0680 – 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.

 

0668 – 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.

0654 – Anwar’s columns

 

“Our marriage is based on a lie,” my mother always says.

“Hey, you still have the plastic around your fridge,” I told a Syrian friend I was visiting. “Yes, for my future wife,” he answered. I knew what he meant. He is still single, but if he ever gets married, he has to show his future wife new furniture. It is a thing from our culture. The man takes care of the house and the furnishings, the woman comes to inspect everything, even before the wedding. My parents still talk about that period of their lives on a daily basis. “Our marriage is based on a lie,” my mother always says.

When she visited my father’s house, before the wedding, there were beautiful furniture, kitchen appliances and a radio. She approved it. A few days after the wedding party, my mother’s family left for her native village. My mother started her new life with my father in Aleppo. The neighbors came to congratulate her. After the congratulation, they took a piece of furniture or other object in the house and left. My father, that smart guy, had borrowed the most beautiful things in the entire neighborhood to persuade my mother. As a poor man, he did not have much to offer himself. After the wedding, all those borrowed items were collected. My father is still laughing in his chair when he tells this. My mother harasses him that she should have known by then what kind of meat she had in the tub. “I should have left you, but I am so stupid that I stayed,” she always says with a smile.

If you want a Syrian woman, you better leave the plastic around the fridge. Then, even after ten years, it still looks as good as new.

A party full of drugs in this watertight country full of rules, how is that possible?

I had a party. One that you would think took place in Cuba. Between drug bosses, traders and other top criminals. In reality it was a student party in Arnhem. Upon arrival I could choose: pay 5 euros for an evening with drinks, or pay 15 euros for an evening with drinks and drugs. All kinds of drugs were displayed on the table. I received a complicated explanation. All kinds of powders that had a different name and effect. I was shocked. I already knew in Syria that the Netherlands is known as a drug country, but drugs at a student party? What a chaos.

The party looked like a scene from an action movie. Drugs on the table, half-naked women and lots of drinks. Every moment I was expecting the police who, with my Arabic accent, would take me away. I quickly looked into my phone. Was the invitation to the party still in my WhatsApp? With that I could at least prove that I was not the organizer of this spectacle. It just kept going through my mind. If even students have and use this stuff, then anyone in the Netherlands can easily get it. In this watertight country full of rules. How is that possible? Is the government turning a blind eye?

I think freedom in the Netherlands is beautiful, but does it also mean that people are allowed to know for themselves whether they are breaking? Is it good to wait for people to report homeless and addicted to the municipality for benefits? As a government I would promote freedom, but above that: safety and health. Simply because is involved.

Our integration system only works for the language schools: they get rich asleep.

Happy! From 2021, newcomers will no longer be in control of their integration. The municipalities are taking over. It is high time, because the integration of many refugees runs into the hundred. Everyone with a residence status now receives a maximum of 10,000 euros from DUO, and must complete a language course within three years. Is that not possible? Then you pay back the borrowed money. The latter is now the case. For many newcomers, the three years have passed, while there is no diploma. So they now have a debt.
The system only works for the commercial language schools: they get rich asleep. Furthermore, it works for nobody. The newcomers do not feel any guilt that is hanging over their heads. It’s not for nothing that there is a queue at the ATM every month, because Syrians want to have their money in their hands. It must be tangible, otherwise it is not there. A debt that only exists on paper, or that can only be viewed through a complicated system with a DigiD login code, is not a debt for many people. It is not tangible.
Of course, newcomers would also have to complete their studies on time without that imminent debt. Appointment is really an appointment here. We newcomers have to get used to it and make mistakes.
A Syrian friend went to visit relatives in Austria. He had not seen them for years. Despite this, the Austrian Syrians simply left for school in the morning and left their Dutch guests home alone. That’s where the deal is: every school day that has been missed is a 40 euro deduction from your allowance. See, that is tangible. That works! I hope that municipalities will think about that when they are in control. Comprehensible and tangible agreements.

Anwar meets the animal ambulance: “Two large men with special clothes”

I step out the door, on my way to the supermarket in Arnheim Presikhaaf. On the sidewalk my neighbor is sitting on her knees. I walk over to her to ask what is going on. Then I see what she’s doing, she’s bent over with a cat. She talks to the animal. With a pathetic voice, as if she has a lot of compassion. The cat has wounds on its body, I see now. It is such a sad face, the woman and the injured cat, I would almost shed a tear. My neighbor picks up her phone and calls someone. She says what’s going on and gives us our address. Then she walks the cat to her house.

