0470-Anwar: columns 121 – 130

130 – Happy holidays all!

Take shelter

When I see pictures of how Syria used to be before the war, I remember how beautiful green it was. In Aleppo there was a beautiful park with large trees. In spring and summer, people sat in the shade eating or playing cards, while their children rolled through the grass and played. Musicians played music and all kinds of food were sold. In the fall and winter people used the park to shelter from the rain. The leaves were so thick that the raindrops barely got through. Even in bad weather, the park was full of families and friends, who shared appointments and whole days with each other in nature. Everything has changed since the war. Parts of families have been killed or fled. The people who are left out do not dare to go outside anymore. The park is no longer safe. The large trees that once adorned the park were used to light the stoves in the houses. The trees that have not been burned are cut out as a precaution, to prevent sharp shooters in the middle of the city from hiding. When I walk through Sonsbeek in Arnhem, I see how strong and beautiful nature is. Then I keep hoping. Hope that plants do not care about war, snipers and safety. Hope that new trees will struggle through the debris and make new parks. Parks where families can eat in the shade and maps and where children can roll and play through the grass. Parks where the trees are so beautiful and so big that you can not only shelter from the rain, but also before the war.

129 – Being smart does not pay off in politics.

I like to watch the NPO Politics channel. I learn words and try to discover what they say about ‘us’, the refugees. I still hope that legislation will be put in place that will allow me, for example, to bring my parents to the Netherlands. I also follow Syrian politics from here. The difference with the Netherlands is huge. I noticed during the debates in the Dutch House of Representatives that politicians in the Netherlands are smart. They have good arguments, think carefully and use difficult words. It works the other way around in Syria. People who are smart have little power. And you usually do not see them back in the government. The smartest among us are the doctors and the technicians. They are never the boss, because they are controlled by people who have studied something lager, such as business economics. The Syrian police officers and soldiers come a little lower. No studies, but people with more power and influence than the business economists, doctors and technicians together. Then we reach the very lowest step: the unskilled farmers. They have the most powerful power. The president has a famous statement: ‘The earth is for the farmer who works on it’. That is why 40 percent of the government consists of farmers. That is easy for President Bashar al-Assad. These unskilled workers can not read in most cases, do not ask critical questions and raise their hands in a vote at times when the president wants it. If you look at it like this, the president is the smartest.

128 – ‘What does a resident of Aleppo have to look for on the Arnheim Korenmarkt?’

More than a week ago I surfaced in an article by the editorial staff of De Gelderlander about discrimination. I was refused at a pub at the Arnheim Korenmarkt because the porter on my identity card saw that I was born in Aleppo. People who responded to the article did not speak about the refusal based on my origin, or about the porter’s motives or about the owner’s reaction, which called me “an idiot” because I had filed a complaint.

I wanted to answer that I had received an invitation from someone who celebrated his birthday in that cafe. I had not been at the Korenmarkt for a year, I have a serious life and just wanted to go to a friend’s birthday. A little later I realized of course that I should not respond at all. The need to justify me remains. That I have to explain why I filed a report, why I was at the Korenmarkt and why I actually am here anyway. Sometimes it feels like my contribution in the Netherlands should only be positive. The reaction of the man also touched me because I am afraid that now there is the impression that I am walking around the Korenmarkt three times a week. While I chose the Netherlands because I have the freedom to say, think and do what I want. Only when I really dare say so: I am integrated!

127 – I have not had to brush my shoes here yet.

Lego, who does not like that? The Dutch are not played with it. Building houses is just like playing with Lego. A house will be clicked together within two months. I am used to it that it takes a year for a building to stand. Layer by layer it is built up, there must be weeks to wait until the cement is well dry. They are solid, thick buildings in Syria. You will never hear an upstairs neighbor walk around, let alone a few tripping mice. Sounds good, from those sturdy houses. But it is also awkward. A renovation is almost impossible. A piece of cake in the Netherlands. If I drill a hole in the wall, I can already wave to the neighbors, so to speak. If there is a problem with the water supply in Syria, you will be in trouble for a long time. The street is closed for weeks and broken open, with heavy, large drills. Dust drops down all over the neighborhood, you can hardly see through the windows. Due to the thick layer of concrete in Aleppo, rainwater is difficult to drain. Sand comes from the desert, so soon there is mud everywhere. Brushing shoes is a daily activity in Syria, because people with decent shoes can see that they live in a luxury street or own a car. I cycled past a building in Arnheim that was demolished. There was a machine that sprayed with water. This ensured that the fabric did not roam around the whole neighborhood. Very nice Netherlands, and smart! Since I’ve been here, I have not had to brush my shoes.

