It is day four in Alghero and people are finally settling in to the slow life of Italy! Everything seems to run a little behind and take a little longer, but we are using that time as an opportunity to get to know each other better. Last night, after having one too many pizzas, a group of us decided to eat Mexican food at one of the only Mexican restaurants in Alghero. After that experience, my advice to you is if anyone is planning on visiting Alghero in the future, I suggest sticking to Italian food. :)
Today we had the pleasure of learning from Dr. Denise Bates, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University. Dr. Bates had spent some time volunteering at a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, and shared her experiences with us. It shocked me how difficult it was for a potential refugee to gain refugee status, and the treacherous journey to reach Greece. Reaching the primary camp, or the “hot spot”, was a journey that cost refugees thousand of dollars. Even though Lesbos is only a little over a mile from the shores of Turkey, many people fall victim to the harsh sea or faulty equipment, and parish on that journey. Dr. Bates recounted stories of bodies being pulled out of the sea, and the desperation of refugees once they reach the hot spot. It is important to remember those who can reach Lesbos are the lucky ones, the refugees who can afford to flee their home and attempt to start a new life. This severe voyage across the sea is only the first part of this journey to receive refugee status. On average, the attempt to gain refugee status takes around two years. Learning how much individuals sacrifice to make it to Europe forces me to reflect on my journey to Europe, and how simple it was for me to get here. I recognize how privileged I am, not only through my ability to travel, but in every aspect of my life. We also focused on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Most of my needs on that hierarchy are fulfilled, including self-esteem and self-actualization, while refugees are fighting for their lives and basic needs like physiological well-being and safety.
Dr. Bates also shared some transcripts from interviews with refugees she had the pleasure of meeting. Throughout these few days in Alghero, we have all had the chance to meet people who are refugees or immigrants. It is important to put a face to the numbers you see on the news in the United States. Anti-immigration rhetoric manages to dehumanize these refugees and paint them as criminals. At one point, presidential nominee Donald Trump had the families of victims who were killed by immigrants come on stage and speak about the tragic ways their family members were killed. These scenarios convince people that people who are immigrants and refugees are criminals and terrorists and leads to an increase in xenophobia. By talking to immigrants and refugees in person and hearing their story, that false perception is shattered. I look forward to us meeting more immigrants and refugees tomorrow afternoon when we visit Afrika Alghero!
Tonight we are going to take a tour around Alghero to learn more about the history of the city that we have the pleasure of living in! It is so beautiful here and we all look forward to learning about the rich history and culture of the city that has been so welcoming to us. Chow,