[i] Well, [name] we’re finally ready. I asked you to come up with an object of some value to you. Could you grab the object and tell me why it’s there for you… Why you chose the object?

[r] Yes, I could.

What is the value to you of that object?

[r] Well, the object, I was looking for a very long time and thinking of what it would be, that’s my laptop.

[i] Mhm

[r] I’ve had those for years and yes, that’s all my work and schoolwork and everything I’ve actually got, but what I’ve done over the past six, seven years is written on this. And I’ve got it with me everywhere and if it crashes or breaks down once, yes, I’ve lost a lot of things, so that’s why I have to make back-up’s every time. But that’s something I thought has value for me in the past six years, seven years.

[i] Hm okay.


[i] Thanks. Hey, would you introduce yourself, please?

Well, my name is… Yeah, I’m [name], I’m 25 years old. I live in Utrecht. I’m studying architecture at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences. I’m from Afghanistan, fled here, when I was about five, six years old, I don’t remember living here for about 19 to 20 years. Um… Yes, I do a lot of sports and besides that I see photography as a hobby and sometimes as work. Furthermore, yes, I’m studying and working every day.

Hey, you were born in Afghanistan. Where in Afghanistan?

[r] In eh Kabul.

[i] In Kabul.

[r] Capital, yeah.

[i] In the capital.

[i] And how did you get to Holland? Did you come to Holland alone, or with your family?

No, with, with the family. I have two more brothers, so they are, there are five of us already.

[i] And that was, what year was that?

[r] That was in, May 30th, 1996, if it’s okay, yeah, if I’m so out of my mind

[i] Yeah, you were six at the time?

Five or six.

Five or six.

[r] I don’t remember, ’96, I was about five.

[i] Yeah, and, uh, are you the oldest of the three?

[r] I’m the eldest. Yeah, I am.

[i] The eldest of the three, like that! Do you have any… Memories of it? From, say, your childhood to your fifth year in Kabul?

[r] No, it’s all…

[i] In terms of colors… or in terms of people, language, food, street atmosphere…

[r] Um, atmosphere on the street, yeah, I don’t remember, but I do remember eating [couple] ice creams with my dad, that I had really nice, nice ice creams. But other than that, I really don’t know. It’s all faded away, actually.

[i] Yeah.

[r] So, I really don’t remember.

[i] Do you ever think about that, that period? You, you, you…

[r] Very, very, very sometimes.

[i] Your childhood in, uh

[r] Very sometimes. Yeah, I’ve been through almost nothing there, so…

[i] Yeah.

[r] Won’t think I’ll miss it so soon actually that-, I’ve hardly been through anything, or maybe I just forgot.

[i] Mm-hmm, and then you came to Holland, and, uh, how did you get here?

[r] I don’t know either

[i] You don’t remember that either, no.

[r] I’ve never actually asked actually, was quite yes, interesting to ask also of how we actually got here. But I have, yeah, I wouldn’t know, I guess.

[i] It’s not a, a theme in your life right now, is it?

[r] No no.

[i] No no.

[r] Definitely not, no no.

Okay. But do you remember the city, or, uh, where you arrived in Holland, where that was in Holland?

[r] Neither.

[i] Neither

[r] All I know is that the shelter was in Oisterwijk.

[i] Where is that?

[r] In Oisterwijk, I think it’s in Brabant, I’m not sure.

Oh yeah.

[r] It was a bungalow park and that was turned into a shelter, I know. But really the city where we took the first step, I don’t know.

[i] Yeah, and, and how long did you live in Oisterwijk?

[r] That was a period of two months I think, or three months or so.

[i] Yeah.

Yeah, and then you went to the AZC.

[i] Oh yeah

[r] That was also a period of two to three, four I think… Then we got an apartment here in Utrecht and, yes, so far I just stayed in Utrecht actually.

Oh yeah… So you’re going to live in Utrecht when you’re six years old?

Utrecht, yeah, this is actually my town.

[i] Yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah I understand yeah! And do you still have your first impressions of Utrecht as a child, even though you were so small?


