Surviving the Jungle

The wait was over and off we were on board of an airplane, headed to Brussels. Picked up our rental car and off to France.
The camps, well, I had mixed feelings. I admit, I had low expectations to what I will find in the refugee camps in Dunkirk and Calais. My first impression? Boredom. I looked at the refugees, some I made eye contact with, and I could see it in their eyes that there, they had nothing better to do than just stare and think of ways to get out of that misery. But, in their writings, on their huts, I could see that they have dreams and they have hope. I read how “my head’s under water but I’m breathing fine” and that, sent shivers down my spine. I witnessed that their idea of love was different from my idea of love. I have no reason to think about not loving anyone, but they, have all the reasons in the world to hate us. We made them fear their own homes! And yet, they still speak of love and peace.
I still recall my first sniff as soon as I entered ‘The Jungle’ and in a well-mannered way, I’d say that ‘The Jungle’ did not introduce itself very nicely to me. With the exception of the unpleasant restroom smell, I now can say that the smell that I once hated, became a perfume filled with memories. The burning wood, the naan bread, the spices, everything!
I am still surprised how the look of indifference on their faces towards us on our first day at the camps ended up into a cheer of “Malta, Salute!” or “Bonjour Malta” even from a distance. This, I must say, was the most humbling experience I went through; it made me look at myself as the luckiest person in the world, and today, after 3 months, I still celebrate every hard-working day; for I know that I am free to do so while others are somewhat stuck.

Steph Micallef is a full-time technical officer, studying political studies part-time and is a volunteer in agara foundation.

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