170 – I still associate expressing your opinion with danger
The Netherlands is not only known for its cows, cheese and tulips. Also because of freedom. The right to express your opinion is most widely used in the Netherlands. Demonstrating, protesting, actions and stakes are very common here. The government then sits down with the campaigners and thinks along how they can still make the people within the law happy. It is a right that really exists. If groups want to stand against each other, the police are there to steer it in the right direction. You can say anything but not fight.
When the mayor of Arnhem Ahmed Marcouch was installed, I wanted to be present at the ceremony to welcome him. I liked him, because when we went to the Lower House with our integration class, he was the only one who came to greet us. On the way to the town hall, I ended up among people who demonstrated against him as mayor. They had hate texts and flags against him as a person and as a Muslim.
I had written some welcome words for the mayor, but when I saw the demonstrators, I threw away my paper. I was sad and scared. I was afraid they would discover that I was for the mayor. That the police would shoot and a revolution would arise. In Syria, a revolution starts exactly that way. I went home without welcoming Marcouch.
I still associate expressing your opinion with danger. Demonstration requires prison, dismissal means strike. Welcoming a mayor who is not loved might mean that I have to go back to Syria.
Although I am always told that this is not the case in the Netherlands, I am afraid of a line after my name. “Anwar, we have to keep an eye on that.”
169 – Arabs can work hard, but in a different way
An acquaintance of mine who lives in the Netherlands wants to build a house in Morocco. Like a holiday home. During her vacation she went to Morocco to have her dream house built. She returned after two months. “How was your vacation?” I asked her. ,, Pooh, it was tiring, Anwar. You know how the Arabs work and how it goes with appointments. Work hard one day and then don’t come for two days. And during the working day, she takes an irregular tea break. ”We laughed together. “Yes, recognizable,” I said.
It reminded me of my uncle. He is a tailor, father of seven children, does not have his own store but does have his own sewing machine. He lives in a village near Aleppo. If he gets one customer after a whole season without customers, he suddenly starts doing professionally. “Come back after two days, I’m too busy now,” he says. He thinks it is better if his customers regard him as a busy man, but that customer will of course never return.
Arabs can work hard, but in a different way. There is no plan of action, there are no fixed working hours and there is no fixed break time. Starting early with a fixed structure and a fixed plan, whereby we walk outside together as a group of ants at noon, that is not for us. It then feels like we are children who receive punishment.
I am accidentally telling about “our dirty laundry”. But it just needs space and time to switch the way we work to your system. The system that looks like a computer system. Soon we will walk outside like a colony of ants with a sandwich in our hand.
168 – “Art is also: keeping hope under bad conditions”
I did not yet know the atmosphere of the old bourgeoisie in the Netherlands. I am doing an internship at an Arnhems architectural office. During the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven the boss of the office was invited for a chic dinner. I was allowed to come. Designers and traders sat at the table. Guests wore expensive clothes and huge jewelry. A woman at the table said: ‘I am going to an island where there are no people. So there is no electricity. ” The whole crowd turned to her and shouted, “You’re kidding, really ?! And also without a power bank ?! ‘ She said: “No, I find it very difficult too.” “Oh my God, that’s great,” everyone said at the same time.
Meanwhile, large plates were served with a very small snack in the middle. Decorated with sauce and rosemary. The plate with food looked like a graduation project from an art academy student. That you look at the graduation work and think, huh? The guests took a white cloth, put it on their knees and chose the right cutlery. I saw how I put that pile of food in my mouth in one movement. All those preparations seemed pretty unnecessary to me for such a small snack.
On the way back home I listened to the radio. Coincidentally there was a guest speaker who had been to Syria. She told how people live there: ‘I am very impressed how people live there. They build a room between the ruins’. ‘But how?’ the presenter asked. I answered the question in my head. That is the art of living. Art is not just a painting or a strangely curved piece of steel. Art is also: keeping hope under bad conditions. Build a room between a lot of stones to live on.
I immediately adjust my CV: I am an artist.
167 – In the morning, Dutch people look at weird graphs with rain showers as if they were God
I am in my room with tears in my eyes. I look outside and at my laptop. I try to find a scientific solution for a problem with many Dutch people. And with me, apparently. A depressed feeling. I’m searching on Google. It says that the exact cause of depression is unknown. I think Mr. Google has never been to the Netherlands. Otherwise he would have found one cause. The weather in the Netherlands.