I went on to the supermarket to do my shopping. When I returned there was a big car in front of her house. “Animal ambulance” stood on the side. Two large men with special clothes got into the car, with the cat and a large bag in which they transported the poor beast.

I was reminded of my friend Basel when he was sick. We had to pass on all his details, look for a pass and come up with a pathetic story to convince the GP that he was really ill and needed help. We were hours later when a doctor finally looked at him. Looking at the sick cat, who was picked up within the time of a supermarket visit at home, I thought I would take a different approach next time. The Dutch believe in the theory of evolution. Humans and monkeys are almost equal and descend from each other. The next time I have a sick friend, I call the animal ambulance. ,, I have a very smart monkey here, who doesn’t feel well. Can you come quickly? “

0639 – Anwar’s columns

 

I am starting to look like you and become a real frugal Dutchman

In the Netherlands, the Prime Minister goes to work by bicycle. I know that image. Slowly I got used to the sober Dutch culture. Dutch people who are powerful do not have to show that with things. What they say or do is important here, not the size of their house, palace or car. I was hardly surprised when I recently saw the mayor of Arnheim shopping in my supermarket in Arnheim Presikhaaf. I thought it was a beautiful sight.

Now that I, as a newcomer, think I know the country and its habits, I suddenly see events that surprise me. I was invited on a public holiday for all volunteers from Refugee Intermidiate Workers. The party was at the Burgers ’Zoo in Arnheim. Half the zoo was rented and we were allowed to eat and drink as much as we wanted. Free. I didn’t understand anything. There is never any money at Refugee Intermidiate Workers? That’s why volunteers don’t get paid? Then why suddenly such a huge party that costs so much money? And what should we do at the zoo?

I had experienced it before. As a volunteer at the Eusebius Church in Arnheim we worked for three days on the preparation of an event of the municipality of Arnhem. A truck brought chairs, posters and special websites were designed, all for one afternoon. The municipality had something to present and wanted to do it at a special location. But the town hall is next to the church, the halls are beautiful there and the coffee is free from the machine. A good idea does not suddenly improve if it is presented at an expensive location. I am starting to look more and more like you. I am becoming a real economical Dutchman.

A goal in mind

I wanted to become an architect from an early age. I didn’t have enough points on my final exam in Syria to be able to study architecture, so I studied law. Once in the Netherlands I was advised not to study architecture here either, because there is not enough work to do. Well, everyone who reads my columns more often knows that I shall die because I am not able to find work as a lawyer, so I chose a different study program: Industrial Product Design at HAN. Some students in my study are allowed to do an internship with interior architect and product designer Kees Marcelis. Oh, I am a fan of his work. Sometimes, if I have no inspiration, I swipe through his designs for a while. At HAN it is a reason to walk with your nose in the air, if you can do an internship at Marcelis. I sent him a message on Facebook, to compliment him on his work and to ask if I could come and talk. “The Dutch never do that,” he told me later when I came to see him. ,,That is why you are very welcome. Nice that you just ask directly.”

His house, near the central station in Arnhem, was a work of art in every corner. He designed everything himself, from the stove to the lamp, to the walls and tables. I think that is great to do. And best of all: he said that as interns he prefers people from our education, because we are technically focused but we can also think creatively. I went to him uncertainly and without much hope for the future and went home as a proud IPO student. I have seen what I want to achieve and I feel it will work.

How can the people here not go to paradise?

Muslims go to heaven. Non-Muslims do not go to paradise. I always learned it that way. I thought that was fine, because I didn’t know any non-believing people in Syria. It was easy to believe that “the rest” would not go to paradise with us. The war in Syria changed the plan for my life. No longer do I spend my days between Muslims alone, because I came to the Netherlands. Here I live among “the rest”. Here I meet lovely people who take care of me, invite me into their house, cook for me, help me start up in the Netherlands and I even met a couple who took me home. All non-Muslims. Do they then earn nothing through these good deeds?

My Syrian friends in the Netherlands struggle with the same thoughts. How can the people here not go to paradise? They can’t help it that they were born here? That they don’t know Allah and can’t read an Arabic language?

