Search This Blog

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Jungle refugee camp in Calais

Note: This blog entry is 90% done, please pardon the spelling and grammar errors. However, a finished rough draft article for Cracked.com inspired by this blog entry can be found here. It's has more information, more detail and is a lot longer.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AuzGqy6B7mFlwHe2uvLNPTPl5R7fJMnrXri3pH_zafA/edit?usp=sharing



Diary

The Jungle

TL;DR (Too long? Didn't read it? Here's a summary):
9000 refugees and growing trying to get to the UK on a tiny plot of land in Calais, France, a short ferry/tunnel ride to the UK, infested with rats, toxic from pesticides and asbestos, with shit and piss overflowing from porta-potties, tightly controlled by the French national police who routinely tear gas, steal food, and destroy refugee tents.
Fuck the police, fuck the French government.

Aerial view of The Jungle center, from The Guardian


Also check more info at Calaispedia


YouTube intro about our charity organization


General info:

"The Jungle" is the nickname for an unofficial refugee camp in Calais, France. Everyone from policemen and government officials to volunteers and refugees use this name, which I've seen spray-painted in graffiti style on some refugee tents as self-identification. The name is so commonly used that it's even on google maps:



Seriously, check out the reviews yourself! (Screenshots taken while in Paris, so The Jungle is 237 km away from Paris)

It has at the latest count (mid-August '16) over nine thousand refugees, mostly men but also some women and children. The numbers are constantly growing, and new refugees arrive everyday.

Security and safety: due to the kind of work we do at the refugee camp I have few pictures and our warehouse address is not in my public journal as there's a risk of fascists who want to burn down our warehouse, or cases where refugees are found online in photos and sent unwillingly to another country. For example, a child refugee who's parents in their home country saw their picture online and requested that the child be returned. It's a complicated problem, do you return the kid to their parents who may be hostile (because why else would the child escape?) or keep the child illegally in a safe place?

I spent one month, July 10th to August 10th volunteering with my friend Florence for a British charity organization called Help Refugees. Hours were roughly 9am to 6pm, six days a week. More if you want, like volunteering teaching English or French at one of the two volunteer run schools in The Jungle in the evenings.

Most volunteer jobs with Help Refugees aren't even in The Jungle but at our big warehouse a few miles away, so many volunteers don't get a chance to see The Jungle with their job. So if you want to volunteer but are scared of being traumatized by how derelict The Jungle is, fear not, as you can find a volunteer job where you don't have to go into the refugee camp itself.

Overall I enjoyed the whole experience. It was hard, time consuming work but I felt like my effort was very worthwhile. I might even go back eventually to volunteer more.

For our first few days Florence and I distributed clothing and basic hygiene supplies to the refugee camp in Dunkirk, a half hour drive east of Calais. It's an official refugee camp, as opposed to the unofficial Jungle camp, and is much cleaner, more organized, and not as patrolled by police. The Dunkirk camp had less than a thousand refugees when I was there, mostly Kurds but also a few Vietnamese families. This job was honestly very easy and boring, and I felt like my skills could be better used in a different job.

After a few days I then taught English for two days in a volunteer run school in The Jungle with my Greek friend Christina who I couchsurfed with when I was in Greece in Spring 2015. She had just finished a semester study abroad in France and came to visit The Jungle for a few days.

After that I spent the rest of my time volunteering with Florence on the "Welcome Team" as part of Help Refugees. The Welcome Team is based at "The Welcome Caravan" in the center of The Jungle. Our job was to distribute and help set up tents, sleeping bags and basic items for (typically) new refugees. Mostly, we were building tents all day.

I've done a lot of camping, having once slept outside for three months straight (message me for that story), so I know a great deal about how to set up a tent. It's not that simple, mind you. Knowing which direction to hammer the peg in or which knot to tie isn't common knowledge.

If you want to learn more about The Jungle and about volunteering to support refugees please follow the Help Refugees website or Facebook page here, where you can also find links to donate.
http://www.helprefugees.org.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/HelpRefugeesUK/

There are several other organizations and independent volunteers doing their own projects like Care 4 Calais, Doctors Without Borders, and probably more I'm not familiar with.

