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.