Sunday, 5 April 2009

Screaming corridors

Well, i get bored easily, as you can see, and i found i had some spare time despite school work, so i did some volunteer work in Baghdad. It was suprisingly easy, and unlike when i did volunteer work elsewhere, there was no paperwork, no insurance, no certificate given out. I was overjoyed that there was no forms to fill, but I got a serious talk, where i was looked in the eye by a greying man, who asked me to consider that i was only 17, and perhaps i would like to enjoy not knowing for a little while longer. Not knowing what? i replied.

I have been doing some volunteer work for a few months, but now exam season is here, i decided to stop to concentrate on study, and i was actually quite sad to go. I helped in a hospital and an orphanage. It was fun, but some things you don't forget, and my first day at the hospital is one of them. I do wonder why i almost punish myself like this, i mean it was my choice, and i do occasionally wish that all i had to worry about was homework due dates and what style i would wear my hair the next day, but i suppose you always want what you dont have. A perfect example of this would be when me and my cousins both walked into a salon. They have the most gorgeous natural curly hair, while i have just straight. When the hairdresser asked what we would like, our answers came in a flash. As I had my hair curled, and they had their hair straightened, i could not stop the laughter that made my shoulders shake. Oh the irony of it all.

The beginning of the hospital was what i guess was the emergency. It wasnt a private hospital, so as you can guess, it wasn't well equipped. Some people lay on the floor bleeding as they waited to be seen. Doctors rushed around in stained lab coats. I felt overwhelmed, but I'm determined one day to help Iraq stand on its feet again, and perhaps that might mean I have to face horrors, but what doesnt kill you makes you stronger, right?

I was wearing a shirt and trousers, both black, as I had been instructed, because other clothes 'might get dirty quickly'. I remember giggling when they told me this, as i had a horrible feeling they were about to hand me a mop and tell me to start cleaning. Instead, I ran around supplying bandages, spirit, IV fluids to the most needed. I even bandaged a few people. i remember after an explosion or something there was a lot of bleeding people. The hospital ran out of bandages and i spent two hours cutting large towels into strips. Everything happened in a daze, and i never really thought about what i was doing.

Apart from one day.I think it was the far right wing of the hospital. I was so tired, and annoyed from an argument with my parents over who i befriend. Anyway, i wandered in, and walked around the ward making some bad jokes, and generally trying to be witty. Everyone was sad. Mothers were sitting on the floor, and fathers had tear stained faces. I continues with the jokes, with a few weak laughs, and I handed out water and toys. Then I heard the most pained hurtful cry ever. It was one of those that chills you to the bone because you can almost feel their pain.
I hated the patients who were children. I hated the patients who were old. I hated the way they smiled at my jokes and swallowed their pain. it was heart wrenching. I would always feel so empty after i visited some certain wards. i tried almost everything to get them out of my head, but it didnt really work.

I was never actually faced with a live death at the hospital, but I think I would have preferred that to the amount of pain i witnessed.

Luckily life isnt all doom and gloom. The guy who came back to find his house inhabited came to our house.He drank coffee, and i took a photo of his coffee (iraqi superstition is you can tell someones future by looking into their coffee istikaan after they have finsihed drinking) :) I will tell his story, tommorrow I promise. I wanted to be sure of the outcome before I posted anything, so now everything is over, I'll write it up.

I'll also begin revision tommorrow.
Honestly. Tommorrow. Touta. Will. Begin. To. Revise. :)


JG said...

Ah... the coffee thing, that reminds me of people who read tea leaves after someone has finished their cup of tea.

It still doesn't explain why you took a photo though! ;)

Well done on the volunteering. That's not easy. I worked in a hospital for years. You do see upsetting things and it's hard to shut them out completely.

Maybe a career in medicine is on the horizon for you??

C.H. said...

Touta...I really admire you for doing volunteer work. That's an honorable thing to do, giving back to your community and helping out :)

The orphanages must be hard...I keep thinking about it myself because I plan on visiting some orphanages when I go to Nepal. The good thing is that when you are there, you can be like a big sister or cousin to the kids, right?

I am thinking about joining the American Red Cross for one day a week, but I'm not sure if I would do so well in a hospital, lol. Maybe I would. I will have to see ;)

JG said...


What sort of voluneer work will you be doing in Nepal?

C.H. said...


I will be teaching English and visiting orphanges. I'm going to be there for 3 and a half months and I am very excited about it :)

I'll also be in India for a couple weeks and I'm hoping to see the country by train during my stay.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

You're volunteering at the hospitcal was a very nice thing, Touta. In doing so you are giving something to your community. :)

I hope that the story you are working on about the man and his house has a happy ending. :)


When are you going to Nepal? And are you going to be blogging about your trip? It would be interesting to hear your observations of Nepal, and India as well.

Touta said...

readin tea leaves? but everyone uses tea bags! :D
And what can i say, i ahve an unhealthy obsession with other peoples coffee cups. :)

the orphanages are a very depressing place to be, but the hospitals are waay worse, because at the orphanage, you can cheer children up simply by acting like family, i still keep in touch with some. Good luck in Nepal, and i'm sure you'll enjoy it.

what community? :D I just finished writing the post about the man and his house. :)

JG said...

Great stuff, Corey.

I've been wanting to get to both India and Nepal for years. It's an interesting part of the world. You should definitely keep up the blogging over there...

geatg said...

well..nice to see someone doing altruistic act in Iraq! back when I used to "care" I always wanted to help patients for sake of "caring" and getting better in my future profession by working voluntarily in hospitals until one day I witnessed some patient's relative beating the living *hit out of a doctor who was helping, and story of such content kept occurring over and over good luck touta :D

attawie said...

God bless you and keep you safe dear Touta :)

True, working with orphans is easier. They are innocent and by being friendly and joyful you can draw a smile on their faces. But the hospital job! God help you. I'm so proud to be your friend :)

Touta said...

I know exactly what you old woman once kept shouting at me that i was the reason she was dying..everyone keeps taking their anger out on others, and its almost funny sometimes, but i know i will soon reach a point when i'll give up 'caring', so i'm making the most of my optimism while i have it. :) and thanks.

hahah, thank you, sad thing is, i always have an easy way out since i could leave any time, its the people who work there all the time that i admire, and i'm proud to be your friend too, take care. :)

Iraqi Mojo said...

Great post, touta. Thank you for your efforts to help Iraq.

C.H. said...

I totally intend to keep up my blogging when I go on my trip, don't worry.

I'm sure that all of you will enjoy hearing about India and Nepal! :D

Its so exciting...I just recently booked the tickets and it felt surreal, lol.

JG said...


It's a great feeling booking the tickets. That's when you know you're definitely going! :)

annie said...

you are much braver than me. volunteering in a hospital in baghdad during these trying times is not for the light of heart. take care and bless you.

Touta said...

Iraqi Mojo,
Thanks, everything just needs time.

Thank you, i do believe everyone is strong enough after they are faced with a lifestyle like many iraqis have. :)

PPLIC said...

Nice article. very interesting, thanks for sharing.