I am the first refugee in Arnhem who has stopped his social service allowance after a year to study. That’s what the social services staff told me. I am proud of that because for me a benefit is more a problem than a solution. Syrians want to work. We are not used to getting money for nothing except our father. That’s why I feel now, with this benefit, just one child. The Dutch state helped me with it for fifteen months, and for this I thanked the social services employee. She did not think so, because she did not, but the government gave me the benefit. I see it so that if I thank her, I actually thank the government. When I said that to her, I saw she got a tear in her eyes. After the summer holidays, I begin to design industrial product training at the HAN. In Syria I was a graduate lawyer, but I have to start all over again in the Netherlands. In fact, I always wanted to be an architect, but in Syria my grades were not high enough to study architecture. Here I could go to study architecture, but it’s hard to find work and that’s why I do not. The Netherlands needs technical people. The study I’m going to do now is close to architecture and is technical. I hope I can do some back for this country that has provided me so well and has given me fifteen months of benefits. I have therefore thought about becoming a funeral entrepreneur. It turns out that there are many old people in the Netherlands. When I told Julie, my girlfriend, she began to tell me about the babyboom; that after the Second World War there there was a birthwave. Once those people were born at once, they all died at the same time and there were many funerals. It seems to me more fun to be a product designer. I hope that I will find a job in addition to my studies. When I had a benefit, what I earned was deducted from my allowance, but I can just keep the money I earn in addition to the student loan. That motivates me. I do not go anymore with the municipality and if I work later, I walk like a proud Syrian by Arnhem.
The streets in the Netherlands sometimes only seem to be a final eaminartion in mathematics. Lines, colors, shapes and ribbons have a meaning that only Dutch can get a diploma. Syrians also have a theory degree, but you can just buy that. Moreover, there is not much to learn. One hand on the steering wheel If the traffic light jumps on orange, indicating that it turns out to be green, you start cheating. This means that the car needs to be pushed forward. We do not have to drive apart as here, because every road has at least five lanes. Since the war there are four more, because one lane is now for the army. The soldiers do not drive along, but are already shooting in the air. And something else about the Dutch roads: the number of goody-goody cars that are on the roads. Dutch think before buying a car. The amount of groceries they need weekly and the number of children that may come. The cars are not sporty or beautiful, but practical and large. In Syria you can see racecars especially on the road. Children can be on lap and groceries between the legs, if that car looks sporty and fast. President Assad has made the belt mandatory since its entry, which means that motorists now hang a piece of belt around their shoulder. Not that they really clench him, as it seems. Meanwhile I know the traffic rules in the Netherlands. When I see a man with a long stick rolling down across the street, I now know that it is not the FBI that detects bombs under the sidewalk. It’s a blind who can find the way through ripples on the street. And that ripples are not there to wipe your shoes away. Including a theory exam in the integration course would not be crazy. And then one that can not be bought off is.
Children have ten weeks summer holiday in Syria. It is then very hot in the city. Because there are no playgrounds and it’s too dangerous to play football on the street, you have to sit in for the whole time. That is why many children go to a village in their long summer holiday. Everyone who lives in the city has family or acquaintances in a village. We always went by bus from our city of Aleppo to my grandpa and grandmother in Kobani, my father’s parents. In my youth it was two hours by bus, later in the war the same ride took ten hours. We were allowed to do everything we wanted, we had nature around us and grandpa and grandma spoiled us with candies. Not only my brother and I were in the summer at grandma and grandmother, my cousins and my cousins were there too and often the neighbor children also stayed. In the beginning we were shy because we had not seen each other for a long time, but soon we were a group and we went to argue with the children in another street. Sometimes we went to the forest to eat fruit, we played in the lake or went to family visit. Nobody could swim by the way, so we only played on the side of the lake. Through the whole house of our grandparents, children were sleeping on the ground. During the holidays Grandpa and Grandma were the boss. We listened to them, even if our mother was there. Sometimes grandma and grandma used something that my mother took the blood under the nails. She did not speak to her in-laws, but in the background she made wild gestures. It was therefore not always easy for the mothers, but at the end of the holiday they were rewarded. Before we went home, we always got a lot of food from the village. We arrived at home with bags of yogurt, olives and honey. The house in Kobani was destroyed by the war, the family who lived there fled to Turkey. New memories will no longer be created.
Dutch people have a lot of names. For example, a woman is called Maria, but says, “My real name is Maria Alexandra Sophia. In the past I was called Rutjes, but now I’m Beekman, just like my husband.’ I often ask in the Netherlands what does your name mean? People then begin to look glazed. A name does not always have a meaning here. In Syria this is a condition. We may have only one first name. Our last name can never change, even for women. My mother is not called Manlasadoon. Like in the Netherlands, we also have crazy surnames, like ‘donkey’. But usually are the occupations. The first part of my surname ‘Manla’ means imam. Sadoon is my ancestor’s first name. So apparently he was imam. Other common surnames in Syria are ‘iron trader’, ‘carpenter’ and ‘doctor’. First names are not used in Syria. Men and women are addressed by the name of their eldest son. My mother is Am Achmed. (The mother of Achmed) and my father Abu Achmed. (The father of Achmed). Because I find Jazan a pretty boy name, I’m in Syria ‘abu Jazan.’ If I had a son, he would be called Jazan. It’s an appeal title that shows respect. Certainly for women, because it is very unusual for me to know a woman’s first name in Aleppo. It is considered private. If I would know the first name of my neighbor in Aleppo, the rumor would immediately arise that I have a relationship with her. Because my nickname is ‘Abu Jazan’, my in-laws also know that I would like to name a future son in Jazan. My mother in law does not like it. My girlfriend’s brother neither. He wants Pickachu. Abu Pickachu, I have to get used to it.
My Dutch friends say that I do not lock my house well enough. I always leave open the back door and I do not lock my front door. I feel so safe in the Netherlands, I can not imagine it’s necessary. “Yes,” the Dutch say in my environment, “And if you see a burglar in your house, you do not have to do anything yourself. Walk back outside and call 112.” I’m trying to imagine that myself. I come home and see a burglar. I do not do anything but pick up my phone and go for a call. Meanwhile, I call in: “Sir, you want to leave that vase, please, that’s was a gift of my mother.” No, that’s not how it will be. That burglar is going home, I will do my best for myself. I have said it more often, but Syrians are not used to call the police themselves. Firstly, because Syrian agents are known to come when they feel like it. Once upon a time, you have to pay them money if they feel that they are outshoved for nothing. Really soon, emergency services can not be on the spot. They all have their own, complicated phone number. If you have someone to take, you can give them a 5 minute driving directions. Turn right at the supermarket, then drive to a red parasol, then twice left …. etcetera. Patient died, house burned, burglar flown again. You may want to do a cup of coffee with an intruder first, offer another dinner, after which the police may be in the area. Dutch say that the police can be at my house very quickly. Sometimes even in five minutes. I’m considering trying it out. I call 112 and time on my phone. If they are on time, I can say I’m proud of them. So fast at my house! But that does not seem to be possible in the Netherlands again.