0660-Anwar’s columns

Within a minute, it was clear: a minority is never insignificant

All who are in the Netherlands are treated equally in equal cases. This is how the first article in the Dutch Constitution begins. People are the basis. At the start of a lecture at HAN about working in a different culture, a teacher asked: ‘Is there anyone who doesn’t understand Dutch?’ One boy raised his hand. “Okay, welcome everbody,” continued the teacher. It was then taught entirely in English. This had already reached the goal of the lesson for me. Take one person in the room who doesn’t speak Dutch into account, wow. That is dealing respectfully with other cultures.
As a Kurd in Syria, you belong to a minority. At home, my parents consciously spoke only Arabic to us. My parents thought that behaving and speaking like the rest of the country would help us. Kurds have a special status in Syria. Some of them have received Syrian nationality because families have lived in Syria for generations. That goes for my family. Then you have Kurds who later came to Syria when there was war between the Turks and Kurds. That group has no Syrian nationality. They are not allowed to work or go to university.
I did not know that group until I started working for aid organization UNHCR during the war. I arrived in a village with unregistered Kurds with trucks full of food, tents and clothes. “We’re going back, Anwar, these people have no papers. We shouldn’t give them anything, “said a colleague. I couldn’t go back. I know what it feels like to belong to a minority group.” We help people, not papers, “I told him. I distributed everything. A minority is never insignificant. My HAN teacher made that clear within one minute.

The heroes of this crisis are those who continue to think wisely,

I walked down the street and had to sneeze. I didn’t dare and tried to stop it. I was afraid people would think I have corona. Somewhere this week there was suddenly a tilt in the whole situation and also in the behavior of people. All toilet paper in the supermarkets ran out. As if we are dealing with a diarrhea virus and not with corona. It is clear that talking about protecting our society is much easier than really taking it into account in our behavior. We became selfish and nearsighted this week. Buying all available disinfectants for yourself is of no use if it means that other people cannot disinfect. The cleanliness of others is a precondition for protecting yourself against the virus. If everyone can get clean, it will help stop the spread.
Buying all the food for your own family is of no use if the nurse, policeman and teacher who try to help you have nothing. If you have an accident or need help in the hospital, those are the people who need to help you. After all this hysterical behavior of everyone, I wanted to take shelter somewhere where I can think. A friend asked me to go to the beach to get some fresh air. “It helps very well,” she said. I went to the beach near Leiden. The amount of wind caused my head to clear. Empty of all stress and negative thoughts. But the wind has a phrase engraved in my head that I don’t forget. They are the heroes of the corona crisis in the Netherlands. Teachers, nurses and anyone who does think sensibly during this crisis.

“The Arnhem municipal secretary turned out to be my buddy”

I am linked to a person from the municipality of Arnhem to support me in making choices. Arnhem wants to help highly educated newcomers on their way. Arnhem’s municipal secretary turned out to be my buddy. He walked over enthusiastically and shook my hand. I started to stammer, I couldn’t remember what to say. Your Highness? His function sounded very important to me. “Just say Rob,” he said. “Shall we take a tour first?” If I’m nervous, I say yes to everything. ,,Yes sir. Um, I mean, yes, Rob.
“We started at the mayor’s room. A historic room with a few chairs and a table. It was not the most beautiful and largest space in the municipality. The meeting room was also an old room with a large table and chairs. The board works in the old part and residents are received in the new beautiful rooms.
I thought of the Aleppo congregation that I sometimes had to go to before the war started. The important officials are at a distance from all people. The whole building is made of marble, they are at the very top. The mayor receives officials in an important room, who give him gifts there. My country of Syria has yet to learn that the congregation is there for the residents, and should not receive gifts behind an expensive desk.
When I went back for my second appointment with the town clerk, I reported to the desk. Sometimes I walk my head in the Syrian clouds and forget about the system here. “Hi, I’m here for Rob.” I expected everyone to jump into the pose to take me to that important man everyone knows of course. The woman looked at me and said: Rob who?

