I’m by a canal and a castle drinking coffee in Gent. Tourism doesn’t suit me. I just keep thinking one thing: I have to go back to Calais.
Maybe there is nothing I can do. Maybe I will end up standing and watching as they destroy the Jungles, too scared to even move. Or maybe it’s good to just go and see what can be done, or to bear witness, or something? Yes, I am still unwell and yes, I find situations like that very stressful, but how can I sit by a canal drinking coffee in Belgium when the homes of my friends are being destroyed?
Clearly I can’t. What’s the point in getting involved in anything if I’m not going to be there when I’m really needed?
First Pete got a text just before he left the forest saying Red Alert in Calais, next Zorro got one from a mutual friend on our way to Gent yesterday. Then I got one this morning from a friend on his way there. My inbox is full of people asking what’s going on, am I still there? Even my mum knows about it. It seems that this time the threat is for real: they are intending to clear out the Jungles tomorrow. I have heard reports that the Ethiopian and Eritrean houses have already been evicted. Other reports are coming in about bulldozers and soldiers armed with flame-throwers. I will have to go and see for myself.
Spent last night in a squat with cats and dogs, which I’m allergic to, with fleas. Shared a bed with a man who snored heavily. Still, very nice of him to give up half of his bed to a strange girl who just crawled out of the forest, and nice of the others to put me up at short notice.
Gent has a very active squat scene. The one I was in last night is part of a whole street which has been squatted. I just found another squatted street round the corner from the bar I’m writing in. The graffiti, posters and spray-painted squat symbol a dead giveaway, never mind the boarded up windows.
The other thing I have noticed is how many bikes there are here – thousands and thousands. Lots of people don’t even bother locking them up. They are just everywhere. Gent is a very hip place. It reminds me a lot of Brighton, or maybe Camden, but a whole city like that. Beautiful big old buildings in the historic half too. Interesting juxtaposittion.
Tonight I have a couchsurfing host. This may be a copout, but want at least one night where I can be sure of not getting bitten by anything new. I just spent €12 on tablets and cream for the bites now covering my right arm and upper leg. Face, fingers and left hand now healing.