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How I became a Refugee

   One of the main events of World Youth Day, the climatic point of the entire week, is the vigil and final mass. There we keep vigil during the night, praying to the Lord, and we awake the next morning for mass with Christs representative on earth, Pope Francis. At the end of the beautiful Mass the vicar of Christ announces where the next World Youth Day will be held. Let me explain my experience with this intense event.

     If there is one accurate phrase to sum up the vigil experience for me, it would be, I became a refugee.  Here I was, carrying everything I brought to Poland in my travelers backpack, weighing around 40 pounds, walking down the streets, not knowing where to go, but following the crowd. I was clueless, and trusted that the direction I was heading would lead me to my destination. We traveled for four and half hours in the direct sun walking every step of those nine miles, getting closer and closer to Campus Misercordes.
My group and I were in Section A7
     When we finally did reach our section, at Campus Misercordes, we had to claim our land, claim our territory for our group. All the while, the sun shined and the temperature rose making it uncomfortably hot. I made the mistake of not buying water the night before, so by the time we reached the field I had only half a bottle of water left. The water that was available was a sparkling water that was different than what we have here in the americas. A couple of us from our group struggled to set up a 'tent' which in reality was anything we had to get out of the sun. We stretched a rope around a pole to create V shape. We then stretched shower curtains and blankets across to create a shaded spot for us to lie down in. It wasn't the most visually appealing thing, but it was something, it was shelter, it was worth the effort.

    As we lied down in our make shift shelter, we began to snack on the small amount of food we were given. We had a strawberry yogurt shake, a bueno bar, tymbark, and a veggie and rice dish that was preserved in gelatin. The rice dish was personally inedible. I took one bite and became instantly sick. As I walked around the campus, many people didn't like it either, as their were plenty containers of it piled high along the barricades and on the streets.  So for those two days of the vigil and final Mass I was running on little sleep, little food, little water, and little energy.

    As I sat there in our shelter reality hit me and one single thought took over my mind,  I am tasting the life of a refugee.  When I realized how miserable I was and how in actuality it wasn't that bad compared to an actual refugee who is going through, what I experienced in two days, their entire lives.

   After the final Mass we waited and waited to go back to let crowds go and by 1:00 we started our trek back to the hostel. As we walked among the thousands of people our group was split in two. Someone had gotten hurt, but a group of us ( who some how managed to stay together) were to far ahead for the message to be carried forward. So we continued, and after about an hour of travel, we decided to wait for the rest of our group. Ten minutes past, then fifteen, then half n hour, still no sign of the other half of our group. Some people in our group had decided to split from us because they just wanted to get home. We continued to wait for another half n hour. Still no sign of the other half of our group for that time. We decided to google map our way home, and set foot.

    It was about ten minutes into our walk that it began to rain. It really rained. It poured to be exact. There was thunder and lightning and the rain continued to fall harder and harder. Instead of pulling over and waiting the showers out, we continued walking. We walked for an hour in that rain, continuously going forward without stopping. It was raining so hard that as we walked the streets our shoes were submerged  in the water.

    Of course by the time we did make it back to our hostel, the sun came out.

    As I laid down in the bed in the hostel my mind went again to that of refugees. I realized how out of touch I was with the reality of refugees. Yes it is one thing to see it on tv and have actual images, but as we see those images, we are in the comfort of our homes. But to experience a sliver of what so many people experience every single day, opened my eyes and made me sad. It made me sad for the lack of prayers I've said for refugees. I became sad because it disturbed me that other humans beings can cause other human beings to be forced to live in inhuman ways and to struggle for the basic human necessities. It bothered me to see that people are forced to live a life where they don't know if they will be alive tomorrow.

    The final events of World Youth Day were eye opening and defiantly a heart opener as well. Through experiencing the walk to the vigil, the hot sun in the middle of a field, sleeping at night in the field, the lack of food and water, the lack of comfort, made me realize and experience the life of a refugee. This one unique and immense experience has changed my life and it is something I defiantly won't forget. World Youth Day made me a Refugee.

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