Shoot The Moon
A TRAVEL BLOG BY WRITER AND PHOTOGRAPHER MADISON DARBYSHIRE
When I arrived back to Switzerland, I didn’t talk about my time in Greece because I didn’t know how. It’s not that it was traumatic, or that the topic was an emotional trigger. It’s just that it was big; too vast an experience to really wrap my mind around. Not yet.
I need a day. Or two. Then you can ask me questions. Then I will talk about it.
That weekend, the Sunday paper featured full-page photographs of the refugees in Idomeni. It didn’t feel real, sitting in our tidy, quiet kitchen and looking at the pictures—beautiful, terrible pictures— of people and places I knew to be real, all flesh and sound.
There are things I don’t remember.
For example, I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have to sniff my socks to see if they were clean enough to wear before I put them on in the morning. I don’t remember the last time I didn’t take the leftover napkins from lunch and put them in my backpack to use as toilet paper later. I don’t remember the last time I thought twice about pulling on a musty donation jacket because it was cold out, or the last time I bought new clothes. I don’t remember the last time I wore makeup. And I don’t remember the last time I looked in the mirror other than brushing my teeth in the morning and at night.
When I write about the refugee crisis in Europe and Greece, I take my time. I try to avoid the overtly political, the preachy, the shock and awe. Instead I prefer focus on the deep channels and themes that underscore what is happening here. But today you should be shocked, and considering the last few weeks, you ought to be awed.
Today I want—I need—to tell you about the past week here on Lesvos. It is important that you understand.
When I sat down to put my thoughts to page late Sunday night, it was the first time I had stopped long enough to sit down, with the exception of three uncomfortable hours spent...
When you cook for one thousand people in a restaurant, there is a diverse menu and a constant stream of skillets carrying single portions across the line until the food is plated and the skillet returned to the dishwasher.
When you cook for refugees, things look different. Pots reserved for big-batch making of veal-stock in a restaurant are your bread and butter in a volunteer kitchen, as are industrial scale propane burners, and stirring spoons that look like boat paddles. Spices are added with ladle scoops instead of pinches, lentils in kilos instead of cups.
Refugee kitchens are rarely bursting with possibility. Filled with donated rations of pasta, rice, canned vegetables, industrial sized jugs of spices, and soon-to-be-dodgy-produce purchased at cost from local grocery stores, the daily pantry evaluation usually feels a lot more like putting pieces of a simple puzzle together than artistry.
It’s fall here in Switzerland. It feels as though just last week I was sweating through my sundress in Paris, but suddenly I’m pulling my sweater a little tighter and reaching for a scarf to walk into town. The little chocolate shops in the historic old city of Bern are a welcome and warm hideaway from the winds blowing down from the mountains.