Chapter XIV – Kara Tepe – Lesvos

I was in France, working on the first part of the documentary, editing recording voice over, translating interview etc… I was also planning the second part, looking at the different place I would go and how to get there when Fred from HSA called me.

He asked me to come back here in Kara Tepe, Lesvos to continue the documentation and video work I started there by winter 2015. 
As soon as possible I booked a flight and leave for the island.

Somehow I knew that the things were different there now that the EU-Turkish deal was in place, but I didn’t expect the things to be so drastically changed. I arrived on Lesvos few days after the Fred call and met him and David at the Mytilini airport. They drove me straight to the camp to show me how it has evolved over the last few months. First, the place looked the same to me, I even met some good friend I made across the volunteers of the camp last winter like Sara who was still working there, but soon I realized how much everything has changed: new infrastructures, new offices, sanitary area etc … The camp was now turned into something new: a long-term humanity base. And as the people couldn’t move further anymore due to the deal, they were staying and living here.

First I felt strange experiencing this kind of “neighborhood atmosphere”, Kara Tepe was really feeling even like a Holliday camp kind of … Everyone was smiling, the kids were running and playing all over the place… Cinema screening and activities such as football and kindergarten were happening every day … You could not feel the stress and the pressure that we were experiencing last winter when the boats were still arriving every day. And it was strange not to feel this tension, not to expect the phone to ring at any moment to warn you that a boat was arriving. To not be in “emergency mode” was disturbing as you would feel everything was alright but though, the work was still crucial and of course, to not have boat arrivals didn’t mean we had nothing to do …

Between school, food distribution, close distribution, sorting and storing donations etc … Many things were still needed. We weren’t facing an emergency humanitarian crisis anymore but were running a long-term support for the thousand people stacked there.
Of course they couldn’t move, but still, they needed a place to live by the time they’re waiting. And our work was to make the life less difficult for everyone and to sustainably make them passing through the process of getting the asylum. So we were working every day … Little by little … Slowly but surely we were sustaining the effort.

Our tasks were basically the same than the last winter but they were taking a different form. The food distribution was for example driven by Sara. She was one of the most devoted person I ever met and she was doing everything she could for the people of the camp. Then she had the idea to change the process of the food distribution, and to make it easier for the refugees, she organized a daily door to door food distribution service.
And it was way better than just delivering the meal in front of a queue of starving people, it was way more exhausting of course, as we were carrying heavy food boxes all over the camp, but at the end, everyone was happier this way. We were getting to know our people better, they were glad we were going to them. And I think this was one of the things that was making the difference between our group and the other NGO in place.
We were going to them.

Also, the clothes distribution was not a mess anymore as we were delivering the goods based on a appointments schedule so that we would focus on fewer people every day but we would be able to respond to their needs more efficiently. One of my other task in the camp was to take over the French lessons in the school HSA was running. Indeed, African people were among the refugees and were also asking for education. Then I met their kids and started to teach them every day trying to cover the whole spectrum of the basic education. It’s weird to realize how useful your knowledge can be as little as it is.
I never expected to be a teacher but I discovered myself a new utility that could make a change in these people lives. And it’s funny to think that you could never be a teacher in France without at least a master or something similar while here, the little you know makes you running classes of writing, mathematics, geography etc …

And I was also driving unofficial French lessons for Arabic speakers, working hard to make it through Arabic, English and French. 

And for an entire month, while working hard to make the life in the camp sustainable, I discovered how the crisis changed and how the EU-Turkish deal had an impact on people life. I realized the difference between helping in an emergency situation and a long-term humanitarian support which is completely different but as important and crucial.

For an entire month, I realized we were not only helping the “refugees”: we were living with them. They were part of our lives, part of the people we were seeing all day long. They were friends. And it was tricky to keep the distinction clear as you were willing to spend some time with them, just enjoying spending good moments and to get closer to them … but you also had to keep in mind that you couldn’t get too close … you had to keep a gap and to stay neutral. They were still “refugees” and you were still “humanitarian volunteer” and that meant you had responsibilities towards them. 

This was a pain and a difficult thing to do. We were so close to them, doing so many things together, drawing, swimming, singing, gardening, learning, joking … well, basically all the good things you’re doing in the life with the people you love BUT you were not allowed to see them as your friends as for the NGO’s they were first “people in need” that we were helping.

I’d say that this situation made me question myself on how important was the human relation through a crisis like this. I asked myself if it was possible to help people with humanity. To help “your friends” passing through a critical situation and to be fair enough to be equal with everyone. 

I think it’s one of the most tricky things in the humanitarian work.

Chapitre XIV – Kara Tepe – Lesbos

J’étais en France, travaillant sur la première partie du documentaire (montage, voix-off, traduction etc …) tout en planifiant la deuxième partie du parcours (de ce projet qui maintenant était devenu bien plus que son but initial), regardant les différents endroits où j’irais etc . lorsque je reçu l’appel de Fred, de HSA me demandant de revenir ici à Kara Tepe, Lesbos pour continuer la documentation et le travail vidéo que j’avais commencé par l’hiver 2015.
Aussitôt que possible, j’ai réservé un vol et parti pour l’île.
D’une certaine manière, je savais que les choses étaient différentes là-bas maintenant que l’accord UE-Turquie était en place, mais je ne m’attendais pas à ce qu’elles le soient si drastiquement. Je suis arrivé à Lesbos quelques jours après l’appel de Fred; lui et David son venue me chercher à l’aéroport de Mytilini. Ils m’ont conduit directement au camp pour me montrer comment il avait évolué au cours des derniers mois. Tout d’abord, l’endroit m’a semblé le même, j’ai même rencontré de bons amis qui étaient déjà présents l’hiver dernier comme Sara, Shareen etc . mais bientôt j’ai compris combien tout avait changé: nouvelles infrastructures, nouveaux bureaux, nouvelles zones sanitaires, etc. …. Le camp avait été transformé en quelque chose de nouveau: une base humanitaire à long terme. Et comme les gens ne pouvaient plus bouger davantage en raison du nouveau deal, ils restaient et vivaient ici.