126 – Risks do not belong to life in the Netherlands.

I came to the Netherlands for safety. A good choice, because risks do not belong to life in the Netherlands. If a tile is loose in the street, a team sets off the street. Warning signs and lights show road users from far away: something is wrong here. People in protective suits and with helmets put everything right again. At my school, the HAN (Highschool Arnheim Nimwegen), they do not take safety light either. When I had to see a board last week, I first had to dress up as a clown. With large glasses, heavy shoes and a safety vest. Cutting can not be done independently, because I did not get a safety certificate. The Dutch language used in the exam was still too difficult for me. Logically, a Dutchman thinks. You can not work with devices without papers. With me in such a situation comes some Syrian impatience. I know how to deal with machines. I never throw away a defective device at home. I turn everything apart and puzzle until I know how to fix it. Saves money and it’s fun. At home I made my own workshop with a saw machine.

I do it at home, I think grumpy. I cycle home at the end of the afternoon and see, just like in the morning, construction workers build a gantry. Suddenly I see it differently. Yes, it is a hassle for the construction workers. Working all day on a safe working environment and not taking a step in the actual renovation. But that is actually beautiful. In the Netherlands, it’s all about people first, and then about the work.

125 – How much more beautiful is a bouquet with different flowers.

I come from the best country in the world. Syria. Writing, they did that in our country as first ever, just like making fire. We have so much oil, the rest of the world can only dream of that. And then our position in the world: so central that everyone has to go past or over us. What a happiness and a coincidence, that I just come from that very best country in the world. Until I came to the Netherlands, and here noticed that the Dutch also think that they come from the very best country in the world. And I saw with a distance that Syria might not be good at everything. Funny, that most people in the world learn from an early age that they ended up in a very special country. And you, as a child, are fortunate that you have just been born in that special culture. “Choose a woman with the same skin” is an expression in Syria. What we mean: look no further, but choose a Syrian woman. One with our skin. Many Dutch people also prefer someone ‘with the same skin’. In recent years I have learned how beautiful it is to look further. I did that myself, but I see Dutch people doing the same. When I make new Dutch friends, I hear afterwards: “I had such a different image of Muslims / refugees / Syrians.” The ideas we have about each other are quickly negative, while reality turns out to be much more beautiful. If we put a lot of the same flowers together in a vase, you get a bunch. But how much better it is when a florist puts all sorts of colors and types together. Then you do not have a bunch, but a beautiful bouquet.

124 – The Netherlands and rules. Sometimes it seems they are alone to bother you.

My debit card does not work anymore. The magnetic strip is unreadable, said the pin device. It happened Saturday night, so I had a problem until Monday. I bought some food from my last cash euros. On Monday I went to ING to request a new pass. An employee showed me how I could do that via my phone. I had to enter my PIN code into my ING app and then could request a new card. ,,It takes four working days”, the woman said. “Then you will receive the card at home”. I asked if I could then withdraw 50 euros. ,,Can I see your ID for that?”, she said. I gave her my travel document. “No, this is not valid”, she said. ,,I need a passport, an identity card or your residence permit”. I have lost my residence permit. I have reported this to the police, it takes three months before I have a new one. “But ma’am, my travel document is of the same value”, I said. ,,It is an official document from the municipality of Arnhem. Moreover, you have just seen that I am really Anwar, because I have entered my PIN code and my bank account”. “It’s just the rules”, said the woman. ,,But what should I eat from?”, I asked. She said: ,, You can ask if you can transfer 50 euros to someone. Then withdraws the one for you”. ,,Oh yeah, I want that”, I said. “I’ll immediately transfer 50 euros to you.” The woman: “No, you have to ask your friends”. “But my friends are at Rabobank. Transferring takes one day”. The woman shook her head. ,,Unfortunately, I can not do anything for you.”

