There and Back Again
This past weekend, I started my volunteer trip. I am now back. Obviously that was not the plan. So here’s what happened.
I flew to Athens on Saturday. I arrived Sunday and flew from Athens to Kefalonia. From there, I hired a taxi to go the hour north through the mountains from Argostoli to Fiskardo. The driver and I searched for hours but couldn’t find the camp, despite the directions I had. None of the contact numbers I had answered or had voicemail.
Around 11 pm he drove me back to Argostoli. Obviously this was unsettling. And it became clear that the island was not merely quiet during the winter, but basically shuttered for eight months – so even had the situation worked out, I would be essentially living alone in an extremely desolate area with a man I soon came to distrust entirely. To say the least, this was not as we had discussed.
Monday, I again tried unsuccessfully to contact the organization. I was about to go to Fiskardo again to try to find the people when I finally reached my contact. He didn’t remember me at first, and then claimed not to know that I was coming. Stunned, I reminded him of the dozens of emails we’d exchanged over the last three months, especially his last confirmation of my detailed travel plans. He was dismissive, saying that was “a long time ago.” It had been exactly a week earlier.
Shaken but still trying to be businesslike, I told him honestly that after the previous evening’s search and after this conversation, I was extremely concerned and wasn’t sure I felt comfortable staying. His response was an even more dismissive, “okay, whatever.”
I realized then that there was no way I could salvage it. I flew to Athens that night and home the next day.
I travel abroad often, including some fairly remote destinations; I organize events and meetings as part of my job; and I had researched the organization (which came recommended by a former volunteer-abroad professional), the town, the island, and Greek culture in general. Nothing led me expect any of this.
I wouldn’t have felt safe doing anything other than what I did, but obviously I’m disappointed. It’s hard to see something that you put a lot of work into not be a success.