[i] Yeah, hi. [name] By the way, your name?
[r] Well me, that’s my call sign.
[r] [name].
[r] My full name [name].
[i] Okay.
[r] [name], last name.
[i] Okay, yeah, hi. Well, let’s start with the object right away. Cause I asked you to pick out an object that’s of special significance to you and tell me about it.
[r] Yeah, I brought an object, just one, words from my grandmother, when I was a little kid.
[i] What about your grandmother?
[r] Word, what is said, to me, as a child, that has shaped me as I am now.
[i] Okay, then what is it?
[r] That’s just always, you’d be a big man.
[i] You’d become a big man?
[r] And I can do anything.
[i] Wow.
[r] Yeah, and that made such an impression on me when I was a little kid. I wasn’t aware of what she was saying, but I’ve always carried it around in my head, always. And still when I get into trouble, that sound just comes to my ears. And then I move on.
[i] And how long ago is this?
[r] I was maybe five, six years old.
Five, six years old and you’re now?
I’m just 48 now.
48, okay. It’s been a long time.
Where was that?
In Ethiopia.
What city?
Addis Ababa.
[i] Okay. And your grandmother lived with you?
[r] She lived in Eritrea then, in Asmara, but she’s coming to visit us.
[i] Okay.
[r] And then, but she was just for me, we have a very special relationship, bond. And say I was kind of her favorite. And because of that, she said, what she does, what she says, that impresses me and still does. She’s gone, but just the words of her is just really yeah a miracle. Just .
[i] Yeah. Special. Was that your mother’s mother?
[r] Yes. Mother of my mother, yes.
[i] What kind of family are you from? How many children?
[r] I come from a family of seven brothers, six peasants and father and mother. Where I, two brothers who are just real brothers. The rest are just adopted. And I come from father who was just a policeman, officer. And my mother was a housewife. Just a mother who was soft, very sweet, lots of love. And that dad just wants a future for his kids. And, but in a difficult situation, he just managed to see what he wants to see, almost to the last moment. And it wasn’t easy for him. It’s not for my mom, it’s not for my dad. I was like a second child. I noticed everything. I saw everything. And so actually I come from such a family.
[i] Yeah. Just maybe handy to explain to you, you think you’re of Eritrean descent, while you were born in Ethiopia, because your parents were born in Eritrea.
[r] Right.
[i] Or at least… Maybe you could explain that for yourself. Why do you think you are of Eritrean descent?
[r] Well, nationality doesn’t bother me. I’ve been in Ethiopia since I was a kid, and there was just war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. And because of that, if you’re from Eritrea, it was just a very big problem. My dad just had a lot of problems. And if we’re actually going to talk in Eritrean just inside the house and outside the house just had to talk Ethiopian. And that also made a very negative impression on me that just that nationality or identity can be a problem, so I always had the feeling that just for a moment I don’t know where I belong. What I felt very safe about was school, friends and stuff like that. And when it came to identity or nationality, I was out of the boat anyway. And that’s why for a moment I actually hate identity. So, bluntly saying just. And look the other way, I see how my mother is proud as an Eritrean or my father, while my father and my mother are not full of Eritrean either. They just have blood that, my mother just claims to come from, from, from somewhere else, her grandmother and grandfather or her things that I don’t find so important to give all the details, but for some people it’s just so important, while I just see that identity or nationality just like a label you just get. And so I don’t think it’s that important that I’m either Eritrean or Ethiopian or… I just feel like I’m having a nice conversation with you right now. Or with Eritreans or Ethiopians or Ghanaian or American. That has given me disadvantage and advantage. The advantages of what I’ve been aiming for is of this thinking, it’s just, I’m easily adapted here, easily assumed life, while not easy. Because I just think yes if I have lived there, I can live here as well. What’s the difference? They’re just people. All I have to do is just turn it on, when it’s very easy what I said. Sure, there’s a lot of obstacles, but yeah, you just have to be able to cope on your own. So nationality in itself is not so important to me that I’m just from Eritrea, Ethiopia or the Netherlands.
[i] Okay you just said that your father and also your mother had quite a hard time with the upbringing, but that they worked very hard for that. Why, what’s difficult? Can you describe the situation better?
