Thanks for clicking on this! I tried to write down the story of my experience and how it has affected me, but I want to know the opinion of a third party.
The prompt is 'any essay of your choice'
I was lost. Everything was itching, poking or choking me. I was still questioning my decision. I had wished I turned back when I was still on top of the hills, from where the Kutapalong camp seemed like a miniature town, designed by slothful architect with no sense of organization or visual aesthetics. But I assume, for reasons that may have been well ahead of my understanding, that no architects are employed to respond to, as the United Nations calls it, the world's fastest growing humanitarian crisis.
I awkwardly made my way through the muddy cramped lanes: dodged the three feet wide, dung-filled puddles, and jumped over the smaller ones. I was careful to steer clear of the open garbage dumps, present in every alternative junction, and the swarm of flies wavering over them, in what seemed an endless labyrinth. I failed to understand how anyone could make any sense of direction in this never ending maze.
I cannot think of a time where I haven't rejoiced at the first signs of the monsoon rain showers, but at that moment and in that place, it was the last thing I desired. With every muddy stain painted on my jeans, with every breath of air mixed with stench and smoke, with every mosquito buzzing towards me, with every raindrop dropping on my bare face, I had an excuse to resent where I was. I failed to understand how anyone could live here.
An hour ago, in the office of the Regional Distribution Officer, the large man with his diplomatic look, thick moustache and black spectacles sighed after he swept a first glance over the volunteer that arrived this morning. As I write this essay, I realize I can now guess what was going his head: "here's another teenager who wants to do the world a favor, who doesn't know what he's signing up for, who'll give up in a day or two." Introductions and formalities followed. "Deliver these packages, follow the map," he said handing me a piece of paper, picking up yet another phone call. A simple delivery service?
No. It wasn't.
As I stood there, with my legs almost giving up, clothes drenched and muddied, I turned to my last resort. I asked myself, "Is this all worth it?" It felt so easy to be able to go back, return the packages, return to take a hot bath and soup at home. This was me, always calculating the pros and cons of every action to be undertaken. This part of me begged me to go back.
But I wanted to know. Who are these people? Why are they here? Are they in pain? They talk like us, yet the adults talked of them as outsiders. They look like us, and yet they don't seem to be from around here. Should I make the effort? Should I engage? I made it to my first stop. I might've spent over five hours in those tents, for when I reached the Office, it was late evening. The diplomatic man seemed perplexed. I said I'd come back the next day. I did. After a month, the diplomatic man found himself assigning the boy who 'would give up after a day or two' tasks he wouldn't trust others with.
Till date, I don't know what made gave me that strength. Those five hours told me what I didn't have. I didn't have memories of father being shot and my mother being raped by the same people in front of my eyes. I didn't have memories of my home being burnt to the ground.
I also realized the things I haven't done yet: I haven't yet crossed thick jungles to survive. I haven't yet woken up to gunshots and screams. I haven't yet lived like an animal in those camps, going hungry for days. I haven't yet lived the life of a Rohingya.