0265 – Anwar’s columns

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.

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.


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.

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.


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.