This is my first post from my new albeit temporary home in Athens, Greece. It’s been a while since I could write after leaving South Sudan, and honestly I haven’t even begun to process the unexpected flow of emotions that came after leaving it. Conflict zones are tough, yet they stick with you; the natural rhythms of the world when it is at peace become a hard mountain to suddenly climb without the rush and sad thrill of adrenaline created to respond to constant emergencies. Athens is a slower work speed, slower life pace, a time to heal and a time to rest.
I’ve been here now over two months, and have just started to emerge from my self-inflicted cocoon of silence, sleeping and re-defining new boundary lines outside of compound life. Still, NGO work continues and I am happy to play my part as a writer and planner, but living here is an entirely different world. I’m starting to visit tourist hot spots, even non-tourist locales, and to regain my ability to marvel at beauty. My room in Athens, the cocoon, is bright white, eternally clean in both line and lack of dust, and is decorated with my past travels to inspire and to work at creativity. But my heart still pounds when I think of trying to capture my wild, untamed creative thoughts: I’m still not yet ready to put pen to paper, to let the paints come out and color an imaginary world. It’s hard to transition into that space when the real world and its great many injustices blot out that happier place in my mind. But I’m starting.
This past weekend, I pulled out at long last my camera and decided to be a photographer of my new home. For some reason, the thought of capturing every image of this place’s well-recorded ancient history just for memory’s sake felt oppressive. I needed something more basic, more spontaneous, more indicative of what I was and am feeling. Raw. Raw pictures that point out small pleasurable details, but don’t always reveal the full image. And no color either. Life can sometimes be raw, and it can hurt. It hurts to watch others hurt. Yet, somehow, beauty that points to a greater goodness can shine forth in that suffering. And most often we only live the details, very rarely catching the full glimpse of the image when we’re right in the middle of it.
South Sudan will come up again in another post, or two or even three, as a memory of another time. For now, it is Athens in its raw and black and white details. My weekend ramble took me through the better neighborhoods of Athens, Kolonaki through the National Gardens, and up into Plaka being watched over by the Acropolis on my leisurely tour. It’s a mix of man made creations and vegetable life, not a typical portrait of the city but my view of it for now nevertheless.