What. A. Month.
I’m going to start with the biggest thing, which is that I spent three weeks in Greece volunteering on the island of Chios with an organization called CESRT (Chios Eastern Shore Response Team). I’m working on a major post that breaks down my whole trip and the complex politics at play for the refugees stuck on the island. In the meantime, here are some photos I’ve posted on Instagram along with context. There is so much more to share but this is a start.
This is a view of Souda, the main refugee camp near the port. But it’s a changing situation — a few weeks ago there was another camp next to it, and now everyone is squeezed into one area. There is another camp under control of the Greek military located further inland, but we did not have access there to provide support (with the exception of offering a movie night outdoors one Friday evening). So most of our efforts went to Souda.
I snapped this next photo while delivering sanitary pads to the women in camp one morning. We also did diaper distributions every 2-3 days. One of the big NGOs (Save the Children) is supposed to do this, but their stock was burned in a fire the night before I arrived on Chios, so we were helping them out.
My favorite part of each day was teaching English in the park. It was mostly to men, as there are programs for women and children but not much for the men to do. Some of them are only 18. Their lives are in limbo right now, but it felt normal to sit in the park and talk about vocabulary and verb conjugation for two hours every afternoon. We could just be people hanging out together, sharing friendship and knowledge. They taught me how to count to 10 in Arabic. After doing this for six days a week during my stay, it feels weird NOT to be there now. At my last class I told them they are all my brothers and sisters. I think about them a lot.
People would often invite us into their tents for tea when we passed through the main camp. I was consistently wowed by the generosity on display here.
In particular, our friend L (I’m going to avoid full names for privacy) invited us over for a big lunch twice during my time here. With access to very few cooking resources he whipped up this enormous spread:
One morning I volunteered at Zaporeak Kitchen (run by a group from the Basque region in Spain) to cook meals for all 1300 refugees at Souda. Here we are making chicken curry.
Each morning from 6:30 to 8am a team of 2-3 people would go to the watch tower with binoculars and look for boats arriving from Turkey. If a raft was spotted, they’d be in touch with a stocked car who could greet new arrivals.
And another pair of people would sign up for night shift, patrolling the coast in a stocked car from 3-8am looking for boats. If a raft arrived, we had blankets, warm clothes, and food / water in the truck to give to everyone.
The volunteers for CESRT change on a near daily basis, with new people arriving and others going back home. Here is a group shot at our morning meeting at the warehouse (I’m in the back row wearing red).
Of course, despite the uncertainty these refugees face here, Chios is still a Greek island and there is much natural beauty to be found. We worked six days a week and had one day off to relax and explore. These stone windmills are close to the port and Souda.
Again, so much more to come — but my time on Chios was the most important thing I did this past month so it takes a prominent spot in this post.
After leaving Chios, I had one full day in Athens and then another full day in Belgrade, Serbia before catching my flight back to New York. Here are a few photos from those cities…
Okay, back to photos from the States — I went into New York City a few times in early October to see theater, and met up with some friends along the way. Here I am at the Director’s Guild in NYC catching up with Scott who was visiting from Los Angeles for meetings:
Broadway marquees at dusk:
The Encounter was such a unique theatrical experience — the audience wears headphones as our narrator on-stage walks us through photographer Loren McIntyre’s experience with a native tribe deep in the Amazon in 1969:
I loved Oh, Hello on Broadway — it is so weird and funny and different. Of course I was already predisposed to enjoy this show since comedians John Mulaney and Nick Kroll are two of my favorites.
Sarah Jones’s Sell Buy Date was the most important piece of theater I’ve seen lately. It’s about the sex worker industry (get it — sell women, buy women, date women). In this one-woman show, Sarah gives us insight into different viewpoints through her many characters, as well as lots of humor. Plus it takes place about a hundred years in the future which adds an extra dimension of perspective and comedy. Below is a list of resources she consulted while writing the play. Also below is a photo of me holding the Playbill for Tick, Tick… Boom!, which is one of my all-time favorite musicals.
Avocado toast with red pepper flakes and sweet potato fries at Grey Dog in NYC:
Latte at Frisson Espresso near the Theater District:
And I returned to Connecticut just in time to catch the last few days of fall — as I type this, most of the leaves are off the trees. But a few days earlier I went on several walks with my camera to soak up the last of autumn in and around Wallingford, Connecticut.
The new building at Choate Rosemary Hall in my hometown is almost complete:
I love this view of Choate:
My friend Harmony recently posted about exploring Crescent Lake in Southington, Connecticut. I got here just before it started raining so I didn’t hike much, but it’s quite lovely and I appreciate the dose of fall foliage.
A few other miscellaneous photos… green smoothies, Chinese eggplant, welcome home chocolates on my pillow from my super sweet mom (how did I get so lucky?!), and a spot-on Halloween card from my uncle.
Oh, and this happened a few weeks ago — I finally (finally) sorted through a half-decade worth of old soap opera magazines from my high school years and threw out 80% of them. (I still kept a bunch for nostalgia purposes.) It was such a trip to browse through them now, after I’ve worked with so many of these people. And to channel high school Erica who so desperately wanted to be part of this world. She would be relieved to know it all worked out!
Evidence that I was OCD back in high school: my issues of Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly are organized by date.
Now, in 2016, I know these people personally and we are all 17 years older:
I got a kick out of this behind-the-scenes look at Young & Restless in the late ‘90s… I’ve spent most of the last decade working in these halls / studios:
The organization of my childhood bedroom continues: these shoe boxes are stuffed to the brim with Playbills.
I found this bulletin board from high school / college under my bed. It’s such a representation of Erica circa 2000 that I can’t bear to take it apart! So I photographed it and put it back on the wall.
One more piece of nostalgia — old posters that adorned my bedroom walls back in the day:
Okay, now for photos of my family and our pups.
My mom snapped this next shot — these are our dear friends Bruce and Judi, posing with my sister’s dog Oscar. Special shout out to Bruce: he loves international travel and reads this blog all the time! I am very appreciative.
My dad and sister with Missy and Oscar:
Me and Mr. O:
For Halloween, they were Pinky and the Brain… Missy is the Brain and Oscar is Pinky. Totally fitting if you know their personalities. Shout out to my sister for the costumes. Here I am photographing them…
… and here’s how the photo turned out:
My sister has a fun collection of wigs from past Halloween costumes and they put one on Missy for a photo. Too funny.
My sister Bethany was Jessie Spano from Saved by the Bell during her “I’m so excited… I’m so… scared” encounter with caffeine pills:
She played the song Jessie freaks out to while posing for photos in this jazzercise ensemble with a bottle of pills. Epic.
Mom and Dad with the pups:
And we’ll wrap this up with Bethany and Oscar in their Halloween finest:
I am so, so grateful for everything that happened in October. For my friends and family back home, and for my new brothers and sisters in Chios, Greece.