 

D’abord, je trouvais étonnante, cette sorte d’atmosphère de quartier; Kara Tepe faisait même penser (à première vue) a un genre de centre de vacances … Tout le monde était souriant, les enfants couraient et jouaient partout … Cinéma en plein air et activités telles que le football et la maternelle se produisaient chaque jour … Vous ne pouviez pas ressentir le stress et la pression que nous éprouvions l’hiver dernier lorsque les bateaux arrivaient tous les jours. Et c’était étrange de ne pas ressentir cette tension, de ne pas s’attendre à ce que le téléphone sonne à tout moment pour vous avertir qu’un bateau arrivait. Ne pas être en «mode d’urgence» était dérangeant car c’était comme si tout allait bien alors que le travail était encore crucial et, bien sûr, ne pas avoir d’arrivées de bateaux ne signifiait pas que nous n’avions rien à faire …
Entre l’école, la distribution rapprochée des aliments, le tri et le stockage des dons, etc. Beaucoup de choses étaient encore nécessaires. Nous n’Etions plus confrontés à une crise humanitaire d’urgence, mais nous soutenions à long terme les milliers de personnes qui étaient bloqués, cloitres dans le camp.
Bien sûr, ils ne pouvaient pas bouger, mais ils avaient toujours besoin d’un endroit pour vivre le temps d’obtenir leur statut de demandeur d’asile. Et notre travail était de rendre la vie moins difficile pour tout le monde et de les faire passer durablement et surement dans le processus d’obtention de l’asile. Nous travaillions tous les jours … petit à petit … Lentement, mais sûrement, nous soutenions l’effort.
Nos tâches étaient fondamentalement les mêmes que le dernier hiver, mais elles adoptaient une forme différente. La distribution alimentaire été conduite par Sara (l’une des personnes les plus dévouées que j’ai pu rencontrer le long de la route) et elle faisait tout ce qu’elle pouvait (littéralement, elle venait de donner un an de sa vie) pour les gens du camp. Pour eux, elle avait eu l’idée de changer le processus de distribution des aliments, et pour faciliter leurs vies, elle avait organisé un service quotidien de distribution de nourriture de porte à porte.
Et c’était bien mieux que de livrer le repas devant une file d’attente de personnes affamées; bien plus épuisant, bien sûr, car nous transportions de lourdes boîtes alimentaires partout dans le camp, mais à la fin, tout le monde était plus heureux de cette façon. Nous connaissions mieux les gens, ils étaient heureux. Et je pense que c’était l’une des choses qui faisaient la différence entre notre groupe et les autres ONG’s en place.
Nous allions à eux.
We were going to them.

 

En outre, la distribution des vêtements n’était plus le bordel que nous avions connu puisque nous livrions les marchandises en fonction d’un calendrier des rendez-vous afin de se concentrer sur moins de personnes chaque jour, mais d’être en mesure de répondre plus efficacement à leurs besoins.
Une de mes autres tâches dans le camp était de me charger des leçons de français dans l’école d’HSA. En effet, des Africains (Cameroun, Centrafrique, RDC) étaient parmi les réfugiés et demandaient également des études. J’ai rencontré leurs enfants et commencé à leur apprendre chaque jour à essayer de couvrir tout le spectre de l’éducation de base. C’est étrange de se rendre compte de l’utilité de votre connaissance (aussi mediocre soit-elle).
Je ne m’étais encore jamais attendu à être un enseignant, mais je me suis decouvert une nouvelle utilité qui pouvait changer, à son échelle, le mode de vie de ces personnes. C’est amusant de penser que jamais je n’aurais pu être professeur en France sans au moins un MASTER ou quelque chose de semblable, alors que le peu que je connaissais ici, me faisait mener des cours d’écriture, de mathématiques, de géographie, etc.
Et je donnais également des leçons de français hors classe pour les arabophones, travaillant dur pour faire ma soupe entre l’Arabe, l’Anglais et le Français.
Pendant plus d’un mois, tout en travaillant dur pour rendre la vie dans le camp meilleure et durable, j’ai découvert comment la crise avait changé et comment l’accord UE-Turquie avait impacté sur la vie des gens. Je me suis rendu compte de la différence entre aider dans une situation d’urgence et supporter un travail humanitaire à long terme: deux choses complètement différentes, mais aussi importante et cruciale.


Pendant un mois entier, j’ai compris qu’il n’était plus seulement question d’aider les «réfugiés»: nous vivions avec eux. Ils faisaient partie de nos vies, une partie des gens que nous voyions toute la journée. C’étaient nos amis et, il était délicat de garder une distinction claire car vous étiez disposé à passer du temps avec eux, tout simplement en profitant de bons moments, à vous rapprocher d’eux … mais vous deviez garder à l’esprit que vous ne pouviez pas être trop proche … garder un ” espace ” et rester neutre. Ils étaient encore «réfugiés» et vous étiez toujours «volontaire humanitaire» et cela signifiait que vous aviez des responsabilités à leur égard.

