0543-Anwar: columns 0151 – 0160

160 – The ideal woman: eyes that are not brown, blonde or red hair and skin like cheese.

When I did something good for my mother as a child, she always said: I am looking for the ideal woman for you. A Syrian mother sees that as her task. Picking out a good daughter-in-law and a beautiful wife for her son. That “ideal” woman in Syria is tall and slender and has eyes that are not brown, blonde or red hair and skin like cheese. During weddings, mothers look for a suitable candidate for their son. In Aleppo, the wedding parties are often separate, so women celebrate it separately from the men. Women feel free to wear short clothing or lingerie there. At least, that’s what my mother says. I have never been there myself. It is a good opportunity for some girls to show their qualities to the seeking mothers. “I saw a woman in front of you with skin as white as cheese,” my mother said when she returned.

The cheese in Syria is pure white. In the Netherlands, women do not see this as a quality. They just want to be brown and try to get the skin of a Syrian. “If my mother saw you, she would immediately bring you in as the ideal woman,” I sometimes tell pale Dutch women. Yet they are not happy with themselves. Because most Syrian youth have fled, it becomes more difficult for us to find an ideal partner without a seeking mother. In my head I now sketch a woman with a yellow / brownish skin, so that someday I can call my mother to say that I have found a woman with a skin like cheese. She wants that so badly. Then I cut the line quickly, so I don’t have to tell her that she looks like Dutch cheese.

159 – Unreliable as he is, a pigeon man in Syria can never testify

I walked under the tunnel of Arnhem Velperpoort station when I saw a flyer hanging: ‘We have lost our dear bird Zuzu. Who has seen him? ” There was a green bird on the photo. He looked like a little parrot. I looked up at the trees, how could I ever find a bird for those people? Let alone catch him? The love for birds is not strange to Syrians. We don’t make it personal, because we don’t name birds and we don’t miss them, but the pigeon sport is great in Syria. ‘Pigeon men’ are always at work on the roofs of flats, houses and other buildings. They wave a sweater and make a bird sound, with which they lure the pigeons. They receive food until they keep coming back.
Pigeon men are notorious in Syria. They are known to be unreliable because they always swear unfairly in the name of God. Wollah, that’s my pigeon! No, Wollah, that’s my pigeon! One of the two is lying. Pigeon men lure the pigeons together with food. Sometimes they suddenly see their own bird land on another roof. Then you know: hey, my bird has been caught! The Syrian law even states that pigeon men can never witness a lawsuit. Because they are known that their word is unreliable.
Fortunately the houses in the Netherlands have sloping roofs, so the chance that pigeon men become active in the Netherlands is small. I imagine that not only the PVV wants us away, but also the Party for the Animals. I won’t let that happen, because I want to stay here. In fact, I am now going to look for that birdie!

158 – Romance in Syria and in the Netherlands: a world of difference.

A Dutch girl friend said to me: “Anwar, I had a date with a Syrian boy. After one date I received a video from him. In the video I saw all photos of myself that I once posted on the internet, with a song underneath. Now I’m afraid of him. I blocked it immediately ‘.

I sighed and dropped my head on the table. In one short story she summarized what has been going wrong with me in the Netherlands for years. The communication between Arab boys and Dutch girls. That poor Syrian boy thinks he has done something romantic, my Dutch girlfriend thinks she has hooked up a dangerous stalker.

In Syria, it is romantic for your fiancée to say to you, “If I don’t get you, nobody will get you!” A Dutch girl calls the police for this. I lifted the Syrian girlfriend I had back then over a pond to add, “You are as sweet as sugar and you would melt if I let you walk through it.” You don’t have to touch this with texts like that. I am now behind.Paying attention is the most important thing in Syria in trying to adorn a woman. Here a woman asks after two apps, why do you keep calling me? I just spoke to you, right? In Syria I would reply: “1 minute without you feels like a year without you.” Here I close my phone with a sigh.

All the ways I have learned to show a woman that I like her do not apply here. Not too many compliments, not too much attention, no special treatment. I really have no idea what remains. If I stay here, I will be single forever.

157 – “The Dutch immediately start thinking of drama with my full name,” said Mo.

Every country has its own famous names. In Syria that is Muhammad, Ahmed or Abdullah, because the majority of the population consists of Sunni Muslims. In Iraq, the most common name is “Ali,” because most people there are Shiite Muslims. If you walk in the street and you want to ask the way, you call the name that is most common in that country. In Syria, you say, “Muhammad!”, That’s nicer than “Hey!” Even if he happens to be called Abdullah, he will turn around and help you further.