When we pray, we all ask that question. We do not want to question the doctrine as we know it, but we feel so much sadness when we think of all the lovely people who do not go to heaven with us. “Together out, home together,” we joke. A Dutch friend said to me: if you look at it that way, it will be much nicer in hell, right? I thought of my friend Gijs, who makes me smile every day. When he comes to hell, it is indeed very pleasant there.

I’d rather go to heaven together with everyone. Our God is known as the great forgiver. I hope he is so forgiving that he turns a blind eye to the Dutch.

0628 – Anwar’s columns

 

Reducing CO2 emissions is useless if developing countries burn our mountains of plastic

The Dutch are very good at processing waste. A solution is found for almost everything. And if not, we will send our remnants to developing countries. When I was a student in Aleppo, I was happy with that. I often bought cheap second-hand clothing from Europe. Then you had something affordable and something special. Well organized, I thought. I now know better. Clothing surpluses, cars and computers are given to poor countries of Europe as a gift. While Europe also knows that second-hand items do not end up safely and sustainably.

We abhor CO2 emissions in the Netherlands, so we bring computers that we cannot recycle to Ghana. There they throw everything on a mountain and light it. Children then look for copper among the remains. That again yields something: especially health and environmental damage. I know it from Syria. There too, there is a large mountain of waste in every neighborhood where children in particular roam. Other countries donate our remains: it seems generous and sustainable, but it is not. Reducing CO2 emissions in Europe makes no sense if we allow people in developing countries to burn our mountains of plastic. If such a “gift” is already given to a developing country, I think we should also provide the knowledge and technology. If you do not give me the waste to Ghana, if my residence permit has expired, I will be happy to help. At a factory, for example, where Ghanaians recycle computers in a safe way. Europe is smart, so let’s act that way.

Shall we just throw each other here in the gray tin when we die?

If more than forty Muslims come to your funeral to pray for you, then you were a good person, the prophet Muhammad said. Syrians actually work their entire lives on a funeral network. You visit weddings and funerals, so that the families visited also come from your own family at special times. That is why there will be no forty, but a thousand people. The link between you and the person you visit is sometimes very thin. ,, When my grandfather’s brother died, they were there too. So now we go to the farewell service in that family, “my father would say. Often the head of the family keeps a booklet with the amounts given. If you give a wedding for one of your children yourself, you know how much money you can expect in return. You look in your booklet and see exactly how much you have given to which families, so how much you can expect at your son’s wedding. A kind of savings system.

When my Syrian friends and I talk about this subject, we find it sad for our parents that they have now built a network for free. And for ourselves, that there are not a thousand people around our grave in the Netherlands. “Shall we just throw each other here in the gray click when we die?” My roommate suggested. We have seen our entire life and learned how it “should” be. If I introduce myself now in a wedding room with only a handful of people, I get the shivers. I think I’ll just ask the Arnhem municipal administration. Then I will visit all the funerals and weddings in the city soon. Who knows, I may not need a gray click later on.

Arnhemmer Anwar Manlasadoon on 4 in The Colorful Top 100

Anwar Manlasadoon, columnist of the Gelderlander, is number four in the Colorful Top 100. The ranking is an annual ranking of Dutch people who contribute to a more inclusive society with their work, personality and vision. The Syrian Anwar started his column “Anwar citizens in” with the Gelderlander three years ago, when he was still living in a refugee center in Arnhem. He is now studying at the Arnhem and Nijmegen University of Applied Sciences and keeps Gelders readers informed about his integration. ,, Anwar thunders with special perspectives over the prejudices of a skeptical society because he is new here. He shares his passionate view of society in his columns, which are really worth reading, ”writes the jury. ,, Anwar is in this Top 100, with him the average acidity of columnists has fallen. And his fresh look is a lot more pleasant to read.” Anwar calls the quotation “the proof that we are stronger together”: “I am happy with the Gelderlander, because together we make this column. It is important to remember that I am not the only one doing its best in the Netherlands, there are thousands. Together with Dutch people, we can make something beautiful out of it.”

The number one in the ranking will be announced on 28 February.