Help Refugees is centered at a giant warehouse in Calais, the location itself is owned by a sympathetic landowner. Surrounding our warehouse are tons of other warehouses, industrial buildings, supermarkets, and gas stations. Our warehouse keeps all the donated goods for refugees including food, clothing, basic hygiene, cooking supplies, and basic living items. Help Refugees volunteers mostly collect, sort, and distribute these donations although some other jobs exists like teaching English or French in The Jungle, or cooking/serving food for volunteers/refugees.

Volunteers for Help Refugees commonly refer to the warehouse we work at as "the warehouse", as I will do in this blog write up.

If you volunteer for at least a month you are eligible for a waiting list for living on site for free in a donated or used caravan/camper like this (British/American English).

Each caravan has creative names like Cake Town, Pink Elephant, or Mafi Mushkala, which means "no problem" in Arabic (or at least the Sudanese dialectic, since that was most common), and is frequently heard in The Jungle as a way of saying "it's ok."

Caravans are typically old and donated, falling apart, broken, leaking, and some mice or rats find their way in. One volunteer paid for his own wifi and electricity in his caravan although I'm not sure how.

Otherwise volunteers must provide their own housing like at a nearby hostel, hotels, a campsite, or some volunteers live at The Jungle itself such as in one of the two volunteer run schools in The Jungle, in their own tent/shack in The Jungle, or even wild camping in the trees nearby.

Walking from the warehouse to The Jungle would take anywhere from a half hour to full hour depending on how the police feel that day, since some entrances to The Jungle may be closed off while others are open. This is mostly due to good cop, bad cop tactics, not any real reason. However I only did the walk a couple times and mostly got driven back and forth with other volunteers, which takes just 5-10 minutes and also depends on which cop is on duty.

Food for Help Refugees is expired food from local supermarkets decorating a table and shelves available in the warehouse roughly 8am to 8pm. France recently added a law that no good food can get thrown away although I'm not sure about specifics about this law, because dumpster diving still works in some supermarket dumpsters. Since much of this expired-but-still-good-to-eat-food is plastic wrapped carbohydrates, my diet became mostly carbs. And with my sweet tooth it was hard to avoid the cookies and French pastries. If you want to donate food please give protein and veggies! Only one day of my whole month there did I see bagged salad, whereupon I promptly grabbed an entire bag for my own and snacked on it for the next twenty-four hours even bringing it to a pub with me.

Often we would hitchhike or find rides into the Calais city center on days off or evenings for drinks or better food at local restaurants.

The Jungle also has some refugee owned and operated restaurants and shops. Some Pakistanis for example have a restaurant, named "Three Idiots" after a famous Bollywood film, with delicious naan better than most naan I've had elsewhere. While working in The Jungle we could sometimes go there for lunch, or at least just get eight naan for three euros to eat with our own rice and beans. Jungle Restaurants are, like the refugees, occupying land, so they obviously aren't paying any rent to any landowner like any restaurant in Calais or Paris would. Police are angry at this and that these restaurants don't meet French government health code standards, so they tried to evict the restaurants for "stealing from poor people," as I overheard a finely dressed Frenchman surrounded by police say.

During the several day period during which restaurants were temporarily shut down waiting the court's decision, many refugees went hungry as they had to resort to waiting in extremely long lines at other food distribution points (described below). So shutting the restaurants down and making food scarcer and refugees hungrier was for some reason not a health code violation.

I can already predict critiques that by our aid organization giving refugees food we are impeding a 'free market' from developing in The Jungle. But no, please don't let history forget that it was the police, not the aid organizations, that are hurting the Jungle restaurant market economy.

Fortunately the eviction failed in an August 10th court case and refugees got to keep their restaurants. However the battle will wage on as police will try to find other ways to make refugees lives miserable.


If the police are angry at restaurants stealing from poor people then why don't they shut down every other restaurant in Calais because that's what capitalism does?

Oh right, racism.