C’était douloureux parfois et souvent, une chose difficile à faire. Nous étions tellement proches d’eux, faisions tant de choses ensemble, dessiner, nager, chanter, jardiner, apprendre, blaguer … bref, toutes les bonnes choses qu’on fait dans la vie avec les gens qu’on aime, a la différence qu’ici, vous n’étiez pas autorisé à les considérer- comme vos amis: pour les ONG, ils étaient d’abord des «personnes dans le besoin» que nous devions aider.

Je dirais que cette situation m’a permis de me questionner sur l’importance de la relation humaine lors d’une crise comme celle-ci. Ça m’a fait me demander s’il était possible d’aider les gens avec humanité sans perdre notre efficacité. Pour aider «vos amis» à traverser une situation critique, d’être juste et équitable à tous. Peut-on aider une personne qu’on aime comme on aide le dernier des connards?

Je pense que c’est l’une des choses les plus difficiles dans le travail humanitaire.

Chapter XII – Valence – France

After roughly 8 months on the roads through the different countries related to the migration crisis, I finally end up going back to France. Being back to the safety and the “civilization” as we used to see it…
But something changed, and I wasn’t really the same than I was before.

First, I had to go back because of conferences and workshops I needed to run in High Schools around Valence in the Drome region. I had never though I was about to tell my story and to talk about what I was doing this way. Basically, it wasn’t the goal of my project and I was more inclined to DO things instead of talking about, but I also realized it was an important thing to do specifically with students who were in the age of thinking by themselves and building the world of tomorrow.

20160407_200416
And to interact with them made me realized how much they all wanted to help but how lost they were regarding the practical ways to actually do it (exactly like me when I first leave to start the project). I was amazed by the faith they had in the future, but at the meantime the sadness and the weakness they were feeling regarding their own capacity to make a change.

20160407_215800

20160407_201326With Elodie, Cecile and few other good and active people of the region, we ran a couple of these conferences to raise awareness across the students and it was so successful that we start building a long term collaboration to continue to have a link with the school and to run this interaction for the year to come.
And I’m thankful to them, as they all helped me realized that, more than experiencing the crisis in the field and making relevant things on the ground, it was also crucial to share these experiences with the ones that, tomorrow, would be the citizen of the world.

Chapitre XII – Valence – France

Après environ 8 mois sur les routes à travers les différents pays liés à la crise migratoire, j’ai fini par revenir en France. Retrouvant la sécurité et à la «civilisation» comme nous la imaginions …

Mais quelque chose avait changé, et je n’étais pas vraiment le même qu’avant.

Tout d’abord, je devais rentrer au pays en raison de conférences et d’ateliers que je devais mener dans des lycées autour de Valence dans la région de la Drôme. Je n’avais jamais imaginé que j’étais sur le point de raconter mon histoire et de parler de ce que je faisais de cette façon. Fondamentalement, ce n’était pas l’objectif de mon projet et j’étais plus enclin à “faire” des choses concrètes plutôt que d’en parler, mais je me suis également rendu compte que c’était une démarche importante à faire spécifiquement avec les étudiants qui étaient à l’âge de penser par eux-mêmes et de construire le Monde de demain.

20160407_200416

Et d’interagir avec eux me fit me rendre compte qu’ils voulaient tous aider, mais qu’ils leur manquaient les informations et la pratique pour le faire (exactement comme moi lorsque je suis partis pour commencer le projet). J’étais émerveillée par la foi qu’ils avaient dans l’avenir, mais en même temps, par la tristesse et la faiblesse qu’ils éprouvaient à propos de leur propre capacité à changer les choses.

20160407_215800

20160407_201326

Avec Élodie, Cecile et quelques autres personnes fondamentalement bonnes et actives de la région, nous avons organisé quelques-unes de ces conférences pour sensibiliser les étudiants et devant le retour des jeunes, devant l’intérêt et la demande générale, nous avons choisi de lancer une collaboration à long terme pour continuer à avoir un lien entre ce projet et l’école pour exécuter cette interaction pour l’année à venir.
Et je les remercie, car ils m’ont tous aidé à constater que, plus que l’expérience de la crise sur le terrain est la réalisation de choses qui, certes ne meraitaient aucun discours ou quoique se soit de plus … il était également crucial de partager ces expériences avec ceux qui, demain, seraient les citoyen du monde.

 

Chapter VIII – De Turquie à Bulgarie

Göreme

J’ai quitté Gaziantep un dimanche matin pour me diriger vers Göreme sur ma trajectoire en direction d’Istanbul.
Sophie, Angélique, Sabina, Ayshegul et d’autres amis de Turquie m’ont déjà parlé de l’endroit et fortement conseillé de m’y arrêter ne serait-ce qu’une matinée. Effectivement … Une matinée perdue dans les paysages splendides de la Capadoque vaut tous les trésors du monde … Ces maisons centenaires construites dans les roches, ces grottes et ces montagnes volcaniques m’ont fait tenir debout sur une autre planète, en quelque sorte perdu entre une scène de la guerre des étoiles et d’un film documentaire sur la conquête martienne.

Et les montgolfières volaient à l’aube … Comme d’habitude, après les premiers rayons verts, les ballons montaient et se perdaient dans le ciel tandis que moi, je me laissais errer dans les vieux villages rocheux.
Il semble que l’endroit ait été gelé dans le temps, piégé dans la roche comme une sculpture figée. Une pièce maîtresse de l’art de la terre … Une œuvre mixte de la nature et de l’humanité qui reste … Immobile, fragile et belle.