“Special education” sounds pretty nice, but Google makes it a “school for sick children”

“How can I make sure parents don’t get angry if I say their child can’t learn well?” A teacher asked me. He teaches in a link class, where children from a different culture temporarily bridge until they can go to a Dutch school. He sends some pupils to special education, because they are intellectually limited. ,, Parents are angry at school and are also angry with their children. They think they should do their best better.”
Well, that sense of honor remains important for many parents. In addition, the Dutch are direct. You will be told if you are not well or if you have to study “lower”. That is offensive in many cultures, people speak differently there. For example: ,, Your son’s talents are best shown at the carpenter training. He is very talented when it comes to precision chores and woodworking. ”What the student is not good at is not mentioned. Parents proudly go home: boy, their child is such a gifted woodworker. “Special education” also sounds pretty good in Dutch. Still, Google Translate makes a mess of it. A Syrian acquaintance received a statement stating that his son must go to special education. The man made the statement through Google Translate, and read in the literal Arabic translation that his child is sick and therefore has to go to a school for sick children. Painful. I understand that Dutch people like clarity, but it also seems much nicer for Dutch children to just hear what they are good at.

Public buildings

If you see a beautiful building in the Netherlands, you can enter it very often. In fact, it might even have been built especially for you. I often study in the Arnhem library. It looks very nice from the outside and inside. Long wooden stairs, a slide from the third to the second floor and everywhere there is art. Parents are reading while their children play or read booklets. Homeless people have a warm place there and rest in the armchairs and students prepare their exams. When I was still learning full-time Dutch, I was often in the library at the language café. Volunteers teach newcomers there. When I had already reached some level, I wanted to help newcomers myself.

I tried to explain to a boy from Eritrea what the word “bakery” means. He just didn’t know what the word for bread was in Dutch, so the boy and I became a kind of Buurman and Buurman duo. I tried to explain words in all sorts of ways, while I still don’t speak Dutch well. There is no such public building in Syria where everyone comes together. Very beautiful buildings are not for civilians, but for defense or a ministry. In the summer everybody comes together in the park, but that is not really a study place. Everyone is in during the winter, but studying with the constantly falling electricity is quite difficult there. The library is what the mosque and church in Syria are in the Netherlands. It is the destination and refuge for all inquisitive people. Only in a library not just answers are given, but you can discover them yourself.

My diploma is just like a bonus card

Most Dutch people I speak do work differently than what they were trained for. Because they could not find work with their diploma or because they encountered something else. It makes me restless. Because when I decided two years ago to study Industrial Product Design at the HAN in Arnhem, I thought I knew where I stood. “The point is that you will soon have a college degree,” my friend Gijs said. “You will be able to work with it anywhere. Because it shows that you can think broadly and are smart.” My education costs me a lot of money. My parents are not here and I myself came to the Netherlands empty-handed, so I borrowed my studies together. When I am finished, I will have to pay back 40,000 euros of study debt, apparently only to show that I am smart. My diploma is then a kind of bonus card. In the case of a vacancy where an unskilled person may need five years of work experience, I can keep my diploma. “Blieb,” and then I get a five-year discount. Because I have a college degree.

I think it’s a pity. I would prefer not to study a bonus card together, but just be sure that I will get work in what I have been trained for. I didn’t choose this course for nothing. During our studies we often have to make an analysis. As students, we find product analysis very boring. Then we start designing, which is really nice. Gijs said: ,, That is how you should see it with work. Your complete education is the analysis, the boring period. Then comes the design phase, when you start working. You can go to all kinds of places with your HBO diploma and then it will really be fun”! I hope so.

0596 – Anwar’s columns

 

The Dutch talk via the computer or via their telephone

I think I would enjoy it very well in a retirement home in the Netherlands. Men and women who are not digital, but only used to talking in real life. In Syria the world is not yet digital, so three years ago I arrived at the digital knowledge level of a 90-year-old Dutch man in the Netherlands. I have learned a lot over the past three years and in that sense I have been reasonably adapted. For example, I have an e-mail address, which I now regularly look into. That must be the case, otherwise people and organizations will get angry. I see benefits, but as far as I am concerned, digitization in the Netherlands has gone wrong. When I come to a teacher with a question, I get the answer: “Put your question on the mail.” “I do not understand that. We are already facing each other? And a teacher is there anyway to explain? When I joined a lawyer last week with a question about my residence permit, I received an answer: “I do not understand your question so well now so just put it on the mail.” “So it is even more difficult for me to express me understandably. Calling, that is apparently also old-fashioned for years. People I ask if I can call them, answer: “No.” “They only want to talk via the mail or app. Calling, they find that such a hassle. I understand better and better why people in the Netherlands are so quiet when they are on the bus for example. Talking to other people is rare. The Dutch talk via the computer or via their telephone, so live contact becomes increasingly difficult. I think I just register with a retirement home in the neighborhood. Then I write a note on my date of birth that I am mentally about sixty years old.

