I have written previously about the 30 young (former) refugees who now live in my village. I have also written with some horror about how my village went 80% for the far right candidate in the last presidential election. So I have been a bit worried about the boys’ chances to fit in here and find a life. It doesn’t help that ridiculous rumors keep spreading among the more fearful and . . . let’s say, “less than worldly” of the villagers. The latest one I heard (third or fourth hand) hit a new level of absurdity. The story goes like this: a local wine tavern owner got a bad anonymous review. He tried to trace the source and discovered that it came from one of the migrant boys. Then he found a picture on the boy’s Facebook page where he is dressed up like an IS fighter and waving one of their flags! I sort of startled the person who told me this by laughing out loud. I said “I don’t know what is more ridiculous – the idea that one of these kids would declare himself to the world as a terrorist (on Facebook no less!) or that he would write a restaurant review.” My word! The only way a person could believe a story like that is by really, really wanting to.
I try to get my head around the fear my fellow villagers feel – but, in the end, I am at a loss. Is it racial? Cultural? Are they afraid these 30 young men will change the way we all live? Or is it more material – that they will lose something? That they will find strange people milling around their houses looking for something to snatch?
So – knowing that the fear is there and that nonsense has been passed around to stoke it up, I was a little nervous about how yesterday would go. A bunch of us had planned a “Welcome” fest for the boys and we were all worried that no one would show up.
But they did! And clearly not only for the beer! As I looked around the tables I saw the migrants and the natives all mixed up together and having conversations. Laughing and smiling. One of the Somali boys sang while the band was on a break and others broke out into a traditional dance. Signboards had been put up with pictures of our new villagers and some of their flight stories.
A beautiful book made by a hometown boy turned journalist/photographer was on display and all the copies sold out quickly. Four Afghani women who live with their families in a nearby village had spent 9 hours cooking the day before – the food was excellent. Migrants and local kids played games in the nearby field. One second after I took this picture, the rope broke and both teams went flying backward into laughing piles.
Some of the villagers were stand-offish, at least at the start They eyed the boys with suspicious curiosity until they got introduced to one or the other. Then most relaxed visibly and some even seemed to get a little giddy – the way we all do when fear evaporates.
It was a very good day – for my village and for my own peace of mind.
But things are not so rosy everywhere! It turns out that my sister in America is going through a little migrant crisis of her own. There are Pokemons in her yard and the hordes have descended! All these strange people are milling around her house, looking for something to snatch . . .