Mobeen, the screw-up story

I screwed up Mobeen’s name the first time I met her. She came to us for an order for clothing and hygienic items. I always ask for names first to write at the top of the order, and so I can learn some faces. She said her name.


She nodded.

I wrote it down.

“No! Mobeennnn. E E N.”

“Ah, right”

We both smiled. 

We screwed up Mobeen’s order, too. She wanted a dress for the intense heat coming with the summer. We fulfilled the orders that evening and brought them the next morning. Mobeen brought her receipt and I searched for her bag. For a long time. Sometimes we leave them in the car, so I checked there later. To no avail. I made a confused look at her and tried to sympathize with her. “We’ll bring it tomorrow, I promise.”

We couldn’t find her order before we went to the warehouse that night. When we found it, five others had also not been fulfilled. Maybe it was just my sympathies, but I didn’t notice any other person come ask for their order. And as we set off from our hotel the next morning, we left the six orders in Macedonia.

But I knew that Mobeen wanted a dress. It was now 4 days overdue. She was a small young-looking woman who came to the camp with her husband, Jawad, and her son Mahid. I would see her around the camp at other times and, as I do to everybody, wave vigorously. She was one of the few with whom I could share a vigorous wave, even from dozens of meters away.

During those four days, she frequently came up to me to ask where her dress might be. “We’re always looking!” By the second time she asked, I wrote it down in my notebook to assure her that we were always thinking of her. And I really was. Overtime we went to the warehouse, I searched for a dress suitable for a woman who wanted to fully cover herself. Dresses were hard to find.

I screwed up her nationality, as well. Whenever I stopped moving around the camp, a crowd started around me of people to chat or ask for necessities. I stopped to chat with Mobeen and update her on the dress situation. Others came over, as well as another volunteer, to whom I introduced Mobeen.

“This is Mobeen. She’s from Afghanistan and needs a dress.”

“No! Pakistan!”

“Aaaahh  –Pakistan I mean!” I give her a half hug and she again laughed.

I told her then that we were going to the warehouse that night, and that I would find her one and bring it by 8pm. I found four at the wearhouse, two that would suit her, and brought them to her tent, which was closed.

“Mobeen. Pssst. Mobeen!” She opened her tent, where Mahid was happily lying flat on his back. “Try these on, and let me know if they’re ok.” (in a little more simple English). She thanked me with a big smile and we said good night.

On my last day, I helped her husband and his brother fix a tent. We clarified all our names. I learned some new ones, and called her Mobil for fun.

I looked back at my last picture of her and her family. She was wearing one of the dresses I brought. A pink one. Screw-up streak ended.

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