[r] Yeah, sure. Because I was also part of, part of that problem, because I’m very, had to be taken care of. Because later I also became part of the problem, because I also have to participate in the upbringing of my other ki… brothers. And the reason was so complicated. One, one, first of all, that you had what I said in Ethiopia back then, when there was a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. As Ethiopians, as Eritreans, living in Ethiopia wasn’t easy. My father was just insecure everything with his job, with his work, with because he is also in a sensitive place, he was an officer in police. And yes what everything he does, he just has to be right, if something is wrong, he’s just some kind of traitor. And my mom takes care of my dad at home with him. But they never radiated to us. They’ve always just kept those two in their nests that problem, until I just grow up and start talking to my dad and my mom.
[i] But apart from that, financially it wasn’t easy either, because my father is a soldier, an officer, he earned on average what he needed to earn, but raising six, seven children, that wasn’t easy. He makes a conscious choice, because she has just adopted children, because that’s what he thinks,
[i] Yes? Is that usual?
[r] In his mind. But not everyone does. But with him, with my mother, it was just very simple. It was just normal, that, say. We never saw any difference between me and the others. And they’re just at the highest level, they’re just in a good position right now. So are other brothers of mine. And so that was just normal, but that’s also just my dad and my mom just taking a really big care and… But most of all it was just that uncertainty where something has been created around politics and identity. And yes those who protect your family and how would the end, imagine that I am not present, my father, that was the question you ask yourself every time, later to hear from him, that it would continue with my children if I am not. And my mom so how could I without my husband with my kids if there’s anything with him
Yeah, about your childhood, your childhood. What kind of kid were you? You already said that you were the second child and that you were taking care of other children. But for the rest, how would you characterize yourself as a child?
[r] As a child I am of a free spirit, just really trying everything there is to try, while I grew up in a family, my father military indeed policeman who has a slogan always, he just says ‘I form society, so my children should just be an example!’. And so that makes my life difficult with my father. But despite that difficulty we had, we just always had a sweet, fantastic bond just kept. While I’ve been rebellious and he’s been tougher on me than other kids. But he’s always given me love. As soon as we fight, no problem, as soon as two hours or an hour and a half, it comes from work or I meet him, always was hugging and kissing. That’s not common in my area. And but he always says ‘That’s good, no problem, always come back to that normal normal situation’. But I’m more social, I’m more to my friends, to the neighbors. My father thinks that care, care, a little care, because I have to study a lot. While my other brothers are just very correct, ideal children and very good at school too. I less, but I did pass all the language courses at school. I can concentrate very much at school and then at home I actually want other social activities. But in general I grew up with love and freedom and very protective.
[i] What did you personally inherit from the war? What are your main memories?
[r] To be clear, I’ve never experienced war. I grew up in a part of Ethiopia, in different areas of Ethiopia. I am actually the happiest boy, my brothers too, because no Ethiopian or Eritrean has seen so many countries in Ethiopia as I have. Because my father is a policeman and so we’re going to move more. And so we’re gonna watch everything, so I’ve got from bushbush to big city, big city of Ethiopia…
[i] Been there.
Been there. And seen the people, seen that culture, seen nature and everything. And so, but not in a war zone.
You were 26 when you came to Holland?
Yeah, 26, 27 almost.
[i] Okay, and why, what prompted you?
[r] Yes then 1991 was the Mengistu Haile Mariam, the military government of Ethiopia has been exaggerated [expelled] by new government. Well my father was then at the highest level colonel was base and chief of police of the province. I work for a company, but also for the government. And yes that new government that is now in power, they actually come from bushbush who just don’t have any experience of running a country. They come in, all the people who just worked with the government, previous government was their enemy. They think that way. So we’re hunted. And my dad’s in jail, me too, I’ve been in jail. And yes, two years in prison, then I fled.
[i] Because how long did you go to school and then work, for my understanding?
[r] Yeah, me, so I finished high school, so after that I just got two degrees in management, business management. And I was just working. But you don’t just work like you do in the field, just what you graduated from. You just work where you can make money.
[i] And you worked for a government agency.
[r] Yeah.
[i] Okay. And then fled to Holland specifically, or was that supposed to be?