Bathrooms at the warehouse are porta-potties (Brits call them porta-loos) that get cleaned out once a week, getting particularly gross and piled high towards the end of the week. Just two showers exist for all of us living at the warehouse, so I showered maybe two or three times a week. Thankfully hot water flowed but sometimes it went off. I only took a cold shower once though.

Of the volunteers there's probably over a hundred of us, 40% men, 60% women; nationalities present were probably divided into 60% Brits, then 20% French, then various other European countries with a few other Americans too, and there was even an Australian and Korean while I was there. There's so many Brits that they brought their own power strips that don't work with the mainland Europe plugs, so it's hard to find places to charge my iPhone since I only had a mainland Europe adapter.

No dogs are allowed at the warehouse although there are some stray cats around, even playful kittens too.

In the summer there's many more volunteers due to university students on summer vacation and better weather. Wintertime at the warehouse can have as little as a couple dozen volunteers, so if you want to volunteer please consider doing it in the colder months. (I did not know this before going.) If you want to volunteer message me for email contacts, I'm hesitant to give them out publicly.

Plus, the refugees struggle more in the winter with the cold rains, which turn the entire camp into a giant mud puddle. I was lucky while there, getting little rain and lots of sunshine, with several hot days making me sweat profusely.

Actually the "mud" would be wet sand, because it's mostly sand they live on as The Jungle is five to ten minutes walking to a massive beach with a huge tide range, at low tide almost a kilometer wide from the water to the grassy hills where it starts. While refugees are closed off from the beach by the police, fences, walls, and/or dense vegetation, there's a few places where they can sneak into the beach, and play soccer (football), swim in the cold water, sunbathe, and try to see England across the channel on a clear day.

In the distance however there's factories upwind that blow foul smelling air as green foam washes up on the shore. I even saw a dead baby porpoise (sea mammal related to dolphins and whales) with part of its face missing washed up onshore.
The police know refugees visit the beach, as I've been there and saw a lone policeman standing guard at the far end so the refugees "don't get too close to the new port being built," according to that policeman. Despite the 9000 refugees nearby it's not very popular since many of them have seen their peers die at beaches as boats sink trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Traumatizing memories keep the refugees away from the beach, police are not needed.

Speaking of haunting memories, a couple of enormous, concrete Nazi bunkers from World War II tower between the jungle and the beach amidst the grassy fields. Armed with headlamps cutting through pitch blackness, I went inside one of them with some friends and explored the underground passageways for a half hour. No Nazi zombies were found however, just beer cans, sleeping bags, and some Nazi graffiti. These bunkers can be seen from various points in The Jungle, and during the few times I went to the beach I saw refugees playing on it. Perhaps some were living inside though I'm not sure.

Jungle residents:
Refugees come various countries struggling with crises like war and other political crises. I don't know the exact statistics but, in order of most to least, I would guess most refugees came from Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Libya. I've met small numbers of refugees from Cameroon, Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia, Nigeria, India, and even Romania. I can anticipate this question ahead of time: the Romanians were not Gypsies/Roma. I've also heard of Albanian residents though I didn't see any.

Aside from English being the lingua franca, Arabic is most commonly used followed by Pashto, Dari, Farsi, and so on.

Refugees come from diverse vocations too. I've met engineers, lawyers, journalists, doctors, translators, and more. Unfortunately Western nations don't recognize many of their qualifications, so just because they may be trained as a surgeon doesn't mean they could easily get a job at a hospital. And since citizenship may take up to two years to get in France it's hard to find jobs. Work visas exist for legal immigrants but unfortunately it's hard to legally immigrate. In the UK, refugees can find out if they become citizens within a few months, which is one reason they want to go there so badly, in addition to other much better services.

However refugees have enough money to spend on some food or restaurants, travel or entertainment. I befriended a Syrian refugee who routinely visited his friends in Paris and Amsterdam.

Smart phones were widely common too but reception was scarce in The Jungle except on a small hill in the center and the hill by the highway on the far west side, so refugees often congregate in these places for phone service. Volunteers also drive in a big truck decorated with world maps that provides wifi during the day while parked at the edge of the camp. Like university students hunched over their computers at a Starbucks, refugees hunch over their phones at this truck.

