Today I saw two young men begging on the main shopping street of Athens. They both had burned faces. One was burned all over his body, with only small patches of hair remaining in his head. Both of his arms were missing too.
I watched from a distance for a while, expecting that whoever had put them there to beg would be lurking round the corner ready to show up and take their money. Instead, I saw them both suddenly jump onto their feet and start running, looking over their shoulders as they did so. The police were walking down the street. They had to run away from them. Why is a story I'll tell another time.
Once they returned to their places, I approached them to hand over a little money and ask about their story. I spoke to the one with burns all over his body. His eyelids were melted into unrecognisable shapes and his grey eyes peered into mine with so much fear that I almost backed away.
We had no common language, but I managed to understand the reason of "Syria". Just what I had suspected.
Greece, being the main gateway into the EU for migrants, has been continually flooded with illegal refugees from Syria since the civil war began there back in 2011. But since the "economic crisis" began here in Greece back in 2009, the government has dramatically reduced the number of asylum seekers they approve, introduced refugee detention centres to keep men, women and even children locked away for months, and all of this has been supported by an ever increasing majority of the Greek public who feel the stresses of austerity measures in their country.
As I stood up to leave the burned Syrian men to their demeaning begging, I looked around and saw these "struggling" Greek people carry on their shopping and drinking coffee in the sunshine, completely oblivious to the people sat beneath them.
There really is a huge difference between "struggling" and struggling.
I think I'll focus my time in Athens on this subject.
Short update about how I got here and why I'm here in Athens:
After three months at home in England, attending my best friends wedding as well as visiting friends and family around the country, I set off again through Europe heading East. After visiting several travel friends in their hometowns and travelling with my friend from home for a few weeks, I wanted to find somewhere to spend winter, earn a little money, and have some time to write. I was really lucky and found a job in a hostel/travel agency after just a few hours of asking around. So here I am, with a place to live and time to learn in a country with so many interesting affairs currently going on. Let's see what happens!