Last days in Calais Jungle

Omer thrills the crowd

Moira Smiley, Sudanese singer Omer, Iraqi rapper Kasper, EAR singers, and refugee youth sang and stomped our hearts out at two concerts. Thanks to Calais Sessions, the wifi bus, and Hisham Aly at Caritas for organizing and recording the performances.

Moira Smiley captivated the crowd
Sudanese singer Omer with youth

We spent two final evenings in riveting singing, clapping, and drumming knee-to-knee with our Sudanese guys in their tent and at a School for the Arts in the camp. I have grown accustomed to the constant din of guys chatting and charging phones, and the School for the Arts is no exception. Omer leads Sudanese call-and-response with Zane on a funky out-of-tune piano, in front of a poster of the 1998 movie Jungle Boy and the smell of dead rats.

Men wait for lunch before we perform for them

What surprised us about the School was what happened in front of it at the end of our impromptu music gathering. The next day, we would leave our new friends in Calais Jungle. By the side of the road, they cried and heaved in our arms, and we, in theirs. How do they stay so open, to let in yet another set of volunteers who will head home to lives devoid of multicultural circle-singing in the music tent and kisses on the forehead and love that defies categories?

I miss a connecting flight, consider flying right back to Paris. But I book a room in an airport hotel to press on with responsibilities in the States, poke out my French sim card, and insert my US number. A text from one of the guys says that the School for the Arts burned to the ground.

I am feeling nostalgic for the guys, their school, even the smell of the rats.

Author: earefuge

I direct EAR (Expressive Arts Refuge) whose work focuses on refugee youth in France and Greece. At home in Oakland, California, I direct World Harmony Chorus and World Harmony Ensemble.

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