A teacher running past in bright yellow and purple sports clothes: “That is not possible!”

I walked around Arnhem with a group of friends when I suddenly saw a teacher running past us. He was wearing sports clothes with bright yellow and purple colors. It was also so tight that you could draw out his body shapes precisely. I burst out laughing and said to my friends: “Then watch our teacher. That is not possible! “My classmates understood little of it. ,,How so ? He is just a human being. One who wants to run for a minute. “I thought it was a nice reaction. Indeed, a teacher is simply a function. And that function apparently leaves a teacher in the Netherlands behind at school, only to be himself again. Like the teacher I met at a party in the city. She danced in glitter clothes and with a drink in her hand. She felt very comfortable, I no longer at the sight of her. A teacher in the neighborhood still feels like control, as if I have to keep me tidy. A teacher has a great deal of prestige in Syria. That includes respectable behavior, everywhere. As inspiration for the students and symbol of the university. You can still love dancing or running, but that can not be combined with a position as a teacher. In the Netherlands, the identity of a teacher and a private individual is so strictly separated that you can sometimes see it literally. I was in the parking lot of the HAN when I saw a tough motorcyclist arrive. I watched curiously which rugged student would appear under the helmet. “Hi Anwar,” said my mechanic teacher when the helmet went off. I was shocked. He put down his motorbike, took off his suit and walked in as a neat teacher.

‘I would like to start again in the Netherlands, without flags’

In the Netherlands a flag is a beautiful symbol. The tricolor is used when it is party, when we ask for respect or when we are proud. I do not like flags anymore since the war in Syria. Syria has three. One that belongs to President Assad, one for the Kurds and one for the rebels. The ‘Assadvlag’ is actually just the national Syrian flag, but because he has long been the boss in the country, it is now associated with him. I shared a reminder on Facebook from my first year at the university in Aleppo. You see me with a few friends, smiling at the camera. Behind us you can see the national flag of Syria. The rumor stream starts immediately after such a photo. “See, he belongs to Assad!” I had not thought about it for a moment. Countrymen still know that this flag hangs everywhere in public Syrian buildings? Syrians in the Netherlands share each other in a box. We want to know from each other on which side we were when we were there. ,, Are you going to demonstrate against the war in Syria? ”, Acquaintances asked me. I asked only one question: “Is there a flag?” “Photos of them continue to roam. And then I sit there, in the ‘rebel’, ‘Kurd’, or ‘Assad-trailer’ box. We all have pain from the war. We blame each other for the loss of our loved ones. When I am photographed with an ‘Assadvlag’, it touches people who have lost a relative through the army of the president. If I start demonstrating with a rebel or Kurdish flag, it will hurt victims of rebels and Kurds. I would like to start again in the Netherlands, without flags, and with a joint pain that is simply called ‘war’.

Music without words is a language that everyone speaks

A large orchestra with a conductor who plays music from Beethoven, I only knew that from YouTube. I saw it for the first time live, when I attended a concert of Het Gelders Orkest last month. The conductor made it a spectacle. He hastened to the stage with flapping hair, as if he were too late for a lesson. He turned to the audience and made a quick bow. As if there was no time to waste, he set the orchestra to work, with wild gestures and hair that flew in all directions. The orchestra members did not watch the conductor. I’ve paid attention to their eyes. Later when I spoke to the musicians, I asked them: “Just be honest, you do not need that conductor anyway? Nobody looks at him! “The musicians laughed. ,, He is the boss of the orchestra. He determines the tempo and the music sounds the way he wants it, “they said. In Syria, music is more of a hobby than a job. If you want to follow a study, you do not have to rely on enthusiasm from your environment. If I were to say, “Daddy, I’m going to the conservatory,” he would answer, “What? Everyone can sing, Anwar, you can hear: lalala. You do not have to go to school there. “Although I do not want to neglect the singing skills of my father, I saw that the musicians of Het Gelders Orkest have learned a bit more about their education. And how nice that it was an evening with only music. No speeches. In Damascus we have ‘The Opera’, but it is often combined with a political meeting. Music without words. I love it because it is not politics. It is a language that everyone speaks.

