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  • Writer's picturekwankew

Hunger and Children

An unexpected day-off. I would rather run a clinic for Rohingya but it was not to be. Had I known that we had no clinic far ahead of time, I would have booked to fly home a day earlier. A group of us toyed with the idea of hiring a van to go to visit the camps. I would have loved to walk in the camp to get a deeper sense of how the refugees live. It was quite expensive to hire a van to go there and we would have to have a MedGlobal person to accompany us. In the end some of us decided to take a Tom Tom to see the reclining Buddha in the Buddhist Monastery. The road that we took was teeming with big long-distance buses and heavy trucks, which weaved in and out and sometimes coming dangerously close to us.

The reclining Buddha is not quite as impressive as the one in Bangkok, nevertheless in a Muslim country, it is amazing that this monastery exists. After that we did not request the Tom Tom to take us anywhere else.

Another volunteer from Australia came this afternoon to stay in the apartment. We walked to a neighboring café where the owner after learning that I am from Malaysia, proceeded to speak to me in Malay. I have long forgotten most of my Malay but managed to understand him and also answered him back.

We walked to the beach and sat on the sand. Immediately we were surrounded by people selling coffee, groundnuts and we were serenaded by three Bangladeshi girls who wished that we could reward their effort with some taka.

Most days when I stopped at a store which was not often, one or two children ran to me, they could spot foreigner quickly, persistently touching my arms and gesturing their hands to their mouth, one used the word “hungry”. I had thought about taking them to a local restaurant and ordering some food for them but most of the time when I came back from dinner, they were nowhere to be found.

Tonight I skipped dinner and went in search for these hungry children. One Bangladeshi man came to me and apologized when a little girl followed me and tapped me repeatedly on the arm. He told me that this little girl’s father married three times and left her mother who sent her out to beg. He also suggested that rather than giving her money, I should buy her food. I told him that I had seen several children like her. He then walked further up the road and waved and two more street urchins came wistfully. I took them to the local restaurant I frequented and ordered food for them, at the entrance, a security guard tried to stop them but they pointed at me. While I was ordering a woman sidled up to me and put her hand to her mouth. She did not want to sit and be served but preferred to get a take-out.

The three children washed their hands and ate heartily. The man brought in a smaller girl and as she was washing her hands at the table pouring water into her dish, the water turned brown with dirt. The other children pointed her to the sink to wash her hands. I put heaps of rice on her plate. I watched them eat and wondered when was the last time their bellies were full. They should sleep well tonight.

The woman was given her bag of food which she carefully examined. I paid the cashier and left, walking into the soft sea breezes of the early evening of Cox’s Bazar.

Tomorrow I would take a Tom Tom to the airport heading to Dhaka and then have a very long wait for my plane home.

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