0571 – Anwar’s columns

‘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!

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.

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.