In ‘Close to home’ Yemeni refugee Ali* and host Robert share their experiences living together. There will be weekly posts about the ups and downs, difficulties, highlights and surprises. This week they talk about the habits and patterns they have picked up from each other. .
*not his real name.
Robert is many things, dad, dog-lover, Director of Takecarebnb, an organisation that matches newcomers to host families. Every day, he convinces Dutch host families to offer temporary places of stays for refugees with a status. Now that his youngest daughter has passed her final exams, it’s time to put his words into action.
Ali is a refugee from Yemen with big dreams. He loves poetry, chess and can solve a Rubik’s cube in less than a minute. He spent time studying and working in India when it became clear he could not return to Yemen. When travelling to Europe as part of a conference, he visited The Netherlands and knew he wanted to stay.
Robert: Don’t postpone till tomorrow what you can do today. Make up a list of tasks, at least a mental one. One of the working principles in my life. Often this works. A very manageable inbox for instance. Not too many open tasks. Or no library books that are overdue. Going boxing twice a week, biking or running at least four times a week. Every week. The flip side? Not spending enough time thinking things through. Being annoyed about not getting a reply quickly enough (and quickly enough is quite soon in this digital age). Throwing away food because I will not eat it tomorrow and then not having anything to eat in the fridge after a change of plans.. Let’s call it disciplined (instead of rigid).
Ali: How do you change your habits and turn them into a routine? It is not easy to break a habit and form a new one, let alone develop them to the point where they become routine. Growing up, there was no routine, no healthy eating habits, no bedtime routine, and even exercising was not given much thought. I have developed very bad habits over time, such as eating disorders and never having a sports routine. I had no idea how bad my habits were. I was raised to believe that bad habits are drugs and alcohol. But I realized that what is worse than that is what you believe is normal but is not.
Robert: Ali points out that he comes from another background. He learns from me how to manage work life. How to create healthier habits. Again: that’s what he says! I only know him as an orderly man. I cook the meals and he washes the dishes the same evening. He picked up the habit to visit the gym almost on a daily basis.
Ali: Robert is the definition of routine. He begins his day with a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper while listening to the same slow classical music. Then he will have his usual breakfast of muesli with yogurt. How can he eat the same thing over and over again every day? Well, he made a valid point when he said, “Why should I waste my energy thinking about things that aren’t important?” He went on to say, “I’ll save this thinking energy to think about things that are important.”
Robert has a sports routine, no matter how busy or tired he is, he will always jump on his bike and work up a sweat if he can find the time to exercise. I should stop listing how busy I am and how I can’t find time to exercise.
Reading is in his blood, he will read anything he can get his hands on, whether it’s fiction, novels, or personal development, and he can read a book in a day in Dutch, English, or even Spanish, If he has time on weekends.
Most importantly, Robert developed a mind-blowing mindset. How he maintains his happiness and positive vibe in life. He will always see the best at everything, and I find myself wondering what Robert will do in this situation without even realizing it.
Robert: But how can my petty discipline be compared to his getting out of bed every day, stepping on his bike, taking the bus, working at the office, taking his inburgeringscursus and his Dutch course, leading a healthy life, taking care of his family, going out with friends? And all that in a completely new environment where an easier way would be to recede into your room and use your mobile phone for all interaction.
Ali: Today, I have been eating healthier, exercising regularly, and paying more attention to what I do to see if it will become a good or bad habit.
I know all this sounds admiring. Maybe it is. But in my position it is just great to have someone to be inspired by and to help me get my new life on track. Thanks my friend 🙂
Robert: Of course the only conclusion can be that we inspire each other. And that’s a big part of what living together for the summer is about.