[i] What was fun, what wasn’t fun? What did you notice?

[r] In itself, when I was, yes, until I was twelve or so, eleven until I went to high school, I actually never really looked at Utrecht.

[i] What neighborhood did you come to?

[r] In Oog in Al.

[i] In Eye In Al, okay.

[r] It was in a long street and there were still neighborhood kids and yeah, and that was it, actually. Other than that, I’ve never actually been out of the street without my parents. Until my… Until I went to high school. Of course I had to ride my bike and go into town.

[i] How was that? How was that for you, from Eye in Al to town cycling? You’re getting a little older a teenager, an adolescent, huh? How…?

[r] Yeah, right, it was totally new, and until then, yeah, I’d never really been out of town alone or anything, so it was something new. Wasn’t really exciting or anything, didn’t think it was that exciting, but it was something new, say, what I did then.

Okay, and how old were you?

[r] When I went to high school… let’s see…

[i] Yeah then, it’s usually


[i] twelve, twelve

[r] …twelve, something like that? Yeah, yeah, twelve I think, yeah.

[i] And what high school did you go to?

[r] Um, I used to do the Majella, the mavo is.

[i] And where’s that in Utrecht?

I thought it was in Garden Village.

Oh, yeah.

Back here.


[r] Then I went to Anna van Rijn College.

Oh, yes.

[r] I got to do havo in the second year and I’m done with it.

[i] You finished that? Yeah.

[r] Finished indeed.

[i] Okay.

[r] And yes, now I’m doing college.

[i] Yeah. So you’re from Oog in Al, to Tuinwijk…

Garden Village.

Garden Village, sorry. And when are you going to live in Overvecht?


…because you’re living in Overvecht now?

I now live in Overvecht. Then we– our first home was in Oog in Al. And then we moved to Overvecht. With my parents and my brothers.

[i] With your parents and with your brothers.

[r] That’s right. And then about four years, five years ago, we moved to Columns with my parents and I got a little apartment here.

[i] Cool.

[r] Yeah. Didn’t you hesitate for a second to, um, take it or not? You had something like this from here in this neighborhood…?

[r] I think Utrecht’s okay.

[i] Yeah.

[r] It doesn’t bother me.

[i] Yeah.

[r] While, it’s a, uh, disadvantaged neighborhood. But it doesn’t bother me.

[i] No, no, no. Then how do you define “deprivation”?

Um, yeah, it’s just… How do I define that… There are too many hungry kids… Yeah, it’s just, you just see too many kids on the street… Yeah, they’re actually low educated, doing almost nothing about school or hobbies. Who are just on the street and cycling or playing soccer. It’s all I think they think about. And that there’s a lot of police, you see, walking around and sirens you often hear here.

[i] And does that what… Does that do something to you?

Not with me.

[i] Or do you have one of those, I live here, but that’s not my cup of tea.

Yeah, right, yeah.

[i] That, you see?

Yeah, when I lived here with my parents,

[i] Yes…

[r] I hardly ever went outside actually, because it was just from home to school and doing homework or sports, or it was something else.

[i] Yeah.

[r] I almost didn’t really have time…. Yeah, I was gonna play outside, though, but I didn’t really like befriending the kids here. I didn’t, I didn’t mind, I already had other friends.

[i] Yeah?

[r] Yeah.

[i] Did you? How was it? Did you have other friends from school?

[r] Yeah, from school and from the neighborhood, a couple I say I knew well, or acquaintances who also lived here.

[i] Yes, because you have an Afghan descent, you are a Dutchman with an Afghan descent, I suppose. How would you define your own, yes, identity? Before I pick up anything.

[r] No, it doesn’t matter. Well I feel myself yes, an Afghan in Holland.

[r] Okay.

[i] And I also feel Dutch sometimes, I never actually feel excluded or weird when I’m between just Dutch people, I’ve often had that too. But I don’t feel weird or anything, or as a foreigner or as an Afghan. I can adapt well to people, so to speak.

[i] Yes? Why do you think that is?

