Photojournal | Shipping from campus to the East

It is a quiet, sunny September morning and a full size shipping container is blocking the entrance to my house.

A little over twenty men have gathered on a narrow campus road, forming a human chain into a ground floor bedroom next door.

I look up into the rusting green container to see a man inside sorting a collection of chairs, appliances and sports equipment into a neat tessellation.


Below, children weave through the line of volunteers, oblivious to the delicate operation at hand. One volunteer informs me that it has only taken two hours to load the container, thanks to the many who have turned up to help, no doubt.

The student in receipt of this generosity has just finished his PhD. Amid the commotion, he is nowhere to be found.


I’m told by one man, furiously taping down a bulging cardboard box, that the procedure of packing down a friend’s apartment happens fairly regularly.

“That’s what we do”, he says, “we help each other”.


The children, now throwing handfuls of gravel at each other, settle down at the behest of their parents. Sitting on my doorstep in a neat line, they are distracted with a small portion of noodles served on paper plates.

Opposite, the shipping container begins its journey from Leeds to Malaysia, via China. It will be three months until the elusive student sees his possessions again.


Leo Garbutt



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