It doesn’t work that way in the Netherlands. Calling “Jesus” on the street probably causes reactions, but not the desired ones.
“What is a typical Dutch name that I can call if I don’t know someone?” I asked my friend Gijs. “Barrie,” he said. All right. So if I mail a teacher whose name I can’t, I just write “Dear Barrie”? Gijs laughed. “Then you get an insufficient answer.”

I have Syrian friends in the Netherlands who want to change their name or have already done so. From Abdullah to Rony or from Abdul Wahab to Adam. “It is easier now that we are in the Netherlands, so you are less likely to be discriminated against,” one of the two told me. For example, many Syrians named Mohammed prefer to call themselves “Mo” here. “You know Dutch people,” said a friend of “Mo”. “They immediately start thinking drama with my full name.”
I already had that idea myself. Not to change my own name, but to give my future children a modern name.

Barrie Manlasadoon. Sounds nice.

156 – My graduation is anything but a beautiful memory.

Now that students and students have passed and celebrate that with flags, gala parties and beautiful clothes, I feel gloomy. I wish it to everyone, but I think back to my own graduation in Aleppo. It is anything but a beautiful memory. One day before my last exam in Syria, my father was injured in a bombing raid. There were elections that day, and because the rebels did not want people to vote, they fired rockets in every street. My father was injured on the way to work.

While I was learning for my final exam, I had to go to the hospital. My father was completely covered with blood. He was not approachable. The next day, while answering the eighty questions in my exam, I became stressed. What if I make it? Then I am a graduate lawyer and I have to go into the army. But I don’t want to go into the army. And I don’t want to leave my family either. Isn’t it better to just go down? The same day I got the result. I passed. I took the paper and went back to the hospital. Nobody was in the party mood there. Me neither. Shortly afterwards I fled from Syria. A long, harsh journey eventually brought me to the Netherlands, where I am now studying again. When I’m ready for my bachelor degree in Industrial Product Design I am 31. No matter how childish, I still put on nice clothes, hang the flag and let everyone congratulate me. I’m already excited.

155 – Always thinking of others is still a good Syrian trait.

I’m calling a Dutch friend. Can I come to see you tonight? The friend thinks: do I have time for visitors? Do I want to visit? Am I ready for a visit? Then the answer follows. A Dutchman has learned to think of himself.
In Syria you learn the other way around. You must first think of the other person. Why is he calling me? Would he feel lonely? Would he like to discuss something with me? If you’re used to it, life in the Netherlands sometimes feels pretty hard.

Many of my Dutch friends have divorced parents. I hear from school: “I’m going to see my mother today.” They don’t look sad. They are also used to fathers and mothers in the Netherlands thinking of themselves. A good reason to leave your family is here: “I no longer feel good at this marriage.” The consequences for everyone around them only come second.

“I have to be happy, it’s my life,” one of my friends said when I asked her about her divorce. It made me quiet. “What about your children?” I asked. “They can never be happy between two parents who are not happy with each other,” she said. She might be right. I don’t know if I could do it. Making a decision for yourself is very difficult if you are brought up with shame, honor, family, neighbors and the future. Rather, I thought I’d rather not have a girlfriend whose parents divorced her. She may have been raised poorly and has received little attention. Now I am friends with a girl with divorced parents. At that time she was very small. She is smart, kind, sweet and independent of her parents. I see in her that children of divorced parents can also end up well.

Always thinking of others is still a good Syrian trait. I take over from the Dutch that you can set limits on that. Destroying your own life to keep others happy is not necessary.

154 – We are not afraid of food waste in Syria, you cook as if a herd of dinosaurs is coming for dinner.

I was invited by a Dutch acquaintance to come and eat. Once there, there was no food. Bags with sliced ​​vegetables lay on the counter. Even pre-cut garlic. After a while my acquaintance started to “cook”. He peered into his cupboards. ,, I need an eggplant. Mmh, do I actually have one? “” No, nothing indicated that he had prepared for my arrival. It took ten minutes, then we could sit at the table.

The situation could not be more different than from a Syrian asking someone to eat. An invitation is something special. Even now in the Netherlands, I am free. You go shopping, cut vegetables for a day and prepare different dishes. A bag of pre-cut vegetables would be an insult. As if you don’t want to bother anyone.

“Do you want a dessert?” My knowledge asked. I chuckled. Just the question already. Always continue! As much as possible! Then your guest will choose whether or not to eat from it. Yes, we are not afraid of food waste in Syria. You cook as if a herd of dinosaurs is coming to eat. In the Arabic culture, food is simply a way to express anything and everything, such as socializing, comforting or respecting. Like my Turkish neighbor in Arnheim Presikhaaf. He regularly knocks with a bowl of food at my fence door. “Hey Anwar, my wife has made something for you!”