Oh yeah. We are in the Netherlands.

“Shall we go to the supermarket and stock up on food?”
“I feel a little depressed, Anwar, you only hear misery in the news. Deaths, war and diseases, ” said a friend. I feel that too. Now that the coronavirus has arrived in the Netherlands, we panic. “One customer emptied the shelf,” said a friend who works at a supermarket. I also work at a supermarket. I wouldn’t let a customer go out with a shopping cart full of disinfectants.
When the war in Aleppo started, bread and baby powder milk were no longer available in a few days. They were there, but were no longer sold. Crisis dealers are smart. They are waiting for the problem, which was our war, to get worse. After the first deaths, it appears that bread and baby powder milk are still for sale. But only at huge prices, of course. Only the richest people could afford the milk and bread.
I now see that movement in the Netherlands. Hand gel that I have for 80 cents of the Action now costs tens of euros at Bol.com. Here too, in the sensible Netherlands, you have crisis dealers.
“Shall we go to the supermarket and stock up on food?” Asked my housemate. Like me, he’s used to the food crisis in Syria. However, we did not go. We don’t want to be like that woman who bought all the hand gel for herself. We have to do it together. If one person has all the hand gel in the house and the others have no hand gel, the virus will spread. People have to keep thinking a bit in a crisis. My hands have become thinner twice now due to the frequent washing. We don’t have face masks. My roommate and I are going to put underpants on our heads in the worst case. “It is a nice one, isn’t it,” I said. “Otherwise, we will have a new disease because of this solution.”

Strength everyone, and hold on.

0633-Anwar’s columns

A bread costs 1,000 Syrian pounds (SYP) in Syria, and a piece of paper is worth just as little.
Syria is facing a new war. An economic war caused by blockades and sanctions. The bloody and devastating conflict that is going on in Syria is also continuing. The value of the Syrian pound can no longer be measured, says my mother in Aleppo. You can hardly buy anything with a low income. The food is extremely expensive. A loaf of bread costs 1,000 pounds (€ 1.78 / £ 1.51). Smaller amounts no longer even exist in coins and paper money. Coins of one pound have not been in circulation for a long time, because you can’t buy anything for it.

The Syrian government therefore started a campaign. “Our pound is our pride.” If people happen to have one pound in their house, they can exchange it for a good amount of food. My mother had just saved one. Just like people in the Netherlands might still have a guilder somewhere. , “I was able to buy a whole kilo of rice from it!” She laughed on the phone. (A kilo of rice costs a few thousand pounds in Syria). The Syrian regime now works with the value of dollars. two sizes, because companies are not allowed An artistic production company recently had to close its doors because it did not work with pounds but with the dollar After the closure they were fined: 350,000 …. dollars!

My mother rebounded for a moment when the rule became known that Syrians from abroad (like me) can buy their military service for $ 6,000. “You can come back. You pay the amount and you don’t have to go into the army!” Every barrier that you pass in Syria has its own rules. “Are you better than me that you don’t have to go into the army?” an armed soldier will say. “Yallah, go to the army with you!” worth as little as the pound.

