Beannachtaí Lá Féile Pádraig daoibh go léir! Happy St Patrick's Day to all!
I am writing this from Tripoli, a city in Northern Lebanon, where I have set up home for the next six months! I recently took up a role here, working on a mission with MSF, providing emergency and primary healthcare to Syrian refugees who continue to arrive here since the conflict began in 2011, and to vulnerable Lebanese people in need of medical care. My role here is as a ‘primary healthcare medical doctor`. This work involves overseeing the activities in the primary healthcare clinics which MSF have established in Tripoli. I work alongside local doctors and nurses, and implement MSF treatment guidelines and management plans for patients who come to see us in the clinics we have established around Tripoli. We see patients who present with a wide variety of complaints and symptoms.
It is March now, and St Patrick's Day is approaching, but life is a far flung reality from the green sea of hysteria which generally permeates over the Emerald Isle at this time of year! I ask my colleagues from Lebanon about St Patrick's Day. It is an unknown concept to them. They have never heard of this holiday, or of its international notoriety (particularly in Europe and the US)! St. Patrick's Day has certainly not made its way to Tripoli.
I concede that in the three weeks since I arrived here, I have not heard anything close to the sound of an Irish brogue! I imagine the shortage of North Atlantic punters in the vicinity has staved off the spread of any Paddy's Day epidemic! One of the national staff, a driver from Tripoli, who spent some years living in the US, informs the other national staff in the office that St Patricks Day is a day when Irish people 'drink green beer'. I try to quash this embarrassing stereotype, by telling people stories about St Patrick's day in Ireland, the festivities that take place, and the story behind the saint. But the driver laughs at my protestations, and eventually I concede that there may be some level of truth to his observations!
I recall back to where I was this time last year. The beer was not green, but there was definitely beer! I was at the All Ireland Club championship finals in Croke Park. This is a long established custom for me. As a GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association] enthusiast and a Dub, I am heartbroken to miss this years final, with Ballymun Kickhams and St Brigids. I'm sure it will be cracking!
Instead of parades, leprechaun hats, Guiness and festivities, I will be working with the team here in Tripoli delivering primary healthcare in clinics we have running throughout the region in different locations. The craic agus ceol* will be missed for sure. However, I am fortunate enough to be living with four other MSF expatriates (from France, Tunisia, Germany and Romania), who are well acquainted with the St Patrick's Day philosophy. It is my intention to bombard them with Irish culture on the day in question. This will come in the form of traditional music, a wee céilí if they agree, and an attempt at an Irish stew (something I keep promising to deliver)!
سعيد يوم القديس باتريك
Beannachtai Lá Feile Padraig!
*Fun and music