This morning in my German integration class we started a new chapter on transportation and holiday. The instructor asked each person about any recent trips that they may have made, where did they go, and for how long. One family had said that last year they travelled by bus to Holland for a week long stay with family. The bus trip was several hours long given a lot of stops and sights to see.
Two men in the class spoke about their last journey and how long it took. This is when I heard of an incredible journey. One man in the class travelled from Iraq to Libya on a 15 day bus ride as he looked for work. After working a year in Libya he was joined by his wife and young children, but things were getting worse politically for them so they joined hundreds of others and took a small boat across the Mediterranean to Italy. On his mobile phone he passed around photos of their dangerous journey where they sat legs intertwined so that more people could fit in the motorboat (and it helped to prevent people from falling overboard).
Another young man got up and showed the class on the map his journey to Germany. He left Iraq on a bus, but then spent the majority of his days walking with dozens of others with just his backpack to carry all his belongings. It took him 27 days of 15 hours of walking a day to cross just one of the countries on his long journey. It wasn’t until reaching Austria that he was loaded onto a train and sent to Germany where he now lives happily.
Each day I have a coffee break with these men who like to refer to me as ‘Uncle Chris’ as I am the most ‘senior’ student. The students speak of hope, life, family, and new friends and opportunities. They always smile. They always work hard and come to class attentive and eager to learn. Some of them pick up languages at an astonishing quick pace. One would never know the background stories of these men, and many others like them, if we hadn’t asked the simple question – What was the last trip you made?
Recently, the BREXIT vote and outcome has made all the headlines, but we must remember those migrants and refugees who struggle to find a new life, be it in Germany, or elsewhere in the world. The stories are many, the journey is long.