Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Calais and ripples of The Jungle

My experience in Calais over the weekend was intense. I did not expect the miles and miles of opressive fencing around the tunnel and ferry port, and The Jungle itself. The visual affect is disturbing and feels unnatural, only you do not instantly recognise it as being unnatural.

The mood in the town is distrustful, raw and wounded. I have never before felt such an urgent need to covet my identity and purpose for being in a European country. Chatting with locals in a volunteer-friendly bar on Saturday night, I suddenly realised that one conversation with the wrong person, and the consequences might have had the potential to be harrowing. The police are not going to respond to a situation involving volunteers until it has gone too far, if they do at all.

Those French who are friendly to the volunteers want to talk, want to debate, they want a resolution. They want no borders. They are impassioned and sincere, inspiring and brave.

The atmosphere in the workshop and warehouse was positive, hopeful and exhausted. The emotional charge of people coming back from The Jungle and trying to get their head around the situation laces everything. The Jungle laces everything, it is all anybody there works for and thinks of. Thinking about being human.

After we wound things down in the workshop I went into the warehouse and a man about my age, very animated, very knowledgeable on the migration that is occuring, was describing how one refugee he spoke to mentioned seeing crocodiles in every country he passed through. The animation was captivating and he kept saying, "...but there are no crocodiles in any of the countries he crossed. There are no crocodiles in the countries he crossed".
Driving by Maidstone in the morning I realised the refugee must have been using the crocodile as a metaphor; a creature that can lie unseen in water and ambush its prey. The 'crocodiles' must be a type of person related to the water in the experiences of those migrating. The dark revelations keep coming and they floor you.

I was not brave enough this time round to venture into The Jungle, I felt I had not earned the right and that really, I had to go there with a purpose. I was happy enough building a floor for a shelter and imagining who might sleep on it and if they would try to imagine me smashing it all together for them!

A superb human being helped me finish my floor off. She told me she just goes into The Jungle to chill and chat with the people. I recognised in her someone with a handle on her emotions and a very real grasp on what is happening; someone to guide, someone to follow. I will never forget her name, and I really hope she is there this week end. So many amazing people. Amazing humans.

I took twenty four hours to reflect on my brief experience, then I booked my ticket for the tunnel this Friday. I am running a poetry workshop in the Jungle on Saturday at 2pm. The theme is journey.

After the intensity I regret I have taken so long to get over there and see for myself, think and feel for myself.

So far this is the only poetry:

Compassion is a bearing, a course to steer,
every degree a shearing away from fear.

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