Lucie Codiasse

What is Pique Parole? In this Podcast, Penelope tells us the stories of public personalities, not so well known, whose life or/and achievements are so amazing it would be a shame to miss them. All the stories are romanticized with a sound effect and a tone that will take you far, very far…. And will certainly make you laugh too! Originally rendered in French, we have tried to maintain the authenticity of the author’s voice as far as possible.

Produced by La Toile sur Ecoute Who has never dreamt of walking in someone else’s shoes? This is why in this week’s episode of “pique parole” (the voice thief) I borrow the words of a woman of communication. No, actually a field woman. No, a female social worker. Well, of a woman who spreads a message of hope and does things you would never do. Well, perhaps you might, but it’s rather unlikely!

Anyways I’m going to tell you a bit of her story. Actually, of my story. Well, it’s her words, her life, but with my voice my words. It’s her story but I borrowed it… Anywayyyyyy…

Lucie. My name is Lucie Codiasse. With two S and an E in the end and I’m 37 years old. I was born vertically. As a line traced with a ruler, as a birth delivery who wouldn’t conform to convention, because my mum wanted to deliver me naturally, without assistance or pain killers. And with my dad holding her by the arms, my mum delivered me standing – like a strong woman. This delivery happened in the city of Joan of Arc, 45 km from Orleans. Orleans is where I grew up and I have always believed to be born vertically in such historic city destined me for great things. So I decided to live. To live my life like every minute was the last one. My mum was trying to help people the entire day. Me, I did not want to listen to people. I wanted to enjoy myself and I did. Without thinking.

First, I learnt contemporary dance so I could really feel my body but mostly so I could shine during the shows that were organised because I wanted to be in centre stage (hey, it’s useful!) And then, so I could easily fly internationally, I’ve studied German as a first language (everybody can get it wrong, you all!). And so I could really put all chances on my side and make sure I would make a successful name for myself, I did an IUT (a degree in technology from a very prestigious university). (voice off: Did you ever heard of HEC? ) With contemporary dance, German studies and an IUT I clearly wasn’t stacking the odds in my favour to be happy. Yet, I still managed to enter Business school. And that’s where it all started – Student Bureau! Arts Bureau! Throwing parties for a thousand of students! Spending my nights partying, dancing, drinking, dancing, drinking more… My first job was spent in bars from Thursday to Sunday. My second job was for a TV channel. Still partying from Thursday to Sunday. I did everything to be where it all was happening. The “it” places to be. My third job was for a communications company, and during the four years of it, I was the life of the party. Spending my time in clubs, bars, private shows, after parties. VRP parties, friend of a friend’s parties. Picture it, from Thursday to Sunday my life is a big party! There isn’t a single night I’m spending alone. Why be alone? What is the point? Life is so much prettier, funnier, fancier, livelier (yes I know it’s not grammatically correct but play on words everyone!) more exciting, climactic, and higher with people. Life goes faster, meeting people at every corner, opportunities grow bigger and I seize each one as it passes. “Lucie, come with us to create a start-up of brand content! The three of us are creative, we would rock the show!” I barely have time to think about it, I see myself quitting my old job and entering new offices to be the co-creator of a company that tells story to brands.

Telling (making up) stories is what I do the best. I work my network every way I can, killing it both on the field and at the office. The company is huge. We keep hiring, we have fancy designs on the wall, latest furniture, paintings, and art works at every corner, a coffee place who doesn’t say its name. And the money is flowing! My bank account empties itself thanks to parties every night and travels around the world, but I keep filling it each month playing my network, working my butt off while having a blast. Rap song showcasing the life of the party.

And then one day. A Monday. It’s 10am. I’ve slept three hours. Coming back from an after party. Feeling sick. I’ve spent my night with an actor and suddenly, I’m scared. I’m at the front door of my office. I can hear the teams moving, laughing, typing on their computers. My hand reaches for the door knob but I can’t move it. It won’t move. My arm isn’t moving. My hand stays low. My fingers straight. I stay there. 5 or maybe 10 minutes. And I leave. No looking back. Never going back… Depression shows up. Depressurization. Decompensation. I touch rock bottom. I sleep 24 hours and am suffocating. Suffocating in my body. In my heart. In my head. I pack a bag and leave. Alone. I want to be alone. Need to find myself. I’m thinking of the verticality of my birth and I think it’s time to get back on my feet. I need to stand again on my own two feet.

