050 – Assistance
The community Bronckhorst invited me to come to a meeting for refugees. The community welcomes this year new status holders They wanted to know: how to handle this? Or how not? There were many volunteers and employees of the community. All these people were together to consider how to ensure the best for the group of asylum seekers coming. I find that amazing. That’s so really great about the Netherlands. That so many people genuinely do their best to make the best of a situation. Maybe you think that’s normal, but it’s really special. The attendees questioned me about every detail of the past year.
What I missed in my first time at the refugee center? Training. We would rather have filled our time filled with Dutch lessons.
Wanting some guidance towards my own house? A translator. We had to sign anything, but we had no idea what we signed. I was happy with all the help of a Dutch woman, but the others did not.
Practical information would also be welcome. For example shops. We did not know what shops in the Netherlands are give good products for a low price. And what could be improved at my current stage? Control. I know refugees who still follow any Dutch lessons after 1.5 years. They have to arrange that themself, but do not. I liked that I “after a long time in the Netherlands”, now could give feedback. Information where all those people eager to get to work. And so I help other refugees who will walk the same path as I did. But then smoother.
049 – Bribary
I find it annoying that you can not bribe anyone in the Netherlands. It has been made quickly clear to me in my first time in the Netherlands that you can not bribe here, so I do not try. But I find it difficult. I’m used to that you can solve any problem with money. In our garden is blown over the fence and broke. We rang the housing association and they came to see. Here we can not do anything, they said. It is not up to us to fix this. “Who needs it or fix?”, we asked. “No idea”, said the housing association, “but we do not”. That they mean it. If we would offer them money, they would not repair the fence. It feels strange. Why Dutch want to earn extra money?
Certificate: When I graduated as a lawyer in Aleppo I wanted to get my diploma. In college I was told I had to wait a few weeks for me to receive my diploma. There was absolutely no way to get my degree before. I gave him an envelope with money and the employee told: “Tomorrow is your degree ready.”
Army: After graduation I had two months before I would have to report to the army. In those two months I was stopped three times by soldiers who wanted to take me. “If you’re only conscripted over two months, you’re two months but with us,” they said. I did it three times to get rid of them by giving them money. Then I fled.
Rules: That fence, I’m fine with it. That there is no way to get my parents and brother in Aleppo to here, is really frustrating. I try to explain to my parents, but that the rules here are really rules that is hard to believe for them.
048 – Elections
Voting in the Netherlands, is the same as in Syria. There are different parties, you can choose who you vote and the finally is in the government not only the winning party. Yet there is a world of difference. When you go to vote, there are still people in the voting office who try to convince you. People flock from all sides on your arm and promise you free food and great feasts, if you vote goes to them. As in the Netherlands, there are booths where to hang curtains. However, it is thought, if your into that booth to vote you have attached something to hide. So most people vote in public. They cry aloud: “Ah, where do I sign for our President Assad? Here?’ And they put while everyone is watching, a tick behind the party of the president. People do not like to be known as an opponent of the president. So Assad wins. About half of the government then is composed of his party, the rest should consist of “workers” from the country. After all, they know what is going on among the people. Yet these workers can never be in the majority. The law states that the party of Assad should be the ruling party. So he always has a majority in the government, so all his decisions are approved. The Dutch have to hand over their voting pass on the day of the elections. Truly a Dutch system. Structured. If we vote in Syria, you have to dip it in a jar of ink your finger into the polling station. That remains twenty-four hours, and if anyone sees that you have already voted. The Dutch system I find convenient. Then at least you do not have to walk around all day with a dirty finger.
047 – Public transport
Dutch feel in public transport right at home. They read a book, eat, exchange some clothes, work on their makeup, do their homework or are on the phone nice and hard. Basically everything you do at home. People therefore take everything into their bag. At the HAN University of Applied Sciences students are walking with backpacks as if they go mountaineering. They get there an extra pair of shoes, a vest, a laptop, a tablet, and of course water and lots of food. Anyways, I do not understand why Dutch can not a few hours without food. I have on my Syrian university never seen someone with a sandwich in his hand. We come with a book under our arm to school, nothing more. We eat at home. Maybe because we are used to different mealtimes. In the morning, breakfast, after lunch and 16:00 to 22:00 for dinner. Public transport works in Syria very different. There is a bus, but there are not always bus stops and bus schedules. You usually just wait until one comes along. A bus leaves when all seats are occupied. And sounds in any transport always loud music. Unfortunately always to the taste of the bus driver. If passengers like it, it does not matter. You may give clues to a Syrian bus driver . “Would you stop here right? Since in that building should be me.” In the Netherlands, I do not try. The bus driver drops me at the stop Cologne Battle. Then I still have to walk a quarter. But if you only have a book under your arm, it is also best.