Ugly Duckling

Around the turn of the year, people often look backwards and forwards. I do not do the latter. I am not a planner, I often do not even know what I will do the next day, let alone the coming year. Looking back gives me a great feeling this year, because I have reached many milestones. I passed the state exam at level B2 this year, I finished my HBO propaedeutic phase at one point, I found a job in a supermarket and I became the replacement branch manager within three months. It all says nothing about how I felt throughout the year, but it is still nice to take steps in my Dutch life. The strange thing is that those steps feel very uncertain. As if I were building my future on a piece of dough that wobbles in all directions. That dough is my residence permit. In two years I can apply for a Dutch nationality. My residence permit feels like the ugly duckling under your beautiful red passports. At school, in the train, at the bank or the municipality, wherever I have to take the pass, people raise their eyebrows. It has a different color. People who I show the tone face a difficult face, until they see: ‘Temporary residence permit’. That moment is always annoying. I’m afraid the other person reads and thinks: oh a refugee. So be careful. What does not help is that on Facebook messages circulate among Syrians with the news that we eventually have to leave the Netherlands. I can not figure out if they are real messages, but I get nervous about them. I am building something here, and I can only hope that I can keep my building.

0584 – Anwar’s columns

Dutch and congratulations? ‘I do not get it’

Get well soon! Happy Birthday! Happy New Year! Merry Christmas! The Netherlands has a standard wish for every event. Arabic has a lot of words. You always have to say something different. Especially if you wish someone something. Then it must be personal and poetic. When my mother is ill, I come up with a story. “A bird flies high from the sky, lands on your shoulders, sings a song for you, and wishes all bad things to stay far away from your heart.” This story has to rhyme and be thought up especially for her. You may not arrive with a standard verse.
If you wish someone a good New Year, the story must be focused on his or her life. You can not wish the same every year, because every year is different. You have to take into account the bond you have and quote examples of nice or emotional things that you have experienced together. With astonishment, I see on Facebook that sick Dutch people get typed a hundred times ‘get well’ in their timeline. The crazy thing is, the sick person also feels strengthened. “Thank you for your kind comments!”, You read. Just like olds, who after a hundred messages with only the text ‘congratulations’ feel ‘a huge anniversary of all your messages’. I do not understand it, but my Dutch friend Gijs came up with a logical explanation. “Anwar, you know how Dutch people are,” he said. ,, We love rules and structure. It’s nice to know what you have to say at what time. And it is also easy, with few words ready quickly! “Oh well, he’s right. And I do not know many Dutch words at all.

Happy holidays all!

Take shelter

When I see pictures of how Syria used to be before the war, I remember how beautiful green it was. In Aleppo there was a beautiful park with large trees. In spring and summer, people sat in the shade eating or playing cards, while their children rolled through the grass and played. Musicians played music and all kinds of food were sold. In the fall and winter people used the park to shelter from the rain. The leaves were so thick that the raindrops barely got through. Even in bad weather, the park was full of families and friends, who shared appointments and whole days with each other in nature. Everything has changed since the war. Parts of families have been killed or fled. The people who are left out do not dare to go outside anymore. The park is no longer safe. The large trees that once adorned the park were used to light the stoves in the houses. The trees that have not been burned are cut out as a precaution, to prevent sharp shooters in the middle of the city from hiding. When I walk through Sonsbeek in Arnhem, I see how strong and beautiful nature is. Then I keep hoping. Hope that plants do not care about war, snipers and safety. Hope that new trees will struggle through the debris and make new parks. Parks where families can eat in the shade and maps and where children can roll and play through the grass. Parks where the trees are so beautiful and so big that you can not only shelter from the rain, but also before the war.

Being smart does not pay off in politics.

I like to watch the NPO Politics channel. I learn words and try to discover what they say about ‘us’, the refugees. I still hope that legislation will be put in place that will allow me, for example, to bring my parents to the Netherlands. I also follow Syrian politics from here. The difference with the Netherlands is huge. I noticed during the debates in the Dutch House of Representatives that politicians in the Netherlands are smart. They have good arguments, think carefully and use difficult words. It works the other way around in Syria. People who are smart have little power. And you usually do not see them back in the government. The smartest among us are the doctors and the technicians. They are never the boss, because they are controlled by people who have studied something lager, such as business economics. The Syrian police officers and soldiers come a little lower. No studies, but people with more power and influence than the business economists, doctors and technicians together. Then we reach the very lowest step: the unskilled farmers. They have the most powerful power. The president has a famous statement: ‘The earth is for the farmer who works on it’. That is why 40 percent of the government consists of farmers. That is easy for President Bashar al-Assad. These unskilled workers can not read in most cases, do not ask critical questions and raise their hands in a vote at times when the president wants it. If you look at it like this, the president is the smartest.