The Netherlands and rules. Sometimes it seems they are alone to bother you.

123 – Your mother has been operated, the neighbor wrote from the hospital in Aleppo.

My mother has breast cancer. At least that’s what I think. I suddenly received a message from my parents’ neighbor last week. She was in bed with my mother, in a hospital in Aleppo. “Your mother has undergone surgery,” she wrote. I had my mother on the phone almost every day that week, but she told me nothing about her operation. ,,You could have noticed”, said my mother. ,,I said in the last conversation several times that you had to take good care of your brother? I thought I was going to die during the operation”. My mother is being operated, she does not know when that will be, only that there was something very big in her chest that had to be removed immediately. Last summer it became known that the woman of the president in Syria, Asma al-Assad, has breast cancer. As she undergoes her treatments, she has given all women in Syria the opportunity to also test for breast cancer. My mother also went and was told that she had to be operated immediately the next day. “What have I done to get this life?”, m y mother said. “First the poverty, then the war, my one son far away and my other son in hiding for the army. And then I’m still seriously ill now”. It all hurts. That she is ill, that she loves her life so much and that I did not know anything about her illness. Although it is painful, I understand. In recent years there have been times when things did not go well for me. I did not tell her that either, because I did not want to worry her. If I ever get a daughter, I call her Suhaila, after my mother. I hope I can give that girl the life my mother wanted.

122 – I myself am 28 years old, and am still on the platform.

Women in the Netherlands, sometimes I feel sorry for them. Parents teach their daughters that there are many liberties for them. They can work, study, cut their hair, everything they want. Personal development is the highest good. I spoke with a friend of almost 40 years. She has everything she wants. A car, a house and a good job. “Anwar, I got a lot of things,” she said. ,,But I am alone. I have no husband or children”.  There are many women like her. They have completely plunged into their personal development. If they are very far with it, they only look around. With whom will I share my life? Sometimes it is too late, because they can no longer have children.” The train has already left for you,” we say in Arabic.

Family first

In Syria you learn as a girl from an early age how you can take good care of your future family. You learn that it is important to start your own family. A Syrian woman will not look up suddenly at the age of 35 and realize that she is alone. Her life focuses first on creating a family. This is followed by personal development. It is an order that appeals to me because there is always time for personal development. That train is never gone. I myself am 28 years old, and am still on the platform. I hope, as often in my life, on the best of both worlds. A woman who develops personally but in the meantime looks up. Then we take the train together.

121 – The Syrian is just working here, and now suddenly a bomb in the building.

If you live in the Netherlands, it can sometimes be that you have a lot more appointments than you actually can handle. Because you said ‘yes’ to all kinds of requests five months ago and thought: ‘I’ll see that’ … So I’m in a busy month. At the same time my internship started at industrial park Kleefse Waard in Arnheim. I was working on my internship report when a woman came into the study room. ,, Pack your things and leave the building as quietly as possible. A bomb has been reported in this building.  People came in with special suits and we were set up outside. I immediately felt shame. Would people think I did it? The Syrian Anwar is just working here, and now suddenly a bomb in the building… I saw an other Syrian boy who worked in the building. He said in Arabic: “Could you no longer have been able to wait with this? Now it falls on this …” Let’s not just stand together, we thought. I felt guilty and did not want to make us extra suspicious. A little later we were all sent home.

The next morning I received an email from my internship address. ,,Have you all had a nice free afternoon yesterday? Yesterday there was an exercise in our building, where there was supposedly a bomb in our building. ” I could beat myself for my head. An exercise… of course. That is the Netherlands. The next time I do not really kick in and say: “Yes, I know there is a bomb threat. But I’d rather die, so I’ll just sit down. “

Then I get my internship report at least.

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