So awkward and confusing. When I bring the summer clothes to the attic, the sun starts to shine. And when I go outside without a coat, it starts raining. In the Netherlands you sometimes see one cloud in the sky, but it still rains everywhere. Or you can see the whole sky full of clouds, but it is still warm. I think about my outfit. Almost bare, wearing only underwear and a thick coat, like a clown. How quickly the weather changes seems to me to be one of the causes of depression
My Dutch acquaintances look at strange graphs in the morning. They see showers passing by on a map as if they are God and know exactly where it rains. That’s why they take all the clothes they need. I also downloaded the app, but I don’t understand the moving lines and clouds in my screen. So I’m still on a rainy day with a T-shirt.
I went to the editorial team of De Gelderlander to hand in my column. I saw my colleagues, they were very different from a few weeks ago when the sun was shining. As we say in Syria: “It was as if they had been taken out of the grave with a return contract.” It means that people look like they were allowed to come out of their graves for a while. I immediately felt a little better. So it’s not just me.
166 – Panic with Aldi bag: “Typically Dutch, to turn anything into anything”
While shopping at Presikhaaf in Arnhem, a man stood by a broken bottle machine. He wanted to press a service button to ask for help, but pressed the fire alarm. The security guard was immediately told that it was a mistake by a customer. But the Dutch, who always panic, cannot remain calm even in such a situation. It seemed as if strange space creatures had invaded the mall where customers fled. All stores had to be closed and everyone had to leave the building. A robot voice said that echoed through the corridors.
It is typically Dutch to turn anything into anything. I also had to go outside, even though I already knew that nothing was wrong. When I was outside, I kept looking inside. People in a panic trying to flee a building. The image is not new, only it differs from my earlier experiences during my run for freedom. In my memory from the past I see a mother running with her deceased child an apartment building in Aleppo. They were white with dust. Now I saw a woman running in a panic with an Aldi bag; people don’t know where to go, where they can hide or are safe. Here in Presikhaaf, everyone ran outside and stood in designated places; people, including my family, had lost everything. Our bombed flat was the beginning of homelessness. Here it was only a delay of the shopping.
How nice that a building is already secured here after a possible incident, instead of a large bombing first, after which survivors run out of the building injured. I am so glad that the old memories go into the background, and that I get new, funny memories from you. A woman in a panic with an Aldi bag.
165 – When she said that, I felt the cold again during my run for freedom.
I met Thea. She is 88 years old. She and I understood each other before we exchanged one word. Because we both went through a war. I saw her understanding in her eyes. She told about her terrible memories of the Battle of Arnheim. I saw exactly what I experienced in my head like a film. We shared the same feeling, the same pain.
When I met Thea, she was just interviewed in front of a television camera. I listened to her story and after a few minutes I knew enough. It was like sitting next to her naked. Without masks of happiness, satisfaction or beautiful clothes to mask how you feel inside. “Oh how fierce, but would you like to tell it again, but then shorter,” the interviewer told Grandma Thea. I looked at the interviewer with a crooked face. This can’t be shorter? The events cannot be summarized as a clickbait title. “How was Thea then?” The interviewer asked her again. Grandma said: “We had to flee and we were always outside. The food ran out and we were hungry. It was cold, we had not brought any extra clothes with us.” When she said that, I felt the cold again during my run for freedom. “We were with many children and there were no toys. When we returned all my toys were gone. Everything was taken away. I did not see my house when I returned”.
Now I am here, Arnheim celebrates freedom. Celebrates the freedom where my parents miss it. Freedom for grandma Thea and me means that people in an unsafe situation can go somewhere else where it is safe. Real freedom would mean seeing the last bullet shot on this earth. Even if I had to catch it with my own body, as long as it was the very last one.
164 – Sneaky date: “Hallo-goodafternoon-youspeakwithHans”
I was on the bus in Arnheim. There were three Syrian girls in the back. One of them came to me in panic and asked if I came from Syria. “We have a problem,” she said in Arabic. They had gone from Zutphen to Arnheim without their parents knowing. One of the girls had a date with a Syrian boy. I could see that, because she was a walking makeup box. The girl had two girlfriends with her for safety. That reminded me of Syria when I had a girlfriend there. She always had her brother with her as a kind of police officer. He had one task: to keep an eye on Anwar. I kept him a friend with sweets.
The girl on the bus panicked because her father had called. He suspected she wasn’t in school. “Do you want to pretend to be my teacher and say we are going to Arnheim with the whole class?” She asked. I saw her tears, she looked at me very sadly. She gave her phone. Infelt sorry for her, because Syrian fathers can be strict. “Can your father speak Dutch well,” I asked. “No,” she said. That was an advantage for me, otherwise he would hear that I am not a teacher with my poor Dutch. I decided to talk quickly and hard so that her father would barely understand anything about it.” “Hallo-goodafternoon-Agus talks”, I rattled.