I live in street X, opposite that huge waste dump

In Arnheim we have been struggling with waste for some time. We have a new system where we have to put our waste in an underground container. For my house it has turned out slightly differently, because the underground container is always empty, but above the ground it is completely full. We can open that container for free with a pass until the summer, so I don’t really understand the problem. Since the containers were locked and you could only open them with a pass, I always have a pile of waste for my home. This has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is the mess and stink for my house. The advantage is that I can now easily provide my address. “In street X opposite the huge waste hump.”
When I woke up this week, I saw a woman busy emptying her shopping cart. It was full of paint, broken laminate and full garbage stores. I got angry. I made a video of her and walked outside. “Mrs. good morning, that is really not possible. It stands in front of my house and it is forbidden. Please clean it up, it is still free of charge. ” She walked on as if nobody was talking to her. I picked up my phone to report. I arrived at an environmental department of the Province of Gelderland and got caught in the automatic menu. I went to see the woman again. She was there again, because she came with a new pile of waste. “Madam, I’m going to call the police.” She said: “I don’t have a car to take this to the waste station. And I don’t have any money either. And also no pass’.
I was silent for a moment. Putting waste in the container is free until the summer, but I already said that a few times. And applying for a pass doesn’t seem so difficult to me either. She walked away, she wouldn’t listen. This goes in the summer when there is to be paid does not get better. Then give up, I request a definitive change of address. Street X, opposite that huge waste hump.

When I go here to a lady with bare hands, I often hear that she has a husband.

“What cute fingers you have, I hope you will have a ring around your beautiful fingers later,” my mother said when I was a kid. The wedding ring is a common tradition in all societies, and is considered a symbol of perfection. With a wedding ring on your finger, your life is done. Except in the Netherlands, apparently. The Dutch do not marry immediately, or never, or they do not wear their wedding ring. Wearing a wedding ring is experienced differently by people. The one sees it as a sacred covenant in his married life, the other as a limitation that prevents him from enjoying life.

For an Arab woman, a wedding ring means a lot. The ring is a solution for her life, she shows that she has her own life and does not live with her father and mother. Taking off the ring means betraying your husband or wife.

In the Netherlands, wearing that ring, even if you are married, is not important. That is quite difficult for men like me from a different culture. Because not wearing a ring in most countries means that a woman is single. But when I go here to see a lady with bare hands, I often hear that she has a husband or relationship. Even on dating apps like Tinder I find a lot of people with a relationship. What should I do with you? Are you going to guess who’s single? Decorate everyone in the hope that the married women will not forget to tell me that they are married? There is an age-old simple solution for this complex problem. A ring. Super handy, occupied people are not bothered and singles can decorate each other.

I know you don’t like wearing a ring, so will we do it one day otherwise? The national ‘I am busy day’, where all occupied people wear a ring. Let’s say February 1. Every year. Then we know bachelors in one fell swoop where we stand.

If I want to make my mother proud, I might as well request a benefit again.

I think getting up early is terrible since I was little. I always cried when I had to get out of bed. My father works as an electrician at the municipality of Aleppo. He always has to get up at 6 am, because all employees are picked up with a municipal bus. My mother always used my father as an example: “You have to study, you don’t have to get up early, like your father.” In Syria, the boss may sleep late, because yes, he is the boss. picked up by a driver Workers are picked up early, because before that bus has passed all employees in the city, you are an hour and a half further.

I succeeded in studying, I became a lawyer. I could only enjoy it for six months, then I had to flee the war. In the Netherlands, early risers already started in the asylum seekers’ center. We had to stand in line at 7 am, otherwise you would not have breakfast. I soon found out that people in the Netherlands love getting up early. The roads are not full at 6 am with poor people being picked up by an employer, but by people who do have a good job. I am now quite advanced in my higher professional education product design course, with an internship at an architectural firm. The boss is always the first person at work here. At the Aldi I am branch manager one day a week. Just because I am the boss, I have to be the first. Well, the higher up I go in the Netherlands, the fewer morning hours I can lie in my bed. The only people who can sleep late are the people who have no work. If I want to make my mother proud, I might as well request a benefit again. Then I can call her at ten o’clock in the morning, from my bed.

0627-Anwar’s columns


In Syria we are used to scorpions, but dogs are a different story.

