top of page

The story of my trip

September 13, 2022


Among the asylum seekers, I observe Ahmed's face. The young Afghan is at the French Office for Refugees and Stateless Persons to tell his story of exile. With a bare heart, he thinks that the sincerity of his story will be enough to obtain refugee status. Some of his compatriots were more pragmatic. They bought stories, imagining that their price is proportional to their chance of obtaining political asylum. In the line that winds at the foot of the Office, none of them suspects the violence that will strike them when they are dismissed. 

The French flag hangs like a strange fruit above the entrance to the building. The fabric draws a shadow on Ahmed's face. I know he will mourn the rejection of his asylum application. I look away. I don't want to be a good little soldier anymore. I can no longer inflict this administrative violence. I resign.

To punish me for my affront, the Administration prohibits me from all contact with asylum seekers and OFPRA staff for a period of three years.

During this period, I respect my condemnation. Three years pass. 

Then, the images of the jungle of Calais, the forests of tents on the banks of the Seine and the castaways of the “Mediterranean wall” burst into my reality. These events upset my silence. I write articles on the huge legal fiction that is OFPRA. I testify in the film by Clio Simon “Is it a true story telling? ". I speak at conferences. It is insufficient. The images of the dismantling of the camps, police violence and general indifference reach me with extreme acuteness. I have to face the facts. No one questions the Geneva Convention. No one disputes the figure of the “good refugee”. Although I denounce the absurdity of the system, it is reinforced.

Little by little the idea of a manual for asylum seekers and their companions came to me. If the frontal approach does not work, why not try a detour? I start to write “How to become a perfect asylum seeker”. From the first lines, my memories come to the surface. They float on the waves like migrant boats waiting to dock in a port. For the asylum seeker to stop being shipwrecked and to become the captain of his journey, my text must be a tool: a concrete, useful, precious object that serves to make something else._cc781905-5cde- 3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_

Thus, from concrete situations resulting from my experience as a protection officer, I outline my first lines of thought. I stick to one rule: each paragraph must have a practical use and pay homage to Mètis, the Greek goddess of cunning and survival, techniques and tactics.

When the manual is finished, I send it to Hippolyte. This artist moves me with the sensitivity and sincerity of his texts and drawings. In his diary recounting his voyage aboard the Ocean Viking, he had recounted the rescue of a baby. I close my eyes and see the one who was placed in my arms.

Madame E had come to OFPRA, accompanied by her mother and her daughter, an infant of a few months. At the Office, the rules are strict: asylum seekers are heard alone, without the presence of their relatives. For Madame E, I had exceptionally violated this rule. I agreed to receive all three of them. In the middle of the interview, Madame E began to whine. His voice was hoarse, as if his vocal chords had been worn down from screaming too much. Her mother asked me, "Can I take her to the bathroom?" ". She placed the swaddled baby in my arms, who immediately began to cry. I hummed the Creole lullaby from my childhood: "Dodo la minette, Jeannette's child, si la minette,i dodo pa, sat maron va souk aèl". The little girl grabbed my index finger, clenched it in her fist and closed her eyelids. 

Hippolyte answered me a few weeks later. He lives on my native island, Reunion. He agreed to illustrate the cover of the manual so that it becomes a precious object : an object that we want to take care of.

From now on, this tool had to participate in creating the Relationship. The philosopher and poet Edouard Glissant defines the Relation by three verbs: to connect, to relay, to relate. This is where Cédric Herrou and Loïc Le Dall from Emmaüs Roya come in. Their presence was obvious, in the face of silence from academic institutions, publishers and national associations when I presented my manual to them. 

Cédric Herrou is a farmer in the Roya Valley. He is a worthy heir of Edouard Glissant, whose maxim was: “Act in your place, think with the world”. When he sends me his text-preface, Cédric almost apologizes for having written it. “I hope you'll be fine with it, it's a bit steep, but that's what your manual inspired me to do. Tell me, without embarrassment, if it doesn't suit you,” he wrote to me by email. His text is poetry. Cédric is a poet who cultivates olive trees.

Cédric put me in touch with Loïc Le Dall, the president of Emmaüs Roya. We talk over the phone. I don't need to explain my approach, he understands me immediately. He captures the silences I stumble upon. Three months later, the Emmaüs Roya chicken coop burned down. Loïc is overwhelmed. We send each other messages from time to time.  Time passes, but I still hope that the manual is an object-book. 

