Refugee. So I referred to myself, stuck in London, unable to get home – trapped – because of some random volcanic eruption.
There were many like me….
We had refugee dinners, made refugee jokes, bought refugee supplies – you get the picture.
Half of my various in-boxes – my social communities – were about the crazy adventures, the exciting plans, the pains in the ass, the searches for transportation and escape routes: private planes, boats, cars, buses, coaches…and then by Thursday, stories of getting on the first planes home.
From country to country, through deserts, jungles and city streets. By rail, cab, motor coach, small planes. With friends, strangers, anyone who would split costs. Someone even did the “Rick route” – Lisbon – but never found Sam…and so it went.
Me, I stayed in London – went to the office and made jokes –
Until the full impact of the week became apparent.
People sleeping on cots in airports because they had nowhere else to go; people sharing food (meager at that) because they had run out of money; couples with little children stuck in the middle of nowhere with maxed-out credit cards and no way to get help…and on and on.
The adventure part started to sour and the idea of the “I Survived the Volcano” T-shirt began to sour as well.
All of which led me to look at the word “refugee” again and the flippant way we all used it – and frankly, I was embarrassed. NOTE TO SELF:
Pronunciation: \re-fyu̇-jē, re-fyu̇- .\
Etymology: French réfugié, past participle of (se) réfugier to take refuge, from Middle French refugier, from Latin refugium
Date: 1685: one that flees; especially : a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution
And there you have it. For some of us it was an inconvenience and we made the most of it – and yes, it was OK to joke. For others, it was truly an ordeal and hopefully those who need it will be made whole again – or at least close to it.
But, you see, in the end we all had somewhere to go back to – and the worst of it was not being able to get there.
I somehow imagine that to the real refugees the Air Travel Ban was a nonevent – in the camps and way stations and hovels and in hiding they can only hope to get beyond it all, to find someplace to go. Home is more of a dream than a slightly deferred return.
And that made me a little more humble and reflective – as you can see – on my own good luck and kind fortune.
Putting it all together reminded me of the words of one of my favorite poets:
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
– Robert Frost
And as I finally wing my way back home (or almost anyway), I am mindful of how grateful I am for a place to go back to and I can only wonder if push came to shove – if I would have the real fortitude to just get on with it.
Life goes on….