046 – Jehova winesses
I got a visit from Jehovah’s Witnesses. I did not know at first, I thought they were the people of the municipality. They had clean clothes and said they wanted to talk about my future. Once inside they saw my roommates Basil and Achmed. ,,Great”, shouted one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. ,,Three people to talk to.” We did not understand what they meant with it, but offered them coffee and tea. “Ah”, said one of them. ,,I can see a Koran. Does that mean you believe in paradise?” I said: ,,Yes, we are Muslims”. ,,But how do you know that there is only one paradise?” he asked. I actually had not said that. I do not know if there is only one paradise, because no one has been there. But he knew. He had lots of questions. About there were children, why Adam had been the first man to be on the world, and why animals were so important. According to the man all answers could be found in the Bible. They had all kinds of biblical texts ready for us in Arabic. They felt encouraged because Basil ever said ‘yes’. He always says he does not understand anybody. After half an hour and two long Bible verses later Basil whispered to me: ,,Anwar, this is not the Koran”. He had understood nothing of the visit, except that it was about God… The Jehovah Witnesses continued to tell, but I had actually to leave. I had an appointment. I thought it was rude to say, so I sat out the whole conversation with the men. I tried to explain that I have great respect for them, but I just believe something different. He said he loved us to be very open and that he wanted to make a new appointment. Now he comes over a week. I hope that we’ll talk about something else.
045 – Rice cake
In the county Limbourg, there are the Dutch unlike elsewhere in the Netherlands. They talk a lot about carnival. And I can barely understand them. So I was very long under the assumption that a boy from Limbourg talked always about his stomach. I did not understand much of the story, but later I understood that he was just the word “but” pronounce as “stomach”. Seems to do Limbourg. My father-in-law from Limbourg invited me to a course. I thought I would learn something important, but he took me to take a course rice tart. Also seems to be typical Limbourg. An absurd combination, rice and flan. Like all Dutch, they do all kinds of stuff with their bread. Each bread has a different color and other seeds. The choice is huge. Too big for me. Syrian bread looks like a pancake. We tear off a piece and dip it into the siege or pinch eat in between. In the Netherlands, the other way around. The siege is on the table and that should get you with cutlery from the pot and transfer to the bread. A hassle. In the course rice cake making I first ‘cooked’ as Dutch people. With a recipy. During the course leader and make the dough kneading asked how I got my technique. I did it -after her opinion- accordingly with my routine and different from the rest. During the war in Syria, I made lots and lots of bread. I bought a bag of flour and made bread with my mother. Meanwhile, I can make a rice cake. I can only say, it’s incredibly tasty. My Syrian housemates were gagging on the word “rice cake”, but after the experiments all about. I can set up a small business in Arnhem, it seems to be a gap in the market.
044 – House of representatives
We have been with our integration class to parliament in The Hague. It was educational, but mostly funny. When we entered there were foreign guards who checked us. We spoke better Dutch than them. “Everyone who have a phone must give it in,” said one of them. Ehh? It’s anyone who HAS a phone, it must give it in. We suggested them to join our integration classes. Anyway, we found it nice to see that the foreigners were protecting the Dutch people in the government building. In the House, it was a strange affair. The logo on all blue chairs resembles the logo of Real Madrid . We were looking for Cristiano Ronaldo but he was not there. The members of Parliament looked all on their mobile, no one listened to the speaker. That looks very crazy. I could ask anything to the President of the House, so I asked why her the members should not pay attention. She stuck her hands in the air and shouted: “Exactly so! I agree, but yes.” The whole room had to vote on an issue. Everyone was there, except for one member of parliament. His chair was empty. The guide told us that the MP had missed the train. We all at once: “The train??” An important man who represents the state does not even have a car. Unbelievable. If arriving somewhere there are 20 armored and blinded cars for the Government of Syria. I was once in Syria at palace of President Bashar al-Assad. I was with a group of volunteers to receive an award from his wife. The guards were not really there for a chat, let alone a joke. I needed to visit the bathroom really urgently and after a long discussion she agreed. Even on the toilet were all sorts of elements of gold. It was a magnificent palace. And best of all: I pooped in it.
