I had a workshop in the Refugee Youth Service which is located in the emptier part of the camp. It is not allowed to live in that part of the camp so only Refugee Youth Service, School and Christian Church stands there alone accompanied with the field for playing football. You will not find the Jungle on the map, although they could have marked it there. With around 6 000 people it is quite a district! However, because of the security reasons refugees and volunteers helping them rather stay incognito.
My first visit was on Thursday afternoon. I did not have the precise direction but you can be sure that more East you go there are always guys standing around the roads who know where to direct you. So I have asked. Nearer you go, the French family houses change into the industrial complexes, highways with bushes and refugees going along the way up and down. Finally, there are policemen standing with the guns around each exit. I did not loose my speed and slipped between them directly into the jungle. And how is the jungle? Well, tents and small houses/tents built of everything you find, little shops and restaurants serving the national food. They are mainly Afghans, Syrians, Eritreans, and Sudanese living there.
At first, I appeared in the wrong part of the camp where the living area is. Since I came inside, everybody was greeting me, asking where I am from. Some men or even smaller boys were trying to flirt, just like boys do and some were curious what I am bringing inside my trailer. Any humanitarian aid is appreciated and possibly expected if you are coming from outside. When I said it is my home, they seemed to be a bit disappointed. However, they were asking what I am looking for and everybody was looking to help me. One brought me there and the another one over there so finally I got to see “bambino” (that´s what they were saying when I tried to explained that I came to do a workshop for kids = ) Well, the bambinos were teenagers.
I set up my table and notes to explain the basics of pinhole photography, some principles, and calculations and I built the black out tent inside the classroom. Boys understand a little bit of English but there was also translator speaking Dari (which is the kind of the Persian language spoken in Afghanistan) so the run of the lesson was made easier.
The day before the workshop I was collecting rubbish boxes and the beer cans around Calais suitable for pinhole cameras. By the other volunteers who are in the camp longer I was advised to paint the beer cans from outside because of Ramadan as well as I was asked to wear long trousers so I do not offend anybody or not cause an uncomfortable situation.
I think nobody felt uncomfortable. Boys were paying attention although sometimes they were looking at me with a suspicion when I tried to explain that the shoe box can be a camera. They constructed beer cans cameras, a shoe box camera loaded with a photographic paper inside and one matchbox camera using 125ISO Ilford film. The whole Friday they were making cameras and taking pictures and everybody could not wait to see them. I was nervous like anytime before. I did not want to let them down. However, the centre was closing at 8 pm and we had to leave the developing for the next day.
On Saturday it seemed that the boys are not coming. There was a beach trip organised and moreover, it takes some while for them to come as the living area is located farther from the youth centre. Finally, the boys started to gather and we could continue. I was lucky and water I had in the bottle was exactly 20 degrees so I did not need to do any temperature adjustments. When we started to develop the photo papers we got to know that the shoe box camera worked the best. I loaded it again with a paper so they could take more pictures and develop them in the tent straight away! Suddenly, more boys wanted to have the pictures and I think for at least two hours I was just going to the tent loading the camera with a photo paper, going outside to explain how to take the pictures and back inside the tent with three boys to show the developing process! I even had to reject three boys in the end because the centre was closing. But I have to say that it was my luck because from the chemicals and the fact that none of us has a shower so often I started to feel a bit dizzy. Well. my portable darkroom is still only an improvised camping tent!
In the end, the magic happened in the jungle. The biggest satisfaction for me was when I saw their curiosity and wondering about how this could happen. There was one boy, a typical teenager who wants to be cool – I would say – who was not so much into making cameras from the rubbish. However, when he saw the picture appearing in the developer he could not believe. Later on, his fellow came and he was enthusiastically explaining in his native language how the pinhole camera works and encouraging him to try it as well! We got some nice negative photographs developed straight away and also the matchbox film which I still have to scan into the computer. Once it is done I will share it with you.
For now here are the negative and positive versions of the developed photographic papers.
Well, my stop in Calais was finished and I would love to come back one day. Because of the rain I was also postponing my cycle journey and stayed in the house where volunteers from all around the world help to sort out the clothes and food distribution for refugees. It is worth to go if not for a long time, at least for few days. If anybody interested I have the email addresses! Write me or check Calaid-ipedia or Refugee Youth Service.