I was having lunch with a few acquaintances. One of them asked: ,, Anwar, when my mother encounters refugees from her street while she walks the dog, they cross the street. Why do they react so exaggeratedly to my mother’s dog? “It was clearly an annoyance for him and his mother.” Why doesn’t she ask them? “I asked. “Well, she has no contact with them,” said the acquaintance.
I left my sandwich and sat ready for the explanation. “I don’t know what their reason is, but in general dogs in Syria are only there to watch. Our last years in Syria were bad. The people who were killed by snipers in the morning were eaten by aggressive dogs at night. So in the morning we heard fights and bombs, in the evening we heard dogs eating up the corpses.” It was quiet in the room. “Really!?” the knowledge asked.
“Yes, but faith also plays a role. When we were little, we learned from our parents that we are not allowed to pet dogs. Watchdogs and dogs with a herd of sheep are good, but otherwise you are never allowed to pet one. Every pat would mean a reduction in the number of good deeds in your life.”

“It takes a long time before we can replace our old image of dogs. In Syria we have many scorpions, we are used to that. Suppose Syrian family went for a walk with a scorpion. I think your mother is flying over the street in fear.”
He started to laugh. “Greetings to your dear mother and I hope she will chat with them next time. Then they may not be afraid of the dog, and your mother will not be afraid of her new neighbors.”

The Dutch don’t want a man who lets you win at a game.

Presenting and debating is important in the Netherlands. It is part of the training on every course in the Netherlands. If you don’t speak the language well, this is an awkward moment. You are struggling in front of the class and it seems that everyone is trying to hold back their laughter. Debating is easier for me than presenting, because I can use my mouth well. And I always have an opinion. My roommate Ahmed came home from school and had a different experience with it. “We have had debate lessons. We got a subject and we have to sit in pairs in the next lesson and defend a position.”
He looked hard. His problem: he has to debate with a pretty girl. “Oeiii,” I said immediately. “Difficult.” Arabs among themselves understand the problem. We don’t say no to a beauty. Ahmed lost the debate beforehand, because winning means no more chances for the girl. “You have to act like Jack from “Titanic””, I said. “Help Rose and let yourself be drowned.”

We imagined how he already won in her proposal round, so that there was time left to talk and exchange songs. “If she says that all refugees must leave the country, I agree with her,” said Ahmed. “If necessary, I will set up an action with the PVV before her eyes so that she can achieve that goal.” We laughed. I said: “Ahmed, the Dutch unfortunately don’t like this. They want an attractive man, not one who lets you win at a game.” Here it would be sexist to let her win. “She just chose you because you don’t speak the language well,” I said. That comment had an effect. Ahmed has been preparing the debate for hours in his room. Sparks are now coming from his eyes. He is going to win this.

Almost everyone has a Mercedes, and they only start driving when the music is loud.

In the first few weeks in the Netherlands I often went outside. Take a breath of fresh air, away from the asylum seekers center. I saw few blond people on the street. The men on the street looked alike because of the same hairstyle, golden glasses, thick cars and expensive clothes. I thought: well, the newcomers are doing well in this country. Then I’ll be fine too. Now I live in Arnhem Presikhaaf, where the majority of these described people also live. Almost every house you see a Volkswagen Golf or a Mercedes. The owner of the car is wearing pajamas, expensive sneakers and a small slanting bag around his shoulder. They only start driving when the music is loud.

I asked the neighbor: “Is that your car?” I pointed to his Golf. “Yes, brother,” he said. “And you also have your own house?” I asked him. ,,No brother, it’s a rented house. Look brother, I swear Allah, there is not a single girl that you are going to ask: is it your house? They do ask: is it your car? ” “So you don’t want to buy a house?” I asked. ,,What is this brother, buying a house is very expensive in the Netherlands. Are you crazy or so brother? From that money I can buy four houses in the country where I come from.”
I thought about his priorities and didn’t know what to think about it. I suddenly needed to go to the real Netherlands, so I got on the bus to the city. I saw a fellow countryman of mine, I know him from the asylum seekers’ center. “Hey, Anwar!” He greeted me. I looked surprised at what he looked like. Completely adapted to our neighborhood, because he was suddenly in pajamas, with a chain around, a short haircut and a slanting bag around his shoulder. I said, “Brother, stay away from me, otherwise I will destroy you, I swear Allah.” He laughed and understood that I was referring to his new appearance. He said: “Well, what a beautiful style, right?”
I still hope to find a house in a more Dutch neighborhood. If it doesn’t work out, I will also buy pajamas.

