I am still working on getting the paperwork necessary to apply for a two-year visa in Greece. I have been working on this since November, and we are still pretty much in step 1 (ask the Greek ministry to approve my organization as one that can request a volunteer). That is a LONG time to be waiting, and as my 90-day tourist visa gets ever closer to finishing, my stress level increases and I am ever more likely to go on barely comprehensible rants.
But my perspective has shifted recently.
The thing is, if I’m not allowed to return to Athens in April, what will happen?
- HD will have to find someone to cover all the work that I do.
- I will have to find someone to take care of my Greek cat for an indefinite amount of time.
- I will have to figure out what to do with rent and roommates and all my possessions.
- I will have to explain to my donors why I have had to pause the work that they are paying me to do.
- I will be sad about leaving the life and work that I love.
But also? I have family and friends all across the United States who I know will take me into their homes. I know I could find a job in the States as a librarian or nanny if the waiting goes on for a month or more.
The women at HD do not have that option.
We currently have three (soon to be four) women in our program who are refugees in Greece. They are each pregnant, or newly a mother, and they all want to stay in Greece with the longterm goal of finding a job and making enough money that they can send it home to family or even better, finding a way to bring their family here.
They are also in the middle of a legal headache, trying to get paperwork approved so that they can continue to live in this country. We are the same…except that if they never get a visa, then they face the possibility of being sent back to a homeland of poverty and in one woman’s case, an abusive family. They risk re-entering the desperate world of trafficking if they trust the wrong person. They are confronted with the reality that in order to feed their soon-to-be-born child, one of the most feasible options available to them is voluntary prostitution.
Their lives are so limited, and in comparison, mine is limitless.
I’m grateful for all of my privilege. I wouldn’t give it up, even if I could. But now that I am more aware of this new aspect of my white, American, educated, middle-class privilege, I’m going to try to stop complaining quite so much. I mean, I still will sometimes, because I’m selfish and anxious.
But I have a new awareness that the worst of my problems essentially amounts to a vacation that I didn’t ask for. So for today, I’m grateful that my problems are only an annoyance, and not something life-threatening.