That feels like home. In Syria we also bring food together at the door. And then you fully return the container. With your own dish, or in a lazy mood, with fruit. I already know what the Dutch choose.

153 – “The gardens in the Netherlands remain fascinating for me”

Walking in a Dutch neighborhood, I can always see directly who the house belongs to. Grass, trees and flowers? A Dutch family. Stones, pebbles, weeds and a chair in the front garden? A foreign family. Last week I got a new local resident. The former people were already gone, the new ones just moved in. All pebbles were taken from the front garden, so I was expecting a Dutch family. Until I saw a truck in the distance bringing a new load of stones. I walked past the house and saw a man standing in the doorway. He stood the other way around, so I only saw his back. Convinced by the truck with pebbles, I said: “Salaam aleikum.” The man turned, “Hey, Salaam Aleikum!” He greeted kindly. My suspicion was confirmed.

The gardens in the Netherlands remain fascinating for me. You only use the front to show how beautiful your garden is. At the back you lock yourself up, to spend time with your family or friends unseen. That is why I like walking in the Klarendal district of Arnheim in the summer. Everything has been turned around. There are flowers in the back garden, and people sit together in the front garden. As I know it from my home country. I love the social life on the street, the conversations with the neighbors and the summer evenings in front of your house. Locked up in the backyard of my house, I feel alone. In Klarendal many benches have been put on the pedestrian walkways by the municipality. I wish that for all neighborhoods. Not just a neat sidewalk and beautiful communal flower boxes, but benches and chairs on the street so that locals meet. If everyone is having a good time together, it seems to me that there is nothing left to be desired for a municipality as well.

152 – Be economical

Every country has its own way of being economical. I learn from Dutch people that you have to look at clothes and electronics in the city, and then compare prices at home on the internet. Then order from the cheapest provider. “But what about the shipping costs?” I said. The Dutch apparently bypass this by ordering so much that the shipping costs are free, and then the products that you do not need are returned for free. You just have to come up with it.

In Syria, we always want to be cheap, so negotiating is common. Men look for clothes in the city, but then take their mother or wife with them for a purchase. We all know as men: women never get tired of whining. An additional advantage is that a male salesman cannot send a woman away, so he has to listen to her whining. “The seams are not stitched properly, the fabric is weak and has a musty odor.”

My father and I gladly took my mother to get the cheapest clothes, but at the same time we were ashamed. “Ma, now it’s enough,” I whispered. ,,Anwar, don’t worry about it. That man only paid ten pounds for this piece of fabric, and I won’t pay 75 for it.” My father, too, began to feel increasingly uncomfortable the longer it takes. He often stood up for the seller. “He also has to pay his rent and electricity,” he said. But no, my mother persisted until she got her way.

In the Arab neighborhood supermarket where I do my shopping in Arnhem, I saw a Syrian woman trying the same. “We are in the Netherlands,” said the Turkish man behind the counter. His smile betrayed that the scene reminded him of his homeland. “Only for this time then.”

151 – Will the mayor come and take a look to estimate what the street will look like without a pear tree?

I recently helped a good acquaintance with pruning. In his front garden there is a huge pear tree that gets so many leaves and pears that it gets dark throughout the house. When we stood on the ladder to thin out the tree, I asked him why he didn’t cut down the whole tree. Then we no longer have pears, he said, and that is not allowed by the municipality. Apparently you have to apply for a permit in the Netherlands to cut down a tree in your own garden. I wonder how that goes. Will the mayor come and take a look to estimate what the street will look like without a pear tree? There seem to be even more rules about nature. In some areas, for example, you must be quiet, and you must not smoke or feed animals. You have to keep your garden tidy, your plants should not cause nuisance to the neighbors and if you throw something away in nature you will be fined. I even heard that for some crimes as a punishment by the State Forest Maintenance Institution or the municipality you have to help keep nature beautiful.

The advantage is that nature in the Netherlands always looks great. Especially in the cities. The grass on the roadside is mowed, flower beds get water and in the fall someone with a large leaf blower comes along. Hedges are carefully pruned to the centimeter and even new fields of flowers are sown.

Sometimes I feel ashamed when I see my own front yard. I’m not that good with plants and the only thing that grows well is the weeds. As soon as spring starts, I will remove it all before it will grow so high that I have to invite the mayor to come and see if it is allowed.


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