[r] No, no. I fled Ethiopia, first to Sudan. And then I stayed in Sudan for a while, from there just by those smugglers, my uncle then lives in America, just made sure everything was ready, that smuggler came with ticket and with passport, I was suddenly in
[i] Did you run away alone or were you with your father or brothers?
[i] I was alone, because I escaped from prison, so I was taken care of by my uncle, so I was alone. But my brothers were in Kenya before that, everywhere, just really spreading out. And yeah…
[i] Okay, and you didn’t know until the last minute that you were gonna be in Holland?
[r] No idea at all. The only thing I know about Holland before that is just Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit and van Basten, and soccer I’m crazy, so I know them, but they weren’t even very real from Holland. That knowledge, but just about small countries, I do know that Holland, that’s who were soccer players, but for the rest,
[i] Okay, you came here in ’91?
No, no, no. ’91 is the change in Ethiopia, I spent two years in jail, then, that was the last, 1991, the last year, and so two years, then I just got here in 1994…
[i] ’94 were you here?
[r] Yeah.
[i] And where did you first get to, what city?
[r] Rotterdam, yes, in retrospect.
You had no idea then.
[r] No, no.
[i] Okay. And what were your very first impressions, what do you remember from when you just arrived?
[r] Yeah, yeah. I remember that. We actually came to Schiphol all night. But that guy, that smuggler, took us somewhere else to sleep. And the next morning he set us up, I was with another girl, on er…
[i] Police?
Train, no train station in Rotterdam. He just said to us, “Report to the police! That was the first shock of my life, because I escaped from Ethiopia police and just told me… I just thought yes when I’m in Europe, with ordinary innocent thought, and yes decent just go in a very normal way just when your story tells what it is and just get some help maybe, maybe not, maybe you have to find what to look for yourself. But then he just told the police. I said, “What, but why?”. “Yeah, that’s how it works. You just have to report to the police first and that sort of thing!’. Well, that was the first settlement, surprise. And then he does this, goodbye and leaves. Just like I was a little kid, just like his mother’s, just left that feeling behind, that’s what I felt at the time.
[i] You were with a girl, you say?
Yeah, there was a girl. A Sudanese girl. They got us, yeah he, the passport was just, he just says, you guys are married couple and stuff. I don’t know. Yeah, and I’ve never seen her since, and yeah. Then yeah, we’re just sitting at that central station and I’m watching those people and one of them comes with a punk, I don’t know, with a piercing and… Where you just see very, very sometimes on film, and you think that’s film too, but that was reality just for you there. And I’m from a big city, And I was almost for two hours I’m just watching, sitting, nothing else, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to think at that moment even. Until I just shit what do we do, what do we do. I’m just sitting here. And then I just start thinking okay I’m just looking for dark people to talk to. Because for me too was just, look I’ve worked with Europeans in Africa too and stuff like that. I also get along very well there, that was not an issue. But the first one that came into my head was just looking for somebody dark. To talk. And at a certain moment a Somali man comes and I try to talk to him, I couldn’t, he doesn’t speak English either, no things, I speak English. Well gone and after a while someone else comes to talk English to him too, but he had no idea, maybe he was Surinamese or Antillean, I don’t know. And after a while someone comes from Eritrea who, well then I had a conversation and now that man was just very helpful, now he just says ‘Well I’ll just take you to the police station. And there you can just sign up!’. So he made a very short, short story, don’t worry, because that’s what is going to happen, there are procedures and things like that and then, well, calm down indeed. And then so we went to the police.
[i] What time of year was it, what season, was it cold?
Cold, yes. I just had a really light coat, just leather shoes that you just really do what you normally do in Africa. Anyway.
[i] And how long have you been in asylum in the end?
[r] Almost five years in total.
Five years?
[r] Even more, yeah.
[i] Okay, that’s a long time.
That’s a long time. Back then it was just 1994 with the Yugoslavian problem and the Netherlands, 64,000 refugees had just come in. So in hindsight my story which I just tried to understand for a moment, so, so it just remains unbelievably just as many files, where you can’t just–
[i] And where did you end up, was there a shelter?
[r] Yeah me, I’m just in Oosterwijk for a while. That’s OC. And those were just cottages, a beautiful house. Well the only thing that scares you is you come in there just so much nationality and you just think where did I end up, but yeah quickly you get used to and when you’re there, everyone is the same,
[i] Yeah. Did you notice this is the country I’m going to live in? Did you think about that?