0571 – Anwar’s columns

‘What does a resident of Aleppo have to look for on the Arnheim Korenmarkt?’

More than a week ago I surfaced in an article by the editorial staff of De Gelderlander about discrimination. I was refused at a pub at the Arnheim Korenmarkt because the porter on my identity card saw that I was born in Aleppo. People who responded to the article did not speak about the refusal based on my origin, or about the porter’s motives or about the owner’s reaction, which called me “an idiot” because I had filed a complaint.

I wanted to answer that I had received an invitation from someone who celebrated his birthday in that cafe. I had not been at the Korenmarkt for a year, I have a serious life and just wanted to go to a friend’s birthday. A little later I realized of course that I should not respond at all. The need to justify me remains. That I have to explain why I filed a report, why I was at the Korenmarkt and why I actually am here anyway. Sometimes it feels like my contribution in the Netherlands should only be positive. The reaction of the man also touched me because I am afraid that now there is the impression that I am walking around the Korenmarkt three times a week. While I chose the Netherlands because I have the freedom to say, think and do what I want. Only when I really dare say so: I am integrated!

I have not had to brush my shoes here yet.

Lego, who does not like that? The Dutch are not played with it. Building houses is just like playing with Lego. A house will be clicked together within two months. I am used to it that it takes a year for a building to stand. Layer by layer it is built up, there must be weeks to wait until the cement is well dry. They are solid, thick buildings in Syria. You will never hear an upstairs neighbor walk around, let alone a few tripping mice. Sounds good, from those sturdy houses. But it is also awkward. A renovation is almost impossible. A piece of cake in the Netherlands. If I drill a hole in the wall, I can already wave to the neighbors, so to speak. If there is a problem with the water supply in Syria, you will be in trouble for a long time. The street is closed for weeks and broken open, with heavy, large drills. Dust drops down all over the neighborhood, you can hardly see through the windows. Due to the thick layer of concrete in Aleppo, rainwater is difficult to drain. Sand comes from the desert, so soon there is mud everywhere. Brushing shoes is a daily activity in Syria, because people with decent shoes can see that they live in a luxury street or own a car. I cycled past a building in Arnheim that was demolished. There was a machine that sprayed with water. This ensured that the fabric did not roam around the whole neighborhood. Very nice Netherlands, and smart! Since I’ve been here, I have not had to brush my shoes.

Risks do not belong to life in the Netherlands.

I came to the Netherlands for safety. A good choice, because risks do not belong to life in the Netherlands. If a tile is loose in the street, a team sets off the street. Warning signs and lights show road users from far away: something is wrong here. People in protective suits and with helmets put everything right again. At my school, the HAN (Highschool Arnheim Nimwegen), they do not take safety light either. When I had to see a board last week, I first had to dress up as a clown. With large glasses, heavy shoes and a safety vest. Cutting can not be done independently, because I did not get a safety certificate. The Dutch language used in the exam was still too difficult for me. Logically, a Dutchman thinks. You can not work with devices without papers. With me in such a situation comes some Syrian impatience. I know how to deal with machines. I never throw away a defective device at home. I turn everything apart and puzzle until I know how to fix it. Saves money and it’s fun. At home I made my own workshop with a saw machine.

I do it at home, I think grumpy. I cycle home at the end of the afternoon and see, just like in the morning, construction workers build a gantry. Suddenly I see it differently. Yes, it is a hassle for the construction workers. Working all day on a safe working environment and not taking a step in the actual renovation. But that is actually beautiful. In the Netherlands, it’s all about people first, and then about the work.

0567 – Anwar’s columns

How much more beautiful is a bouquet with different flowers.

