I consider myself very, very fortunate—given the economic and social times we are now living in—to have had this incredible opportunity to travel to four countries in four weeks, experiencing so many different sights, sounds and tastes. Although my fundamental belief at heart is that each one of us are individual soul beings—henceforth my distaste for people relating to and judging others in terms of outward categories such as nationality and race—the fact of the matter is that I retain a tremendous privilege because of my passport, which allows me to travel freely to nearly any place in this world.
In addition to the Pagani detention center mentioned in an earlier post, I also saw many immigrants—presumably, some of them also refugees—trying their best to eke out a living in every European city that I visited. In Paris, it was groups of Asian ladies who were dressed for the night in broad daylight, standing in front of the same train station with groups of African men standing nearby. Whether it was all a connected operation I cannot say for sure…one can only wonder. But it seemed clear that in these economic times, people will resort to whatever they have to.
In Barcelona, Athens and Florence it was groups of African men spreading cheap goods on large white sheets that they hawked to tourists—having to remain vigilant at every moment in case the police cars showed up, which they often did, sending the whole operation scattering in a matter of seconds as everyone grabbed their wares and dispersed. While I did not see any cops actually chase the men down, the message was clear: they were unwelcome to continue earning even whatever meager savings they may have been able to scrape together thus far.
One guy I talked to along the neverending stretch of Barcelona beaches had it a bit easier. A black South African, he was among the numerous beach artists who spent the morning building elaborate structures out of sand, and then collecting small donations from passersby. I could kick myself for not having batteries in my iPhone to take photos, because their creations were phenomenal: large animals, replications of famous Gaudi buildings…even this replica of Barack Obama that I just found on the internet (must have been deconstructed before I arrived!). Actually, while the piece art was created by a famous artist who obtained official permission for the project, my new South African friend told me that although they are generally left alone by the cops, they do have to take down the art at the end of every day in order to avoid getting into any trouble…and then begin again the next morning.
Well…I will be wrapping up my nearly ten-year stint in Japan hopefully within the next year or two, and although my partner and I do not know where we will head next, we were extremely tempted by both Paris and Barcelona, which we visited together before branching off in our own directions for the rest of the month. Whether we end up somewhere in the Mediterranean, Brazil (where she is from), Canada, the U.S. (the latter being the least likely due to its sadly backwards stance on gay marriage!), or some combination of the above, I look forward to continuing to make efforts to contribute to social justice while soaking up as many experiences as I possibly can on this amazing earth of ours!
- On the streets of Athens…love this message. 🙂 Fin