[r] Well that one, I never asked that question at that time, the only one I asked was just when I was at the train station just on the first day, I look at my surroundings and the only one I say, suppose that just I can live here, so I, I don’t know where else, the only thing I say I have to make something of this, otherwise this So all you’re saying is, I have to make something else I don’t know.
[i] And the language, how did you do that? Did you start learning Dutch right away or…
No, no, no. The language anyway in the beginning you just think this is never gonna learn. Really never learn and no the language started, started, started… I guess after six months.
[i] Okay at a shelter?
AZC, yeah.
This was in Crailo.
Crailo, that’s, that’s in Hilversum towards Laren, Blaricum near there.
[i] And how long have you been there, at the asylum seekers’ centre?
Nearly five years.
[i] So that’s really the whole period there, until you got a residence permit?
[r] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[i] And what did you do during that time, learning Dutch, I suppose, but also education or…
[i] So I was in OC in Oosterwijk for two and a half months and then we just moved to AZC to Crailo and I come there, I come there and I thought then they told me, if you go to AZC, you can learn language and that kind of thing. I come there and now we just talk the first month is just for a moment I just really start working on my problem and just start the bad side. And then he thought hey I shouldn’t have this, I really shouldn’t have this, otherwise I would go, okay I have to occupy myself. And then I start collecting information, talking to people and I just want to go to And that was great for me, I really liked it. First of all, to get in touch with people, to have and now I went to that class and I build a very good contact with the teacher there at that moment. And then I ask for advice, how it should be done and what I should do. And yes they were also volunteers and they don’t know it and at a certain point I don’t get out of it after three months. And then I just thought for a moment now I have to take a step. I went to VluchtelingenWerk and I asked them to volunteer.
[i] Okay.
[r] And then she just says, “What do you want to do? I say, “I don’t care. If I just get out of here and in between people. And then I can just change my mind a little. Okay, second day that woman comes up to me, she just says, “Yeah, I got a job, but I don’t know if you like it. And that woman belonged to a lot of people, they don’t want that. Why are you just a little bit… I say, “I don’t care. I just wanna do some work, just do some work! Well, that was my salvation. I went there to meet those people. That company exists, that town yard’s all white people. No other nationalities. Really? That whole village even, Laren. And I’m there and most of the employees are just between 50 and 60, so they’re old-fashioned people. There were two guys who were just between 20 and 30, [name] and [name]. And, no, [name] and [name], sorry. That’s when I started talking English to them for a while and very quickly built up friendship with those two. And I start going to their house. With their games at home they have all kinds of games and with them to go to the pub. In no time at all I had become a popular boy in Laren. I just literally and figuratively just work there for eight hours and then five hours and I do it with pleasure. five days.
[i] What were you doing?
[r] Plant workers. We’re gonna sweep the streets, do planting things, and the woods are just gonna prune the branches. And stuff like that. I’d never had any experience, but that just really saved me. Within a year, I’ll just talk
[i] And then it took you five years to get a residence permit.
[r] Yeah.
[i] And that’s when you had your own house?
[r] Yes, that’s right.
[i] Where was that?
[r] On my, let’s see, on my, it was in Amsterdam so I got a house in Amsterdam. It’s just because I was in Holland when I was four, then sometimes we just come to Amsterdam, just for fun. That’s when I met an Eritrean girl. At the first meeting the girl was pregnant right away. That wasn’t the intention, but good. It happened. Well then I took my responsibility. So yes, there was no other choice, with her then. And so she wanted to keep the child and we’re gonna try. We tried. So after a year I just happened to say when the baby was born I was lucky I said to myself and then you get the residence permit so say so. Well because of that I can just go to Amsterdam, just a house. So say it. The relationship isn’t really what you can live together, it was based just…
[i] In what year did you come to live in Amsterdam?
[r] 2000.
[i] 2000?
[r] Let’s see. Yeah, early 2001.
[i] 2001. Okay, and you’ve lived in Amsterdam ever since?
[i] Okay, yeah.
[r] And so it is, coming to Amsterdam.
