I started school in Greece last year and now I’m in the last year of middle school. I go to school with Amin and Hassan1, who live with me at the shelter. We’re friends, especially me and Amin. Even though he and I have known each other for only five or six months, it feels like we’ve known each other for years. We’re like brothers.
Of all my classes at school, I like math and physics the best. I want to become a mechanic, and you’ve got to know those subjects to do that. My brother, who lives in Iran, is a mechanic and, of course, he knows how to drive, but not me yet. I’m sad he’s not here with me. But I like living in Greece, because it’s a country where there’s peace and I feel safe.
Every day I get up early, around 6 o’clock, and have breakfast and get ready for school. There’s a school bus that comes and picks us up right across from the shelter. On the ride to school, which takes a half-hour, I like to put on earphones and listen to music on my phone. When we finish in the afternoon, I sometimes come back on the school bus. But other times I take public transportation on my own, along with some classmates who don’t live at my shelter. I go to the gym, too, where I’m learning how to box. I like boxing but I’m going to start soccer soon, which I like better. When I get back to the shelter, I do my homework, listen to music, and at night before I go to bed, I usually watch a movie.
I enjoyed going to the Museum2 and being part of the program. Every day after school, I’d go with Amin and Hassan, and it was great being there and discussing stuff together. I’m looking forward to when the exhibition opens and I’ll be going to the Museum again every day. I can’t wait to see what the place will look like with all our photographs and people coming to see them.
One of the works we saw at the Museum which made a big impression on me was the Swedish Flying Carpet by Kostis Velonis. Its waves reminded me of a seagull, flying to leave a country where it’s cold to go to one where it is warm. Just like I wanted to leave my country. That’s what I kept saying—I want to leave—because I didn’t like the situation there. I wasn’t safe. And in the end, I managed to get away.
We played Hopscotch3 in Iran, too. In this artwork of the Museum4, each square shows something a refugee has to go through when he gets to a foreign country. He waits for his papers and goes from office to office, to different agencies, and waits until the whole process is finished and he can stay here legally. There are a lot of people coming to Greece from a lot of different countries. At school there are kids from all over the world, even from South America. I have a classmate from Argentina and another one from Mexico.
The work with the clothes bundles5 reminded me of my country. We also used to wrap our clothes up and tie them in a bundle when we’d take small trips. I liked the colors of the fabrics in the work, especially the red. I have a gift someone gave me once and if I had a bundle like that today, I’d put the gift inside to keep it safe so that it wouldn’t ever break. If each of us is a bundle where we hide stuff we’ve experienced and have inside our mind, it takes a long time to open up and share all that with other people. I’ve got things inside me that I don’t share with anybody. My bundle has a really tight knot, and I don’t take anything out into the open. The only thing I do now and then is to go down to the sea and share what I’m thinking with the water. The shelter is near the sea and I can get there easily. Even when I was staying at another facility, which was farther away, I’d come down to the sea to be alone and just listen to the water. To be alone with my thoughts.
Bill Viola’s video6 with the water reminded me of an American film I saw one night at the shelter on my cell phone. The movie showed the end of the world. I don’t know what the artist meant but I think he used the water to show that the end of the world had come.
I liked Costas Tsoclis’ work7 with the fish a lot. The fish has lost its freedom. I wouldn’t like to be in its place, no way. If each painting of this artist shows a different country, then mine is the one with the harpoon in it. And because I didn’t want to see all the awful things that were happening there, I wanted to go to a country which is at peace. Like the people in the paintings next to the fish, who are leaving to go to another country without looking at the fish.
One of those people could be me, someone who doesn’t want to live in a country that’s being bombed.
1 Mahdi’s friends Amin and Hassan also took part in the programme.
2 Refers to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.
3 He’s referring to Vlassis Caniaris’ work, Hopscoth, 1974.
4 Refers to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.
5 Refers to Kimsooja’s work, Bottari, 2005-2017.
6 Refers to Bill Viola’s work The Raft, 2004.
7 The Harpooned Fish, 1985.