Istanbul

Je suis arrivé à la ville millénaire assez tard après un long trajet …
La ville et son agglomération doivent couvrir 20 km au moins et j’ai dû conduire pendant 2 heures avant d’atteindre enfin le centre-ville d’Istanbul. Lumières blafardes et flashs fluorescents, mosquées et bâtiments centenaires scotchés sur l’horizon sombre, créant un filigrane cubique dans le ciel … Comme une nouvelle voie lactée bruyante et criarde.

Une galaxie était installée ici pour faire briller et glorifier le monde musulman …
Tous ces monuments, mosquées, églises et châteaux se trouvent ici, dispersés dans la ville millénaire comme un rappel du passé. Une preuve de l’ancien passage de toutes les civilisations qui ont Regis la région à partir de ce point spécifique.
Et la ville est vieille … D’une certaine manière, j’ai ressenti moins de liberté que je l’ai vécue à Izmir où les autres villes plus “moderne” en Turquie et je comprends pourquoi Atatürk a changé de capitale officielle lorsqu’il est venu réorganiser le pays au XXe siècle: Istanbul est trop ancienne, la ville a un passé trop vaste et une histoire trop lourde qui l’empêche d’avancer efficacement.

C’est un peu comme si toutes les civilisations, souvenirs et traditions, s’étaient cristallisées sur chaque carré, chaque parc, chaque bâtiment et rue, et il serait fou de vouloir transformer ces vestiges encore une fois …
Et on peut sentir que l’esprit est différent des villes occidentales du pays … La religion est beaucoup plus impliquée dans tous les aspects de la vie quotidienne. Et la reconnaissance (différenciation) des étrangers sont de fait, plus palpable. Bien que je n’eusse pas été opprimé et que je pouvais parcourir la ville autant que je le voulais, je sentais le poids des regards sur moi ….

Kan, un bénévole d’Izmir m’a accueilli pendant un moment, il m’a montré les lieux et les organisations qui pourraient m’aider à propos de mon projet. J’ai été un peu surpris quand j’ai vu si peu d’accueil de leur côté, si peu de compréhension que les autres ONG ou groupes avec lesquels j’ai travaillé. Ils n’étaient pas grossiers ou quoique se soit, mais je ne les intéressais pas du tout et j’ai eu l’impression de perdre mon temps … Peut-être qu’ils étaient trop occupés à faire face aux réfugiés dans la ville … Peut-être qu’ils ont tout simplement trop de pression administrative ou que sais-je … Mon sentiment était juste un peu froid.
Pourtant, j’aimerais revenir là-bas pour aider et enseigner dans ces écoles pour réfugiés comme je le faisais à Gaziantep.

Polaroid CUBE

Bulgarie

J’ai traversé la frontière tôt le matin … Je ressentais une tension en Turquie… Ici aussi, mais pas la même … D’une façon ou d’une autre, rien ne s’est passé lorsque j’ai traversé la frontière. Je m’attendais à d’interminables problèmes comme d’habitude, mais rien … Je sentis l’indescriptible un peu après, alors que je traversais la campagne déserte près de la frontière … Les voitures de police patrouillant tranquillement, des clôtures dispersées ici et là mais pas de migrants … Personne …
J’ai senti le pouvoir muet de la désinformation et de la pression qui mentaient sur ces terres: c’était comme si rien ne se passait.
Absolument rien, comme si le gouvernement voulait que les gens pensent que rien ne se passait, mais je pouvais presque entendre les bottes craquer sur les branches dans les forêts … Je pouvais presque voir les abris cachés abandonnés où les migrants «illégaux» passaient quelques moments de soulagement avant de marcher à nouveau.

exile (375 of 500)

Restez silencieux … Continuez à marcher … Évitez la police… Continuez à bouger … Lentement, doucement ne pas être vu et attrapé.
J’ai parcouru le pays en passant par la ville d’Harmanli où l’un des seuls camps de réfugiés était censé être … Je cherchais … En vain … Encore rien … Ensuite, je suis allé à la capitale, Sofia, où je pensais trouver des informations sur la situation du pays.
Tzvetko, un coordinateur humanitaire dans le pays, m’accueillit chez lui, à son deuxième appartement qui lui servait de lieu de stockage pour ses dons.

Polaroid CUBE

Tzvetko était un homme occupé.
D’une façon ou d’une autre, il connaissait toute la situation des réfugiés dans le pays. Et il était clair que je ne pouvais rien faire pour aider (car je devais demander des autorisations aux autorités gouvernementales et passer au travers de trop nombreux processus douloureux et ennuyeux). Néanmoins, il m’a donné beaucoup d’informations pour que je puisse comprendre la situation dans la ville. Je suis allé à Ovcha Kupel et Neuva Rampa, deux endroits à Sofia, où les migrants ete tenus de rester, isolés, à la limite de l’emprisonnement, le temps pour le pays de comprendre ce qu’il fallait faire avec eux.
Ces «camps» qui ressemblent davantage à des prisons …

 

Les bâtiments s’effondraient, les structures étaient vieilles et rouillées, les fenêtres n’étaient plus … Et je n’étais pas surpris quand j’ai entendu que les lieux étaient plein à craquer … Au moins, semblait-il que les réfugiés étaient traités avec plus d’humanité, moins de colère qu’ils ne l’avaient été aux commissariats de police.
J’ai rencontré deux d’entre eux et nous avons discuté ensemble pendant un certain temps. Comme je m’en doutais, la plupart d’entre eux avaient été battus par les flics, poursuivis dans les forêts par des patrouilles, etc. Certains d’entre eux avaient été capturés par villageois et envoyés à la police après avoir été volés … J’ai même entendu parler de certains Bulgares lançant des safaris dans les forêts pour chasser les migrants … Le plus terrible était le fait qu’ils étaient fiers de leurs atrocités et publiaient des photos sur les réseaux sociaux, etc.