“Blablablablabla-triptoArnheim”. I said words that I did not understand myself, but I made sure that the last word was right and did it overly confidently. The father stammered that he was also a worried father. He took a sigh of relief.
Then the stern Syrian side came up in me. “Please don’t go out into the street with so much makeup next time.” They nodded well. “Have fun, ladies.” They got off the bus laughing.
163 – An old and fat Anwar on the couch? No thanks!!!
Before the Syrian man marries, he does his best to look as attractive as possible. He sports and pays a lot of attention to his appearance. Once he is married, he has achieved his goal, then you see the men grow in size. A married man with a belly is a happy man. At least in Syria. It is a symbol of a good marriage because your wife apparently takes good care of you. The married man works and his wife is at home and takes care of the household. After work, he spends time with his wife, then there is no time to exercise. The man works, eats and reproduces. His belly represents his happiness. If the man does not have a belly, Syrians will find him thin. Then he is probably unhappy in his marriage. We then say that he has a bad relationship with the “home affairs minister,” or his wife.
“She nags more than she breathes,” Syrians then say. At that moment the mother asks her skinny son: ‘Do you want me to find a second wife for you? What can you be happy with? ” I have a Dutch friend, he is 60 years old and is as muscular as Popeye. I asked him why he went to the gym. “I have to stay fit, healthy and attractive for myself and my partner,” he replied. In Syria, the man would say, “I don’t have to exercise anymore, I already have a wife!” The elderly in Syria spend a lot of time at home and take care of their small children. A sporting grandfather would look very strange in Syria. A big belly is prestige in Syria. Now that I am here, I mainly see a life with little activity in that big belly. An old fat Anwar on the couch, his wife brings him food. No thanks, I’ll go to the gym. Take out a lifelong subscription.
162 – Proud on stage, with ups and downs
There are 35,000 students at the Hogeschool Arnhem Nijmegen. With two others, I was nominated as a student of the year. A huge honor. During the award ceremony this week, my mother, who lives in Syria, wanted me to call her when I was on stage. She wanted to thank the teachers and the school. I had to repeat the phrase ‘thank you for you’ for an hour so that she could pronounce it well. And it still didn’t work.
The prize went to one of the girls. I was very happy for her. When I got home, I called my mother to tell her about the evening and that almost all of my teachers were there to support me. She was neat and ready to speak her only Dutch sentence she knows. ,, Mama doesn’t have to, because I don’t have the first prize. But I had a nice evening and I am proud. “My mother cried.” Forgive me Anwar that I was not with you at that time. Forgive me that I am not with you. I hope you know it is not otherwise, I am proud of you because you have come so far. You are the best student in my eyes and I am very proud of you my son.”
I also wanted to cry, but since I have been in the Netherlands, I have never done that in the ‘presence’ of my parents, because they have enough misery on their mind. I am also proud. I have felt the past few years because my future looked so different from what I expected. I would go to work as a recently graduated lawyer in Aleppo. In the Netherlands I started all over again four years ago. With a job in the supermarket and an education, as if I hadn’t done it all before. I felt proud on stage, on all peaks and troughs. But I am most happy with the satisfaction of my parents. That does not take a moment, but all my life.
161 – Now that I am out of the war I can only think about the long term
During the war in Syria I worked as a volunteer with volunteers from UNHCR and Unicef. The majority of the help they offered went to children. Theater for children, balloons, or music lessons. I always found that frustrating. It is a luxury form of help that does not come at the right time for people. There is a greater need for a tent or food, which will benefit them immediately.
Now that I have been in the Netherlands for longer, I see how thinking works in the long term. Children are seen as a seed. Something slowly grows out of it, it becomes a plant or a tree if it receives the right care. Fruits or flowers come from under the right conditions. There is education for everyone here, but also cultural education. Can parents not pay for music lessons? Then the government or a fund supplements. It is so important here that a child develops in all areas. Childhood is here a time in which you learn to play a musical instrument or a hobby that you can perform later in your spare time. It is an age that the government gives money and attention to children’s playgrounds instead of weapons.
The children in Syria are used to a lack of water and food. For them it feels like nonsense to follow a course half-homeless or to pursue a hobby. The short term counts for them. That of water, food and taking away the worries of their parents. Now that I am out of the war myself, I can think again in the long term.
Only now do I see how good it is to try to take war children, even if only for a short time, to that long term. Music, theater or a party, so that they learn to express their emotions and forget their worries.