Meeting with the women. Joel, from the US, who’s been here for 9 months now, rushed me out of the middle of a conversation with someone: “hey, I want you to come translate something for me. The women are mad and I must have a talk with them”. So a meeting with a large group of women it is.
Mad. They are mad at everything in the camp. The water has been off. No hot water. They’re not happy with the food distribution; quality, quantity, everything. I wasn’t sure it was really that bad. I’m sure the whole thing is terrible. But when you come to every item alone, is it really that bad? I don’t think so.
Joel was very furious too. He’s squeezed in between, getting all the yelling and madness all the time, and most of the time with little to do instantly to make their life better. It was my first intensive heated group encounter since I arrived. I was quite scared and stressed.
They were mad and yelling at both of us. They didn’t like the meat, they didn’t like the quality of the veggies, they wanted more “bohar” (spices) because that’s how they cook their food, which is not available.
At this point I had an instant long conversation in mind: “wait, what? Bohar? Are you people aware of the situation you’re in? Are you in denial? You guys live in an abandoned factory nearly in the middle of nowhere… and you’re yelling about the food quality and some spices missing!? I’m here volunteering and I don’t bother what I eat because I’m aware of the situation I’m in. I eat shit and i don’t care about the quality or quantity of it as long as it keeps me going”.
But wait again! I’m judging them, with my very narrow mind and shallow emotions.
How could I dare think in such comparative context. I’m here upon my choice, they’re not. And, therefore, I would be happy to eat shit and care not. Because it makes me feel some self-worth. To me this is knowingly temporary, to them not. On the opposite, when they eat shit, they feel less self-worth. It reminds them of how abandoned by, nearly, the entire world they are. The few who haven’t abandoned them completely are the volunteers working on this site. And maybe the one thing legitimate for them to complain and yell at us about is the service we provide.
On a very relevant note, is there one single thing that those people can be happy about? No. Has each of them had the chance to express their anger and feelings properly? No. Why is it strange then that the one thing that is objectively wrong gets magnified? They were mad at the food quality, but it wasn’t just that. This is them being mad at the war, the death, the loss, and the unknown destiny they’re heading towards. The food, the spices and the water are possibly the only channel through which they can transmit their feelings without being told ” it’s alright. It’s because you’ve been traumatised”. It is the only thing they can openly complain about, but it hid within it a hundred other things.
On another note, I admired how relatively demanding and picky they were (given the emergency situation), and how bluntly they commented on the level of service provided. It told me they’re not entirely dead from the inside. It told me they had a lot of their self-worth that they still preserved, that they could still demand better. It wasn’t like they gave up on themselves and accepted anything that’s being given to them. I admired them.
So back to the meeting, I did the translation with a bit of resolution in there. It ended with everyone feeling relatively better and more tasks to follow in attempt to improve the service.