[i] Yeah, so you lived together but didn’t you?
No, we never lived together. I lived in my own house. She also lived in her own house. Then we always took care of the child together. And something happens, second child again. I’m very happy afterwards. Now I already have two children. And, a boy and a girl, but after the mistake there then went, And we decided, when she was pregnant for the second time, we should stop. Otherwise, it’s just gonna be a little…
[i] So you have two children of fifteen, no fourteen?
Sixteen, the oldest is sixteen, yeah.
And the youngest is?
Let’s see, thirteen.
[i] Thirteen years old. And did the mother of the children also come to the Netherlands as a refugee?
[r] Yes.
[i] Okay. And she still lives in Amsterdam?
[r] No, in Amstelveen now. Yes, then in Amsterdam.
[i] Yes. Okay, what happened from the moment you got to Amsterdam except that you took care of the kid? What, what kind of work did you do or what kind of education did you get then?
[r] Yeah, that was very funny, because when I get the residence permit, they say you just get a house in Amsterdam, too, because you have a child there. And then I’m looking for a job, because I have a child, so I have to take care of my child. That was my first impression. And I get a house and like I started at the Sigma Coating, that’s a paint company, closed. Just an employee, just a normal employee. But at the municipality I’m just forced to quit, because I just have to take a language course and integration programs and all sorts of things. But I said to them ‘That it’s not necessary, I just speak Dutch and I have this…’ ‘No, no you just have to stop’. And that’s why I stopped and made the planning for six months to a year just to take a language course and that sort of thing. I was finished within two months, so at that moment you are reintegrated, you want to finish quickly, away and then I just wanted to take a course. That was just ICT on level 2. Just for a moment that was the only thing you were offered at that moment. Because all kinds of documents ask, I can’t get that document at all and I did that at ICT level 2, ROC, but my knowledge was, I know, I already had a lot of knowledge. I do read, I just do internet and stuff like that. When I finished that study, with that
[i] What foundation?
[r] Global Start Foundation.
[i] Okay, Global Start.
[r] Yeah. That was a foundation on difficult young people through IT just, just getting them right. Just taking them back to school or to work.
[i] But were you a difficult young person then?
[r] No, not me. I’m an employee.
[i] Oh, you’re an employee!
This is gonna be a really nice interview.
[i] Okay, wow, that’s a nice aim.
[r] Yeah, I kind of, like, second was a reintegration program in my life. I mean, I had, I have kids at the time, but I don’t know how in society I have to function as a father. And I also don’t know how society functions towards me, towards my fellow human beings, I mean with refugees, immigrants and or natives, it doesn’t matter. And so for me it was just an ideal step to get into that project as a paid job. And yet just as instructive. And yes, I learned a lot.
[i] How did you really feel then? Did you feel like a refugee, did you now feel like a Dutchman? Or how did you move through society?
[r] It is… That one, that one, that one… It’s a very nice question, you know, because when I came to Holland in general all I thought was shit, I have to learn everything just like a child. Walking, getting dressed, eating, drinking, that’s what it actually feels like. And then when I was at work, it gets heavier because first I have to be an example. But as an example as a human, not as someone who just has capacity just has control in society that just has to function from there. I always kept the principle, just okay, I am a good person, I had a good upbringing. I have a good education right now. I just have to radiate that, I have to work on that. I know that just gets a lot of resistance in that too, my own capaci…, lack of capacity can be it or on the other hand, other also towards me. It could be. And so it wasn’t easy on its own. It really wasn’t easy. At work, I have to fight for my job for my place, too. And with my colleagues looking at the other side, just showing them that’s not how they think what I am, who I am or what I do or certain labels what you, what you think just didn’t make sense. Because, for example, a simple example I’ll give you. I work with a psychologist and a pedagogue. And I was a shop floor manager as an IT guy, so to speak. So we are the three of us, management team and what happened is, we come in the morning I plan and execute project, then we go meeting with those two pedagogue and psychologist. And then we’re just gonna discuss it. What happened yesterday and what could be better today. And the psychologist, who carries out his plan of his study and of his vision and I carry out my work of my study indeed, but also of my wisdom, of my background. And with me what it was, I just learn fast, I just go between those guys, I look, I talk to them, I think the next day I just adjust in there and then it becomes other things. But with the psychologist was just everything according to the book, everything according to the study he had and the vision he had. And then very often just come into contact, collision. And where I don’t mind. Just that the communication was very awkward while we could work very well together. Where my area of work was just one of the best project that exists. Really still at that part of town and that kind of thing is just mentioned. And but we just have to be in there for a while But finally we all just came out strong.