Polaroid CUBE

Et encore plus terrifiant … Il me semblait que les gens en étaient heureux et fiers …

Il était logique que tous les réfugiés à Sofia voulussent partir … Soit en Serbie, soit en Roumanie, soit en Turquie … N’importe où ailleurs que la Bulgarie.

Chaptire II – Zagreb – Croatie

Zagreb a une population d’un million d’habitants, heureusement je suis arrivé après l’ heure de pointe et l’avenue principale “slavenski” était de nouveau praticable. Alors je suis allé à un McDonald comme chaque nomade digitale qui doit chopper une connexion WiFi sur le tas. J’ai rafraîchi le GPS pour trouver l’appart’ de Petra, envoyer un SMS aux amis et la famille (c’est à ce moment que j’ai entendu parler de l’attaque de Paris en ce jour du 15 novembre).

 

Rien de mieux pour vous garder d’humeur …

Bref, je suis parti et suis allé chez Petra où nous nous sommes rencontrés.


Petra est graphiste et photographe, nous avons été en contact via Internet grâce à notre participation commune au projet musical ‘Vly’, puis, comme je planifiaisde passer dans la ville, nous avons prévu de nous rencontrer là.

Le lendemain de mon arrivée, nous sommes allés chercher l’organisation appelée «Are You Syrious».

Ces gars avaient parcourus toute la ville pour recueillir des dons, pour les stocker dans leur entrepôt dans le quartier de Medika.

Comme le côté administratif du travail humanitaire était un tel bordel, ils n’avaient été autorisés qu’à simplement apporter leurs dons aux portes des camps.

En plus de cela, pour améliorer l’aide et toujours être se rendre utiles dans cette situation compliquée, ils collectaient, analysaient et partageaient toutes les informations concernant la route des Balkans.

 

Et j’ai découvert pour la première fois combien c’était crucial.

Comme je l’ai vécu plus tard tout au long du chemin, l’information était quelque chose que vous deviez prendre au sérieux à n’importe-quel moment.

Et nous travaillâmes ensemble avec les gars de l’entrepôt de Medika, et alors que nous étions en train de trier et d’emballer les vêtements, etc. … Nous discutions de la possibilité pour moi de poursuivre mon chemin efficacement.

Je ne savais pas à l’époque que nous étions sur le point de rester en contact sur le Web et les réseaux tout au long de mon voyage.

Je leur demandais toujours des conseils sur la prochaine étape de mon voyage, et toujours ils répondaient, me proposant des contacts, des lieux et des choses utiles à faire et à réfléchir.

Je dirais que “Are You Syrious” est encore aujourd’hui l’une des meilleures ressource pour les bénévoles et sur qui tout le monde peut compter pour avoir les nouvelles du terrain mises à jour au quotidien.

Chapitre I – France

Premier jour.
Un matin doux et clair en Normandie.

 

Tout est comme çà l’a toujours été, rien n’a changé et la ville respire la même routine, mais je vais de l’avant avec le camion “Marcel”, en préparant et en emballant foutitude choses avant de partir.

 

Un rapide adieu aux gens ici, une dernière vérification de la camionnette puis je pars: première destination, Paris, où je rencontrerai d’autres amis et personnes désireuses d’aider.

J’arrivais dans la capitale deux heures plus tard et je rencontrais Marc Pubreuil et Clara Martinez dans leur appartement rue daudeville. Je ne les ai pas vus depuis longtemps (l’époque où nous avions l’habitude de travailler sur nos projets cinématographiques respectifs) et c’est un plaisir de les rencontrer à nouveau pour cette occasion. Après avoir parlé un peu de cinéma, de projets et d’autres choses, je les avons laissés, ai pris ce qu’ils ont donné au projet et suis allés voir Morgane chez elle où j’ai passé la nuit.

Deuxième jour.

J’ai quitté Morgane assez tôt pour continuer vers l’Est en direction de Strasbourg à la frontière entre la France et l’Allemagne.

Dans la ville, après 5 heures de trajet, j’ai retrouvé Audrey Robles, une ancienne bonne amie de l’université qui m’accueilla et me fit une visite rapide de la magnifique ville. Après avoir terminé son travail en tant que graphiste dans une agence locale Kevin Palermo, son petit ami s’est joint à nous et nous sommes sortis pour profiter d’une soirée trop rapide dans la ville.

Troisième jour.

Tôt le matin, Audrey, Kevin et moi avons quitté l’appartement et nous sommes partis à nos tâches respectives.

Le but de la journée était de rejoindre Salzbourg en Autriche.

J’ai traversé l’Allemagne assez rapidement et, après 600 km, j’étais près de la ville. Comme j’étais en contact avec Petra Sumar qui était sur le point de m’emberger à Zagreb, et que le temps jouait toujours en ma faveur, j’ai décidé de ne pas m’arrêter et de continuer à conduire jusqu’à la Croatie pendant la nuit.

Et après avoir traversé l’Autriche et la Slovénie, après avoir passé mes premiers barrages et douanes de la police locale … Je suis finalement arrivé dans les Balkans.

