The first question: “You work in a factory and would like to ask your boss if you have to work on weekends. What did you say?’
I started thinking about the word ‘factory’. What would that be? Suddenly I heard a buzzer, the fourteen seconds I had to answer the question were over. At the university where I studied law in Syria I always knew everything. Classmates who understood not so well, were cheating on me. I put my school card on the table and put my gum right in response to a top left to answer b, and lower right of reply c. It worked, but not for long. I was pulled out of class at my ears and the teacher demanded an explanation. Why is everyone looking in the classroom to your gum? I got a lot of hits in school. My hands are still swollen ruler of all strokes. But here I have a very kind teacher. When I did not answer one question because I was thinking, she asked to look at me kindly better.
The next question. “Your girlfriend is next Friday visiting you. You have made a plan for her visit and talks about it on the phone to your girlfriend. What do you say? “
I thought it was a complicated question. An Arab would never make an appointment a week in advance, let alone expand a detailed plan for the visit which is to come. I wanted to give that answer to the computer, maybe I should get plus points for a joke. I looked back, I saw the teacher friendly nod. My hands they probably will not work with a ruler, but after my school in Syria, I dare not joking in a test.
Bzzzt. Again fourteen seconds passed.
Hurray! The holiday season has arrived again. I remember well, last year, when I went for the first time in my life went on vacation. We went cozy with the boat. A plastic boat in the middle of the night. The trip costed us about the same as a Dutchman who goes on vacation: € 2.050. Unfortunately we had no guarantee that we would arrive alive. Leaving with four people means in some cases: arriving with only two. Dutch people can choose for a surprise trip, you will hear at the airport where you are going. You can specify preferences. “If it is warm,” for example. Such a condition we had. “If it’s just nice and safe.” Just as the Dutch we walked and had been running during the holidays. Occasionally with a couple of dogs after us, or what wailing sirens. For a first holiday I found the somewhat disappointing. But seriously, I have a lot to think about. A year ago. What it seems nice to ever really go on vacation. To make pictures that not only aim to show that I am still alive. To walk down fruit trees in Greece without me fighting with other refugees to the fruit from the trees. I proudly against the people on my vacation can say that I am from the Netherlands. That people at borders kindly look at me when they see my passport, which I do not have to beg or they let me pass. Most importantly, I can return home. I fantasize sometimes already on a holiday to Turkey. My family, the border can not, but just feel like I’m close to them seems fine to me. It will still take a long time time before I can go on vacation. But that’s okay, because I’m still recovering from my last.
Oh how I love this country anyway. I saw this week a bus with an automatic ramp, so that a wheelchair could be in the bus. Genius. I did volunteer work in Syria with disabelt people, I therefore look everywhere how to care for these people. Syria must help all passengers as someone to get on the bus. It is difficult, but because of the lack of facilities may be disabled as free travel. Now I’m a little settled in the Netherlands, I have my volunteer work resumed. I started in a nursing home ‘in Arnhem. I had never been in a big building full of elderly people, because Syrians take their mother and father in their home. About people who send their parents to have some older building is bad talk. Now I have one visited there, I see the beautiful side of it. They are pawns in the center and among the other Arnhem. The rooms are very nice and there are flowers. I also saw that music was made for them. A new resident was received with flowers. Great that older people still count in the Netherlands and received so warmly. The nursing home is a good place for me to be. It is the only place in Arnhem, where I can track all calls. The residents and staff speak slowly and loud Dutch. Personally, I can be of any use. There lives an Iraqi woman in a wheelchair. She can talk to anyone. I imagined in Arabic and instantly there appeared a big smile on her face. Another resident jumped on. “Hey, where are you from? Syria? Where is it? In Africa? And how long have you been here?” The wife has Alzheimer so a minute later follows the same questions again. And a few minutes later once again. Now when I see her and start moving her lips, but I put right from shore. I come from Syria, which is close to Egypt and I’ve been here nine months. Then she looks happy. It’s all they want to know.
My mother calling. She’s been inside for days. Water and electricity are completely down. In Aleppo is everybody summoned especially, to stay inside: schools and businesses are closed. So fierce as now the violence was not previously. In the neighborhood where my parents live, allready two hundred people have been killed in recent days. I’m having breakfast with Ahmed. We drink milkshakes have sandwiches and coffee. We talk about Syria. A banquet hall in the city that we both know well. During Eid, there are fathers, mothers and children celebrating the end of Ramadan. During the party there is a bombing, dead and wounded lying everywhere. After ambulances and rescuers arrive, following a second bombing raid. It is a new tactic of the rebels. Attack, wait comes to help and then strike again. Slowly I get sick, I can not get a bite through my throat. I am richly eating breakfast here while my parents for three days seem staring ahead of their home. My mother crying on the phone. She says she’s glad I’m not with them. “I know my son. You would not go out, you would help the wounded, even though there are snipers lurking. You’ve been away so long, but still I think with every bombing raid, where is my son? “Then she realizes that I’m safe. During breakfast Ahmed and I decide that we can not continue so. We do not want to eat while our family is shot and without electricity, food and water. Tomorrow we do it in a day without it. No electricity, no wifi, no water and no food. We want to be close to our family and feel what they feel. We have five years as lived during the war, but after a year in the Netherlands that feeling fades further and further into the background. Tomorrow we get it back one day. we help someone with it? Only ourselves. But sometimes that is just as necessary.
Ask a Syrian man what he loves more his wife or football. Yeah really, they will all say ‘football’. Since the Netherlands does not join the European Championships have Achmed and I thought we for countries that support refugees. Germany we really encouraged example. The EC is a civilized affair for Arabs. Footballers apologize when they make violation. I also see here at amateur clubs. Kindness in the field.
Hits: If Arnhem and Nijmegen were Syrian cities, it was one of those two cities destroyed after a game NEC Vitesse. Dutch, who talk like they have a conflict. The Arabs where I grew up clapping along parts first and then talk. There is only peace to talk, as there have been some fists in the air. To be honest, I like it. This is, moreover, to be men together, a woman can not touch with a finger.
Soccer: The first month in the Netherlands, in the reception of refugees Dome in Arnhem, we played football a lot. We heard there was to be no fighting, otherwise there might be a problem with our residence. It was funny jars football. We narrowed our red fists in frustration and looked angrily round or did not happen to an unguarded moment was when we could deal a blow.
Talk: In the Netherlands, it is not so, I know. I therefore more distributed not hit until a month ago. Now I am under the supervision of the COA and I have a friend and roommate from Syria, ‘talk’ is not always the first thing that comes to us. While jobs Achmed and I have ever given each other a kick or blow. If I had asked him to come and sit down to talk out a problem, he would also think I’m no good at my head.