Then, I decide to return permanently to my island. I feel that the manual  project is drifting away. I am far now. I couldn't handle remote printing and distribution. 

A new detour looms on the horizon. Why not put the manual for free download on the net? Saying this solution out loud is a no-brainer. A website allows me to be free to write what I want, to add elements over time and then the chance of the net is the creator of the Relationship.

I send a message to Loïc to share the link with him. He replies: “I'm working to relay the link…” To relay, the verb he uses resonates with Edouard Glissant's definition of Relation. He adds: “it seems to be taking, you are no longer alone”.  

This long journey therefore ends for me and begins for the readers of this site.


Grandma and I in a cryptomeria forest. For a few days, she left there and will not return.

Granny's last trip

September 17, 2022 

The hum of the oxygen machines covers Granny's sighs. Lying under a flowered sheet, she sleeps. On the dresser, between the photos of the grandchildren, are placed: a vase filled with twig branches, a laughing Buddha, a statuette of the Virgin Mary and small bottles of essential oil. On one of them is inscribed “Immortelle oil”. I would like to sprinkle Grandma with this magic potion so that she does not leave. 


In the Amazon, the Yanomami Indians say that a person has gone into the forest to signify that he has ascended to Heaven. This forest image moves me. The forest is a fixed place, inscribed in a landscape. Unlike the sky, which is infinite and moving according to the state of the clouds.


The cancer is eating Grandma's old body. Gradually, the disease violently changed the features of his face. Granny has her mouth open. His lips draw a sad pout and his tongue is curled to the side. Dark circles mingle with his wrinkles. Beneath her half-closed eyelids, her eyes stare into nothingness. Her irises have lost their luster, as if a downpour had discolored them. Gently, I run my hand over her gray hair. Grandma would never have accepted having her hair done so badly. She always had a small comb in her pocket to comb her hair when the wind tangled her hair.


A few days earlier, I had come to visit him in the hospital. Several times Granny asked me, "When are you leaving?" ".

I replied that I had come back and that I was not leaving again. I hadn't imagined how much my absence from the island had pained her.


In view of her worrying condition, the doctor urgently initiated hospitalization at home. Twenty-four hours later, Grandmother returned home to the Mountain. At that moment, I thought: “From the Mountain, the walk is more beautiful to go into the forest. »


Alone with Grandma, I pull a table closer to the medical bed to put my laptop on it.

Today is September 13, the day I publish the manual I wrote for asylum seekers. It is also the day when my website is officially online. It's strange how words can bring bad luck. Entitled “Journey to the Land of Asylum”, I realize that the close syllables form the word “bury”, from the verb “to bury”. I glance over at Grandma, who is starting to fidget. 

"Where is Father Datin?" she grows impatient.

— Uncle went to get him…

— Let him hurry. I can not wait anymore...

- They arrive.Hold on*!

- My head is going to explode. I am in pain...

Hold on!

Mi gin could. Mi sava died*.


It's twenty past eight. Grandmother squeezes my hand like an infant who catches her mother's finger in her fist.

TienboSame !

I tell Grandma to hold on until the priest arrives. Deep down, I tell myself that I'm inflicting on him the pain of fighting instead of leaving in peace. His face twitches. She is in so much pain that her feet are stretched like the string of a bow. His fingers are cold and blue.

The portal finally opens. My parents, my uncles and Father Datin arrive. Grandma opens her eyes. The sad pout from his mouth falls away. She will receive extreme unction. In his hands, Father Datin holds a book whose title is "I meet Jesus", a Christian expression to mean going to Heaven. At the end of the prayer, he lays his hands on Grandmother's forehead.

— These are not my hands, these are those of God, who by this gesture, chooses you to be at his side. 

Granny turns her head towards the priest.

- Excuse me, my father for having disturbed you...

- Jeannine, every Sunday, you come to my house. Today I am coming to your house.

Granny closes her eyes. She looks serene. She knows that theBondiewill welcome him to Heaven or to the forest. 


After the arrival of the priest, Granny does not speak any more. She is sleeping soundly. 


On September 14, it is two o'clock. In the bedroom, Grandmother breathes more and more slowly. Mom, my two uncles, my father and I surround Grandma. “We are all here with you. You can leave in peace,” mum said, crying.

Grandma's mouth looks like a dried seashell. She sucks in the air in a slow lullaby rhythm.

