A cup of tea with beautiful stories

The colors of the sky gradually change from light to dark blue. A darkness that in any moment will soon be filled with the sparkling light of the bright, white shining stars. The teakettle is steaming in our milk room; the place where we distribute baby necessities and tea every day. It is tea time and many people bring their cup to us to drink some tea and to have a chit chat.

A young man walks towards us with his empty cup. “Half, please”. Yes, I think, by now I know how you like to drink your tea. I walk out of the milkroom to stand outside, next to him with my own blue cup filled with tea. The young man promised to show me the mural he created. On the screen of his telephone I see a colorfully striped world map in yellow and blue, painted by him on the wall behind his tent. “My painting makes me forget my surroundings and reminds me of all the beauty in the world”, he tells me while we are standing in between laughing kids and young men that are playing soccer.

Thinking of the camp, I see a place where hands from far and hands from near work together in the camp to change it into a place where sometimes people can be themselves again, regardless of the harsh circumstances. Thinking of the camp, I see a place where the barbed wire on the tall fences are surrounded by color and paintings, I see a place where people cry and people laugh, I see a place where people living in cold tents can sometimes be an artist again. Thinking of the camp, I see a place where NGO’s and camp habitants work together to make the life in the camp as endurable as possible, I see a place where interpreters that live in the camp make the work of our doctors possible. Thinking of the camp, I see a place where our tea initiates the sharing of stories.

As anthropologist in action on Samos, I teach to minors in a shelter, I distribute baby necessities in the camp and I listen and try to understand the stories of the humans that are there in the camp.

Text: Rozemijn Aalpoel
Photo: Bas Bakkenes