The first tent & Google doctor

It is warm, no actually hot and it is not yet 10AM in the morning. The camp’s tents are more or less lined up, but refugees have been moving them around to their convenience and tent numbers are no longer fully in order. After a bit of asking around we find the first tent on our list. A Kurdish Syrian family invites us in, a man and a woman, she is clearly pregnant. Abby, my Arabic speaking interviewer starts while I check their household number, and tick them of our list. Abby engages them immediately and her mimicry conveys a genuine interest. She clearly puts people at ease while the conversation flows. I look around and don’t know yet, whether I am looking at a ‘rich’ or ‘poor’ tent. They have the basics covered, bed, bedding, suitcases piled up as closet. Some pink plastic cups show up filled with hot tea, to raise our temperature even further. Not long into the interview they hand us a plastic bag with different kinds of medication. ‘Check whether they’re suitable for a pregnant woman,’ Abby tells me without hesitation. Internet and google on my phone are my ticket to being a ‘pharmacist and doctor’ in one. Most prescription are for folic acid, and for the rest I check whether they are harmful for pregnant women. The interview comes to an end and I ask Abby to strongly advise them to go to a doctor to do a proper check, as I really cannot guarantee that Google University has all the answers, nor that I am an actual doctor.

The jeweler, the butterfly & the snake

He sits in front of us delicately polishing a copper ring with a small heart shape on top as figurative decoration.  His sons, young adolescents, one left, one right, each hanging to one side clearly with limbs that have grown faster than the body they were used to. Neither one of them smiles while their father speaks. Together they have built a front porch before their tent. Besides a low table to sit around it contains many different gathered ‘appliances’ that helps them make more jewelry, maintain their flourishing front garden, cook and many other ways to occupy their hands. The father teaches the sons to make jewelry as well. Behind the father a butterfly with yellow wings is carefully pinned to the tent canvas. Everything has an order. He is upset. Yesterday there was a snake in the tent and shows us pictures from the snake on the ground and then from snake dead, held by the tail down by one of the sons. What if his son had been bitten? The ambulance takes too long to come and there is not a doctor on site at night. We nod and cannot do more, except to note his complaint. We leave the front porch and pass a couple of young men we had interviewed earlier on. They have fishing gear in their hands. Abby shares the concern about the snake. They shrug and say laughingly, ‘He’s scared about snakes, what about bombs and war?!’

Back to Turkey

The tent is virtually empty, except the basic army supplies, grey blankets on steel frame black beds, some UNHCR floor mats to sit on, the distributed UNHCR lamp, a couple of bottles of water. A young man with a small pointy beard and light brown hair shows his volunteer cards. He teaches Arabic and does other volunteer jobs in the camp, organized by Spanish and British volunteer organisations. Next to him his younger brother, on his other side a tent mate that lights up one cigarette after another. They all do. He asks if his brother has a better chance of going to Germany, because he is still a minor. He would join him then on the basis of family reunification. Their smiles are genuine and frustrated, they have all left Syria quite awhile now and making the crossing to Europe right before the borders closed. They regret coming now. They all had jobs in Turkey. Here they can do absolutely nothing, they are stuck in Greece, maybe they will go back next month if nothing changes.

Spinach & pomegranate

It is the last interview of the day. The white rocks that make the terrain uncomfortable to walk on all over, have been gathered and made into a neat garden path that leads to the tent. We are welcomed with a warm smile. Towards the entrance of the tent two women are preparing dough packages. One of them picks a baby from an actual baby crib and starts to breastfeed. They are from Aleppo and later on I learn from my colleague that they are known for their cooking in the camp. Officially no one is allowed to cook, due to fire hazard in the hot Greek summer son, but many do. They cannot stand the food offered by the Greek military. As one man put it earlier, ‘They are just feeding us calories, not food.’ Especially the many quantities of ‘macaroni’ are not appreciated. ‘Do they really think Syrian people eat this much pasta?’ A lady carries the dough packages to the back and comes back with a pile of fried ones. We are encouraged to eat. On the inside I find a tasteful mix of spinach and pomegranate. Maybe the Greek military chef can follow a couple of cooking classes from these ladies?

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