Tuesday, May 30


On my way back from work today I sat on the bus directly in front of two immigrants. I’m not sure where they were from, but they were communicating with each other in very broken English, so evidently not from the same country.
The woman was trying to fill in some official document, and the man was trying to explain to her how to do it: “This is for your name, this is for you passport number. Then you have to go to the police station to get it signed, then somewhere else to get it stamped…” and so on. I think we all know the steps involved in getting official documents in Greece.
So I was remembering what I had gone through to get my docs when I first got here – barely speaking any Greek at the time – and what a hair-pulling, nerve racking hassle it had been. And I had had GREEK people helping me. Greek people who not only knew the system perfectly, but also spoke my language and were able to explain everything clearly.
Listening to these two people struggling to figure out what the hell they were supposed to be doing, I suddenly felt ashamed for the amount of moaning I had done when going through the same crap. I can only imagine that what they go through is at least 100 times worse than what I did – not only do they have more papers to get, they have no one to show them the ropes thoroughly, and are likely to be treated with a lot more disrespect and impatience than I was by the public employees.
I really don’t know how they manage it, but they have my respect for their courage and determination.


deviousdiva said...

It is incredible isn't it? And a very humbling experience when you witness the added hardships other people go through. When I go through my periods of self-pity and naval gazing I always have to try and remember this reality. Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...


MAY i suggest..
that next time
having had the experience
mingle and give your support,,
it will be more fulfilling
than writing about.

...just a thought....=z=

kassandra said...

Devious: I should think you're probably about the last person around here who needs reminding! Thank you for reminding me almost every day!

Zardoz: I was tempted to talk to them, actually, but I figured they'd think I was an idiot for offering to help but then not being able to read the form any better than they could, and also they had obviously just met and were busy flirting it up so I would have been something of a third wheel. As well, the truth is I'm unfortunately quite shy and get terribly tongue tied around strangers. (Though those that know me in person never believe me when I say this because I usually do do my best to overcome it.) Generally good advice, though - for everyone. I suspect we who blog may generally express ourselves better with the pen than in person, but we shouldn't forget to make real contact every now and then!

Emily said...

Well said. I don't know how I would have gotten through it all if I hadn't had some help and some Greek. (Barely enough, but I am proud to say I caught myself from sending in a form that someone else had written wrong.)
Also, money. My employer paid my tax fee and dealt with translation stuff. That can add up.
Overall, immigration is tough. This is one reason that I find current US policy upsetting; I think everyone should know what it feels like to be displaced for a while. And most of us have ancestors who, at some point in the past.