People I left in Aleppo think I am a kind of Justin Bieber who manages it.
A wrong judgment about a refugee in the Netherlands is quickly made. Not only by Dutch people, but also by people who did not flee. Some Syrians who stayed behind in a war zone think they know exactly what life is like here. That sometimes scares me, it is also painful. They think that we wake up in the morning, walk to the money tree in our garden and pick 50 notes. Then we start our day calmly. “Your son Anwar has bought an expensive mobile for you, he is really rich now,” people tell my mother in Aleppo. Nobody thinks I bought that phone for her because I miss her and want to call her for longer than two minutes, because her battery has run out. That I don’t want to see her in cubes, but sharp. She was crying with happiness when she got it, because it’s a gift from me. Now she is sleeping in bed with her phone. We call more than ever.
I am sad that people I left behind think that I am a kind of Justin Bieber who manages it. Even if I had it all done, money, fame or things are never things to envy. “Hang that message in your ears like an earring,” we say in Syria. Because what do I want with a room when I am alone? What can I do with nice clothes if I don’t have anyone who tells me it looks good? My mother and I try to slide all our comments away. Thanks to the good wifi signal, we can finally make a good call. It also has disadvantages that my mother sees me sharp again. ‘Anwar, why do you have those red eyes, did you drink? Did you cry? ” Mmm okay.
I think the wifi signal is almost out …
Drops typically Dutch? Because they are so cheap for sure.
If you visit a Dutch family as a new Dutchman, you will get products that are typically Dutch. Drops for example, and syrup waffles. Man, how many drops and waffles I had. I almost see stars. At one point I was even at a point that I would probably leave before the dessert came with the tea, because I didn’t want to chew through those stiff liquorice again. Especially with old people, the liquorice often stand behind a spice rack in a rusty old can. A glance is cast and yes, there are still liquorice for our Syrian guest. While I get stuck in the hard liquorice, I get to hear a story about this typical Dutch product.
Conversely, I also want to introduce Dutch people to typical Syrian products, such as pistachio, soap, the za’atar (a spice blend) and Aleppo Sweets. The latter are Syrian sweets. They are considered the best in the Levant region. The name of that region is not so well known here, but it is something that you have with ‘Europe’. The Levant consists of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Now the only problem is that those Syrian products are super expensive in the Netherlands. I am bankrupt if I make two visits a week and take soap or sweets from Syria. Suddenly I started to wonder if liquorice and syrup waffles are really typical Dutch products. Or are they only chosen because they are cheap.
Now that I have been in the Netherlands for four years, I feel so Dutch that I also take a big drop of 1 euro with me when I visit. Well, you’re not the only one who’s smart.
In Arab culture, the family is only ideal after the birth of a male child.
Most people in the Netherlands want a female child. And if they have two children, they want a son and a daughter. That is the ideal family and they call it a royal wish. In Arab culture, the family is only ideal after the birth of a male child. A Dutch acquaintance of mine has three boys. “Wouldn’t you rather have a daughter, rather than your last, failed son?” I asked. We laughed together. His last child is my best friend Gijs. “I am happy with my children,” he said, and the most important thing is that they are healthy.”
The birth of a man is an important event in the lives of most Arab families. Especially for the father who regards it as an event that is worth celebrating. It can even be celebrated months before birth if the gender is revealed.
In the past, some women refused to say gender because they were reluctant to criticize if it was a girl. Now it is no longer that old-fashioned, but a woman gets a lot of compliments when she does give birth to a boy.
The boy is a guarantee for his parents. They consider him a project that needs more attention and a good education, because the girl leaves when she gets married. A father sees himself in his son and wishes that he achieves what he has not achieved in his youth.
The son becomes a loyal friend he can trust. Even if his health becomes poor. Then the son becomes the extension of his father and the patron of the house. He bears his name and will take care of the family, even if the father dies.
There are no such guarantees in the Netherlands. Not if you have a daughter, not if you have a son. Children learn to live their own life apart from their parents. So now I am free of preferences. A boy, a girl, a rabbit, it doesn’t matter. As long as they are healthy.