As I’m writing this I am back home. Back to normality.
But what is “normality”? For most of us it’s living in a house or flat with running water and heating. It’s the hustle and bustle of Christmas approaching, buying presents, complaining about the traffic…For the people in the jungle it’s living in tents, surrounded by mud. It’s the regular risk of teargas attacks and being hit by rubber bullets (fired off by the French police). It’s waiting each day for a traffic jam which might give the opportunity to hide in a lorry to get to the Uk. ‘Getting to the Uk’, everybody’s dream in the jungle. The funny thing is, as we start spending more time in the camp their normality becomes ours. It no longer seems strange to walk through mud and puddles, surrounded by wind battered tents. We become part of the jungle and the jungle becomes part of us. We share the refugees lives for a few hours every day. But we get to go back to our hotel rooms at the end of each day, to a hot shower and a warm bed. And when the tour finished we got to go home. The people in the jungle don’t have a home. They can’t go back to where they came from and they are not allowed to continue to the Uk. They have nowhere to go.
As I reflect on the last few days, here are some of the things that stood out most for me:
The great energy among the refugees, in particular in the ‘Good Chance’ dome. They were so excited about the workshops and well up for trying out new things and they absolutely loved the shows. So happy to be given some fun in this grim environment, a chance to forget about their worries even if just for half hour.
Listening to the 14 year old boy who is in the jungle on his own, without his parents. Seeing the tears glistening in his eyes as he tells us about the tear gas attack and the rubber bullet that hit him in the leg the previous night.
The daily re-realization that this camp with these desperate conditions is actually in Europe, right on our door step. How is this even possible?!
And I remember the unbelievably warm welcome we received of everyone in the camp. Being invited in for food and chai as we did our walkabout, people stopping and watching, having a go at juggling. Smiles.
Walking around the camp there were moments where I thought what are we doing? Shouldn’t we be helping build shelters or cook food or give money? But that’s not what we do. We are clowns, we bring workshops, shows and laughter. And when I remember the smiles on people’s faces and people returning to see the show twice or even 3 times I have no doubt that what we are doing is the right thing and that it’s so important.
We each give what we have to offer and luckily there are other people with different skills who build the shelters and the playgrounds, provide medicinal care and so many other things. I am so grateful that the world we live in today still has so many people who care and who are willing to give some of their time and skills to help. Like the 2 Joes who run the ‘Good Chance’ dome, which is an oasis of calm and hope in the madness of a jungle, providing a ‘bubble’ for people to escape to. I feel honored to have met some of these amazing volunteers.
I could go on and on…So many thoughts and emotions in my head. It will take me a while to process this experience fully…
Thank you to everybody who has helped us fund and organize this tour through their donations of money and time and good wishes.
Check out this video of our show in the Good Chance dome in the Calias Jungle:
When the circus rolled into town… pic.twitter.com/mFR24faAvo
— Good Chance Calais (@GoodChanceCal) December 16, 2015