“Yes! I’ve won the lottery!”, that’s what I should have said as soon as I was born. I didn’t though, because I was an idiot then. Also, I hadn’t learn’t how to speak yet, further proof of how much of an idiot I was. I hadn’t won the national lottery of course, but instead I’d won the lottery of being born in a country where you’ll be given certain privileges without haven’t done anything. Throughout my life I’ve been able to travel to many countries around the world with barely anything to stop me. Freedom of movement is one of the big prizes that you receive when you win the lottery of being born in a country like the UK. I didn’t even have to buy a ticket. How great is that?
About 100 years ago my grandparents were born in India. In order to improve their lives, both sets of my grandparents decided to leave India and go to Africa. They left India in the 1940s on a boat. I think it took ages and was dangerous. Only 50% of people survived the boat trip. 50%!! My dad’s parents went to Kenya and my mum’s parents went to Uganda. In the 1960s both families decided to go to England. Not for fun, but for a better life. It would be hard, but it would be better. That’s when my lottery ticket was bought. If you are reading this you probably also know that for the last year and a half I’ve been arsing around on a bicycle having the time of my life, and it’s all possible because my family bought me a winning lottery ticket before I was even born.
Many people are born in countries which makes it very difficult to travel or live wherever they want. Even if your country is being bombed to shit by people you’ve never met, you are supposed to just stay there and deal with it. Tough luck mate, your numbers haven’t come up today. Not only haven’t they won the lottery but they can’t even buy a ticket.
Some people don’t want to accept this fate. They want to leave anyway. They want to take themselves and their families to a place where they can have a better life. It’s not really easy for them to do this and even if they make it, their lives will be hard, but at least they can try to buy a ticket for their children. Refugees are just people who didn’t have the same luck that I had. They want to make their lives better for themselves and their children. Just like my grandparents did.
People who are born in a country which allows them to travel pretty much wherever they want never have to think about what it’s like to have their movements restricted. Not until now that is. COVID-19, the Coronavirus has changed all that. Right now it is very difficult to move around in Europe. Chances are, if you have a holiday planned you’d either have to cancel it because the borders are closed or you’d go, and have to quarantine for 2 weeks. In our own countries we are being asked to restrict our movements and stay at home as much as possible. People are freaking out. For some reason, lots of people who are freaking out are buying loads of toilet roll. Strangely this had made me realise I have a new connection with my grandparents…
My grandparents (my dad’s parents) lived with us until they died. When I was younger, one thing I used to be confused about was why there was a small jug or bucket in the toilet that my grandparents used. Later I found out that they would use the small bucket to carry water so that they could wash their arse after doing a shit. I still used to think it was a bit weird but yeah, that’s how they do it in many countries. After travelling on a bike for the last year and a bit, Greece was the first country we arrived in where wiping your arse with toilet paper was the norm. After spending a year and a bit washing my arse with water I was not ready to stop. I am still not ready to stop washing my arse with water. We have a small bucket next to the toilet now. I would rather wash my arse with water than smear the shit around my bum with toilet paper. If you got some shit on your arm you wouldn’t just wipe it off with a tissue. You’d wash it. Me and my grandparents are on the same wave length now. We are connected. That was a slight tangent to this blog post, but the moral of this story is, you don’t need to panic buy toilet paper.
The restriction of our movement, the fear over whether we can get basic necessities and the day to day uncertainty about how our lives will change are difficult to live with. This, if you hadn’t already worked it out, is normal life for a refugee. If we are lucky this whole Coronavirus situation will be over in a few months. For refugees the problems they face will continue. The problems you are facing now and can’t wait to get over are the problems they had before and will have after the Coronavirus has gone. Think about that.
Frouke and I are cycling 20,000km from Vietnam to Amsterdam (via London) to raise money so that 26 Burmese refugee children can go to school, have a place to sleep and food to eat. If you’ve won the lottery maybe you would like to help buy these kids a ticket?