14 Apr

Chapter 10. The new beginning.

Earlier, I posted Chapter 1-9 of my new series of blogs, which will collectively form an online book. Below, I have attached Chapter 10. Chapter 11 is scheduled for publication in 2 weeks.

Chapter 10. The new beginning

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: Since this is primarily a fictional story, please do not take everything I write too seriously.

… “Thankfully, these circumstances in Almelo didn’t last long. Within three days, we were picked up by the IND, which stands for the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Netherlands. After being interviewed, we were brought to a new place, a small village somewhere in Flevoland. I don’t recall the name of this tiny village anymore. Many details from that time have faded, but I vividly remember the abundance of cows and sheep surrounding us. We were housed in a kind of Airbnb-like hostel accommodation. This place felt significantly better than our previous location in Almelo, and I was relieved that we were no longer there.

I fondly recall spending countless hours playing in a swimming pool during the warm weather. And you know, there is one particular incident that I will never forget. While staying at this place, we were living alongside other refugees. One day, some of these refugees were apprehended by the police. When I inquired about the situation from others, as I could communicate well in English, I learned that these refugees had mistakenly crossed what they thought was a main street, but it was actually a highway where cars were speeding by at up to 140 kilometers per hour. These refugees were unaware of such laws and regulations, as they were unfamiliar with the local customs.

It was quite amusing to witness the police officers explaining to them that they were never, under any circumstances, allowed to do something so dangerous again. Even now, looking back, I can’t help but chuckle at the memory of that incident.”

“It’s quite funny indeed,” said Elara with a hearty laugh.

I continued, “After spending a month in this small, remote village, which I must admit was quite luxurious, we received word that we had to relocate to the AZC in Bakkeveen. AZC stands, as you know, for “Asielzoekerscentrum” in Dutch, which translates to “Asylum Seekers’ Center” in English. It’s a facility where asylum seekers temporarily stay while their asylum applications are processed.

Bakkeveen was a tiny hamlet in the province of Friesland, far removed from the bustling cities. It was the third time I found myself residing in a makeshift hostel, surrounded by seemingly endless fields dotted with thousands upon thousands of cows and sheep.

In Bakkeveen, our lodging wasn’t fancy at all. We all squeezed into a small room barely bigger than 20 square meters. We only had enough space to sleep, and it was hard to move around. Yet, we embraced our circumstances with gratitude, cherishing the privilege of being together without the intrusion of strangers. Most significantly, we relished the freedom to prepare our meals, bidding farewell to the monotonous fare of plain white rice and chicken that had become a daily ritual.”

I stopped and smiled, reminiscing about a particular memory etched into my mind. “You know, Elara,” I continued, “Since we already had numerous sheep and cows roaming around us in Bakkeveen, one of the refugee families staying at the same place decided to purchase two baby goats as well. So, I ended up watching those rambunctious kids frolic and leap over one another on a daily basis, amidst the cacophony of clucks and bleats from the chickens and sheep that already occupied the land acquired by some neighbors who had bought those lands. However, the joy was short-lived, as word of the baby goats soon reached the authorities. Before long, government officials arrived, informing the refugee family that keeping goats on the premises was strictly prohibited, and they took those goats with them.”

I continued: “During this period in Bakkeveen, we also learned that, due to the circumstances in Afghanistan, we had been granted visas for the Netherlands. This meant it was time for me to attend Dutch language lessons much more intensively. I couldn’t help but smile at the prospect. I remember being picked up by small school buses and transported to the classroom of a new school. The first Dutch words the teachers introduced were numbers, which I had to learn – one, two, three, four, five, six. Speaking English and many other languages made it easier for me to grasp this new tongue. However, when I heard the number “achtentachtig,” which stands for 88, its pronunciation seemed so challenging that I thought to myself, “I will never learn this perplexing language. What sort of language is this, anyway?”

I laughed and continued, “Nevertheless, with limited options before me, I dedicated myself to mastering Dutch as swiftly as possible, for my greatest aspiration was to attend university and become a lawyer so I could fight for human rights. Despite the initial doubts that crept in upon hearing that peculiar number, I persevered, driven by an unwavering determination to achieve my dream.”

Elara’s eyes sparkled with amusement as she inquired, “It’s quite funny. What was your initial perception of the Netherlands after you arrived here?”

I chuckled, reminiscing about those early days. “Well,” I began, “from reading numerous geography books during my youth, I was aware that the Netherlands encompassed more than just pastoral landscapes. I understood that it also boasted modern, urban areas. However,” I smiled wistfully, “it was still an unexpected sight to encounter more cows, sheep, and chickens on a daily basis than people, and that in the heart of Europe, which I had not anticipated to such an extent.”

“I distinctly remember strolling along narrow lanes, flanked by lush pastures where herds of cows grazed contentedly,” I continued, painting a vivid picture with my words. “The air carried the earthy scent of freshly cut grass and the occasional whiff of manure, reminding me that I was indeed in the heart of an agricultural haven.”

