“I don’t sleep much, I lie awake”

“I don’t sleep much, I lie awake”

The view from his living room on the ninth floor of the Aquamarijnflat is fantastic: the Gravenburg district, the meadows, and beyond it lies Aduard. Impressive clouds and a great sunset when the skies are clear. The bathroom even has a bathtub. Alan Abdo, now 27, has been lucky, so it seems. He has been living here since September 2016. The place is neatly furnished: a sofa, a coffee table, six chairs neatly lined up at a dining table with a vase with three red plastic dahlias in it. “Got it all off the internet,” Alan says. On the wall picture of an ocean-side lighthouse.

Three days a week he goes to school, and his Dutch is coming along pretty well. “Bicycle? Yes, I have a bicycle, in the basement. “Go for a bike ride? Yes. Where to? Just like that? What is just like that?” And three days a week he has an internship at a tailor’s shop downtown. “Yes, at the sewing machine, repairing, restoring, taking in, basically anything.” He already got in touch with some Dutch people when he stayed at the Van Swietenlaan. They invited him over for dinner. Now he is getting to know more and more people through school, his internship and through Humanitas. And the neighbours: “They’re nice people, we have dinner at my place sometimes.”

Alan is extremely friendly, humble and polite. Just like the Dutch, he says. “But it’s all very different here, completely different, everything is different.” And there is something else: since he’s been living in the apartment he sometimes finds a broken egg in his mailbox. A little while ago, an egg was thrown at his front door and one against the kitchen window. He was at home and it gave him a scare. In the mailbox he found a piece paper with the message “fuck off to your own country” written on it. He reported it to the police “Yes they were very friendly,” but he has a problem now. “I have not slept well since then. I lie awake a lot. I also go to a psychologist to talk about it. She tells me I should try to forget, but that does not work.”

So much has happened in the last couple of years. “We are a big Kurdish family and lived in Aleppo. Now only one uncle still lives there.” His father had a clothing factory, but it’s gone, just like the house. His uncle made a video with his phone of the rubble that was left of. “My father is in Turkey now. He started a new factory with about ten staff members. My mother, two sisters and a brother managed to get to Hamburg. Another uncle lives in Brazil. He’s a doctor. “A while ago, Alan was at the train station to go to Hamburg by bus and train to visit his mother for the first time. But his residence permit (valid until October 27, 2020), does not allow him to travel. “They told me it’s a new rule.” So back to the apartment he went.

He watches the Dutch news and says, “I understand it, a little.” He also followed the elections. But he doesn’t know which party he would consider to be a good one. “All those people are new to me too, I don’t know them.” He has no plans for the rest of the day yet, not even for the weekend. “I don’t know yet.” And what is he going to cook tonight? “I don’t know that either.” Are there groceries in the house? “I have to check.”


At home with Alan Abdo (27)

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