My father says: “For my dad, it lasted six hours…”

So I decide to go make some coffee. In the white kitchen, bathed in the rays of a sunny afternoon, I grab the packet of vanilla coffee. I didn't ask who wanted it. I go back to the room: "Who wants coffee?" » .

Dad waves to me: “Céline, it's imminent…”. I move closer to the medical bed. Grandma's skin is the color of a faded hibiscus. His lips froze. I find it hard to believe that she is gone. I scan his chest for a movement of breathing. Dad says let's tell the family. "Wait, maybe she'll breathe again," I said. Nasser, the nurse who takes care of Grandma and who was called by my uncle, arrives from the terrace. With his stethoscope, he listens to Grandma's heart. He shakes his head and closes Grandma's eyes. Time of death: 2:18 p.m.


I send a message to my sister and my cousins:Granny the Batkaré party in the forest*".

Then, a violent fatigue seizes me. I lay down on the sofa in the living room. When I open my eyes, my uncle is preparing the house for the wake. I force myself to get up. The night is going to be long. 


From 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., relatives, friends and neighbors follow one another at the foot of the funeral bed. Dad asks me to make coffee for the guests. Make coffee: the last thing I had done before Grandma left.


The family from all over the island is surprised by my presence. " You are the ? they ask me. A cousin, who saw the publication of my site “Voyage en terre d'asile”, challenges me.

"I saw that you've written a new book...

— Yes, a manual for asylum seekers.

"Do you support that?"

- Yes.

I want to add that “that” are people. But I don't have the strength to explain my approach, to convince her of the humanity that resides in the Other, to tell her that tomorrow it could be her and her children. I pretend to have to make coffee again to flee to the kitchen.


The kitchen is located next to the small living room where Grandma used to watch television. Her smell mixed with the perfume of the Chinese medicine she applied to her old bones reaches me. I sit next to his chair. Everything is exactly in its place: a pink and black plaid on the backrest, the remote control placed on the armrest, his evening slippers on the floor. My mind escapes.Oté Mémé, ousa or lé?*I wrap myself in his blanket, his smell comforts me and I fall asleep.


The next day, my uncle brings us together around Grandmother to recite a last prayer: an “Our Father” and five “Hail Marys”. His deep voice covers the sobs of my cousins. All the grandchildren were able to return to the island. “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you…” Uncle doesn't stop, as if to delay the moment when the undertakers will close the coffin.


A red rose is placed on Grandma. She loved this flower. The garden of his house is surrounded by rosebushes.


My niece Ania stayed on the terrace. She doesn't recognize Granny. I understand her. Death, by freezing the face of the deceased, inflicts on the living the pain of the ugliness of the corpse. Grandma no longer looks like Grandma.

Uncle bends over Grandmother. He whispers his goodbye in her ear. 

Then I approach. This is the last time I kiss her. Granny's skin  surprises me with its cold stiffness. I run my hand over his forehead to straighten a lock of hair. Granny has always had her hair done well. It will also be for the afterlife.Adié Mémé, nar found*.


In the Church of Notre Dame de la Délivrance, the priest lights a candle and begins his sermon. I had a hard time listening to him. From the neighboring school, I hear the laughter and cries of children playing in the playground. My sister reads the gospel. My cousin says the universal prayer. Then it's my turn. I collected the memories of the grandchildren in a text, which everyone reads.


I close the testimonials: “Granny, you often told us that we were going to eat simple and then you put five different dishes on the table. Granny, cooking us was your way of telling us you loved us. Grandma, for you we will eat, we will pray, we will love and we will love each other. »


On the forecourt overlooking the ravine, a breeze raises the dawn of the priest. Her purple scarf undulates on the sandstone of the trade winds. The casket enters the hearse and I cry.


In the Cauldron cemetery, facing the immense mountain and with its back to the infinite ocean, Grandmother is buried alongside Grandfather. Their grave is located close to their old grocery store, where I spent the best years of my childhood.


At home, sitting around the table, we eat fresh coconut. For the Hindus, the coconut is the purest form of offering to the gods. Its white flesh represents the purity of the soul and the water is considered pure, because it has not been touched by the hand of man. Mom notices that today is Saint Roland.

For his birthday, my Grandfather Roland is no longer alone. Granny, his beloved wife, is by his side.

In Reunion Creole

* "Hold on"

* "I can't take it anymore. I'm going to die"

* "Granny has gone to the forest."

* "Granny, where are you?"

* "Farewell Granny, we'll meet again."

bottom of page