[i] Okay, yeah. And how did you relate to Ethiopia at that time? Were you still working on that, Eritrea? Were you concerned about what was happening there or had you distanced yourself from it?
[r] I was just trying to suppress everything, just really get away from it, away from my life. It didn’t always work out. Cause you can’t go back, just, at some point, it comes back to certain problems. One of those, big example is just this parenting of my kids. And yes, I had, I had a very hard time with that, still sometimes, but now I am more open and have more contact with my mother and with my brothers as well. At the moment very good, so.
[i] They all live somewhere else than in the Netherlands?
[r] Yes.
[i] In different countries?
[r] Yes.
[i] Okay, and raising your kids, I’m curious. How do you do that? To what extent is that origin important, in terms of language, in terms of knowledge transfer?
[r] So far so far so good, but let me tell you, the choice we made with my ex-girlfriend is just very simple, just okay we can’t get along, but the children have to benefit from both of us. It hasn’t always been easy, it still hasn’t. But we’re just choosing the hardest way. We just have to support the kids. So it happens. I’ve dealt with the children from day one all the time, and what I can give them, what I give them, I give them. In terms of knowledge, in terms of material, in terms of things. My son is now in fourth grade, my daughter vmb-t, and first year. With her she is a bit less, but she is more like me, more social than just at school, I understand that very well, fortunately. And but in terms of social activities, in terms of things, they are just very active in the Netherlands, they do everything, just play soccer, they are making music. In Eritrean society they are also just active. They also speak the language. Their mother, that she, that she, that she does very well. She reads up every Sunday, in Amstelveen. Eritrean lessons, they go there. And then we often just talk Eritrean, we try to talk. They speak the language too.
[i] They speak Eritrean?
[r] Ethiopian, Eritrean. They both speak. Yeah.
[i] Aha. And let’s see, you worked for that foundation, Global Start, you said.
Global Start Foundation, yes.
Yeah. And then what, how did your career progress?
[r] Yeah, I just enjoyed working there for seven years.
[i] Seven years?
Seven years. And built a fantastic career, really the guy who just fled, from really he doesn’t know where to go, until he just had the ministers and that kind of thing contact finally through that work.
[i] Oh really?
Yeah and really fantastic yeah things made up ahead at that time. But even though that work was just too heavy with the problem I had. Because I, look when you’re a refugee, you’re busy, you’re not just making your money, you’re busy with yourself, you’re busy with society, you’re busy with your money, you’re busy with your children, you’re busy with your past. You’re actually just working your brain twenty thousand times harder than normal people. That’s my experience. And if you also work with difficult young people, that makes it just for a while, on the other hand, yes, just rewarding work. Really when you just see how you can just put people on the right path and can help you, thankful work. But on the other hand, you also take all the problems with you. And so all that positive and negative experience just made me an incredibly strong man. But still up to a certain limit. Then I thought, I don’t think I can go on here. At that moment I just felt like a ‘So far, So good’. That’s good, so what do I want to do next? That was my question. Because I’m just thinking about my health, my things. I just noticed I was getting a little worse. Then I thought, I need to do something I like, set my own pace. And yeah I wasn’t young anymore, I’m getting older too and then I just thought I have to start my own business, something, somewhere. But how? I don’t know at the time. But I am when I was six years old at Global Start, foundation Global Start, then that, no five years, five and a half years that question came up, then I just thought I can cook well, what I said in the beginning, I also took over the upbringing of my parents, I cooked at home too, I help my mother with the children. Everything, so I learned everything from my mother, making food and things like that and so I thought maybe it would be a good idea to start Ethiopian restaurant. That’s how I came to be. So before I quit my job at Global Start, a year in advance, I did everything I could to start this company. And then I got support from my director as well, stay with us and build it up, your company, because they didn’t agree that I’m leaving either, we had an incredibly good cooperation and so they grant me, but on the other hand they also say sorry that you’re leaving. And so keep it both When finally it’s getting too much, now I quit Global Start. I moved on to the restaurant.
