My state examination at level B2 is done. I wonder if I made it. In the listening exam I heard an old grandfather and grandmother say something with a crackling voice. I did not understand it. When I left the examination room in Eindhoven, fortunately I was not the only one who had found it difficult. I ran into the city to blow off steam. There were soldiers lined up in the city center, with weapons. Never before have I seen such a scene. They laughed and let everyone who wanted it sit on their arms. I was there and asked if I could take a picture. ,,Of course, that is what we are here today”, said a soldier. I asked if he liked his work. ,,Yes, great work”. The soldiers looked happy and proud. In Syria I often had to deal with soldiers during my volunteer work at relief organization UNHCR. I can already see that I would sit on their arms and ask them if they like their work.
From childhood I have learned never to talk to soldiers, to look at them or to get in the way. Their eyes are not happy or proud either. Rather black and evil. Not because they have always been like that, but because they became like that during the war. Such a military position in the city center would be inappropriate in Syria. Then you get: “Look, with this we have killed your uncle” and “With this weapon we have thrown your house down”.
The soldier asked me if I want to join the army. I said: ,,If this is what the army does in the Netherlands, then it seems nice to me”. The man looked at me from head to toe. ,,You have to weigh 65 kilos before you can work with us. So go eat first, boy.”
The new Syrian students at the HAN (Highschool Arnheim / Nimwegen), I feel sorry for them. I felt the same way a year ago. Lost and stupid. In the first month of a study the language level is getting used to. My roommate Ahmad said: ,,I sat in front so that I could hear the teacher well. Then he gave me the turn! I had understood nothing of the question. I felt so stupid towards the rest of the class. It is as if they are treating the Koran, it is that difficult.” (The language level in the Arabic Quran is very high and sometimes difficult to understand).
A year ago around this time, I was able to hang crying at the local government desk. “Please, please, take me back.” But I continued. At the end of each lesson I asked a classmate: :Do you want to write down for me which chapters we have handled and what kind of homework we have received?” At home I continued to translate, read and learn until midnight. That is how I got my first year. I try to cheer up my friends and tell about my development last year. ,,How should I develop then?”, Mahmoud said. ,,We have to do something at home, but I have no idea what”. Ahmad: ,,And during a lesson about Excel, they skipped the first six steps because ‘everyone who knows’. But I am not Anwar, I do not know those first six steps. So I made some sound on my keyboard throughout the lesson, so as not to stand out.”
Yet I am confident. Syrians are like an arrow from a bow. First backwards, then full speed ahead.