Jungle housing:
Different types of housing has been erected in The Jungle from months prior. In order of quality:

Hospital-white colored shipping containers housing up to twelve people, all several dozen of which are grouped together and stacked on top of each other in twos or threes within a closed in fence that you need an electronic finger print scan and a password to get in. However refugees can easily climb over or under the fence in some areas. Densely surrounding this are thousands of tents and other housing structures.

There's also a section of several dozen white shipping containers for families at the north end that's enclosed by a wall. However not all families live in this comfort. Many children have to live in worse off conditions like caravans, tents, or wooden shacks throughout the rest of The Jungle.

Like the caravans we live in at the warehouse, Jungle residents have many caravans too, some making neighborhood communities of Afghans, Kurds, or various other ethnicities.

In addition, (guessing the dimensions here) there's 3x3 meter wooden shacks covered in blue tarps erected by Help Refugees, huge white 3x6 m United Nations tents, big 3x6 m blue tents from I don't know where, and most common: those kind of tents collecting dust in your closet that you only used for that one weekend at the music festival, or from when your family went camping when you were eight-years-old (please donate it!). Most of my volunteer hours was spent building several of these a day for groups of refugees, and getting overly sweet tea, cookies, fried dough and other treats in appreciation from refugees.

These kind of tents used as weekend-trip camps by privileged white people in their local park are, believe it or not, heavily used in The Jungle. Your nostalgic experience hiking in the Appalachians with your two best friends is the crowded home of eight refugees. These kind of tents are not meant to be permanent homes as they have a lifespan of just three to five weeks, fading due to ultraviolet light, ripping open as refugees trip over the ropes in the middle of the night, and zippers degrading into uselessness. Thus, a refugee could change into twelve different tents in a year at The Jungle.

Why do we use them? Because often the police won't let us bring in building materials. Why? According to the CRS (French national police controlling The Jungle), wooden structures don't have building permits. So because of the police, refugees get to sleep in ripped and broken tents instead, as if it's supposedly better housing.
*cough* institutional racism

Unfortunately, many of these weekend-fun tents are flammable, and thousands of these in a dense area are a severe fire hazard. If police try to raze (not "raise," my English-as-a-foreign-language friends, but "raze") parts of The Jungle as they often do every few months or so they'll use anything from bulldozers to fires to clear the space, which has become an could easily become an uncontrollable fire. Or refugees cooking fried dough (so delicious omg) might have an accident with their gas and stoves, which could lead to fires.

I recall that after a major earthquake in northern Pakistan several years ago many of these weekend-tents were donated for housing but unfortunately got burnt down because when survivors tried cooking in them they caught fire.

On a superficial level one could blame the survivors for being ignorant about cooking in a flammable tent. But this thinking ignores that such weekend tents really are mostly used by girl and boy scouts and suburban Western families spending a few days in a state park, fishing, catching fire flies and 'building character.' Few people in the world really know how to use them. Hell, even several of my coworkers didn't even know how to properly build such tents.

Perhaps the Pakistani survivors of the earthquake only had such tents for similar reasons we did. Stupid policies enforced by the authorities. If stupidity exists I'd rather there not be any power structures for stupid to take over.

Tents are also not just used for sleeping spaces but for living or community space, kitchens, or storage. Why "waste" a good tent like that? It's not wasteful, actually. Think of your own home. Don't you have different rooms for different uses? The refugees want this too.

And since building materials are often not allowed in by the police, refugees have created elaborate structures out of tent material. Like you know those collapsible black poles that provide support and stability for tents and are kind of fun putting together? Refugees have made garden walls, fences, and gates out of these adorning the space around tents. Additionally, blankets and sleeping bags are sewn together with tent string and perched high up on upright logs to create massive shade areas to block out the hot sun. In the peak of July the solar radiation penetrating the thin tent fabric can create unbearably hot conditions inside of tents during the day.

Because of the tiny borders of The Jungle controlled by the police, space is extremely limited. Finding homes for new refugees was always a hassle, and disputes often came up about which sandy area is a walkway, kitchen, community space, or actually space to put up a tent. Arguments would often happen but usually settled over tea. But sometimes fighting can happen if refugees are placed in the wrong community. This could be both within and between ethnicities.

