My stay at Josefa

Houses, like people, have their own smell and music. It’s only while staying in a house that, as the days go by, one has the opportunity to discover them

The Josefa House is made up of rhythms, staircases, landings, thresholds and doors. Its layout is a good workout for the lungs. I decided to spend a week in this house so as to catch my breath.

I left a main floor room off a street full of children playing, the noises of cars and of neighbours calling out to one another from one window to another, and moved into a room looking onto a garden full of singing birds. From the blue lounge to my room, from the garden to the common kitchen, the house weaved around me a shelter of silence that was pierced, from time to time, by sounds of footsteps in the staircase, a door closing, the laughter of a girl, the rustle of a conversation. It was like I was on hold.

Moreover, I was so imbued by the community life I shared that this sudden solitude made me uneasy the first day. I would listen to the goings on in the house. I tried to fit in. It took me some time before I bonded with others. "Hello" "hello": we would cross one another in the staircase, a little intimidated… then sipped tea and ate small Syrian cakes together in the garden, exchanged some words about the cat, had supper just us women from the four corners of Europe and chatted about men and Iraq, its history and its culture.

The kitchen is the heart of many homes. The Josefa House is no exception. The shared kitchen smelled of rice and spices. A meal would be whipped up on the spot: "I have lentils", "And I have a carrot and a leek"; we would throw everything in the pot and hope for the best. "It’s good!"

This short stay at the Josefa House was an experience where learning to live is like learning to cook: welcoming what is given and letting it transform us; thanks to everyone for this week. Maybe there will be another one.


The daily realities that lead some of us to rebel, or even move away, to go on "holiday", to "defect" from a society that is less and less meaningful, are nothing (or so little) compared to others whose only choice is to escape, to flee…

To "free" oneself from one’s professional, family or community obligations cannot compare (without downplaying the struggles that some people experience) with the plight of a forced migration, of exile. It is not a question of choice or discernment, but of life and death. It is not about "defection", but about exile, not the exercise of free will, but a liberation.

In fact, exiles and "defectors" have to talk to each other, to express their despair or hope, to enrich each other, to travel together, in order to extract from their migration (exile or "defection") a new meaning, a renewed life, and to be together… their migration, our migrations: migrant, you, like me.


26 Drapiers Street. A big, heavy wooden door. I get ready to open it. What a surprise when this door effortlessly leads to a part of the Middle East and other parts of Africa or Europe...

The Josefa House, in my experience, is firstly about twenty or so people creating an enjoyable place to live.

The Josefa House is about returning home from work in the evenings and stopping in the kitchen to laugh, talk, take in one or more games of foosball.

It’s about Mondays: gathering around a big table in a friendly atmosphere to share a meal. And what a meal!

It’s mainly about the people: I’m learning some Arabic (but my pronunciation still needs improvement!), and others are learning French. The conversations are rather enriching, I can assure you.

The Josefa House is about hospitality. Whether or not you are in a hurry, if you pass in front of the kitchen or go to a neighbour’s, you are warmly invited for a cup of tea or to share a meal.

It’s also about small projects and bigger projects, like the screening of a movie or an afternoon of activities organised for children.

Living in Josefa is about experiencing whatever comes your way. It can be a neighbour playing the accordion, another telling jokes (in this case, the same joke being told several times), finding somebody on the roof because there’s a leak, enjoying a piece of cake left in the kitchen, some "light painting" at 11 pm, and many other events.

So, I thank everyone at the Josefa House for their warm welcome and surprises.


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