She asked: “Then why didn’t you have earplugs in?”

I have to make a prototype for every design I make during my Industrial Product Design study. I designed a lamp for which I cycled to the HAN workshop. I brought my technical drawings. And before I went to the workplace, I put on my work clothes, safety goggles and a mask. No idea why all of them, but I was tired, did not want to whine, so I packed myself in completely. I looked like a surgeon who was going to do surgery. While sawing a very small piece of wood, an employee came to me. “Hey Anwar stop sawing.” I was already turning my eyes, what the hell? I had to put earplugs in from the inspector.
“It’s just a very small piece of wood,” I said. “Let me go.” The woman did not settle for my answer. “If you don’t put earplugs in your head, your ears will bother you tonight.” I thanked her for her attention. ,,But honestly, I am old enough to know what is good for me. I had a ring in my ears every night. Not from a small saw, but from war bombs. Do you think the romantic sound of a saw is bothering me?”

She returned to her own place and said nothing more. After half an hour she came to me. ,,Was the sound really that bad? Because the worst sound I’ve heard is a cracking bicycle tire”, she said. We laughed together. “You can’t describe how bad it was,” I said. ,,You are very lucky if the bomb does not hit you and you are still alive, but you do not hear anything for minutes. Only a beep as if it were the end of your life.” Her face was imprinted. “Then why didn’t you have earplugs in?” She asked. I noticed that I was dealing with a persistent health and safety officer. She even sees opportunities for her work in a war situation. Oh well, the girl was actually quite young too. “Fortunately I’m here now,” I said quickly. “Now I’m going back to work, otherwise I won’t finish my prototype on time.” The noise from the sawing machine filled the room.

“Are you graduating about my life or something?”

Choosing a study in the Netherlands says relatively little. In many cases, a student stops again after one or two years of study. “It doesn’t suit me,” they say. Last year I met someone who wanted to interview me for a school assignment about refugees. He studied social work. A year later the same boy called me again. Whether he could interview me for a school assignment. “Can you interview me multiple times for your school assignment?” I asked. “Are you graduating about my life or something?” He laughed. ,, No, I’m doing a different education now. I didn’t like social work.” There are even people who have done more than three different courses, but nothing has been completed. The challenge was not there, or “not that interesting”. “Are you still doing Industrial Product Design?”, People ask me. “Do you still find it interesting?” I am almost urged to look a little further.

In Syria you are only allowed to change an education once in your life, and then nobody does. It doesn’t suit me either. If I want to do something else, I first finish what I was doing. We believe that a challenge is part of everything and that it is a waste of your time to change studies every time. In Syria, too, no one believes it when you say, “I didn’t find it that interesting anymore.” “You say that the grapes are not yet ripe for picking, but actually they are just too high for you. You cannot reach it.”

But in advance: because I cannot say no, I will continue to help students with school assignments on refugees, even if it is for a different study each year.

0621-Anwar’s columns

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.

0616-Anwar’s columns

“Malburgen is a knife with two sides”

If I walk around in a neighborhood that the Dutch think is a disadvantaged neighborhood, I feel at home. Malburgen, for example, a neighborhood in Arnhem that many would rather walk around. It is a neighborhood just like a knife. One with two sides. It seems as if the knife cuts in the middle of the neighborhood. On the east side are the houses for sale and the working people, on the other side there are many unemployed immigrants. Nuisance, poverty, drug use and crime form the picture from that side.

