Day Twenty-three


Tuesday, December 15, 2015, my last full day in Iceland.

I meet in Kopavogur. We sit around a table. It is morning, dark, and candles on the table are lit. This I find to be common in my meetings, lit candles. When I met three weeks ago with my colleagues, we were all new to this program. Now, in just a short time, the program manager speaks calmly with confidence. “We will do this. I believe we will do this well.” I do too.

On to the second meeting. It starts with a hallway meeting between me and the Fulbright Director. Weeks ago she looked confident, and today she remains looking confident, helpful, interested in connecting people together, and as kind as she was from day one.

The meeting. It is with various members of a number of ministries and agencies who are coordinating the program. “Now that you have seen all the towns and municipalities, how are we doing?” I believe you will do this well.

The Fulbright director and I walk a short way. We find a table. We talk about Fulbright grants. A member of the Ministry of Welfare joins us. We are ending our work together. When we are on the sidewalk I say goodbye  to the director. I know that she has helped make this happen. I am very grateful. For her, I am one of many Fulbright recipients with whom she meets as part of her work. For me she was a conduit to this adventure.

Then to a meeting in an old building turned cafe. Front line workers and managers. We meant to talk about solutions but ended up sharing stories, then discussed the differences in asylum seekers and refugees and the global nature of human migration and the futility in isolation, and then back to the imaginary lines that defines one as an asylum seeker, one in search for work, and one as a refugee.

Having not solved anything in this meeting, I head to City Hall and meet social workers. We don’t even try to solve anything. We turn to one member of the meeting with a look that most of us know and have given. It is the look you might give a driver who meets your eyes, and you both know she is about to fall asleep at the wheel, and you know you will watch her crash as you stand by helpless on the sidewalk. It is the look that says, you will burn out soon, and when you do, others will pick up where you left things, and continue to try to fix that which can’t be fixed.

About ndubus

Assistant Professor of Social Work, San Jose State University, USA
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