080 – Dutch weather
In the Netherlands, the weather can suddenly change. Within three minutes it can turn from dry, good weather to hard rain. Last happened to me. I was sitting on the bike and when I left, it rained a bit. It was romantic rain. Nothing’s going on. But then it became an immense rain, and then death seemed to come out of the air. It was so much water that you could hardly name it anymore. My eye lashes became so wet that they became heavy and I could hardly open my eyes. Because it was raining so hard, I could not brake well anymore. Through the hard wind I drove down to the left. It was not normal. I think the Netherlands has natural disasters all the time because it rains a lot and it’s very hard here. In my view, you do not have to worry about anything here except for the weather. It seems to me that people in the Netherlands suddenly wear a lot of funny clothes when it starts to rain. Jackets and trousers in all kinds of colors and ponchos with dashes. Those clothes are always way too big. If people have become thicker in two years, those clothes still fit. I think they think that too. I do not have such clothes, so I got wet on that stormy day. It was suddenly also very cold due to the windy wind. The wind does nothing to the Dutch, it hits me. They just keep riding straight. I can not do that. I swab back and forth. I think it’s best to buy an astronaut suit instead of rainwear. I keep my clothes dry, but also my head and I do not injure myself when I fall. Maybe I should first ride a bicycle-in-the-storm course. Exercise at the Afsluitdijk, because it always blows. Four times back and forth to train my muscles. With such training, I can advance until I, as student industrial design at HAN, have made the real solution: an electric bike that I can click on the trolley bus network in Arnhem. Then I’m sure I always keep straight and weather and wind can defy.
079 – ‘I wondered why people are so busy in the Netherlands’
In Syria, nobody does anything for nothing. Of course you bring a soup to your sick neighbor and you help the neighbor when he builds a barn. But no-one does voluntary work, so on a regular day in the wind and wind go somewhere to work unpaid. Even those who reported themselves in the Unicef war to help tents and food, got some money or something to eat in return. Actually, the fulfillment of your day in Syria is very simple: you work or you’re free and when you’re free, call someone to talk or watch tv. Older people who no longer have to work can not do anything anymore because they do not move. Then they need the help of two people to go to the toilet. They soon die because they only sit still. Here people continue to do something after retirement, no one is going to sit still. When I was still in the refugee shelter The Dome in Arnhem, I thought that every Dutchman had to deal with a refugee because there were so many people coming to the Dome. Other Syrians also encountered this and there was a rumor that you had to do hundreds of hours of volunteering to get Dutch nationality soon. So when a paper was put on the wall with the question of who wanted to help painting an elderly home or who wanted to help clean, everyone was urged to sign up. People thought, “Now I can do volunteering hours that hour. After that, I have work and I have no time for it. “If they had done a job, they stated that their name and the number of hours they worked were noted. Now I know that Dutch people do all kinds of unpaid work without anyone obliging them to do so. I see very often older women who make up their minds and do well-dressed volunteer work. Sometimes I sometimes think: Madam, go to bed and sit down with your husband. I wondered why people are so busy in the Netherlands. Perhaps it is because they feel lonely. In Syria no one is lonely. If you’re free, just call your friends or your children to come by. This is not the case, because everyone is always at work. Then you can stay busy if it does not really need it anymore.
078 – ‘Dutch are too honest and then it hurts’
Honesty is a beautiful quality. It’s great if someone is honest and not cheating on you. With Dutch people I do not think honesty is such a good quality, because they are too honest and then it hurts. It has happened to me that I had cooked food for someone but he did not want to eat it. He did not like the look of the food, lifted his nose and said, “I can not eat this.” He did not want to taste it either. This kind of honesty hurts. In Syria you would say, “Sorry, I have already eaten.” If you ask a Dutchman if they come along, they are too fair. ‘I can not. This week, it really does not work.” In Syria, you avoid saying ‘no’. If someone asks you to come by, you say yes and then you’re looking for an option to say no, because if you say that immediately, it hurts. So you send a message with “Sorry, I already have an appointment. I can not come” For some people, this may seem like lying, but it is not. It’s a nice excuse to not hurt anyone else. I no longer ask the Dutch what they think of my new clothes. I know they will say without shame, “I do not like the pants, but the sweater is fun.” On the other hand, it is also good for Dutch people to be so honest. If a teacher asks why I did not do my homework and I say I was sick, then the teacher believes that. He also says “Are you feeling better?”. I think it’s better to like this, than to say I did not like doing homework. That’s not fun for the teacher. So I keep on using my good stories. Except as the Dutch ask me what I think of their clothes. I find that many people wear very beautiful clothes here, but wear the ugliest socks at the same time. Who is wearing a black suit with socks with the Frisian flag? There are beautiful black socks underneath. Only in such situations is I a Dutchman straight away and I will say: ‘Those socks are ugly. Do not walk next to me. “
