Saturday, January 23, 2016

rose and the tents

during a lull in the clamor outside the DRC (danish refugee council) hut while we volunteers were resting briefly, a young girl came alone to the door. we invited her inside and asked her what she needed. it appeared she wanted to chat--to practice her english, which was already better than my arabic. still it was limited and our conversation with rose proceeded with many hand gestures, puzzled looks, and repetitions on both sides.

she was adorable. in a cherry red coat with bright, inquisitive dark eyes and wavy black hair, she looked to be about 9 or 10. when we asked where her parents were, she told us her mother and father and brother and sisters were sleeping, when i asked. though we were enjoying her company, and she seemed ok, after 2 or 3 visits from her i think we all began to wonder if there wasn't more to the story than we were getting. surely her family weren't all asleep somewhere while this young girl wandered the camp alone.

eventually i asked her, in arabic, what the matter was. i was distressed, but not surprised, when her smiling, inquisitive face dissolved into tears. after holding her for a minute, i somehow managed to get her to take me to where her parents were. 

holding hands we walked, not far, across the rudimentary road to where two men and a little boy were trying to set up one of the small tents we dole out when the dorms, the rubbhall tent for single men, and the RHU (refugee housing units) are full. this was her father, an uncle perhaps, and her little brother. her mother and sisters nowhere in evidence i realized she had not told us precisely the truth. 

i don't mean to imply that she lied. rather, it seems as if she could not process what must be the truth that her mother and sisters sleep was permanent. they were not at the camp in moria, and i don't think they were just left behind.

her father and (presumably) uncle were struggling, trying to set up the tent. i can only imagine how long they had been attempting to erect their scanty shelter, because rose had been visiting us off and on for at least an hour by then. maybe longer.

those of you readers who know me would be the first to attest to the fact that i'm a city girl. not really the outdoorsy type at all. nevertheless, i did know how to set up the tent, and proceeded to show them, helping them gain some small shelter from the cold and wind. i spread out some cardboard underneath for a little extra warmth and padding from the rocky, muddy site they had chosen. of course, all the possible sites were muddy and rocky, pretty much, although a few people had set their tents up on concrete slabs here and there.

after the tent was set up, rose didn't come to the DRC tent to visit us anymore that i saw, although she had made particular friends with one of the other volunteer women, and did see her again. rose insisted on giving two pairs of earrings from her little bag of treasures to michelle, her volunteer friend. michelle, in return, gave rose the earrings she was wearing. 

still, rose and what was left of her family must have gone to sleep shortly after their tent was set up. i hope she slept warm and well, and that her future is better. this bright, beautiful, and strong little girl has much to offer the world.

the funny thing, is that after setting up the tent, one of the DRC staff members realized i knew how, and i have become the resident expert in tent construction. the night after our sojourn with rose found me demonstrating tent set up to a group of about 30 afghan men, including the DRC staff member.

i certainly never thought i'd be the person people turned to for camping advice, but i sure appreciate the irony. hope those of you readers who know me got a good laugh out of that one.

more tomorrow.