[i] What year was it that you started this restaurant?
[r] 2007.
[i] 2007. So 8 years now. Yeah, here we are. About Global Start, you said you met the minister.
Yes, Minister de Geus Social…
[i] Affairs.
[r] Business, from the CDA. Then he was a minister. When he heard that we’re doing incredibly good activities.
[r] And he came to visit us in person.
[i] Wow.
[r] And then he met with me in person as well, because we’re also becoming the
[i] Along with those other two colleagues, or who were the…
[r] I was the supervisor, the supervisor belongs to me, the shop floor, so actually…
[i] What an honour, isn’t it?
[r] That was an incredible honour, when I think back as well, I am very proud of it. Then we were received at The Hague, even that award.
[i] Beautiful, yes, but did it make it difficult to give up and start new work? Yeah, not reciprocally, but…
[r] No, no. That was, I was very pleased with that work. I was incredibly networked and positive. Unbelievable experience of, of the situation and I also have so much rich experience about society and politics and about those whole things and that was just for me, yes, I have to use that opportunity. Yeah.
[i] And why, what significance did this restaurant have for you besides being a good cook, because it has to do with your background, doesn’t it?
[r] This is everything. Actually, I’m just saying that people who know me from that foundation and also outside of the foundation, those acquaintances of mine, who just say ‘[name], you can do better than this. Come on! That’s what they say. Who says that? This is where I feel better. Because for me, this is my mother, my family, my En Dutch, you name it, from Maastricht to Groningen. And America and Australia, the whole of Europe, people just come in. I just feel at home here.
[i] You feel at home here?
Yeah. So this means a lot.
And you cook yourself?
I cook myself.
Every day?
[r] Every day, no, except Monday. We’re doing it with my girlfriend now because my girlfriend quit her job almost two and a half years ago. She had worked at ABN AMRO. So she’s been working with me for two and a half years now. We do it together. My son does it on Sunday now, he’s doing an internship with us.
[i] Does he do the ministry?
[r] Service and sometimes he comes to help in the kitchen. So he needs to get some experience.
[i] Yeah, okay, you’ve been living in Amsterdam since 2001 if I’m right. If I asked you what kind of connection you have with this city, what would you say?
[r] Special.
[i] Special. And why? What’s the point?
Amsterdam is, after all, a city where you don’t feel strange. For me then, for me. A lot of people just say you don’t get in touch with people easily, but for me it was the other way around. From day one I come here, my neighbors where I had my first house. They come downstairs and say if you need anything, you have to say. I was wow, because where I was, in the asylum center where I was, I had to ask for everything, I need this, I need this, everything. Nobody’s coming to you. Where I was in Laren where I volunteered for years, those people like me, but that’s all. That was just real, I just have to take care of everything myself and the contacts have to stay clean. But when I came to Amsterdam, just the first people who come from upstairs to downstairs say if you’re
[i] By the way, where was that in Amsterdam?
[r] In Haarlemmerplein, say at the back of the IJ. Yes, beautiful.
Do you still live there?
No, I don’t anymore.
Okay, where do you live now?
[r] Now we live in Osdorp with my girlfriend.
Osdorp, okay.
[r] Eleven years or so.
[i] So okay. What neighborhood is it where you live now? Is it cozy too?
[r] It’s a great neighborhood. It’s just a little out of town. You’re in town. There you have multi-nationality. And you have one piece of nature, one piece of city, and I live fantastic.
[i] And I actually got to my last question. You said something about it. Where do you feel at home? Or when do you feel at home?
[r] When I’m with my kids. Then it’s home.
[i] Children.
[i] And do you feel at home? Has this become your home?
[r] I made it home. Yeah. I made it.
[i] Well, those were my questions, so I don’t know if there’s anything you’d like to add, anything you’d like to say?
[r] Well it’s, the only thing I can maybe say is just that, out of the whole last twenty years, I’ve just become an experience richer and wiser about the world, different world. The view of the world has become incredibly bigger than it was. On a completely different twist, which I never expected
[i] Okay. Nice addition. Thank you.
[r] Thank you, too.