Tonight we will be reading books to the children in Moria, the camp that everyone knows from the horrible images on tv as ‘the prison’. I am with my colleague who stepped into glass while we were swimming with the woman’s group last week. She has not been able to walk nor work since then. She hobbles with her crutches and one arm in mine up the hill but she is happy anyway, she just really wants to do something for these people here and help out. Our stroll towards the family compound normally takes 5 minutes, but this time at least 15. Not only because she can’t walk fast, but mainly because we are held up by the refugees the whole time: What happened? You okay? Can we help? Shall I carry you?” Everyone is helpful and engaged. We look at each other and are surprised again over the amount of love thats hanging in this 38degrees air. The refugees spend their days in the heat, mostly staring purposeless across the barbed wire, waiting for news or a decision about their future. Most of them have been here for months without any news. The situation makes them desperate, those are stories that we hear everyday. But not today. Today everyone is doing whatever they can to help my colleague getting around. There is even a volleybal area, just created, and there are 21 guys playing, and one woman dressed in a hijab. Girl power. We smile towards each other. Small things, big effect. When we get up the hill at our destination, we hang our bags on the barbed wire. It is weird but it starts to become normal as if we have never done anything else before. During the reading session, which is led by Afghani mothers, we both really enjoy what’s happening. The mothers read in Farsi to all the children who are sitting on a blanket on the floor, listening silently. This is what we aim for: facilitate that the refugees run their own educational and social support projects. It works a thousand times better than anything else and is much more sustainable. The women feel empowered and useful and of course, they can do this way better than we can! My colleague looks at me and smiles a smile filled with gratefulness. Sometimes it’s possible to forget the bizarre situation we are in and for a few seconds it is just really really really nice to be here.
“Hola Anna!”, says a little Belizean children’s voice while I pass by on my tiny bike. It’s unbelievable how this village welcomes me as if I am one them. It doesn’t matter what colour your skin is, which language you speak or what religion you practice, you are safe here. Even if you don’t believe in electronics and have 17 children because birth control doesn’t suit you, like the Mennonites just around the corner. They have travelled through Europe (The Netherlands!), Northern America and Central America before they were able to find a safe spot to live their lives in the way their God wants them to live it. They were never welcome, until they reached Belize.
I have only been here for a week but everyone seems to know that I am the white girl called Anna who stays with Nathalie at Backpackers Paradise. And, more importantly, they seem happy that I am here, the only gringo in town. How generous and warm could you possibly be welcomed? Just ask the Belizeans. And I love being one of them.
My bike takes me to the little pier but to be honest, it doesn’t matter where I leave my bike behind cause no one steals anything from anyone here. Again, I am safe. I sit down with my feet dangling in the water and stare across the green ocean in front of me. There is no one in it. It’s all mine. And I love being alone. Until a little dark-skinned 6-year old taps on my shoulder. “No quieres bano?” he asks me. He takes off all his clothes and jumps into the water. Very naked. Well, if you are taking a bath, you might as well be naked, right? He asks me to come in. We play with the water and the smelly mud that’s on the bottom of the ocean. He thinks the mud-beard looks good on me. After a while I notice that he is holding on to me and is very decisive not to let go.
And there I am. In that still, gorgeous, green ocean, with a 6-year old clenched around my waist. It’s all ours. He digs his beautiful little face into my neck before he stops moving and then is quiet for minutes. I can’t do anything else but melt. He relies on me. For only this moment, I seem to be his harbour, his safety. I give him all the love I have because maybe he doesn’t receive enough wherever he may live with his 6 older brothers. After 5 gorgeous minutes of loving care and silence, I ask him if I can be his friend. He looks at me and nods before his head goes back into safety and silence. I love being together. The world has just stopped moving.