On the bright side, an old double decker bus in The Jungle is converted into a women's and children's center with Help Refugees volunteers helping out refugees in need.

There's informal football and cricket dirt fields too. In the evenings by the highway tons of Afghans can he seen laughing and smiling while they play cricket. Once a week British volunteers play the Afghans in cricket, always losing against their former colony.

In addition, there are some refugee run barbershops in The Jungle. Despite the hardships, refugees take up community roles to help each other survive.

Jungle food:
Refugees get food in several different ways, one already described above as refugee run restaurants.Since refugees can go freely in and out out the Jungle, they can go into shops to buy whatever goods they want in bulk. Many refugees were not poor and could afford this easily.

Jungle toilets, sanitation and land: Shit and piss
Showers, wait in line is long. Many refugees bathe with a bottle of water.
Rats
Asbestos and pesticides
Private farms

Jungle border:
Bansky Bridge

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/dec/11/banksy-uses-steve-jobs-artwork-to-highlight-refugee-crisis

Now defaced or, rather, added to

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/12115241/Banksy-mural-of-Steve-Jobs-defaced-in-Calais.html

The Jungle itself is tightly controlled by the CRS, a French militarized police force. I don't know the French police/military system very well but I do know they're pretty high up there in authority. They do riot and protest control, so you can ask yourself why they're guarding a refugee camp. Here's their Wikipedia page:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compagnies_R%C3%A9publicaines_de_S%C3%A9curit%C3%A9

In my experience, they are assholes. Fuck the police, fuck the CRS.

They slash open tents build beyond the tiny perimeters of the Jungle.

Refugees and come and go freely in and out of the refugee camp, they are free to roam in and around town. If they're free to leave, why are they living in this wretched Hell? It's because they really, really want to go to the UK. Why are they so dedicated?

However the government has plans to build an eight meter high wall surrounding The Jungle. How the wall will effect the ability to come in and out of The Jungle, I don't know. Whether or not its construction will happen is unknown, even many right wing residents of Calais don't want a wall, they would rather the camp and its residents be removed entirely.



***


Timeline (a lot is missing because I had long hours and shit wifi):

July 10th
Left Antwerp, Belgium hitchhiking to Calais, France. Took five different rides. Arrived at the warehouse for Help Refugees hitchhiking in a Porche with some British people who supported our cause. Florence and I thanked him and he drove off, and nearby volunteers for Help Refugees saw us get out so we asked them if it was the right place. They laughed when they discovered we hitchhiked in a Porche, since such cars don't come around there too often.

Workers seem really friendly and cool so far, like a big family.
Met Marco, a volunteer from Salisbury, Maryland who went to Salisbury College, a two hour drive from my home town.

Our caravan's name is Jungala (after one week we switched to another caravan named Pink Elephant). We have a candle to light inside left there by a former volunteer.

Police play good cop bad cop. Sometimes we can't bring in shovels, or big tents, or whatever they feel like that day. It's random. Most of the time no building materials like large pieces of wood though. 


Mon July 11
Go to Dunkirk refugee camp to distribute toiletries and pants
An official refugee camp (ours is not), smaller, mostly Kurdish refugees there

Tue July 12
Dunkirk camp again. Met a geologist from Kurdistan who worked in oil fields there. There's some Vietnamese families there too.

Finally visited "the jungle", but only went to the "Jungle Books" school.
***Describe School***

I taught English by reading two kids books to refugees, one was Snoopy :)
Had to leave early because of threats of tear gas, couldn't all fit in car, so me and two others had to wait outside the camp.
While waiting Christina my CS host from Volos, Greece drives up with two friends!


Wed July 13
Dunkirk distribution again

Thurs July 14
Weren't needed at Dunkirk so we found something else: unloading incoming vans w Dillon
Bastille-fireworks beach with me Florence, Marco and his girlfriend Sunny. Christina met us on the beach too.
After fireworks we wandered into town and tried hitchhiking back home to the warehouse, but it was after midnight so we walked most of the way until Valentino, one of the volunteer team leaders picked us up.