Elara’s laughter filled the air, adding joy to the story. “And how did you feel about that?” she prompted, her eyes alight with curiosity.

“Truthfully, it was an adjustment,” I admitted with a sheepish grin. “Coming from big cities, the quietude of these rural landscapes was initially jarring. However, as the days passed, I found myself drawn to the simplicity and tranquility of this way of life. It was a nice break, a chance to slow down and appreciate the beauty in everyday things.”

With a sigh, I added, “Those early impressions may have been unexpected, but they left an indelible mark on my heart. The Netherlands turned out to be a mix of old and new, where modern life and tradition fit together perfectly. I found myself captivated by its unique charms.”

We paused for 10 minutes to get some fresh air, and then I continued my story: “After three months of living in our temporary residence in Bakkeveen, we were happy to hear that we had been given a visa to stay in the Netherlands, which meant that we were going to have a chance to find a permanent place to call home. Not long after, we received a letter informing us that a house had been allocated for us in Amsterdam to visit and decide if we wished to make it our home. Filled with hope and eager anticipation, my father, brother, and I set out to explore this potential new abode in the lively city.

Upon their return, I noticed a thoughtful expression on my father’s face, prompting me to ask, “What’s happening? Are we going to live in Amsterdam?” His response was a gentle shake of the head as he said, “No, we are not. We will wait a little longer until we find a more suitable and comfortable house where we can settle for an extended period.”

Puzzled by his decision, I turned to my mother for clarification, questioning, “Why isn’t the house in Amsterdam good enough?” With a light chuckle, she explained, “Well, the house we were offered was located above a cafe frequented by many prostitutes. You can understand why your father wouldn’t want us to live on such a street, surrounded by those circumstances.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at the unexpected revelation, acknowledging, “Okay, that would indeed be too much for us.” We all agreed that seeking an alternative living arrangement was the wise choice.

Determined to expedite the process, my father diligently submitted our names for consideration in various cities across the Netherlands. We paid an additional fee to increase our chances of finding a suitable foster home. Within two months, during which time I had made progress in learning Dutch, we received the exciting news that a new house in the heart of the Netherlands had become available.

My parents eagerly went to inspect the property, and upon their return, their beaming smiles told the story before they even spoke a word. “This is our new home,” they declared with evident joy and relief.

And so, bidding farewell to our temporary residence in Friesland, we started a new chapter, settling in the middle of the Netherlands, a place that would become our cherished new home for the years to come.

I recall the first sight that welcomed me to our new city: a sprawling apartment complex surrounded by lush greenery and pristine streets. Our new home felt less modern than the accommodations I was accustomed to, with my bedroom hardly larger than the bathroom of my youth. Adjusting to this unfamiliar lifestyle proved challenging, as I found myself still longing for the luxuries I once enjoyed. Nonetheless, we were grateful to have secured a place to call home amidst our limited options.

Shortly after settling in, my parents received word that I would be required to enroll in school. However, before admission, I would undergo an evaluation to determine the appropriate academic level for my needs. Little did I know that this assessment would encompass an IQ test and a series of exercises commonly employed in the Netherlands to gauge a student’s capabilities.

During these exams, my limited understanding of Dutch made it difficult for me to grasp the questions. As a result, I often gave incomplete answers or left some questions unanswered because I couldn’t understand them due to my lack of proficiency in Dutch. At that moment, I didn’t realize that these mistakes would greatly impact my future education and life path. How could I have known that these questions, wrapped in a language I couldn’t fully understand, would cast such a long shadow over my future endeavors?

Before I knew it, after just one week, the news hit me like a thunderbolt, shattering my world in an instant. My parents had been informed that due to my dismal test scores, I would be unable to pursue higher education. At nearly 14 years old, I was deemed too old for basic schooling, leaving me in a precarious position. The authorities decided that the best course of action was for me to enroll in MBO, level 1, an Intermediate Vocational Education program, as they believed I lacked the capability to undertake advanced studies.

With a heavy heart, I found myself seated in a classroom, surrounded by lessons that seemed far too elementary for my capabilities. However, my grasp of the Dutch language was far from proficient, and I resolved to persevere, dedicating myself to mastering the language to a higher degree. My ambition burned brightly – I still aspired to become a lawyer, and this temporary setback would not deter me from that path.

Yet, when my classmates learned of my lofty goals, they greeted me with scornful laughter. “It’s impossible for you to get there,” they jeered, “it would take you at least 13 years to finish anything at a higher level, and then more years to become a lawyer. By that time, you’ll be too old to achieve anything in life!” Their words cut deep, like a knife slicing through my resolve, but I refused to surrender.

Many teachers I spoke to echoed similar sentiments, urging me to be more realistic and focus on completing these four years first. Only after that, if I excelled, could I consider studying for at least seven more years to obtain a master’s degree.

Numerous peers insisted also that I should abandon my dreams, claiming that few could pursue a master’s degree after completing an MBO (vocational education). Instead, they urged me to complete this education, find employment, and embrace the role of a “normal woman” by becoming a mother and fulfilling societal expectations.”

To be continued…

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