Wednesday 24 May
On Wednesday I receive a call from a friend I got to know in the Dunkirk refugee camp in France, and who is now living as an unaccompanied minor in a foster home in England. We haven't spoken in a few months, during which his English has improved drastically and his accent has become pronouncedly more British. He insists on everything being lovely.
He refers to his foster carer as his new mother. He goes to college, has developed new daily routines, and has made many friends. In fact, he tells me that it takes him a long time to pass through the city centre because he needs to stop every few metres to shake hands.
He then suddenly remembers something. There is a lovely cycle path running right outside the house he is staying in, and he now loves cycling. Then, a little ashamedly, he tells me that his new mother makes him wear a helmet and a yellow reflective jacket. He carries his phone over to his wardrobe to show me the jacket on the webcam, and there hangs the most yellow and reflective jacket I have ever seen. I am happy to know he is kept safe.
But, he goes on to tell me, he hasn't been able to sleep during the past week. He is worried about his asylum interview with the Home Office, which he had a few days ago. All he can do now is wait, but it is difficult not to worry. He knows how quickly everything he has built up and grown used to can change.
After a while, he realises the time and tells me that he needs to go. EastEnders is on.
Thursday 25 May
A couple of weeks ago, I started working on setting up a youth project in Glasgow for children and young people from a refugee, asylum seeker or BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) background. The aim of the project is to foster greater integration of marginalised young people.
In a way, the project is trying to encourage young people who might not otherwise have been friends, to be friends. In an organic way. Including young people from a range of different backgrounds, across Glasgow.
Although the project will be tailored specifically for young people, integration projects are no less needed for adults.
I recall a project in Berlin that I stumbled across a few months ago. Set up by the non-profit organisation Stadtsichten e.V., querstadtein is a project that offers guided tours around Berlin providing starkly different perspectives of the city from conventional tours aimed at vacationing tourists. Initially, all tours were led by guides who lived as homeless in the city. Each guide's tour would be unique, and showed the participants the guide's perspective of Berlin – where he or she meets friends, goes for food, and sleeps. The project now also offers tours led by refugees, sharing their respective perspectives of Germany's capital. Berlin has 3.5 million residents, and there are as many everyday experiences and perspectives of the city.
There are more than 600,000 ways to live in Glasgow. It would not be feasible to have as many tours – but it would be a good idea to have some.
Friday 26 May
Ramadan – the near-month-long fasting period in Islam – starts on Saturday. A Muslim friend who has his birthday in the middle of the period is a bit concerned about having a party without any eating or drinking. It gets dark so late now – would his friends stay for that long? And he probably would not have any alcohol. We decide to celebrate a few days early, and he eats and drinks and pretends to be feeling all grown up.
I remember that a close friend of mine at university, who was on the tennis team, used to take a flexible approach to fasting. She would fast for the full number of days, but not on days of important tennis matches. Instead, she would fast for a day or two extra in the beginning or at the end.
This year, I was unsure whether Ramadan started on 26 or 27 May. As I walk with a friend whose family is Muslim, I ask him for the date. He looks at me a bit uncomfortably, and explains that he is not Muslim any more. He says that if I had asked him 15 years ago, he would have known. Now he definitely does not know. There are too many problems with religion. I regret asking.
I have just jumped on the train at Queens Park station, and the doors are closing. There are maybe 10 people in the carriage.
Suddenly, from the towering tenement buildings overhead, we hear a scream. It is almost primal and it is gut-wrenching. In the carriage, we look around at one another. Mouths hang open, eyes wide.
After a few seconds, a woman holding a smartphone looks up and announces that Celtic has just won the Scottish Cup. It dawns on us that the scream must have been someone's happiness. The carriage smiles.
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