The way to Amsterdam

On the way to Amsterdam,

The journey starts well so far. I’m in RAM plane waiting for everyone to board. My boarding pass says my seat is 1A. I thought there should be a mistake; I haven’t booked in 1st class. Once aboard the hostess told me 1st class I was surprised she didn’t tell me left or right as she tells everyone, just 1st class. So I walked calmly to my seat looked around me to see how the other 1st class passengers looked like and sat down; then adjusted my sitting position that fits 1st class category. It was funny.

The passengers pass by and stare at me there is even a Dutch man in his 60s who gave me a wink. I wish my sister Hanane was here she would be staring at people and asking me what I think of some.

Alright, we’ll leave in 2 min in Arabic and 10min in English. Interssante.

When I arrived to Amsterdam, Marike was waiting for me at the airport. We lost each other because I didn’t find her at the arrival gate and decided to walk around hoping to find her at the entrance gate. But I had to go back to the arrivals gate to find her.  We took the tram to Nadia’s place. It was nice to see Nadia after 4 years. Her roommate was also a Moroccan who left Hoceima at the age of 7. Shafiaa never went to school in Morocco, fortunately she went to the NL and now she’s a smart accomplished woman who speaks fluent English and works in the Media sector.

We had a nice girls’ talk and laughed at their scared friend’s cat ‘Shellouh’ who has chosen as a dwelling ‘under the bed’. In the evening Nadia invited us to Sai Gon, an Asian restaurant. Then we walked through the Red Light, which according to some friends in Morocco was a place not to miss. I couldn’t look at the women so I’ve decided to look at the men’s faces staring at the exhibited bodies of women. I felt very uncomfortable walking there and I felt a pity for these women esp those who are obliged to be there. They are either obliged by poverty and lack of other options or by their employers who promise them jobs as hairdressers or waitresses; then they take their passports and start threatening them then oblige them to work as prostitutes.

Today is Sunday. I’m in Holten with my friend Marike. We just came back from a nice walk outside. We visited her friend Rutger. She knew him since they were kids. Unfortunately 4 years ago he had a car accident that resulted in a brain damage. According to Marike, Rugter has been through rough times after the accident which included difficulties to remember and talk. However, today he looked healthy but stutters from time to another. He seems to enjoy teasing his mom and Marike. It was very inspiring to meet him and get to talk to him and also to observe his relationship with his mom.

We also visited Sietske and her husband Meneer Onrust. Sietske is a sweet lady in her 70s whom we’ve met yesterday in the train to Holten. After starting a conversation with Marike she realized that she knew her family precisely her father. As a veterinarian he treated their dog a long time ago.

The couple was very nice and open. They made us visit their house and the forest together with their dogs. Meneer Onrust was teaching English at Marike’s secondary school and Sietske is now teaching Dutch for refugees and new immigrants. One of her student is Moroccan, Sietske tells me, “her name is Fatima”. Sietske gave me heathers and said that they will bring luck she added she will remember me when she sees Fatima.

Today is Tuesday. I’m in Reissen, a small city near Hotlen. I’m waiting for Marike to come back from her appointment and go together to a police station in order to confirm that I’m in the Netherlands. Strange, rare, unusual…

Yesterday night Marike cooked dinner at her brother’s place. We had a nice dinner with her brother, Carel and his wife Kristen; and we played with their kids, a one year old boy and 4 years girl, Zoe. We talked about yogurts, kids, food, Morocco, hotels in Marrakech and then watched TV. They were waiting for a TV program to start because they were giving Marike’s father a “warm douche”. In this program people (individuals, officials, employers…) either get a ‘cold shower’ for making a mistake, treating people badly…; or get a warm shower for making a positive action. Marike’s dad received a warm shower because he refused to get paid for a surgery of a deceased dog he treated.

Now I’m at La Fontaine café, waiting for Marike and looking at the bags of unnecessary stuff I’ve bought and wondering how I’ll carry them on my way to Utrecht. Silly me.

