Diary of an Architecture Student Volunteer in Lesvos: Falafel, Bathtubs and Sass

Fig. 1 – Shower Architects Leo, Pierre and Louis, photo by Silvia Converso

The day finally arrived when we made Falafel! Our brava mamma Silvia’s goal was going to be accomplished. She is so motivational and sweet, everyone got pumped up to cook Falafel. Jeremy, although having had his foot cooked in the soup in an accident, still managed to bring it together and do his magic tricks in the kitchen with the help of Chiara. Together with Riki and his awesome music   (http://www.rikvanhegen.de/ ) we had a great time. Meanwhile Pierre and Leo developed the shower and bathtub that me and Riki discussed could be controversial for some of the ‘Conservative New comers’ as both men and woman would use it, but proved to be very enjoyable.

Fig. 2 and 3 – Falafel, photos by Silvia Converso

Fig. 5 – Pump and water Tank , Photo by Silvia Converso

Later I decided to ditch the over politicized meeting going on that day and decided to help Riki set up more tents for the families that had arrived at the camp throughout the evening. A very interesting part of this experience was to have met Jalal, the head of Adidas Syria, one of his wives and Maya, the smartest 9 year old girl I have ever met, I saw a lot of myself in her so we got along really nicely.

Jalal asked me to get cosy by the fire with all the rest of the Syrian families. He also insisted I would wear his goat skin handmade cape he brought with him from Syria, which was incredibly comfortable. He asked me how old I was to which I replied 20. I then asked him how old he was to which he answered 40. Yet his wife made it clear to tell me that he was lying, ‘No! He is lying, he is 50!’ she said, clearly making fun of him. She was so sassy and she knew English better than Jalal. He showed me some pictures of these 4 beautiful women. ‘Are they your sisters?’ I asked, ‘No they are my wives, do you want to become the 5th?’ he said jokingly. He then showed me some pictures of his baby daughter who was back in Turkey, I believe, with her mother.

Fig. 5 – The best shower I have ever had

Meanwhile, Riki, Theresa and Maya kept putting up tents for the influx of people wanting to stay around for the night. I was then confronted with a rather panicky situation. This guy came to me and asked me to help him look for a young boy with a red scarf, he didn’t introduce himself so I was suspicious. I told him to wait and left in order to discuss it with Paty. The man soon heard us talk and immediately intervened: ‘I am a translator from Moria, there is a kid who disappeared from the camp and we have been looking for him all around the island. I am sorry for not having introduced myself properly ’, to which I said ‘I am sorry, I had to be suspicious’ then left him with Paty to sort it out. A lot of Children have gone missing and this is very worrying. Some might have fallen to the hands of human traffickers and others have possibly been adopted yet a lot of the information is not clear about what happened to these missing children.

On a more positive note, I had the best shower of my made up of recycled wooden pallets and UNHCR covers. Malik and Louis also took a shower to test it, soon we tried to get more people to try the shower. It worked with a pump made from a recycled plastic box, a storage container that had been insulated with blue foam and a heat exchanger which feed off timber bits on fire.

Fig. 6 – Making the bathtub, photo by Silvia Converso

Pierre’s bathtub invention was a big hit, all the volunteers were getting their clothes off to get in the bath tub, some more than others felt comfortable enough, to be completely free of any piece of clothing.  So there we were sitting in the bathtub half to completely naked next to a group of conservative Muslim refugees playing music with Jeremy whilst sharing food and snacks with people and admiring the stars in the sky. What a great vision that was to be a part of. Indeed there is hope for a peaceful blend of cultures. We need not to be overly attached to big theories of life, we need nothing but our gut feelings and an open mind as well as sense of humour and empathy in order to connect with people. As Aurora puts it in one her most recent songs ‘Warrior’: “Let Love conquer your mind.”

We should all live by these words.

By Luisa Pereira Pires, Stage 3

Fig. 7 – Louis and Leo, Heat Exchanger feed on wood
Fig. 8 – Rik and some of the kids, photo by Silvia Converso