Chapter XX – Tunis – Tunisia

img_20170204_115713

Leaving Palermo was difficult … not only because of the usual unpleasant border crossing, ferry stuff etc … Leaving the people behind was tough even if I knew I was about to see them again soon.
And the 10 hours of sailing weren’t making my moods better …

I had the time to think about the advises friends gave me to not going to few places, to avoid being foolish trying to see and to understand the dangerous things … Tunisia was still a blurry mystery both, exciting and worrying.
I then arrived in the country by night, passing through the same long and worrying process at the border (you’re always imagining the worst scenario even if you have absolutely nothing to hide …)
snapshot-11Filling the paper works for me, Marcel etc … emptying the whole van at the customs check-up … being arrested three times by the police along the way to Tunis and being almost arrested, fined and enable to drive for not having an original copy of my car insurance … or for simply possessing a chicha in the van …
Well, I think if I wouldn’t tell the truth straight away, explaining to the policemen why I was here and why stopping Marcel in a garage would mean jail for me … they would not have been so kind with me, letting me pass through.
Or perhaps they’re just fooling me as the tourists dumb they might see so often … I couldn’t tell.
Then I finally arrived to the capital at 1.30a.m. and found a place to pass the first night.

The day after, I spent the time walking through the center of Tunis, gathering information about the place, the people and organisation working here and started to contact the ones I already knew.

img_20170205_155332

Then I met Henda, a independent Tunisian journalist with whom I planned to collaborate on reportage and documentation of the refugees and migrants situation in the country.
Working for the web magazine Nawaat for a while, she had indeed a lot of information she was glad to share with me.

img_20170206_125530

And I was in great need of information as it was really hard to find them online.
So I went from place to place, introducing myself to the people and the organisations, explaining them my goals etc … to start being in touch with the people who were doing stuff on the ground.

The day after, while I was in a meeting with ngo’s and humanitarian people of the area, the harsh reality of being on the roads in a “not so cool place” strike me back again : being stolen.

Fuck … another time … I start thinking it’s a permanent rule of this nomadic lifestyle.
Well, this time has been a bit worse than the other times as i’ve been stolen my backpack containing all of my working gear : laptop, DSLR, cameras, tablets, hard drive and footages … everything … well the most important things for me.
Though, it wasn’t the end of the troubles.

sdc11715

After realizing the shit, I went with Kais, a journalist that I met few hours before, at the police station to make complaint and to establish the robbery.
That’s when I realized being nomadic filmmaker working on humanitarian crisi subject wasn’t really the best position to have …
Being asked many things, being suspected of “god knows” whatever spying or dangerous plans … Kais helped me to pass through it and after hours in the police station, we went to the scientific police for them to inspect the vehicle and to gather prints all over Marcel.

And I spent the night at Kais place, worried about the situation as the police called him every 30 minutes asking for my location, information about me etc …
He protected me somehow putting himself in danger and i’m glad he did so.
It was both strange, worrying and exciting at the same time to feels like a fugitive (even if I was everything but dangerous …).

We spent the evening together listening music and talking about life, his country and the way things were changing.
We spoke about the revolution, the Arab spring and all sorts of topics that were fascinating me.
It seemed like he and his fellows journalists were belonging to this kind of freedom fighters, believing in the power of true information and ready to fight for it.
The revolutionary youth of Tunisia …

img_20170208_080630.jpg

Then after a restful night in a bed, I gather enough physical and moral strength to go back to the police station and to explain them what I was doing specifically, how I was living etc … I wanted to make it clear for them to know I wasn’t a troublemaker coming here to mess around the place … I wanted them to know that my only point was to help and understand and, most of all I wanted to take alone the responsibility of my actions and to to endanger the people who’re helping me.

Well … so far it went ok …

And after the police, I went to a garage to fix the van which couldn’t close anymore (as the robbers has fucked up all the locks).

And again I had to postpone … and again I had to switch on survival mode finding a place to park Marcel near by to be able to work and to watch it at the same time … to find a safe place to sleep … I decided to return to the first place I went to “place de la monnaie” which I thought was a good one.

img_20170208_080607.jpg
It’s at 1.30am when I woke up surrounded by three patrol trucks and 20 policemen that I realised it was maybe not a good idea.
I think they were inspecting the van which looked like hell at the moment, covered with products used from the scientific police and with all the locks broken … when I woke up my first reaction was to go out from the van as quick as possible as I knew it couldn’t lock : such a weird situation …
For a frozen time all the cops were speechless to see myself going out of the van : I could read on their eyes “what the fuck is this guy doing inside ?”.

Then, as naturally as the situation would allow, I just went to them, quietly, explaining them the whole situation.

And again … I went to the police station (I think I will know all of them by the end of my stay in the country, 4 different in a matter of 2 days, not bad …)
Then, they told me the risks of parking the van on the street “no really ? I didn’t realised !” … telling me it was unsafe and so on … once I explained them I didn’t have anything left and not much more to be stolen, they kind of understood the situation and asked me to spend the night in front of the station “to be safe” …
I spent 10 minutes before being sent back by another officer … I definitely sounds like chaos here, no one is really aware of what’s going on, everything is changing in a glimpse and everyone is telling you opposite things.
So I returned to “place de la monnsie” where Mr Belkhasem and Mr Am Salama, the two watchmen of the square, helped me to park the van and to stay for the night.
It was 3.30am when I went back to sleep … I had to move again at 5.30 to go in a safer place in front if the lock shop …

img_20170208_111609.jpg

And we spent most of the day after fixing the locks and the doors of Marcel.
By the end of the day, my tiny mobile house was fixed.

img_20170208_125128.jpg

As Jeanne told me once in Morocco “there’s always a moment of “wander” in the nomadic process.”

img_20170214_213855

She thought it was the critical moment when you’d get lost during the journey … losing your marks, losing your goals and even sometimes losing yourself …
Of course, at the time, we were talking about the migrants situation. About these people getting lost on their difficult way to a better life.

