When I left for my first trip at sea back in March; I was crossing from Dover to Calais; and at the ferry terminal; I seen a group of Turkish looking men; at least; that was what I’d decided when I seen them. It turned out that they were not Turkish, but from an organization that were attempting to raise awareness to what has been going in Syria. I spoke with one of them; and let’s just say; he got my attention regarding the plight of the Syrian people.
Later in my voyage; my ship was alongside at Iskenderun in Turkey, which isn’t that far from the Syrian border. Anyway; I’d been given the green light from the Chief to go ashore alone; and after a few hours of exploring Iskenderun, I was hungry, and decided to get myself a good old kebab. I entered a pretty dapper looking place; and took my seat, and waited to be served. There was framed newspaper cuttings on the walls with people eating in the place I was in; “it must be shit hot then” I assumed. I was initially hoping that the beautiful, Russian looking blonde in the pencil skirt would serve me; but it became clear when she initially came to take my order that her English was simply non existent; as was my Turkish and Russian; so I was assigned the guy with the Craig David beard thing going on. He broke the ice in pretty understandable English; he asked me where I was from, and when I said “England” – he went off on one about two English things that I have no time at all for- Manchester United and Coldplay. I’m usually brutally honest with people, in the sense that, if I think something is shit; I will stop people in their tracks and tell them it’s shit; but, in this instance, as he was so passionate about them, I let him blather on…nodding and smiling in agreement. Then came the awkward silence…I could either tell him I thought Chris Martin was a cock sucker….. or just make for some small talk. So I asked him where he was from. When he told me that he was from Syria, I began asking him questions.
Long story short- back in Syria, he was a Doctor; and here he was serving me chicken. I’d came across my first refugee, and despite the Manchester United, and Coldplay thing, what an utterly nice person he was. What struck me, was how much pride he took in his work. Imagine being a doctor; and then having to work in a Kebab joint? Turkey is inundated with refugees, and they are not getting any help from the international community to deal with it. What ever the ‘world police’ decide to do; I hope that any people seeking refuge from this plight are treated with the compassion they deserve.