Winter babies

Tonight, after seeing a total of about 80 people, we manage to lock ourselves out of our caravan for while. While we are trying to resolve this, C’s friend improves the situation by appearing with some cups of hot sweet black tea for us to share; apparently there is a little group that turns up every now and then with tea urns and hands it out free to everyone within reach. “They are very enthusiastic!” he says. I’ve had some good Afghan chai here, but really it was Arabic style tea I was yearning for, and I am very enthusiastic about it too.

Also today, I visited three pregnant women – due in 3 months, 2 months, and any moment now. The first two are sharing a little volunteer built hut, which is snug, but there is no way of heating it. We understand that when caravans are donated, they do go to more vulnerable people first – there is a little enclave of family caravans in the centre of the camp, we hear – but these two have not yet been offered one as no doubt demand outstrips supply. Caravans can be heated by gas, if people can afford it. It could make all the difference to these two little winter-babies-to-be, so when I get home I will put a call out for a caravan for them, and someone to drive it over. You never know.

Jungle site is on rubbish dump
Jungle site is on rubbish dump

As for the “any moment now” baby – a hospital birth is planned, but I know how often the unplanned happens. I am glad to meet them. That little family-to-be is already in a tiny caravan, and delighted to have visitors; they are being kept a good eye on by some UK friends who are regular volunteers, one of whom is fluent in their own language. No heating though. Or running water of course, no-one here has that. And did I mention the camp is on a rubbish dump? And the asbestos? I think of the traditional song about being born into a travelling family, with the chorus “You’d better get born in someplace else – Move along, get along, go, move, shift, be on your way…” But this baby is welcome, so many of us welcome her, are glad from the bottom of our hearts that it is only the unhygenic camp conditions and the winter she faces, not air strikes or starvation or a leaky boat on the sea.

The camp is very much alive for a lot of the night, it is not until about 4am there is quiet outside. At some point prior to that, there is a heated discussion that goes on beside the caravan, which seems to involve a lot of sentences which might translate as “…and I’ll tell you another thing – ” which are accompanied by fist thumps against our wall for emphasis. People here with different mother tongues often use English as their shared language, and on another occasion this week, we are awoken by another thump to the caravan, with someone saying to their friend in puzzled, heavily accented English – “what is THIS?”

Towards dawn, someone knocks repeatedly and we answer sleepily. He has a friend who has a very high fever, he says apologetically, and he is worried. We explain we are not doctors, and ask if his friend has taken paracetamol. He has and it did not help. We say if he is is very worried he may need to take his friend to hospital. He asks if we have a car. We don’t. The hospital is some miles away (actually there is a bus for it a walk from outside camp during the day, but nothing at night). In the morning with a more functioning brain, I wonder if we should have tried to get a taxi for them. Are taxis willing to take fares from the camp? One more thing to find out.


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