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  • Writer's picturekwankew

Settling In

It rained during the night and the dirt roads to the main tarmac road turned into mud puddles. Rain clouds gathered ominously in the horizon this morning when I started my run. Unlike January, the sun was nowhere to be seen. There were fewer people at the beach perhaps because of the threatening rain. The tides were coming in. Soon a drizzle fell softly and then more piercingly and persistently. I ran into the more sheltered casuarina forest even then the rain penetrated the cover.

Perhaps it was the weekend, it took us two hours to get into the clinic, less than the quoted three hours. The traffic snare was again in the Ukhia area. We passed the eight mangled Tom Tom where the passengers were killed by bamboo logs falling from an overloaded lorry when the ropes that held them together snapped, a grim reminder of how fragile our lives are and how dangerous traveling is in this part of the world.

Like yesterday the patients were waiting for us. One woman was brought in by her concerned husband complaining of swelling of her body. They brought along a thick chart scrawled with the infamous doctor’s scripts. She had gone to Chittagong and had blood work and special x-ray called MRI of the lumbar spine which showed some nerve impingement. They wished for medication refills an assortment of pain medications and anti-anxiety pills but the lab result that stood out was that she had a low thyroid stimulating hormone level, which could explain some of her symptoms. I advised them to return to their doctor which would not be easy as Chittagong was far away and they would need special permission to travel outside of Cox’s Bazar.

Many of the men and women I saw today seemed to have suffered the wear and tear of living in this rough and tumble world, looking older than their age, with deep wrinkles carved into their careworn faces. Almost all of them chewed pann (betel nut with lime) which permanently stained their teeth and tongue and potentially could lead to cancer. Whether this had become an addiction of sort or something to do to pass the time, this habit of chewing pann is a longstanding one occurring in Myanmar even before they arrive in Bangladesh. On the streets here pann is commonly sold as well.

Despite the rain in the morning, the rest of the day the fierce sun fought through the clouds and the heat could be felt. On our way home men were paving the roads leading to some of the camps with bricks, preparation for the monsoon rain continued.

On our way home we all went to register at the office of the refugee commission to get our pass as a volunteer in the refugee camps. The pass will enable us to get into camps legitimately and we would not run the danger of being deported.

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