077 – Evil eye
As a child, I had a wound on my leg and, according to my mother, it was through the evil eye. That’s right. When I was a baby, a woman came to visit, and declared with a strong voice that I was a beautiful baby. She did that with great conviction and repetition: “What a beautiful baby!” And then that wound came. In Syria, moms believe that they have to protect their babies against too many compliments. If a child is praised in all the heavens, the evil eye may go to work and an accident occurs. You may become sick or ugly. Mothers therefore ensure that the baby wears a blue bead, because it offers protection from the evil eye. Instead of a bead, a mother can also express the evil eye with words. When somebody’s in the arms of the baby says: “Oh, how cute!”, the mother says, “Masha Allah,” which means “God wanted that.” Every time the child is praised in heaven, she does. Some mothers also say to their guests: “If you say,” What is the baby beautiful, “say immediately, Masha Allah.” We never give clothes to a newborn baby, because it’s the mother who wants to dress her child in her own style. Guests bring gold, or a blue bead. Sometimes in the shape of the evil eye. “Allah” indicates whether the name of the baby is engraved in gold. That gold sits on a pin that is pinned on the baby’s clothes. Poor people sell the gold to buy clothes for the baby, but rich moms keep the gold for later. They keep it in a secret place with their other gold. By the way, it is not the case that giving compliments can only bring babies to an accident. If you want to flirt with a woman, you also say that she is beautiful because God wants it. Oh, it’s all superstition. However, you can not give me too many compliments. My mother is now not around here to turn off disaster with counterfeits.
076 – If you miss me next week, I’m in prison.
My bike has been in the center of Arnhem for weeks. I lost the key. I dare not take it up and take it to my house. I have black hair, come from Syria and have no proof that it’s my bike, so it’s asking for trouble to lift the luggage rack and so walk the city. In the Netherlands, I have learned, you need a label for everything. I do not have a label for the bike, because I received him from neighborhood residents when I lived in the Dutch refugee shelter The Dome. When I was just dreaming about my new future, I wanted to rent a room and cook food. The Dutch said I had to have a diploma. I should organize everything and arrange things before I could open a small diner. If I have to do all of that, I do not want the diner anymore. In my opinion, everything in the Netherlands is so expensive because papers are needed everywhere. In Syria, each street has many restaurants, a few mini markets and a bakery. There are also small restaurants where almost all Syrians buy fool and humus or falafel on Friday morning, when everyone is at home. You pick it up at such a restaurant and have a nice time at home, as you get a fries. The owners of such a business need a license, but they just buy you. You go to the town hall, say what you want, pay and you have the paper in. You do not need it for small restaurants. Also no diploma. People with a small restaurant are just good at cooking. Experience is more important than a diploma or paper. Not here. Here you need a license to work, you must have a diploma to get a job and I have to prove that my bike is mine. I can not, but I’m going to pick up my bike and take home, no matter how risky it is. If you miss me in the newspaper next week, I’m in prison because I stole my own bike.
075 – In the Netherlands “yes” is not “yes”
In the Netherlands “yes” is not “yes”. I often experience that. I wanted to attend a day at a HAN course. I walked to the relevant department and notified me. I was told that I had to do that again, but by mail. I did that. On the appointed training day I was not logged in. The woman said, “We have sent you an email asking us to confirm your application, we have not responded.” Two times saying “yes” was not enough. I myself went to that department to say that I would like to have a full day at that training. That seems enough to me that I would like to do? The same way as the communication with DUO. That institution finances my integration. If I made an appointment with someone from the DUO, that appointment is not valid. DUO’s letters all say something different because they are sent by different departments. They do not know that they send me letters, I think. It’s not that I’m not used to bureaucracy. In Syria it is at least so bad. But in a different way. We do not use a postal system and nothing is handled over the internet. If you want to arrange something, just take a lot of time. You are going to a building and in that building you are then sent from one cabinet to the an other. You must get a yellow paper on the first floor. Once there you have to be on the third floor. Then you get the assignment to collect stamps that need to be placed in a particular order. I do not see stamps in the Netherlands, in Syria they love it, especially in passports. In a Dutch passport, the King of the Netherlands requests everyone to assist the holder of this passport and to provide assistance if necessary. In a Syrian passport, that is not the case. That’s why we often joking that we do not get help but only pay a fine if we lose our passport.
