Thursday, 23 July 2009

Boy in 'the jungle'

K. is a small 14 yr old Afghan boy, living in the bleak scrub around Calais. He's been there a couple of months, having spent many more months travelling through Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy and France, to wash up here, at this final border to his hopes of a new life. Along the way, he's taught himself enough English to communicate well.

He looks smaller than a 14 yr old, yet also a lot older. He's made friends with other unaccompanied children - a 13 yr old and another lad of 15 and they laugh and muck about with each other like any other kids would. Another boy emerges who can't be more than 10 but who comes to solemnly shake your hand like an old man.

K is wearing trainers donated by a local charity group. Like many there, his shoes don't fit, so he wears them with the heels folded down at the back but still spends ages arranging the laces in neat lines to look cool. His hands are covered with cuts and bruises, one thumb and palm distended from another failed attempt to throw himself onto a passing lorry heading to the UK. This is his life now.

He talks about the differences he has noticed between his own country and the cultures he has come across on his journey. He says his ideas have changed about women since travelling and seeing how different their roles are outside Afghanistan. Other freedoms have been noted and stored away as goals for his own life. This bright, sensitive lad longs to go to school.
Some dates and chocolate are passed round and hungry as they are, everyone at first politely refuses, then after encouragement, takes just one piece. As the night grows colder, he shuffles off, returning with a blanket for you, not himself. Someone else offers tea. An 18 yr old offers up their own sleeping place in the jungle, safe from where drunken locals sometimes come to attack them. K tells me that one thing he is proud of in Afghanistan is their hospitality. He says that if someone comes to the poorest house in the village, they will be welcomed and given the best food. Even your enemy cannot be turned away if in need.
He stays up all night, afraid of the rumoured raid on the encampment. At one point, he raises his head to sniff the air. "Smells of police" he says. It sounds like a joke until you sniff too and smell the CS gas. But this time, they haven't come for him and he relaxes and begins to sing quietly, joined by his young friends. They sing in Pashtu, a gentle undulating tune. Later, someone produces a walkman and shares one ear-piece with K and the two boys begin a beautiful, slow dance on the ends of their wires - eyes closed, humming, the graceful movements of hands and feet. You have to look away.


Simon said...

incredibly moving. I'm in awe of you.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone, it's my first pay a quick visit at this web site, and article is actually fruitful designed for me, keep up posting such content.
Check out my weblog old holborn