Right in my boots. Destination South America. I found myself on the pacific coast of Colombia where a tropical tempest just hit. The village is destroyed and hundreds of people are left with nothing. All they have is their underwear … And sometimes they’ve kept their babies but not all of them have. How will they manage? What would I do if all I had in this world were my panties? I would feel stupid. I would feel naked. I would feel as a void. They… They don’t even have time to think about it. And the next day, with the help of neighbouring villages and my small hands, we start rebuilding everything with any bit of wet wood they have found. After a few days I feel as useful as I feel useless and decide to hit the road to Cartagena in Colombia where I learn Spanish. Followed by Bolivia where I learn to be alone. Chili where I learn how to love which leads me to Brazil to follow my lover. But since even the most beautiful love stories can be followed by fights, I leave him to follow my new path on a small Brazilian island where I meet Cindy. Cindy just spent a year in Syria working for an NGO. What she tells me touches me, talks to me and gets stuck in my head. But it doesn’t last because on November 13, 2015, while I’m working my tan, my friends have lost their lives at the Belle Equipe. Paris is mourning. The call of true love puts me on a plane and I come back home among my loved ones. But the terrorists’ attacks aren’t the only talking subject in the news. The migrants crisis is on every screen and in every conversation. Seeing the images on TV I got a flash. I see myself feeling as useless as I felt I Colombia except this time the situation is 2 hours from Paris and I can act on it. “Hey, good morning… I would like to do something for the Jungle in Calais.” “Okay. Be there tomorrow 9am in front of the Jungle.” After a train trip from Paris to Calais, three buses, and an hour walking, I’m finally there. March 8 2016, in front of the entrance to the Jungle for I don’t know how long.

It opens its door to me and for the first time I understand the meaning of horror. The smell strucks my head. I dare not open my mouth, or even breathe. A dark mix of shit, tanks and tear gas. And then a huge field appears- a makeshift village where containers, tents, and wood made-up slums. It’s full of people – 3000. Made of as many communities as there is violence. Syrians. Iraqis. Afghans. Iranians. Africans. Sudanese. Ethiopians (and many more). And they all hate each other. It’s the law of the Jungle. There is a war for power and all want to rule. When a chief dies, people fight to take over. It‘s a hard fall. Refugees are not what we see on TV. They are not poor, miserable people trying to beg for money. Of course those exists but the majority are more than, or as, cultivated as me. They are lawyers, cooks, teachers, engineers, cab drivers, doctors, athletes – actually, whatever makes up the world’s population. There was a war in their country. And quite logically like you, I and any other sane person in this world would do, they flew. First they hid, then they ran with all the belongings they could carry, holding their kids by the hand, avoiding bombs, fleeing bullets, raging, screaming of fright, running away for survival. Some were lucky enough to be rich. Others ended up with nothing but their clothes on, broke and broken. So they try to make it to Calais and then to make it to the UK. The richest pay smugglers to bribe drivers, the poor keep up hope and hop on a train and the most deprived simply try to make it to another day in the Jungle. The Jungle was actually never a jungle. It’s a real village with shops, bakeries and restaurants, all built and managed by the Afghani mafia. Every kind of trafficking – drugs, guns, sex, it’s like being in the Truman Show and I’m trying to give a hand to people who need it the most. Once a week they’re given a ticket to take a 6 minute shower. This is the only moment they are actually alone anywhere. The only obsession, of all of them, as frivolous as it may sound, is to be dressed with clean and stylish clothes. What is left of their dignity? No more jobs, no more social recognition, no more belongings. They have nothing left but their appearance to feel like they’re existing. Some teach me things, others scare me. But all have this rage in their eyes like an animal in cage who just survived being hunted. I think again about the images shown on TV and I feel sick. Those images and words depict those refugees like wild animals in heat, dirty, poor, whereas what I see is men from a different culture, an internal wealth no one can measure, with the strength of Hercules forced to do his 12 labours, so they gain a dignity that was stolen from them. We will never know, but perhaps we have already met them, talking and laughing over some Balinese holidays, some road trip in South America or on the beach in Australia. With weeks passing, my health is deteriorating and after 4 months, I am at the bottom. Eye infection symptomatic of the horror I see every day, tendinitis, dead ligaments.

My body is giving up on me. When I leave the Jungle, they are 8000 and I promise myself that one day I will write a book. The book of the Jungle. I train for three months in the management of humanitarian programs. I apply for Action contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger) and I leave for Iraq where I handle finance and human resources for a base of 100 people who have come to help war refugees fleeing DAESH. It is a 6 month job and I’m the only white. Along with my boss. 99.9% of the staff is local. I have to handle a 3 million dollar program each month. My office is in a safe zone and every time a village is liberated from DAESH, my team and I visit the village to distribute food, cooking utensils and clothes.

The distribution has to be done in 50 minutes, Chrono in hand. Just a few miles away, we can hear shots, smokes, and bombs falling on the villages still held captive. The refugee camp in Iraq looks nothing like the Jungle of Calais. The UN is behind it, and it shows. It’s a big field made of concrete with immaculate tents and maps. We installed the water network, set up trauma management therapy, open access to work within the camp – all needed to start over in life. Some (refugees) want to be farmers, others hairdressers or tailors, while waiting to be able to go home once de-mining is completed. I feel good, I feel useful, my body feels better but I’m so far from my loved ones. That’s why I apply for a position as Communications Director for Action Against Hunger. And I got in. My daily life is to tell the story of those people, to create awareness and show them that hope is the strongest motivator to stay alive and move forward. I’ve been standing for quite some time now. I never thought I would get here. Thank you mum for birthing me standing because with each step I took, I have paved my way.