Four Languages + One Sewing Needle


Four Languages + One Sewing Needle
Workshop, Day 1

22 people, 6 nations, 4 languages and previous knowledge ranging from "I've never held a needle in my hand" to "I'm a trained restorer".

Welcome to creative chaos!

We meet at 9am in the CETI refugee camp. All of us? No - unfortunately not, because I still don't have a "Tarjeta" (= access authorisation). So I have to wait outside the door until everyone has gathered and we can start our city walk.

The course takes place on the premises of ACOGE, in another part of the city. As the camp is completely overcrowded (currently 1462 people instead of the planned maximum of 400), there is no other option. It's also about getting people out of the camp and seeing something different.

We walk because the refugees are given places to sleep, food and clothing, but no money. So travelling by bus is cancelled.

On the way to the workshop

A long morning walk like this quickly gets the conversations going once everyone has worked out who speaks which languages. I'm the only one of the carers who speaks English, so I mainly talk to a woman from the Philippines, one from Kenya and one from Syria, who speaks the most languages of us all (English, French, Arabic and some German). The inhabitants of the camp hardly know each other, they prefer to stay separated by language groups.

Trying to communicate in 3 languages (English, French and Arabic) at the same time during a course turns out to be a bit complicated. None of the carers know a second foreign language, so we communicate with each other in Spanish, which nobody else understands. Most of the 8 men have never sewn before and their first attempts are somewhat ridiculed by the women. But somehow it works. After two hours, a woman from Syria shows a man from the Ivory Coast how a special sewing stitch works, while another girl from Syria discusses various colour options with a woman from the Philippines - each in her own language. The ice is broken and there are many attempts at conversation on the way back to the camp. They also try to talk to each other in Spanish, but that doesn't go beyond "How are you". Most of them are only at the beginning of their Spanish course.

Workshop at ACOGE

We say goodbye at the entrance to the CETI and unfortunately I have to decline the invitation to come along and visit the camp - because I don't have a "tarjeta" yet. One of the residents says that he has received his tarjeta within a short time & it should be easy for me, after all I come from Europe. I can't think of anything to say and arrange a visit for Thursday. The course continues with these participants.

A second course starts tomorrow, because we had to split the workshop due to the large number of registrations. Tuesday & Thursday will be "arts and crafts", Wednesday and Friday will be devoted to mending, knitting and sewing clothes.

For today, my head is buzzing from all the languages, but I had a very exciting day. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow - new friends, a new course and new challenges.