0009/Anwar’s column

House cleaning

In Syria a garden is only reserved for rich people. Although Syria still more than four times larger than the Netherlands, there is lack of space. Do not ask me why, but the streets are narrow, the houses are close together and in a building only the upper residents get a dash of sun on their balcony. They are therefore often social people, for those who live less like to be drinking tea on the top, sunny, balcony. In my new home in the Arnhem district Presikhaaf I feel like a king. Having a garden is only reserved in Syria for rich, important people. I am neither, but I now have a garden. If I walk out there sun and nature. Netherlands used its surface well. Achmed my roommate and I are busy painting. On the floor we put laminate. We are actually used to a tiled floor drainage. Our mothers clean with buckets of water to throw on the ground and then scrub. Syrians have almost all the same memories there. Gliding through the liing room with the water that your mother had flushed out. I’ve been there twice with my broken nose. In the Arnhem refugee shelter Dome is a huge slick feed. A few months ago there was a small nocturnal revolt in which people threw food. The next day we had – of course – to clean the floor in the middle of the Dome together. All Syrians in the shelter began to pick up buckets of water and throw it with big bows on the floor. Employees of the coa came to me in panic: “What are you doing ???”. We had no idea, we just did what we always do our mothers did. But yes, of course there is no drain in the floor.

Subdued

I have a house! I’m so happy. In two weeks I get the key to an apartment, which I will share with Achmed, a friend from refugee reception Dome. I’ve seen the house, located in Arnhem Presikhaaf. It is lovely. A soccer field nearby, a Turkish supermarket and we have no less than two gardens: a front yard and a back yard. Now we are fantasizing about the design. We are still not agree on anything, so the temporary solution is that we draw a line through the living room and arrange half my good, modern taste and the other half in Achmed’s old-fashioned style. Just kidding, we look or a middle. Achmed wants at least as much light as in Syrian living rooms.  I am now accustomed to all those muted homes here. Initially I thought that I was constantly somewhere inconvenient. That the light was just subdued because there was something romantic happening. In Dutch living rooms I’m nodding throughout the evening around all those candles. I’m getting sleepy. During one of those visits to a Dutch household, I learned that this “no” really means “no.” “Want a drink Anwar?” I was asked. I said ‘no’, because that should be, in Syria. Only if someone insists, you say ‘yes’. But then I got really nothing. I sat there all night without drinking. Handy, because that I did not go to the bathroom. When someone else goes to the toilet, which is in fact also be used in accordance with our indecent. But I promise that everyone who comes to visit in my new house, goes straight to the toilet. Because I live here now.

My first fine

I started an intensive language training in Nijmegen. Three days a week I have to take the train from Arnhem to Nijmegen to learn Dutch. Getting used to that traveling with a chip. I saw dozens of students walking casually along that checkpoint. They did not look, they held their only their chipcard near the pole and ran after the beep again. I had earplugs in, sunglasses and walked as nonchalantly past the post. I was just like them, I thought. On the train there was a checker, he asked for my smart card. “You are not checked,” he said. I curled up, everyone looked at me. I felt frightened and ashamed. For a man in uniform you need to be scared in Syria. I tended to give him money, because that is the wayin Syria to get rid of a cop. A train inspector is admittedly not a cop, but I have no idea whether such a person the same control as an agent here, or maybe more. The man wrote a fine for me, 54 euros. I have explained that I had checked in, but it did not help. The worst thing is not the fine, but I am now in the Dutch system as someone who did not behave well. On my way back I walked more carefully along that pole. I said to the people behind me that they had to wait and have ten times again checked. That pole hit it wild. With a grin I was waiting would come to an inspector on the train, but none came. There was no one who saw that I had done well, so I tell it here. I checked in and it worked!

Birthday

Three months ago I saw a Dutch girl in the street, and I fell in love instantly with her. I told everyone who would listen about her. I saw her only in passing by, but that was enough. If she marries me, I do everything in my life for her. Work, housework, whatever she wants. Last weekend I was asked with my landlady ‘Gerda to the anniversary of the neighbor. When I entered, I saw to my surprise the conscious girl there in the house. She is the daughter of my neighbor! Moments later her sisters entered. I kept my face straight, but inside I fainted. So much beauty. I whispered “Gerda take me to the hospital!” There were more guests, they gave gifts to the neighbor. Gifts, which opened the neighbor directly. I did not know what I saw. In Syria it is very rude, because you have to protect the donor. Perhaps the is the principal poor and he or she provides an inexpensive gift. That may not be visible in front of the others. One of the sisters asked me what I wanted to drink. Water! I needed water to continue normal behaviour. I also got a small piece of cake offered. There were no candles, there was no singing. All the guests had ordinary clothes on, no one danced. The tables full of food that I know were missing from Syria. I thought it was a strange place, some Dutch birthday. But hey, who cares. Three women look like angels dwell beside me. I did not want to go home, never again. After a while Gerda said we went home. I wanted ‘Nooooooo’ scream but I said, “Okay Gerda. Thank you all and see you soon.“

Good Muslim

In Syria, it felt like I was in a test from God. Be a good Muslim, I find that difficult. Because how do you behave in a war? Go steal your food when you’re hungry? Defend your country and if so, who are the goodies and who is evil? In which army you need to connect? I changed in Syria monthly opinions. At first I wanted to fulfill my duty and defend our country. But then it quickly became one big bloodbath, I realized that that was not the right thing. It feels like God passed Syrians through a sieve and look who finally left in the sieve. Who makes the right choices, who continues to pray and believe in happy ending? I choosed to shift my focus. To no longer wanting to protect the country, but my family and friends. I wanted to make sure they were safe and had food. If you study, you do as a young man not the army. I studied, but was regularly approached by government officials. “This is not the time to study, but to serve your country,” they said. I felt about not guilty. The country was now totally in ruins. After my studies I fled. I had to join the Army for a not limited time. I did not want to be a killer. Here in the Netherlands feels it easier to make the right choices. The choices I make will certainly not concern life and death. If God is finished sieving, I hope I stick close call in that sieve.

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