0098-Anwar: columns 031 – 040


040 – Decorating

Suppose I’ve been kidnapped. I have no idea which country I am, I’m locked in a house. The first thing I would do is go to the bathroom. If I would see a book, a crossword puzzle, vases, candles, a calendar, all kinds of odors and pictures, I would immediately know that I am in the Netherlands. I’ve never experienced before, all the fun on the toilet. When I go to the toilet in the Netherlands, I find someone’s complete family history. When the man and woman of the house are born, where they met for the first time, the first kiss, the arrival of the children, 25-year marriage. Yes, you really make a party in the bathroom. Last December I celebrated the holidays with a Dutch family. There was even the toilet paper in the Christmas mood. Anyway, you can not silently pass a holiday in the Netherlands. The Dutch love decorating.

  1. If there’s anything with football or the king, everything orange.
  2. Christmas is all red with green. There will be a Christmas tree in the house, a paper sheet on the table, special napkins to wipe your mouth off and cups that says ‘Merry Christmas’. Families have new clothes, often color-coordinated with each other.
  3. Also, foods are different from normal. Milk is suddenly no longer a suit but is in a jug on the table.

In Syria we make on a public holiday the house tidy and we take nice clothes, but we do not change our home and look. I wonder how Dutch would celebrate the Day of sacrifice of the Muslims. Perhaps you would put sheeps statuettes at home. In the window a severed sheep head and a rug sheepskin on the table. Meanwhile, some sound of sheep bleating in the background. Sounds very cozy.

039 – Paper

Paper, there is really too much in the Netherlands. My container is full of it. Every day I get letters that controls what to do. “Mr Manlasadoon, you remember to pick up your passport?” “Are you thinking of paying your water bill, or else you will be fined.” “Thank you for signing at the HAN, you will receive your schedules for the lessons”. So on. Sometimes the letter writer does not even know he writes to me, because then it says, “To the residents of this house.” During my language classes at the HAN, we treated the subject postal code. The teacher wondered if we have it in Syria. We looked at each other, but no one knew. We did not use the postal system . We do not send letters and never get mail. You just need to remember what to do. If you do not pay your water bill, you get the next time you are going to pay a fine. If you do not get paid they shut the water supply off. Other rules or orders of the government you have to remember, no one will remind you. Unless of course you do not listen, for example, because as a graduate young man you do not report to the military. But then you get no letter, they pick you up from the street or from home. New rules, there you are alerted through TV commercials. Except that I have to watch what tasks I need to perform in the letters here every day, there is also mail. When I entered the Netherlands I had to create an email address. Now while I manage to look at it regularly. I just forget about it. A Dutch woman who supports me now has the user name and the password of my mail. She looks down and see whether there is in something important. Sometimes I can not see any more the trees in the forest.

038 – Taxes

Paying taxes, that’s news to me. In Syria you don’t have to pay for anything. Schools and universities are free, hospital and doctor costs nothing and something like tax does not exist. In my house in Arnhem, I recently received a letter that I have to pay for the sewer system. Actually I must therefore pay to defecate. That is a bit too much!. You pay in the Netherlands much, but you get a lot. The state takes care of you, and you take care of the state, something like that. That’s a great system. By paying taxes you feel involved and responsible, I brand to Dutch. I was sitting in a building with a Dutchman and he wanted to smoke. He made preparative to go outside. I said, “Hey dude smoke him right here. We just sit in this room, no one sees it.” He did not, he went out and smoked it. I liked it. Even when no one is looking, wants to keep a Dutchman by the rules and act responsibly. Syrians are different in there. When nobody is looking, they quickly throw their garbage on the street. It is also very dirty. That shared sense of responsibility is not there. I felt it in Syria either. Now it is here too. Near my home in Arnhem is an underground waste container. There you can put in garbage if you have a pass. What happens: people only put their rubbish without it. And I always look into. I really want to call the church to announce that. I’m ugly and I think you may only use the container with a pass.

I am beginning to look more like you.