 

img_20170214_213743

The wandering was the most dangerous moment during their journey as they could fall into drugs, prostitution, traffic of all kind etc … as they were somehow losing their first goal, enable to get it done.
I think this is the most dangerous kind of wander.
Anyhow, the way I feel now is a bit similar.

img_20170214_203111

Nevertheless, even if things are though, I decided not to give up and, instead of losing myself mindlessly into yhis mood, I decided to embrace it as part of my cure.

As I’ve always been moving focusing on specific things to do, I never been able to wander around etc … I was avoiding it carefully.

img_20170214_213814

But maybe it’s now the time to embrace this stage of mobility which doesn’t have any precise direction and meaning.
It’s when you’re not looking for something specific that things happen.

img_20170214_203349

Then I choose to leave for couple of days, foreseeing I would burn out staying in Tunis in this state of mind.
I went to the further place I could go from the city : the southern Tunisian-Algerian border, near the Sahara and the wilderness.

img_20170214_202418
img_20170214_213919

I spent days moving around the southern border.

img_20170214_203316

I walk on chott el jerid salt lake, I climbed the mountain of the dghoumes national park, gaze at the tamerza canyons and waterfalls, passed through the chambi mountain and the nebeur forest (which were i’ve been told very dangerous due to the armed terrorists living-hiding over there, well … I haven’t saw them …)

img_20170214_202723
I slept with the locals, burn fire at night, cooked with the amasir families and enjoy the natural simplicity of their life.

img_20170214_213444

These moments were what I needed I guess to clear my mind and to return to the essential.

snapshot-161Then I returned to the capital, locked Marcel in a protected car park and tried to get back to the work, which again was something virtually impossible to do as you couldn’t do anything by your own and you could not access to the NGOs or groups responding “Ohh yes … your project sounds great, It’s really good what you’re doing ! Really good, we’ll contact you back as soon as we’ll finish our schedules for the next … and of course they never did”

snapshot-21

I was then left alone, going from place to place, looking for advice, for people who could help me to help … day after day …

Still I collected information about the country global situation, and I’d describe it this way : A weird messy chaos.

snapshot-71

In the country, you could indeed face different situations :

– The sub-saharian migrants in Tunisia are for example for less than in Morocco and are mainly students coming into the country to continue their studies.

– The “Refugees” like the Syrians aren’t recognized in the country, I mean that they’re not given the statue and the statement of UNCHR useless.

snapshot-101

– The Libyan migrants there are a kind of exception as they seems to receive a specific treatment, thanks to an old law from 1973, stipulating that they can come in and out the country as much as they want and stay there without worrying of being thrown out the country.

– The young Tunisians themselves are still willing to flee the country (a huge wave of them has arrived in Italy after the Revolution) because of their shitty and pitiful life conditions.

And it’s just a glimpse of the craziness and the unsuitability of the country situation …

img_20170210_173824.jpg

Then, through this chaos, I made some contacts and start, little by little to realize that the most meaningful work I could do there would be to work in school with the disadvantage kids and people, who’re the first candidates to the exile. By doing so, you’d not help facilitate the migrants journey but you’d save them from the difficult trip by enabling them improving their life at home … no more need to look for an hypothetical “better life” somewhere else if you could get it in your village or home-town. 

16995967_426824277664195_1457945834203377018_n

Regarding this, I meet Alessandro who’s working on sociology documentaries here for a while, he introduced me to some people from the Popular University of Tunisia and we could have done something together if I would have not faced another robbery being stolen my phone, losing all of my contacts, plans, access to internet and informations … and with it a lot of moral energy …

Being robbed right in the street is something I’d never imagine, but well, it’s life I guess …

And this last shit achieved to kill me …

It’s not so much losing the phone that upset me, it’s the fact that happened to me twice in a so short period of time … and it somehow made me realized that I was no more “safe” enough to help as the next thing which could happen would put me in a REAL SHIT.

snapshot-31

Then, following people advices, I decided to leave as sometimes it’s better to step back before going further …

Chapter VIII -From Turkey to Bulgaria

Goreme
I left Gaziantep one Sunday morning to head to goreme on my way to the city of Istanbul.
Sophie, Angelique and some other relatives from Turkey told me about the place and strongly advised me to get there for a break.
Well… My break last few hours from early morning to midday or so … But the place had a great impact on me.
These centenarians houses built on the rocks, these caves and volcanic mountains made me though I was standing in another planet, somehow lost between the early landscapes of star wars and the beautiful scenery of a martian movie.
And the balloons flew at the dawn … As usual, thg touristic attraction was gathering bunch of foreigners coming from all over the place and I quickly left to wander into the old rocky village.
It seems like the place has been frozen in time, trapped in the rock like a sculpture encapsulated in its own canvas.
A art master piece from the earth … A mixed work of nature and mankind that stay … Motionless, fragile and beautiful.

