I bought a map of Afghanistan and Pakistan today. Tim carries a map of Afghanistan in his wallet so if most forms of communication fail at least they can point out where they are from. In the apartment Phil and Peter put up maps of Rome, Italy, the USA, and the world and place little sticky notes marking where people we work with are from. I want to start doing this with the refugees. And linked to that could be prayer requests and things. If it all works out I figure I should leave the map here for future use in the ministry, but I might want to keep it to keep my refugee friends in mind. Maybe I will just buy another map.
I did a lot of walking today. All told, probably close to or around five full hours of walking all over town. By the end of the afternoon I was ready to sit down. I took the bus to the book store to buy the map and then made it all the way back up to Villa Ada, the big park, and walked around there for quite some time, searching out new areas. By the international bookstore there were some men from Senegal selling little booklets on the history of Africa. But they were all in Italian so I didn’t buy one, but we chatted for a bit and that was nice. One of the guys has been in Rome for five years. He likes it. It is refreshing to hear from refugees who like it here rather than the usual, ‘Italy no good. Here we have problem. No money, no work, no house. Problem. Italy no good. No good.’ It is understandable why they would say such things.
Now I am not here going to judge anyone’s motives for leaving their homes, but it is interesting to note the different reasons why people head west and/or north to Europe. Some leave because the Taliban cut off their finger, others were simply stuck in a world that they felt could offer them nothing and so they left in hopes of something better. Which makes one wonder if living off handouts and sleeping on the streets is any better in a country where nobody wants you. But I still hope they find that ‘better.’
They say that nobody starves in Rome. There are enough church groups that serve food and enough sleeping centers that everybody has at least one pretty hearty meal a day. They do this because the government doesn’t. Or can’t. They are too busy paying their lazy officials far too much money to think about helping the poor stranger. But they do have some living and learning centers for minors…mainly because the Law says they have to.
I went back out to the train station tonight, leaving a shin-dig for all us interns early. I do that kind of thing. It was just me a five refugees hanging out, speaking mainly through one man who knew some English. I am still a little rusty on my Farsi. We had some fun taking some picture with my camera. The guy who invites me to things (like church a couple weeks ago, and this hang out session tonight) and I took a picture together and he grabbed some empty beer bottle lying around and held that as the his buddy snapped the shot. I thought that was pretty funny.
I busted out my new map and they found where they used to live back in the day and as I was undertaking the convoluted pocess of returning the map to its more compact form, we were startled by a voice from behind demanding to see our documents. I felt like I was in Germany in some old World War II movie. Three men gave us glares from beneath fancy hats. One man, the chief of chiefs, wore a sharp lookin’ blue uniform and the other two were younger and were sporting their light green camouflage. Again the demand for documents. I told them I did not have my passport on me and one of the little chappies scoffed, legitimately scoffed at me, and asked why not. And I told him aliens took it. I didn’t actually do that. I just cried. No I didn’t do that either. What did I do? And I actually do usually have my passport with me, but I haven’t had it in my pack since, well, I don’t really know why it’s not in there. Anyway, another nearby refugee from Sri Lanka who had Italian documents explained that these guys were from Afghanistan and were seeking asylum and I was an American. So I had to explain how long I was here and all that. That seemed to appease them somewhat. But I feared for my friends. If they got taken in and sent back to Greece (supposing that’s where their finger prints are) I would feel so guilty. Although I heard someone last night saying that he has finger prints here and in Greece and that they won’t send him (and maybe anyone else) back to Greece, possibly owing to the suckiness of how that country is able to handle the refugee situation. And everybody knows how Greece is drowning in a sea of migrants and displaced peoples. Super duper. But after explaining things our Sri Lankan friend abruptly left us to catch his bus and return home. The blue suited Napoleon (he was pretty short), covered in his fanciness and anger, began the very kind process of shooing us away. Because I guess it is illegal to hang out in public places in Italy. His shooing away of me went something like this:
-How you get home?
-Then take the metro.
-Take the metro!
-Ok. Just let me say goodbye –
-Take the metro! Go! Now! ADESSO! NOW!
Pointing and getting very angry, I guess I took his hint. I took my time to say a decent good-bye to the refugees, and if the fancy man doesn’t like it he can sit on a tack. I will hopefully see them there again on Wednesday night. They waited for their bus as I understood they weren’t being taken in or anything, being asylum seekers already in the books. One of the other guys I met this week, on the other hand, made it very clear that he needed to stay away from the cops. I still worried about my friends and was honestly a bit shaken by the whole ordeal. Sorry Mr. Fancyman for doing nothing illegal and somehow provoking your wrath. The whole time I was praying and the thought kept coming to my mind about praying for your enemies and blessing those who persecute you. So while they were being jerks I was asking God to do cool things in their lives, which was a very strange thing to do, but I suppose the right thing to do.
I could still string out a bunch of bitterly sarcastic remarks as usual, but am far too tired to put anymore effort into this post that is already twice as long as I expected it to be. But here’s to protecting the citizens from small bands of people far from their homes, anyway. Thanks for doing your jobs, fancy-cops, and keeping our city safe!