I had a very nice lunch with Marike at Hengelo where the police station is located. The policewoman took my passport and after 10 minutes she came back with a stamp on the passport. But when she knew I was not leaving NL from Amsterdam she gave me a postcard and asked me to post it to them before I leave, or have someone call them once I leave.

My lunch with Marike was very emotional. We talked about our families and people we miss the most when we travel. The conversation made me aware of how much I love my family especially my elder sister. Though I miss everyone I talk more about Hanane.

My holidays are going well so far. I’m enjoying discovering new places, meeting Dutch people, getting to know more about their way of life, and learning more about couples’ relationships, parents-children relationships.  The more time I spend here the more I realize that this society is less individualistic than I thought.

It’s 5.55 I’m in Centraal station, Utrecht. I’m waiting for Meryem at the meeting point.

People are running all over the place. I’ve seen more veiled girls than I saw in the other cities. The veiled girls here resemble –mainly in their clothing style- those I see every day in Rabat. However, older women wear longer and looser clothes. But younger girls have also different styles, looser/ tight/ tighter/ tightest tops and trousers. There was this veiled girl who just walked by very quickly to catch the train and putting her red lipstick at the same time.

I’m carrying a big bag so I can’t move a lot. I wonder how it looks like outside.

Today is Wednesday. Marike should be on her way to the airport to go to Morocco. I’m sitting in a nice park near a canal in Utrecht. Yesterday, Meryem picked me up from the station. We walked to her place then went out again. At her place, her mom and their friend’s nephew were talking about l Eid this year and how expensive it is to buy a sheep. They were surprised when I told them that in Morocco now you can buy your sheep online. I had a nice walk with Meryem in downtown. We had dinner at a Moroccan restaurant in the canaal straat. There were two North Africans sitting in the table next to us negotiating the prices of cars. Everyone was speaking Darija. It was crazy in that Moroccan neighborhood. Young people talking to us and shouting ‘Spreekt  je Engels?”. There was even a guy who screamed to frighten us and he succeeded. It was a completely different experience it felt like walking in a popular neighborhood in Morocco.

Now I’m alone and I’m heading to the Centruum I hope I’ll find my way easily.

Thursday from Veenendaal with Chaoui family. Yesterday Meryem C picked me up in Utrecht to go to Veenendaal. She showed me around. It felt like I knew her long time ago. I’ve learned a lot from her and her sister Hafsa about Moroccans in Veenendaal, their way of life, their children’ problems of integration etc. I was told that some children would lie to their teachers about how they spend their holidays. I also heard many stories about how men would promise girls to marry them, then take their photos or skype videos and threaten them to show them to their parents. However, the government seems to support this community through trainings, social and psychological support.

Now, Saturday 12, 4.55pm. I’m in the train to Brussels. I’ve spent a very good time at Chaoui’s. Meryem, the elder sister, is a sportive and active girl who looks tough but she’s sweet and caring. She plays football and teaches kids in primary school. She made me visit her workplace and told me about how Dutch children get interested in Moroccan culture.

I had a nice Moroccan Iftar with the family, since the father and son were fasting. I met little Yasmine and went out with Hafssa. The neighbourhood was empty and so was the whole way to the café. I had an interesting discussion with Hafssa about her family, my family, parents-children relationships, problems that Moroccan girls face in NL etc. we walked back home, ha a Moroccan tea and went to bed. Meryem and I started another conversation about boys and dating. She told me how she met her fiancé. We talked and talked until 1am. I went back to Utrecht on the day after, I caught cold so I couldn’t much. I slept at Meryem’s place and while leaving in the morning I started an interesting conversation with her mom. It was about Moroccans living in the NL, her neighborhood particularly, and the importance of celebrating Moroccan feasts for her. I regretted not having talked with her that much in the previous days. holland

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