I met a lady who has been living there for nineteen years and can barely speak Dutch. Only a few Dutch families live in her area. It is also strange that families with children live in a flat, while single people without children live in a house with a garden.
I recognize the negative side of the knife from my own childhood. I lived in a poor area of ​​the Syrian city of Aleppo. We lived in an apartment building without a garden. All workers packed together in a neighborhood. Because we all had a low income, we supported each other.
A teacher in the neighborhood taught the poor children in the neighborhood, a carpenter made the broken door of his neighbor for free. We were hospitable and looked after each other.
The children who grew up in my time, almost all went to college later. I also see these possibilities in the youth of Malburgen. The people in the Arnhem district are also hospitable, look at each other and take care of the youth in the neighborhood together.
The comment of the old woman who barely spoke Dutch was significant. “I don’t want to move. I will stay here until I die.”

People keep all receipts as if they have to prove to their partner where the money is going

When a Dutchman is shopping, he always asks for the receipt at the checkout. Viewing and checking the receipt is not the end of the buying process. People keep all receipts as if they have to prove to their partner where the money is going.
In the house of my Dutch mother Gerda is a room that is theoretically an office, but in practice a sort of warehouse. Years of old papers and receipts are mixed up. It is chaos. Every time I offer to clean and tidy her room, she says: “No, my husband Erik knows exactly where everything is.”

A while ago I registered with the Chamber of Commerce to start my own business under the title AnwarVerbindt. This way I can earn money in a decent way with the chores that I do or lectures that I give. That is instead of the Tony Chocolate lonely chocolate that I always get as a thank you, that has almost given me diabetes. I find it difficult to start such a warehouse. A room full of receipts with which I can prove to the tax authorities what I have issued or received. And then paying tax on work that you have done yourself, terrible!

I didn’t think it was fair. Erik, the man from Gerda, helped me with my declaration and gave me a different perspective on the case. “I’m happy if I have to pay a lot of taxes,” he said. “That means that I have earned a lot.” Good point. Moreover, no one can say to me anymore: we pay for you. No, it is not. I have been here four years now and have been paying tax for two years. Hopefully for people who need it more than me.

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.”

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.

0603-Anwar’s columns

“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.

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.

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.

0597-Anwar’s columns

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.

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.

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.

Foto ter illustratie.

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.

Tijdens de uitreiking deze week wilde de moeder van Anwar, die in Syrië woont, dat hij haar zou bellen als hij op het podium stond. Foto ter illustratie.

0587-Anwar’s columns

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.

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.

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!

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.

0567-Anwar’s columns

 

“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.

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.

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.

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.

 

0557-Anwar’s columns

 

“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.

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.”

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.

“Do you want a cucumber on your son’s face?” The pregnant woman says threateningly

Pregnancy is a normal period for a Dutch woman. She is working, she does the groceries, runs around with children, drives a car or is at the gym. Rarely do I see a helpful man in the neighborhood who supports her in carrying the child.
Syrian men fear the pregnant woman. Extra attention and pampering are needed for nine months. Every effort must be made to relieve the carrying woman. “I am so excited about mango” is a great comment in the summer. But pregnant Syrian women also dare to ask for ice, watermelon or almonds in the winter. “It’s your son asking for this, not me,” she will say. There are only seasonal products in Syria. There is no ice in the winter, or tropical fruit. Yet an expectant father will have to wander city after city in search of a shopkeeper with frozen fruit, vegetables or ice cream.

Why? Because Syrians believe that if the husband does not make it, a stain will appear on the child’s face in the form of the unfulfilled message. “Do you want a cucumber on your son’s face?” The pregnant woman says threateningly. People with spots on their face or body are asked throughout their lives: what did your father refuse to buy during pregnancy? Are pregnant women spoiled and do they think their unborn child needs an ice cream, a strawberry or pomegranate? Or has science really demonstrated that the sudden need for a certain product comes from the baby? Somehow the man feels that he is being fooled. But then he imagines his future child, with a spot on the forehead in the shape of a cucumber.

Just go to the store anyway.