Over the course of a week working in Mettenheim (about one hour outside of Munich), I managed to interview 12 refugee men, women, and children coming from areas such as Somalia, Afghanistan, and Syria. Some stories were heartbreaking and most were a show of strength. Each person interviewed wanted the same resolve: to be with family and to work in the community. All interviews were conducted at the refugee center and at other refugee housing units. My experience was completely open and friendly, with an honest exchange of lifestyles. Being heavily tattooed around a group of very religious persons was not met with any scrutiny. It was a bit overwhelming, however, when I was told that I was the first American that the people I interviewed had met. Lets hope I left a positive impression.
It was quite easy to talk to everyone, and we kept conversations casual. I opened up about myself, and after hearing myself in these conversations, it put the world, my work, and my mission with this project in perspective. None of these interviews have been edited, and when my voice recorder decided not work, my phone came to the rescue. Some interviews are discussed over dinner. Hearing other conversations in the background with laughter, juxtaposed to heavy realities only goes to show that life moves ahead and many moments happen in an instant. Each person is moving ahead with their lives, but it is a slow process.
Most of the people residing in these centers cannot work, and are currently taking iniatives towards getting an ID and learning the language. There is some frustrations there, that are understandable. Even through the frustrations, most people seem to be thankful to have found safety, but are not free from worry. Finding time alone is tough, and it can be maddening living in a place where communication is difficult.
Unknown Salts highlights the conversations of people in a unique situation while discussing feelings of adversity, and demonstrating just how human empathy affects us all in a much broader sense. But it does not end here. As a society, we need to develop a global conversation about our concerns and find a common ground. The second portion of the project, Refused Voices, anticipates discussing the opposition, and their concerns with the crisis. Displaced peoples are not a first in the world's history, but the hope is to learn from those histories and to try move to the next step while adapting to the new world culture that is constantly in flux.