037 – Aleppo

Aleppo is tearing my heart. That President Bashar al-Assad has driven the rebels from eastern Aleppo, makes me happy and sad at the same time. I’m happy because it means that my parents and brother are safer. Our house is in a neighborhood that is situated close to eastern Aleppo. My parents and brother were thus constantly during the past year in the line of fire. With each raid they were in danger.My parents are now out, the bombing is over. I asked my father to take pictures, to show me how the neighborhood looks after all the war. He would not. On Facebook, I see people of western Aleppo street celebrations. Not because they are all for the president, but because they’re happy that it’s finally quiet in the city. At the same time, I see people of eastern Aleppo on Facebook share how they feel. Deaths, destroyed homes, children under the rubble. While we breathe a sigh of relief in my family, the following problem arises. My brother is in hiding in our house, because he hass to join the army. Now whole Aleppo is back in the hands of Bashar al-Assad, his army has time to search the city. Looking for opponents.What to do? To abandon the city is not a good idea because everywhere are checkpoints. My father now has the idea to go to eastern Aleppo, where thousands of civilians leave their homes. The army does not search there. Although the city has been officially out of them, they have on that side much less power.I saw a speech by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs of Aleppo. He said, “it’s now been enough for the people of Aleppo.” I jumped up from my chair. What will he say? We bring the citizens of Aleppo here? He did not say it. I slumped back in my chair. The speech was finished.

036 – Sex

Sex education, I remember it well. I was 18 and was in the final year of high school. A teacher reminded us to silence. He would tell us something that we were not allowed to laugh at. The girls had to go to the right side of the room and the boys to the left. Both groups were shown a picture where we were explained how a baby is made. What the girls got to see I do not know, but we could not be together. How different it is in the Netherlands. When children go to kindergarten they know the difference between the genitals of a boy and a girl. I knew for a long time only that girls had long hair and boys had not. At the end of primary school the children learn about sex, a little later on contraceptives. I saw a movie of Dr. Claudia explaining in detail the children how it all fits together. In Syria, we all know it, of course, a certain age, but we hear it on the street, no teachers and doctors. When I was visiting a Dutch family, asked the father of the family to me what Mary means to Muslims. I wanted to say something about the pregnancy of Mary. That this came about without having sex with her husband. I did not know how I could tell that story without the word ‘sex’. I began to stutter and cumbersome to talk. Droplets of sweat beaded on my forehead while I made my way through all the words. Nobody understood. The son said in the family: “ooooh you mean that Mary has not had sex with her husband.” I looked directly into the father of the family. He would be angry that I started about sex in front of his wife and children. He was not angry, he laughed at my clumsiness. Well Dutch are more accustomed. I have not. I am afraid of a shop window full of sex stuff. It feels uncomfortable to see a headband with two big wobbly plastic penises it. Or what about a dating program in which the participants are nude, or pasta in the shape of a penis. Well, openness is good, but I like it here sometimes a little exaggerated.

035 – Father

Who I am in the Netherlands, actually depends only on myself. If I apply, nobody asks me what my father is doing, where I was born, or I am an Alawite, Sunni, Kurd or whatever. In my Dutch passport does not even mentioned who my parents are. Who you are in Syria, does not depend on yourself. I was born in Aleppo, but according to my Syrian identity card I am from Kobanî. That’s because my father is coming from Kurdistan and there live many Kurds. If you are a wealthy Syrian parents or have influential relatives then your CV has many ‘vitamins’, as we call it. In that respect, I have a severe vitamin deficiency. My family is not rich and we are Kurdish. Syria is doubly wrong. It is currently advantageous to be an Alawite, because that is also President Assad. Preferably someone holding a public function in your family. You will have at least a reasonable vitamin rich resume. I have already written before that work for the government in my family is not possible, because we have an uncle who is with a “wrong” Kurdish party. Our family is therefore written off in its entirety as ‘appropriate’. In the Netherlands you brought up your children, and then they build themselves on their future. In Syria, the thought previously that parents provide for the future. Failing that, the feeling of failure is high. That is why I remember the day so well that my father asked me to flee. He cried. Because he would miss me, because it was war, but because he felt he had failed as a father. He could offer me no home, no money and no safe place to live. I need no one to tell you that he could do anything. Now I am in the Netherlands, I have to try it on their own. The stamp of refugee I have, but I’ll hopefully as if I speak Dutch and work. I’m working hard.

034 – Shower room

Yes, I passed my exam B1 Dutch. Now I continue with B2. More and more I begin separate things stand out in the Dutch language. If not you sit in front of the computer, but behind the computer. A Dutchman do not wait in the station, but on the station. In any language I speak is the “thirty minutes after three o’clock, not ‘half past three”, as in the Netherlands. Dutch words I always use in a different way than I had imagined. “What time shall I cut?”, asked the barber when I called. That sounds scary. I do not want to be cut, I would have just cut my hair. I can not even hold in the Dutch language of logic. So I spoke again against Dutch about our ‘shower room. That appears to be a word. It’s called a bathroom. I find quite strange, because we have no bath at all. I feel that the words I learn here, must first be put in a mixer. If I have mixed them, I can use them. I sleep next to Ahmed, here it would just be mean the same thing when I sleep on Ahmed. Fortunately, we now have between all the spelling and grammar lessons also the subject ‘knowledge society’. I’ve learned that here except for marriage and cohabitation also can choose a registered partnership. The teacher tried to explain to us why it might be a good idea to get married under a marriage contract. Where you will not share everything with each other. There was hardly anyone in the class who could find in there. Me neither. When I marry, it is not because I want money from my girlfriend, but because I want to share everything together. A marriage is still not ‘there’? For evening, if you’re just doing nothing? To me, a marriage “two spirits in one body.”  I do not know if I’m good translation from the Arabic, but it at least means that we become one in marriage. We care for each other, forever.