Fri July 15
Since I stayed up late the night prior I had trouble waking up. Florence suggested I take the day off so I did. Christina and I got a ride to the refugee camp w one Portuguese and two Italian volunteers but our ride had to get some soil for their garden project, so after trying at two different stores, getting lost, and driving the wrong direction towards Paris, we eventually got the the camp. Christina and I volunteered teaching English at the Ecole school in the camp. One of only two schools the other being "Jungle Books." We taught English together, both of us teaching one Sudanese guy who is still learning basic English.

While there we met a Syrian refugee who spoke very good English, so we got to talking with him.
He told us how he didn't like how Help Refugees is hierarchically structured from the top administration to the team leaders and then the rest of the volunteers.

Sat July 16
Ecole 

Sun July 17
First day of welcome caravan 

Mon July 18

Tue July 19


Overheard:
"The last time the police were evicting people some police were crying because of how traumatic it was." 

Wednesday July 20th

Thursday July 21st

Friday July 22nd

Saturday July 23rd

Sunday July 24th

Monday July 25th

Tuesday July 26th

Wednesday July 27th

Thursday July 28th
Police walking by were surrounding a man with a suit. And by them were refugees. Man with suit angrily tells them that he shut down the restaurants because "you are stealing from poor people", in this case "you" is the restaurant owners. What an absurd statement. If that's true then he should shut down every capitalist business in Calais too for stealing from poor people. Florence and I tried to follow the police but I got distracted by Swiss chocolate Valentino gave me.

Friday July 29th
Very tired and hard to get up out of bed.
Police were being assholes and prevented us from bringing in tents. We tried south entrance, eventually got tents in. While waiting I relaxed on Moussa's bed/couch. A giant mattress on top of a portable plastic bed-frame. Felt much more recharged and ready to go after. While waiting we all hung out and chatted.
Set up a big green tent for Sudanis and/or Eritreans with Florence. Took forever to find a spot. Found a dirty tent with puddles and cans in it. Cleaned it and moved it, then an Afghan got mad we moved his kitchen, so we left to find another spot. After two hours of searching we finally found one.
Had lunch of pasta; more carbs, damnit. Valentino gave me more Swiss chocolate and made me happy. Rested a while on bed/couch. Police and some guy in a suit and another with a camera were going around to the restaurants to make sure they were closed, blocking the path for people in their way, preventing us from using the bathroom when they were by our local porta-potties.
Built a big green tent on top of the tall mound across from the Welcome Caravan for Sudanis from Darfur. It was my first time on top of "the mound", the tallest point in the jungle. You can see all around from the highway surrounded by barbed wire to the church and jungle books to the fields we can't build tents to the fenced in refugee compounds to the ww2 bunkers, and the grassy sand dunes in the distance blocking the view to the sea. It was beautiful and sad to see all the jungle from above. I want to spend more time on top. Once built one of the people from Darfur who will live there started talking to me. I mentioned how I loved the view, and that you could almost see the beach. I asked him if he's been to the beach and he said no, he doesn't like beaches. I asked why and he told me he saw a few hundred refugees drown when their boat sank off the coast near a beach.
Olivia (British volunteer) and I went to build a big green tent for Afghans. After a small friendly argument with neighbors they cleared bushes so we could set up the tent. Halfway through they served us and everyone tea and cookies. I couldn't refuse their hospitality because that'd be rude so I had to accept. (Later that night I couldn't sleep because of the caffeine but at least it gave me time to write this down in my diary.)
Florence, Laura, and I stayed behind at the end f the day to explore the ww2 bunkers with headlamps so we could go underground in the cold darkness. We invited Mitchell (American from outside Chicago who's volunteering independently at jungle books) but he was busy. We were scared, I personally was scared of accidentally getting trapped inside or meeting some lunatic who was gonna stab us, so I armed myself with rocks in my pockets to throw. Luckily that never happened. We also never found any under ground tunnels connecting the bunkers Mitchell told us about. But we did find lots of graffiti, beer bottles, and occasional sleeping bags from other amateur ww2 bunker explorers. There was a big network of tunnels and stairs under the bunker but it wasn't that extensive and we explored all of it in maybe a half hour or 45 minutes. We went outside again and walked to the other bunker in the distance but unfortunately the entrances to the underground parts were closed off. Who opened up the first bunker's underground entrances? Maybe the refugees got bored and kept smashing it with rocks until it opened?
We kept walking in the grasses behind the beach trying to find another way to the refugee camp. Eventually we found a lone policeman guarding the beach. Haha. Of all the positions the policemen could get that one must be the most relaxing. Hardly anyone was there and he got to spend it at a beautiful beach. Laura asked in French if we could pass but he said no because of the construction of the new harbor in the distance. We turned around and took another path back to the refugee camp, a new one for us that took us to the fence on the far northwest side. We walked along the fence while watching Afghans play cricket. We sat and watched a while and I chatted briefly with other Afghans in the "bleachers" a short hill leading up to the highway.
As it got dark we walked all the way back to the warehouse, tried dumpster diving along the way and found nothing, and went to bed. The warehouse volunteers had an open mic night that night but we skipped it because ww2 bunkers are cooler and we were tired from walking back. We went to sleep with the sound of the wind and open mic night.


