Over the course of 80 days in Calais, I met great cooks, brave barely-18-year-olds, former art students, misusers of the French language, reggae lovers, amateur tattoo artists, people who sold weed from Amsterdam, tiny women who didn’t take **** from anyone, chefs who got gruesome-looking steam burns and didn’t bat an eye about them, unbelievably Scottish people, a proud beef and mutton farmer, an improv comedian, a Canadian who once worked in a cheese factory, bald women, long-haired men, skateboarders, Mormons, lesbians, an actor, a vicar, a contortionist. Most were white British vegans, but also the kind who smoked, often while simultaneously driving and texting and playing “**** the Police” on the stereo, who traded in a broad underground market of secondhand clothing, people who wore at minimum two pairs of socks at a time and showered at maximum once every three or so days. We lived in caravans that each had their own interestingly dysfunctional bathrooms, artistic kinds of mold, and childish names for the campsite’s stray cats. We left at 8h45 every morning and came back when enough work had been done, had one or five glasses of red wine, and did it again the next day.
In 2017 and 2018 I travelled to Calais, France to volunteer for the young British NGO Help Refugees. There I worked alongside other volunteers to distribute meals and material aid to displaced people attempting to seek asylum the UK after fleeing places like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. You can read a full account of my experience here.
“Fly, silly seabird / no dreams can possess you / no voices can blame you for sun on your wings
But sandcastles crumble / and hunger is human / and humans are hungry for worlds they can’t share
My dreams with the seagulls fly / out of reach, out of cry”
Joni Mitchell, Song to a Seagull