033 – Police

I went out on the Korenmarkt in Arnheim, but nowhere I was admitted. Guards said everywhere that it was full. It only applied to me for people following me it was not full. So I stood outside and watched the people in the square. A group got into a fight with another group. They began to argue and distribute blows. Police arrived on horses. I thought, boy, now we have all been there. We were loaded into police vans and then I could for several days go to the police office, explaining that I really had nothing to do with the fight. It is the Syrian style, just about anybody drains and torture to get driving offenders above water. But it did not. The officers observed a moment and caught two leading figures in the group. They were taken separately. The main characters were drunk and screaming at the police.  As if they knew it would serve no purpose to argue with drunks. The officers then let them blow off steam and wrote out a fine. Ready. Syria is the other way. When an incident is the police who rages, as a citizen you shut up and obey you. I thought back to the first week that Achmed and I lived in Presikhaaf, it was last summer. There were night two cars burned in the street. The police called us the next day. Achmed and I were terrified when we opened the door. To our surprise, the agent spoke kindly, he asked if we had seen anything. We had seen at night from everything, but we said ‘no’. We did not dare to talk to him. He also asked if we knew the emergency number in the Netherlands. We said ‘yes’, but we both did not. I have several times seen a television program about the Dutch police. The police in that program very nice and polite, just like on the Korenmarkt and at the door. Slowly I start to believe that fear the police here really is not necessary.

032 – Dutch funeral

Ahmed, my roommate, and I have attended our first Dutch funeral. It was the mother of someone we know well. To our surprise the funeral was 7 days after the woman’s decease. All the shay lay in a coffin, above the ground.We are accustomed to a death a man to be buried as soon as possible. Often within a few hours. My grandfather we buried shortly after his death in the park, in front of his house. It is expected that the grief is clearly shown. Women cry loudly and hysterically, the men sit after the funeral together and looking glum down. At the Dutch funeral where we were, people did not look very sad. They were wearing normal clothes and chatted with each other. During the service was even played music. Achmed and I looked at it, we did not understand. Why a song? After that people went forward and told about the life of the deceased woman. That would be in the circle of my Syrian friends and family very indecent: talking and disclosing information about a deceased woman. Afterwards, all those present could lay a flower on the coffin. Ahmed did not, he found it a scary idea that the woman was still not buried after seven days. “I’ll protect you,” I whispered in his ear. Then I just pulled him forward. A funeral in the Netherlands is very personal. That is beautiful. We are used to the rituals that come with a deceased person. The washing of the body with the imam, wrapping the body in white cloths and the standard Quran Texts to be read at the grave. Personally, it’s not, but know exactly where you stand, can also provide comfort.

031 – Girlfriend

I have a girlfriend. A Dutch one. It is a state where I am not yet very long time known. In Syria you are engaged or married, but a relationship that does not exist. I asked my girlfriend then quickly if we were to marry soon. “Oh no,” she said. “We need to know each other, I am still studying, that is not yet immediately necessary.” I understand, but I suppose that my family does not.

So my facebook status remains ‘bachelor’.

The status they would not understand ‘in a relationship’. Recently took my family-in-law me on holiday to southern Germany. It was my first vacation, that she knew. I was for that reason the first to choose a room in our house. It continues to get used to it, that her father approves that I sleep with his daughter in one room.

The first time that I saw my father in law I remember very well.

My girlfriend saw me coming and flew me around the neck. I was shocked, what is she doing now? Her father could see it after all. I looked at him, but he had a smile on his face. It can all apparently. How happy I am with my girlfriend, my first vacation and the beautiful autumn, the whole situation also hurts me. My life alienates itself more and more from that of my family. Especially when I could not get in touch with my parents and brother during my first holiday in Germany . They could not call or be on the Internet. Days later I learned that she terrified had endured because terrorist groups bombarded their district with chemical weapons.

My girlfriend asked me if she could take a picture of our first holiday on her Facebook.

I said yes, but I was hoping very much that nobody would tag me in the photo. The contrast between the lives of my family and me has become so great that I have to be ashamed.

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