Cold, heartbreaking, chaotic, miserable — the camps on the Greek island of Lesbos that bristle with Syrian refugees and other migrants eager for new lives in the west were profoundly disturbing to Sebastopol apple farmer Sheldon Rosenberg.
He can’t wait to get back.
“Quite honestly,” said Rosenberg, one of three Sonoma County people who, prior to Christmas, volunteered for three weeks at the camps, “if I didn’t have a wife and two kids, I never would have left.”
He, Spring Maxfield of Santa Rosa and Sebastopol’s Belle Sweeney cradled children, hauled supplies, picked up trash, did whatever they could to make the moment more bearable for refugees, most of whom fled the catastrophic fighting in Syria.
“Giving out shoes, that was a big deal,” Rosenberg said days ago at a gathering at his home for local people interested in hearing his reflections and those of Sweeney and Maxfield — and perhaps interested in going to Lesbos themselves.
Maxfield told her 30-some listeners, “I made twelve hundred cheese sandwiches one day.”
She and her travel partners recounted that many of the refugees they met were middle-class Syrians who’d risked everything to get themselves and their families out of the country and to the coast of Turkey, where they’d boarded overcrowded boats for the short but perilous voyage to Lesbos.
Though dozens of volunteer organizations have drawn volunteers to the island, it seemed clear to Maxfield that there aren’t nearly enough people coming to help. “The need for warm bodies is so great right now,” she said.
Already, Rosenberg is preparing for a return trip. He’s raising relief dollars and coordinating with people able to go to Lesbos for days or weeks between March 18 and April 18.
He will recount moments from the first journey and preview plans for the second at a public gathering at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the library at Sebastopol’s Oak Grove School.
Rosenberg concedes that he feels some guilt over having left the refugees, and also some guilt about preparing to return. He told of sensing that there is benefit to be gained from volunteering to help out at such a crisis of humanity.
“It makes you a better person,” the apple farmer said.
CHEESE IS GOOD on a burger, but it fries Carole Carpenter that somebody has twice garnished her car’s windows with American slices.
Carole returned home to southeast Santa Rosa after a vacation to find that someone had plastered her car’s rear window with slices of pseudo-cheese. More slices were tucked beneath the windshield wipers.
This has now happened twice in two months. Both times, a slice of American was pressed over the peep hole in Carole’s front door.
If you’re the culprit, do everyone a favor and get some help. To start, go to chowhound.com and search for the discussion of “What to do with Kraft American Cheese singles?”
You’ll discover that others use them to provide people who live on the streets with an easy and portable snack, to encase and make palatable the pill you must administer to the dog, to smooth the texture of mac-and-cheese or to imbue a tuna melt with a certain “trashy charm.”