Journal From a Refugee Camp – 21 September

I’m currently volunteering as a Farsi interpreter at a medical clinic at the One Happy Family community center on Lesvos Island. In 2015 I volunteered as general labor and later an interpreter at Camps Pikpa and Moria and shared those stories here.

Thursday, 21 September.

I expected to be more nervous. The sooner I would arrive at the medical clinic, the more I realized I didn’t have all the vocab I needed. Ulcers? Aneurysms? Those were out of my language and charades skill levels. I wasn’t nervous though. I won’t know every word. That’s fine. It happens to everyone.

We arrived at the camp at 12:15 p.m. and started unloading boxes of gauze and medication at the clinic. The medical clinic is open from noon to 5:00 p.m. and is a wood building with no floor and a roof which was never completed. After clinic hours it becomes a school. Our staff would by myself, a doctor, a triage nurse, and a coordinator. I felt we were understaffed and underequipped, but hoped I was wrong.Ā  At 12:30 we opened the doors. It was calm. Things were chaotic in Moria (in 2015-2016) and I was nervous I wouldn’t be doing enough to help now.

Soon enough, people trickled in. We treated 30 people today but there were no severe cases. Lots of indigestion, a man with a sea urchin stuck in his foot who we gave a plastic cup and told him to soak his foot in his own urine for twenty minutes, and a woman who had miscarried a month ago and now had rashes on her face were the most memorable cases, but overall it was a slow and peaceful day. It contrasted nicely with the chaos I experienced at Moria the year before, where people would come in the day after making the boat journey from Turkey and suffered from any illness imaginable.

I was the only full-time Farsi interpreter at my current clinic, though there were two others at the camp who were completely fluent and stopped in from time to time. When they came I had nothing to do, so I studied vocab (tear duct, kidney stones, etc.) and enjoyed hearing the Rocky soundtrack from the improvised gym next door. I stepped out a few times and asked them to turn it down; they apologized and turned the music down, only for it to get louder and louder over the next hour before we repeated the cycle.

Tomorrow morning I’ll head to the hospital early to translate for a man with stomach ulcers. I’m studying every potential word that goes with ulcers but I imagine I still will get stumped once or twice.

Stumped like I was today. It was fine, I’ll be fine, and he’ll be fine.









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