First B, from my pre-intermediate class, arrived with a scrolled poster-size document which he unrolled with great ceremony and presented to me. He’d spent the weekend working on it of his own accord although he might have been motivated by the “countries projects” we are now working on in class. For me, B’s work symbolizes his perception of the life-changing events in his war-torn home country of Afghanistan. It stands alone but also includes some interesting facts about the tribes, languages and special foods of his homeland. I’ll treasure it.
In my other class, H from Syria informed me that in two months times he expects to be able to move on from Greece to Finland where he will join his sister who has already settled there. He showed us photos of his sister’s 3 small children all bundled up in their snowsuits. We joked about the temperatures in Helsinki compared to the Athens’ winter. “No problem”, he declared because he’ll be with family again and that, for these young students, can mean everything.
I was recently asked if I knew much about the circumstances of my students. How they came to be in Athens. The circumstances of their travel. The short answer is I don’t ask. In time they might tell their story if and when they feel ready. What I do know from B is that he feels the extent of the events unfolding in his country but can turn his trauma into a positive expression. For H, despite the chills of Helsinki, he’ll finally start to feel warm again.