Saturday, 15 October 2016

Calais diary, 11 Oct, part 2 - The first day

It was a small adventure just to get here. The train from Brussels was severely delayed, so I missed the last connecting train in Lille. Then the train company treated me to hotel with breakfast! It took them over one hour to set it up, and I was really tired and wanted to sleep, so that was a bit frustrating, but when I finally got my room, it was quite nice.

Because of this, I reached the Jungle the next day at 11:30, in the middle of the work day. The coordinator told me to go to the Jungle by bus, which I was just fine with, and she gave me an address. But nobody knew the address. On the other hand, everybody knew "The Jungle" ("Le Jungle")... although somehow it was as if the mood changed when I said it. And then it seems as if the driver intentionally let me off at the wrong stop! At least it was very far from the Jungle... Now one of the volunteers tried to send a car to pick me after all, but since I was no longer at the train station, they didn't find me. So I asked for directions and started walking instead. A guy I asked said it would be around 3 km maybe, and now that I check with the map, I can see that he came rather close with his estimation! (Almost 4 km) (I can also see that there are indeed bus stops much closer to the Jungle) But after having walked for a while, I asked a group of people again, to be on the safe side. One of the men, who was looking kind of rough-neck, hesitated a bit and then said in perfect working class English, to his mates in the car that he was standing by:
"What do you say, we take her there first and go get gas after?"
It turned out that they were English, who were there to make a documentary in the Jungle, and for the occasion had brought a tandem bike, as a means to make contact with people. They decided that they had time to take me, and one of them asked, kind of as a joke, if I preferred the car or the bike. But I definitely wanted to go on the bike! And so I through my bags, except my handbag and of course my money pouch underneath my clothes, into the trunk, and hopped up behind the Sudanese guy on the tandem bike. My first tandem ride! That I've always been so curious of, when I've seen one go by! On the rod, there was a camera attached, filming my feet. It was great fun!

We reached the Jungle, but the car had not arrived yet. Was I worried? Actually hardly at all! I had already found my kind, and recognized them. They wouldn't steal my bags from me. And sure enough, a few minutes later they showed up. They had just gotten a bit lost on the way.

And then, two Utopia volunteers came and escorted me into the Jungle, and so I had reached! :)

On the first day, I was picking trash in the Jungle. I handed over the two rolls of black garbage bags that I had bought in Brussels, and my young team leader Theo got really happy and cried out:
"Oh, super!" (in French)
One could have believed he had received a finer gift!

There were a few trash pits and trash hides, and there were a few cups and stuff lying around along the paths, but there were also a number of drums with trash bags in, or just a bag tied to a tent line or so, that were full of trash and that we took and exchanged for new bags. We were invited for tea at a make-shift tea house between the tents. We were strictly instructed never to be alone in the Jungle, and never to touch some blue cubes or little sachets with something blue in them, since that was rat poison and very dangerous. Often you would find blue cubes or sachets in the bottom of a trash pile... Where humans see trash, they throw more trash! A flock behavior, for the benefit of the flock. Unless there are bins, and people who pick trash.

*The Jungle = the informal settlement in Calais where thousands of refugees live, most after having failed to go to the UK

Parts in this series:
Calais diary, Oct 6 - A journey begins
Calais diary, 11 Oct - Some reflections
Calais diary, 11 Oct, part 2 - The first day
Calais diary, Oct 12 - The second day

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