074 – Hairdresser
My haircut is ruined. I now have spines, while only my points had to be cut. I cycled through my Arnhem Presikhaaf district and saw a new Syrian hairdresser. Oh, well, I thought, too. Can we speak Arabic? I should of course have better know, because in Syria the barbers are self-evident. They are negotiating your haircut. I still know that I used to put pictures in a hairdresser’s book. “I want my hair like this!” I said to the hairdresser. He looked professional and did not care about it. I was just a sec inside this hairdressing salon in Presikhaaf or this man started his negotiation. All my hair off! That was his opening bid. No, no, I said. Only the dots. The man acted as if he agreed and began to cut. A little later I sat completelycut short in the hairdressing chair. “What did you do?” I called. “I’m not a tree to be pruned!” He was not impressed. “This is a summer style. By summer, short hair belongs.’ He took a knife out of his apron and wanted to start my beard. ‘I’ll update that a little bit’. Ha, nothing of it. I did not let that happen. You’re off my beard! When I was young, I received doctor injections. They found me to be too small. As a result, I already had a beard on my twelfth, and my face is now completely closed if I do not stop it. Shaving my beard with knives only makes an increase of the hairs, which I can not use at all. In Syria, everyone is currently very short at. If you do not, then soldiers will take you on and send you to a hairdresser if you’re lucky. A big beard and long hair think too much of the appearance of a rebel, someone who disagrees with the government. Unfortunately, the Dutch government does not think my hair is important. Then my hairdressing visit was good for something.
073 – Child #3
Students doing crazy things here, I learned last week in the introduction week of Arnhem Nijmegen University (HAN). They whistle, stand on the table and curse a lot. One of the students had used one of the assignments to use his mobile to find something and that was not possible. He had to get on the table and everyone began to call: Pants on your head! Pants on your head! I did not know what I saw. When he really began to pull his pants off, I did not dare to look. I was baby 3 of a “mom,” a 19 year old girl. I’m 26 and thought: you’re here the baby, not me. But I had seen that boy on the table thinking, I do not want 162 boys and girls to look at me and laugh at me. I am going well and doing the assignments neatly. At night we all slept in a big tent. I could sleep no more than three hours, it was not quiet anymore. The second night I went home to sleep, even though I received a yellow card. I could not hold on any longer. I can not do crazy things for 24 hours, dance and pretend to sing songs about Brabant. If in Syria someone is going to study, he behaves very well and respectfully. Almost like a businessman. When I studied law in Syria, I looked like Mark Rutte with my shirt and without much gel in my hair. Singing and sitting on the table do not belong. In Syria you can not speak by a teacher. So when the teachers came last week, I thought it would be a little quiet, but no. The teachers also went crazy. When one of the teachers got up, they started calling again: Pants on your head! Pants on your head! The students are all crazy, but they are all lovely too. They are really happy and make friends fast. Why do I experience this now only when I’m 26? When I was younger, I would be much easier to participate. Then I might be in the middle of the night in my underpants under a cold shower where everyone was at. Now I’d rather pay 20 euros to go home with a taxi and shower there.
072 – Environment
What Syria and the Netherlands have in common is beautiful nature. One big difference is that there is little attention in Syria and here very much. The municipality, people and children in the Netherlands are working on it. They do not throw any mess in nature, for example. In Syria you throw everything away from you. A well-known statement there is: “I’m not the only one who throws waste here, so I’m throwing my waste away.” Before the war broke out, the government began to advertise for nature. The message was that we did not have to pollute the environment, but no one listened to it. In the Netherlands, it’s often about the climate. I hear people talking about the news and politics. That’s new to me, because in Syria the climate is the last thing we care about. We have a minister of climate, but it only fills a ministerial seat because the whole world is doing it. This summer, I discovered that attention to nature and the environment is not only from the Netherlands but from all over Europe. I was on holiday in Austria and saw rivers and waterfalls with clean clear water. There was no waste in the woods. I only saw nature and breathed in fresh, fresh air, although there were many people everywhere. I saw that they stopped trashing their bags and did not leave the woods. Not only the Dutch did this, but all the people. Also the Italians and other tourists. What is also noticeable is that I have to split up all my waste in order to recycle it. This week, the gray container will be picked up, next week it will be plastic. In Syria you throw everything in one bag and the waste is collected every day. People immediately put their trash bags on the street when it is full, so you never see a clean street unless the town has just picked up the trash. In Austria, when I had in my hand in a wrapper of a chocolate, I noticed that I now have a European and Syrian Anwar in me. I wanted to wait until nobody looked and throw away the paper, but the new Anwar said, no, do not. If I throw a mess on the streets or in nature, I feel ashamed and I do not feel Dutch. I stopped the paper like a real European in my jacket pocket. For the climate.
071 – Allowance
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.