walks through the center of the church, everyone begins to sing. Outside of the church, there are thousands of people all holding candles.
We were not aware that they had been gathering outside, because we had been inside for so long. The tradition in Eritrea and Romania is to walk around the church three times. We onlywalked around once, because of time and the number of people. When we got onto the bus to return home, the Eritreans began to sing. It was the most JOYOUS sound. (My previous blog is of them singing). The bus was overflowing with HAPPINESS. I was very close to crying. (If measuring my emotions with fingers, they were almost touching each other). PURE MAGIC. A HOLY CELEBRATION.
In America, I do the same thing for Easter every year. I would not have it any other way. We always go to my aunt and uncle’s home and we follow the same traditions. I look forward to the day every year. If you were to tell me that I could find an equally wonderful time in Romania, I would have thought you were joking.
When we arrived at camp, everything was very mellow. But, oh, how a day can change.
The first thing we did was decorate eggs. Their paintings were amazing. My favorite egg was of the traditional Eritrean woman. After we decorated the eggs, we sat down to the most amazing lunch. The refugees decorated the room with grass and leaves and dandelions from outside. I was surprised with how beautiful you can make a room with these
Their village on an egg
Traditional Eritrean Woman
simple things. The main dish is pronounced zigaknee (you must say it very fast). It was a red soup with pureed tomatoes and onions with large chucks of chicken. It was delicious. Each person had their own loaf of bread to sop up all of the yumminess. There was also a salad that had tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and cucumbers. It was drowning in some liquid dressing. I never thought mushy salad could be so good. The meal was filled with wonderful conversation. I did not communicate too much, because the food was delicious and I could not stop eating. There are no words to explain this meal. I want to say more, but you simply had to be there. During lunch, a few of us left to go and hide the eggs. When they came out, they stood against the building. Chris whistled to explain the rules. A whistle clearly means start in Eritrean; I am guessing that it is like a gun at a race. Old grown men were running around. It was clearly a competition.
After everything was cleaned up, we started a game of volleyball. This tournament lasted about 5 hours. Let’s just say that I am rather sore today. They made jokes that I should play by myself against six opponents. They would say 1 versus 6. I told them that this would be impossible. However, we did try 2 versus 6. I did not realize how hard playing doubles would be when you cannot communicate effectively with your partner. The games slowly began to unravel as everyone became tired. They invited Caitlin and me to join them for dinner. Neither of us were hungry after our gigantic lunch, but how could we possibly refuse since they were so nice. Around 8:30 pm, we had dinner. They asked us many questions about what America would be like. You could tell they are worried about their finances, but who is not. We learned about them, too. One of the refugees is an artist, and he showed us all of his work.
THE BEST ERITREAN EASTER EVER!
UNHCR freeing the refugees