Istanbul
I arrived to the millenarian city quite late.
And it’s been a long drive … The city and its agglomeration might cover 20km at least and it sounded I’ve been driving through the surrounding neighbourhoods for ages before reaching at last the Istanbul city center.
Bright lights, mosques and centenarian buildings all over the dark horizon, creating a line through the sky … Like a new noisy milky way.
A galaxy settled here to shine and glorify the Muslim world …
All these monuments, mosques, churches and castles stand here, scattered though the millenarian city as a reminder of the past. A proof of the ancient establishment of all the civilisations that has been governing the area from this specific point.
And the city is old … Somehow I felt less freedom than I experienced in Izmir or other more “modern” town in Turkey and I understand why Otaturk has changed of official capital when he came to reorder the country during the XXth century : Istanbul is too old, the city has a too huge past and a too heavy history.
It’s a bit as if all the civilisations memories and traditions where crystallized on every squares, park, buildings and streets and it would had been crazy to try to change it once again…
And you  can feel somehow that the mind set is different from the western cities of the country… The religion is way more involved in every aspect of the daily life. And the awareness regarding foreigners is as a matter of fact more perceptible.
Though I haven’t felt too much oppressed and I could still walk through the city as much as I wanted.
Kan, a fellow volunteer from Izmir hosted me for a while by the time he show me the places and organisations which could help me regarding my project.
I have been a little surprised when I saw so few welcoming from their side, so little understanding and very less warmth than the other NGO or groups I have been working with.
They weren’t rude or impolite, jut not interested at all and I had the feeling I was wasting my time … Maybe they were too busy coping with the refugees in the city … Maybe they have too much pressure coming from the administration or whatever … My feeling was just a bit cold.
Still, I wish I’ll come back there to help and teach in these schools for refugees … As the salam school of Gaziantep.

Bulgaria.
I crossed the border early morning …
I was feeling a tension in Turkey … Here either but not the same …
Somehow nothing happened when I crossed, I was expecting some troubles as usual but it went surprisingly well. I felt the indescribable uncomfortableness a bit after, while I was driving through the deserted countryside near the frontier … Police car patrolling quietly, fences scattered here and there but no migrants… Nobody …
I felt the mute power of the disinformation and the pressure that lied on these lands : it was as if nothing was happening. Absolutely nothing, as the government would like people to think I guess, but I could almost hear the boots cracking on the branches in the forests … I could almost see the abandoned hidden shelters where the “illegal” migrants where spending the few moments of relief before walking again.
Keep quiet… Keep walking… Avoid the police… Keep moving … Slowly, gently not to be seen and caught.

I’ve been driving through the country, passing through the city of harmanli where one of the only refugees camp was supposed to be … I was searching … In vain … Still nothing …

Then I went to the capital, Sofia where I thought I could find some information regarding the situation of the country.
Tzvetko, a humanitarian coordinator in the country, was about to host me for a while.
We met at his second flat which was used as a storage place for his donations.
The flat was filled with sleeping bags, clothes and rain coats, craft boxes, diy gears etc … It felt like a messy container back in the camps … But I didn’t mind at all and I was comfortable with all this mess which was part of my world for the last couple of months.
Tzvetko was a busy guy, somehow, he knew about the whole refugees situation in the country and even if it was clear I couldn’t do nothing to help (as I would have to ask authorisations to the governmental authority and to go through a lot of painful and annoying process) he gave me lots of informations for me to help in the city.
Then I’ve been to ovcha kupel and neuva rampa, two places in Sofia where the migrants where placed the time for the country to figure what to do with them.
These ” camps ” where more looking like jails to me… Even if the people there could go in and out freely.

The buildings were falling apart, the structures were old and rusty, the windows … Broken …
And I wasn’t surprised when I heard the places were full … Here at least, it seemed the refugees were treated with more humanity, less anger than they used to received in the police quarter.
I met couple of them and we spoke together for a while.
As I expected, most of them had been beaten by the police, tracked in the forests by patrols etc … Some of them had been caught by local people and send to police after being robbed their goods … I even heard about some Bulgarian setting up some kind of safari in the forests to hunt the migrants … The most terrible was the fact that they were proud of their atrocities, posting pictures on social networks etc … Congratulating themselves … And as terrifying as it sounds people were glad to them …
It made sense that all the refugees there in Sofia wanted to leave … Either to Serbia, either to Romania, either to Turkey … Anywhere but Bulgaria.

Chapter II – Zagreb – Croatia

Zagreb has a million people population,  fortunately I arrived after the rush hour and the traffic was quite smooth on the main avenue “slavenski “. Then I went to a McDonald as every digital nomad when you need to catch a Wi-Fi connection,  I refreshed the sat nav to find the proper place of Petra, send some text message to friends and family and then first heard about the horrible I took a coffee and checked the connection. Paris attack when they told me.

 

 

Such a nice thing to keep you on the mood…
Well,  I kept going and went the Petra place where we met.

 

 

Petra is a graphic designer and photographer from the city, we’ve been in touch through the internet thanks to our common participation in the vly musical project and then as was about to come to the city, we’ve been planning to meet together.

The day after I arrive, Petra and I went to look for the organisation called “are you syrious”.

 

 

These guys were like rushing all over the city to collect donations, to store it in their warehouse in medika district.
As the administrative side of the humanitarian work was such a maze, are you syrious wasn’t allowed to enter the camp and could just bring their donations to the gates.
Then to improve the help and to still being useful in this complicated situation, they were collecting, analysing and sharing all the useful and crucial informations regarding the route.

 

 

And I discovered how useful and helpful it was..
As I experienced later all along the way, information was something you had to take seriously and to rely on.
And we work together with the guys at the medika warehouse, and as we were sorting and packing the clothes etc … We were discussing the possibility for me to carry on the most efficient way.
I didn’t know at that time that we were about to share through the web and social network during all of my journey.
I was always asking them advices about the next step of my trip, and always they were answering, bringing me contacts, place and useful things to do and to think about.
I would say that “are you syrious” is still nowadays one of the best help that the volunteers and everyone can rely on to have get the news and to keep updates about the crisis on a day to day basis.