Saturday July 30th
Noticed my right eye felt like it had something in it. I felt pain and pressure when squinting, closing my eye, or opening it very wide. Florence looked at it and saw nothing.

Sunday July 31st
Took a day off because my eye got worse. Lots of eye boogers in it too. In the morning Sarah (Portugal) and Allan (Scotland) said it was conjunctivitis, and that all I needed was to go to a pharmacy to get eye drops. Unfortunately everything's closed on Sunday. I could go to a hospital instead but someone told me the hospital is far away. So instead I figured I should just rest all day and go first thing to the pharmacy Monday morning, so I could get back to work right away.

Monday August 1st
Woke up early, at 8am to get to the pharmacy early. Eye got even worse, took a while to fully open my eye in the morning. Pharmacy opened at 9, got there right when they opened with Florence as my translator. Unfortunately the pharmacist said it wasn't conjunctivitis like we thought but a stye instead, and she couldn't give us anything for it, so we had to go to the hospital instead, which was actually nearby this whole time, so I could've gone to the hospital on my day off on Sunday. Got to the hospital, filled out forms, Florence left to go back to warehouse while I stayed.
It turned out it was actually an infected eyelash, and the doctor at the hospital gave me antibiotics for it. After a week of antibiotics that I was better.

Eye meds, Started August 1st
Monday night, Ended August 8th
Monday morning

Oh and the whole cost including the doctor visit and antibiotics was five euros.


Tue Aug 9
In the evening we had a meeting where we learned evictions for at least the restaurants in the jungle owned and operated by refugees will be happening very soon. We don't know the details of how though. Plus the restaurant owners have a court case today in Lille. Inshallah it goes well.
Update: it went well! The restaurants can stay open!

Wed Aug 10
Early morning our alarm clock went of for hitchhiking to England, but luckily since Florence had her backpack on another volunteer, John McKintosh, who was driving to the UK offered us a ride. The only problem was he had only two extra seats and one was supposed to be for Jake, another volunteer. Luckily we convinced Jake to give up his ride so we could both take it, thank you Jake!
We entered the ferry after the border crossing gave us a hard time asking for our jobs and how we're leaving England.
The ferry was awesome, a fancy boat with updated technology, a supermarket on board, bars, restaurants, and of course scenic views of the English Channel with the White Cliffs of Dover staring at us as seagulls flew alongside us eating crumbs children would throw out to them.
Once in England we had plenty of time to kill so we wandered into Canterbury because I knew of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales written five hundred years ago -- even though I hadn't read it. We saw a big church and old abbey, couldn't stay that long though.
John dropped us off in Maidstone and we took a nap under a tree in the shade until it was time to meet up with our Couchsurfing host.


***

Months after I left I have kept informed thanks to friends I made and the Help Refugees facebook page. I'll update this from time to time.

Today, October 11th 2016, CRS smashed the door of the Jungle Books store room