Although signs of spring are coming with longer lighter days, the weather is still cold and the wind remains bitter. Tents that had been given out by aid organisations providing at least some basic shelter have been removed this morning.
The weather seems to act as a barometer for the last few days, which, like the mix of cold, wind but brighter sky, - did bring some bittersweet interactions.
The state run food distribution remains a contentious issue, there are five different sites where this occurs, in one there are toilets and washing facilities provided. However there is limited trust towards any state intervention, people feel compromised being forced to attend these food distributions. Initially numbers were low for the take up of food, with many boycotting the barbered wire and cameras surrounding the distribution sites, these numbers are slowly increasing as people are hungry and the state amends its sites.
With our friend we discussed the complexities of how to decide what to do? The onset of seasonal change brings a reminder of the time that has been spent away from family and children. There is a huge price paid for those who are fleeing from danger, often faced with no other choice then leaving behind loved ones to find a safer place. We all thought of an image of a maze and how, when in it, it is difficult to know which way to turn. Choices of which direction to take are impossible to advise on, particularly when basic choices of where and when to eat, where to sleep, who to trust and accept support from, are taken away.
The session in the day centre began quietly but developed into a slow steady pace of activity, with buildings emerging creating an urban landscape with some housing modernist in style and roads connecting different sites. People selected backgrounds for their homes from our postcard box, the merits of each location discussed.
Many people talked to us about their exhaustion; one man voiced, “I am exhausted- I have to walk 5 kilometres to the food distribution, then back 3 kilometres to the day centre, then back to get food later.’ This is all with the usual backdrop of police intimidation, destruction of property, lack of sleep, cold and wind.
Sat around the table with us were Afghani, Iraqi, Syrian, Sudanese, Eritrean, and Egyptian young men. By the end of the session a pyramid wasn’t slowly and carefully beginning to be constructed. A young man who we know from the safe house joined the group to support a new arrival, softly and carefully translating, stories and connections slowly emerging as confidence and interest was built.
Now that the food is distributed a little further away, there is an even more of a desolate ambiance. The large map on the side of the MDM ambulance, as always, attracted a range of volunteers and refugees alike. Slowly routes and journeys were described – hometowns and cities pointed out.
A lovely playful interaction occurred with a young man venturing off the map to Cuba, this began a conversation that extended the map into an imagined realm going as far as Canada, South America and Greenland. People journeying to places where they felt safe and accepted, irrelevant of their skin colour. One young man retold how visiting so many countries had been enlightening and that “spinning around” different places had brought new perspectives.
A number of young men had been in the Calais camp, now more then a year since its forced closure. Mapping out where things were in the camp remains important to people. It places an anchor in the sea of uncertainty with many refugees travelling for years to find a safe destination, the camp remains in peoples memory as a fixed point.
Another reminder of the camp was a discussion about kites, A kite was traced out in the earth, then mimed out and flown in the air, found objects scattered on the ground used as props in the process.
The gentle warmth of the safe house enabled people to quickly settle into a pattern of creative activity. There is a sense of trust and continuity, well-established relationships which allow a great capacity for playing to happen.
A fishing village was rapidly made, with yellow fish on sale. Next door a house was built for a family, some chickens, a cat and dog. The young people picked up from our filming activities last session, one taking the lead to be this weeks camera man and director, selecting the music to accompany the film. We got to work as a group exploring the editing software and searching for the right sound affects to accompany the scenes. We reluctantly packed up to leave, with agreements to continue the work next time.