As I enter the next stage I’ll be starting a new life

Monica

At a dinner for host families I meet Monica. She is bright eyed, intelligent and honest. Monica is hosting Syrian sisters Amal and Sabah at her home in Amsterdam. She is an adventurous person, having travelled to many different countries over her lifetime. ‘After a while I began to realize what a good life I had, what an easy life. So it seemed the right thing to do to share my life with others.’

Because she is a curious person, hosting seemed like a natural option. ‘There are two sides of the equation. On the one hand you are helping someone in need but on the other they are helping you by teaching you about their culture. Everybody wins. Syrian culture is much closer to Dutch culture than you would imagine.’

I ask if it has been easy so far. ‘it HAS been easy. The only thing I noticed that was difficult at first is that I live in an old house so there is only one bathroom. With three women, you do end up queuing sometimes.’

Monica likes the girl’s independence. There is a local Turkish supermarket. They shop, they cook, they explore the area. “I asked for one girl and ended up with sisters. But it has actually worked better this way around because they can entertain each other.’ Sometimes an unintended arrangement can surprise you.

This was important to Monica because she is single and has a vibrant social life. She wanted a guest who was similarly independent, so Takecarebnb matched her with two independent women.

Monica explains there is no feeling that you have to babysit them so you spend time with them because you want to, because it is a pleasure. And that is where a good relationship has blossomed. There was no pressure so it happened organically. ‘I spend one day with the girls and one day out with my friends. This way we all get our freedom and the girls get their privacy.’

Syrian culture is much closer to Dutch culture than you would imagine

Amal

Next I speak to Amal, a chatty girl with an excellent sense of humour. She has had a hand in preparing the colourful spread of food laid out before us. She talks me through food from different regions in Syria. ‘I’m from Homs so we would have less couscous and more rice.’

I ask her what she thinks of Dutch food. She says it is taking some getting used to. ‘they eat so healthily, there’s no salt or sugar in anything. But I like the cheese and the pancakes.’

And how about the Dutch themselves? ‘I like how the Dutch think and how they treat people. I like the freedom here, if I am honest. You have rights and you can trust people. That feels good.’

People like Monica? ‘Yes. We learn from each other, both Monica and I, it feels like an exchange. Staying with Monica has been very comfortable, we feel like humans again. In the AZC you feel caged in, like you are in a prison. No one listens to you, it’s noisy and it’s hard to sleep.’ With walls like cardboard and very little privacy the girls shrunk into themselves, feeling shy and frustrated. ‘There was a lot of pressure and you could hear EVERYTHING’ she says, her eyes widening.

Amal was nervous at the prospect of staying with a host at first. Would they be compatible? Would they understand each other?  ‘Monica made everything simple. The Dutch are very direct so it was easy to understand her.

I know I will feel sad to leave in 3 months. But I also know I will have finished this stage and as I enter the next stage I will be starting a new life’

I have been told it fills you with hope to be around another human being who has overcome adversity and is on the cusp of a new life. This can be energizing, to see that life goes on. That if we help each other out there can be new possibilities, even after tragedy.

‘Finding someone who cares about you is important.’ says Amal.

We feel like humans again

developmentAs I enter the next stage I’ll be starting a new life

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