Yep, that’s me — under what’s known in English as a “pinhole shuttlecock burqa”.
I bought the burqa some 20 years ago at the market in Peshawar. Most of the population of this city in Pakistan, close to the border with Afghanistan, are ethnic Pashtuns. In those days, what few white women visited the town could freely wander round the market. I say freely, but we did have a male escort, a burly Pashtun who was visibly embarrassed when I asked him to negotiate for that burqa, alongside an Afghan tea cosy. Peshawar seemed impossibly exciting then, like something out of the Wild West.
When we first arrived, I was horrified by the sudden sight of women in burqas like this. Those who weren’t out shopping were being jolted around, bumping shoulders in the back of battered Suzuki jeeps, seemingly peering out at us. Their garb gave them an appearance of capture, of strange exotic creatures.
When Katrina Allen left her comfortable London home to volunteer as a translator in Greece, she had no idea how life-changing it would be.
It’s on my sixth night on the Greek island of Samos that things really become tense. I’m at my apartment when the phone beeps: “Get down to the medical centre. There’s a massive fire in the camp.” It turns out that it’s the result of a fight breaking out between Syrians and Afghans over somebody jumping the food queue. Gas canisters are now exploding like bombs, echoing around the hillside. Hundreds are trying to flee the refugee camp, including terrified families with small kids, only to be tear-gassed by the police attempting to contain everyone. Later I’m told that a girl went into labour — thankfully, they managed to get her to hospital. Read More
‘Traveleyes’ is an intriguing travel concept geared towards both blind and sighted travellers. Swopping on a daily basis, blind and sighted people are paired up, the sighted ones guiding and explaining what they see. It’s a brilliant way to wake up all our senses: smell the game in Africa, sniff perfumes in a perfume house in France, feel snow crunching underfoot, smell spices in Morocco, taste Italian cuisine and experience the world through a blind person’s perceptions. These tours tend to attract solo travellers, a lot of whom are single or who simply decide to leave their partners at home! The sighted people also get a considerable discount on the trips.
Can’t wait to go on one!
I recently went back to the Calais Jungle as a volunteer for the third time within the last twelve months.
(photograph by Katrina Allen)
So, what’s changed during that time?
Well, when I was first there last October, there were an estimated 5,000 migrants at the camp. According to a census a couple of weeks ago, conducted by two of the charities helping out, the numbers have now reached 9,000, with a 29% increase in just one month and around 70 new arrivals every day.