For a few months, my entire life revolved around refugees.
I worked at a community center for refugees. I lived with doctors working at the center. The few friends I had who weren’t working at the community center were working at a nearby refugee camp. The only phone calls I made were to refugees to remind them of upcoming appointments. I usually started my free day by running errands for other volunteers and often spent my free afternoon studying Farsi terms for an upcoming surgery or consultation. It was my life. It felt important. It felt normal.
Then it ended.
Wednesday the 15th was my last day at work. I said goodbyes to people I’ll never see again, watched a final sunset on an island I’ll (probably) never visit again, and worked a hectic shift at a medical clinic which will disappear in the coming years. Then I packed my bags, slept a few hours, and caught a flight to Paris in the morning.
Paris was supposed to be normal. I had trouble focusing on the city’s majesty, but I’ve often felt that way after leaving a unique situation. I stayed at a hostel and talked plenty of new and interesting people. I found a dozen people to practice Spanish and Portuguese with–I’m trying as hard as I can to replace my Farsi/Dari vocabulary with Spanish–and did my best to adjust to normal life. But it didn’t work.
I have trouble moving on from my experience, a total immersion which I quit cold turkey two days before, yet I should be out enjoying an amazing place and enjoying new friends. I explored the city, I met new people, but my mind was still in Greece.
Here in Paris, the same hostel questions invariably came up: How long are you here, where are you coming from, what do you do for work, etc. I don’t consider myself to be a better person than anyone because of the work I did in Greece, but I do consider the experience to be interesting, unique, and important. Few others did.
My world, everything which I was a part of, is completely invisible. While time stood still for me, the rest of the world never slowed down. Nobody cares. The mission my life revolved around isn’t a blip on anyone’s radar.
The world has moved on without me.