I come from the best country in the world. Syria. Writing, they did that in our country as first ever, just like making fire. We have so much oil, the rest of the world can only dream of that. And then our position in the world: so central that everyone has to go past or over us. What a happiness and a coincidence, that I just come from that very best country in the world. Until I came to the Netherlands, and here noticed that the Dutch also think that they come from the very best country in the world. And I saw with a distance that Syria might not be good at everything. Funny, that most people in the world learn from an early age that they ended up in a very special country. And you, as a child, are fortunate that you have just been born in that special culture. “Choose a woman with the same skin” is an expression in Syria. What we mean: look no further, but choose a Syrian woman. One with our skin. Many Dutch people also prefer someone ‘with the same skin’. In recent years I have learned how beautiful it is to look further. I did that myself, but I see Dutch people doing the same. When I make new Dutch friends, I hear afterwards: “I had such a different image of Muslims / refugees / Syrians.” The ideas we have about each other are quickly negative, while reality turns out to be much more beautiful. If we put a lot of the same flowers together in a vase, you get a bunch. But how much better it is when a florist puts all sorts of colors and types together. Then you do not have a bunch, but a beautiful bouquet.

The Netherlands and rules. Sometimes it seems they are alone to bother you.

My debit card does not work anymore. The magnetic strip is unreadable, said the pin device. It happened Saturday night, so I had a problem until Monday. I bought some food from my last cash euros. On Monday I went to ING to request a new pass. An employee showed me how I could do that via my phone. I had to enter my PIN code into my ING app and then could request a new card. ,,It takes four working days”, the woman said. “Then you will receive the card at home”. I asked if I could then withdraw 50 euros. ,,Can I see your ID for that?”, she said. I gave her my travel document. “No, this is not valid”, she said. ,,I need a passport, an identity card or your residence permit”. I have lost my residence permit. I have reported this to the police, it takes three months before I have a new one. “But ma’am, my travel document is of the same value”, I said. ,,It is an official document from the municipality of Arnhem. Moreover, you have just seen that I am really Anwar, because I have entered my PIN code and my bank account”. “It’s just the rules”, said the woman. ,,But what should I eat from?”, I asked. She said: ,, You can ask if you can transfer 50 euros to someone. Then withdraws the one for you”. ,,Oh yeah, I want that”, I said. “I’ll immediately transfer 50 euros to you.” The woman: “No, you have to ask your friends”. “But my friends are at Rabobank. Transferring takes one day”. The woman shook her head. ,,Unfortunately, I can not do anything for you.”

The Netherlands and rules. Sometimes it seems they are alone to bother you.

0557 – Anwar’s columns

Your mother has been operated, the neighbor wrote from the hospital in Aleppo.

My mother has breast cancer. At least that’s what I think. I suddenly received a message from my parents’ neighbor last week. She was in bed with my mother, in a hospital in Aleppo. “Your mother has undergone surgery,” she wrote. I had my mother on the phone almost every day that week, but she told me nothing about her operation. ,,You could have noticed”, said my mother. ,,I said in the last conversation several times that you had to take good care of your brother? I thought I was going to die during the operation”. My mother is being operated, she does not know when that will be, only that there was something very big in her chest that had to be removed immediately. Last summer it became known that the woman of the president in Syria, Asma al-Assad, has breast cancer. As she undergoes her treatments, she has given all women in Syria the opportunity to also test for breast cancer. My mother also went and was told that she had to be operated immediately the next day. “What have I done to get this life?”, m y mother said. “First the poverty, then the war, my one son far away and my other son in hiding for the army. And then I’m still seriously ill now”. It all hurts. That she is ill, that she loves her life so much and that I did not know anything about her illness. Although it is painful, I understand. In recent years there have been times when things did not go well for me. I did not tell her that either, because I did not want to worry her. If I ever get a daughter, I call her Suhaila, after my mother. I hope I can give that girl the life my mother wanted.

I myself am 28 years old, and am still on the platform.

Women in the Netherlands, sometimes I feel sorry for them. Parents teach their daughters that there are many liberties for them. They can work, study, cut their hair, everything they want. Personal development is the highest good. I spoke with a friend of almost 40 years. She has everything she wants. A car, a house and a good job. “Anwar, I got a lot of things,” she said. ,,But I am alone. I have no husband or children”.  There are many women like her. They have completely plunged into their personal development. If they are very far with it, they only look around. With whom will I share my life? Sometimes it is too late, because they can no longer have children. “The train has already left for you,” we say in Arabic.

Family first

In Syria you learn as a girl from an early age how you can take good care of your future family. You learn that it is important to start your own family. A Syrian woman will not look up suddenly at the age of 35 and realize that she is alone. Her life focuses first on creating a family. This is followed by personal development. It is an order that appeals to me because there is always time for personal development. That train is never gone. I myself am 28 years old, and am still on the platform. I hope, as often in my life, on the best of both worlds. A woman who develops personally but in the meantime looks up. Then we take the train together.