043 – Winter
I experience for the first time in my life a real winter. Yes, last year I was also in the Netherlands, but when I was in the refugee shelter Dome in Arnhem. I had no obligations and did not run errands, so I did not leave the building on cold days. You see the Dutch running on the street, even if it is three degrees. I tend to pull them off the streets and turn to me for the heat, but they seem to want it for yourself. Furthermore, there is little on the street. I did not understand when I was just here, but now I do. I came last running in the Dutch language lesson and then my teacher asked: “Anwar is it going better with you?” I thought, huh? Did not go well with me then? And suddenly I remembered that I had reported sick a week earlier. When it was so cold that I did not go to school. I really could not go out the house. I now know how it feels to your fingers as you ride in the cold. They do such terrible pain that you they can hardly move. What a terrible feeling. The only experience with cold that I had in Syria, was when my mother asked me to pick something from the fridge. Here the country is a fridge. With freezer compartment. The country is the refrigerator, the Dutch are the freezer compartments that keep those in the fridge. They continue to sit in their own box and do not come out. And therefore Dutch are obviously very old. 90 years, 100 years, it’s nothing special here. Everything remains well once much more good in a freezer.
042 – Vitesse
A colleague of De Gelderlander invited me for the match Feyenoord – Vitesse in the Gelredome. I’ve never been to a football stadium in the Netherlands, so I said yes immediately. “You can walk from the central station in Arnhem to the free busses along with supporters,” he said. I was standing at the station and saw indeed football fans boarding busses. They seemed very drunk and could not pronounce very well the word Vitesse. I saw lots of police and got a little scared. I ran into them, but a guard stopped me chasing the bus. He asked me about the season. It seemed like my integration course: “What season is it?” After five times he had repeated his question, I understood that he did not know in which season we are living now, but if I had a season ticket. I had no idea what that was so I said, “I am for Vitesse.” He shook his head. “Just kidding, I’m for Feyenoord,” I tried. But he shook his head again. Once by the normal bus at Gelredome, I entered with my colleague the press gallery of the stadium. I tried to act like a reporter from Syria. Behind me sat a man on the radio. He spoke loudly during the whole game in my ear, because he had to do live coverage. The sight of a stadium full of people is wonderful, especially because they are all singing and waving flags. There’s a real rhythm. After the first goal for Vitesse fell, the crowd became restless. Arose fights. Fighting to football, I got chills. It made for a nice nostalgic feeling, because it is in Syria normal. In the Netherlands I control me, because I know that crash is unusual. After the second goal, the number of disturbances far. I may say not really, but it was pure pleasure for me. Dutch to let their emotions free in football. Lovely.
041 – Brother
My brother Muhammad in Syria has two months left. He was able to buy off the army for two months and has now, along with us, just some time left for some thinking. How do we ensure that it does not need to fight in the Syrian army? We’re a little out of our options. For travel, he needs a passport. Which gives the government a long time not to young men, because they do not want them to leave the country. Should it succeed my father somewhere illegally purchasing a passport, then chances are still very little that Muhammad can pass the border. Only the Turkish border succeed very occasionally, but he must first also arrive there unseen. Dutch ask me: why is your brother not fled before? Eighteen months ago there was money for one of the two of us to flee. He studied and was thus fairly safe. So I went. Not long after the borders were closed and my brother could not leave the country. I am ashamed that I’m here and he’s not. At the same time, I am mad at him that he has made mot every effort to leave Syria. He is scary to flee, he wants to stay with my parents. During a video call this week we spoke about it as a family. I cried and I blamed him for everything. That does not help, I know. We have to accept gradually that he should be in the army. I mentioned earlier that a Kurd in the army did not stand a chance. Kurds are worth little in Syria and are placed ahead in the battle. Mohammed knows, but we try to vote him nonetheless positive. I told him that he will meet smart, important people and that he, as military can protect our family. My father said he will make sure he gets a good place in the army. That is nonsense, because he knows no one. There is not much else we can do.