I don’t know…. I think at school, when we were in elementary school, we were, me and my brothers, one of the few foreigners, so to speak. My parents actually put us in a white school on purpose so that we could, say, develop more. And I think maybe it’s because of that, or it’s my character, personality, I think.

[i] Yeah.

[r] Yeah?

[i] But at home, was the culture more Afghani, so to speak?

[r] Yes, we just kept it that way, it still is, so, I’m happy with that, because then you also have something of your background, and I think that’s the way it should be.

[i] Yeah. You speak…?

[r] Afghan.

[i] Afghan. What’s the official name for that, Afghan?

[r] Yeah, it’s, we have two languages.


Pashtun and Dari, and I speak, I speak Dari, that’s actually, uh, Persian sort of thing.

Because if you… Does it belong to an area in Afghanistan?

[r] In the north so to speak, they usually speak Pashtun, if it’s good and a bit more towards the south and the west is more Dari, I think.

[i] And at home you speak,


[i] Dari. With your parents?

With my parents, yes.

[i] And your brothers too?

And my brothers too, yes.

Oh, how funny.

[r] Yeah, it used to be Dutch, but at one point I thought, yeah, it’s possible, can’t be. And I just speak Dutch now, of course sometimes, some Dutch words and phrases do come up, because I, because I forgot how it is in Afghan, then I do speak Dutch, because, but I usually just try to speak Afghan.

[i] Do you think that’s important?

[r] The language?

[i] For yourself?


[i] And that you choose to speak Afghan with your family, Dari.

Dari, Dari.



[i] Dari speaking?

[r] Yes, that’s just something of yourself and, yes, you’re in Holland, and that’s just something of yourself and you shouldn’t lose that, I think. Your background.

[i] And besides the fact that you consciously choose the language, are there any other aspects or things of Afghan culture that have any value to you and that belong to you, and to who you are?

Um… I have, yes, I am not such a, yes, a culture person, but also not Dutch culture or someone else’s culture… But what I say about Afghans but yes, the language … Dealing with each other, so to speak.

[i] Manners?

[r] Exactly yes, that’s it,

[i] Do you have an example of that?

[r] We’re too polite, so to speak.


[r] Pretty er…. Yes, hospitable and on the street for example when you are in Afghanistan, what I heard, also seen when you meet someone, if you want to ask him-, something then you go first a whole acquaintance of: ‘hello, how are you, how are you with your wife and children’. But here in the Netherlands, for example, you don’t have that. Here you say: ‘Can I ask you something?’, then you ask your question. In Afghanistan you go first: ‘How are you? How are things going there now? How is work going?’, quickly. And then you can ask.

Then it becomes more personal.

[r] Then it becomes.

[i] By that you mean…

[r] Yeah, I guess, I don’t know if it’ll be really personal, or if it’s, it’s just a habit, I don’t know I haven’t been there. Because I don’t do it myself, because eh if I ask Afghanis yes, I can ask you something in Afghan, but then I’m not going to say ‘How are you doing with that, how are you doing with that?’.

[i] No.

[r] But in Afghanistan they do. But other than that, yeah, the only thing I’m going to say is… What with me is just Afghan is just my language I think and sometimes my thoughts I think and my ehm belief, but that’s not really Afghan that’s just belief, for yourself.

And what is your faith?

I’m Muslim.

[i] And, in Afghanistan is there, do you have different schools of thought, within eh Islam?

Yeah, you do, yeah.

Which… To which current, I don’t know if I’m saying it correctly, but to which view or current within Islam, because Islam is so broad of course, don’t you feel the most akin?

[r] Um.

[i] No.

[r] I, I’m not one of the currents so if anyone…

[i] Okay.

[r] There are so many currents. There are two major currents; the Sunnis and Shibites.

[i] Yes.

And my dad’s a Shibite, my mom’s a Sunni, so…

[i] Interesting.

It’s, it’s a mix.


But when people ask what, what I am, I say I’m a Muslim.


I’m not saying I’m a Sunni or a Shibite. I think that’s ridiculous actually.

Yeah? Why is that?

[r] Yeah, the distinction between people again. Of course, there are other thoughts of each other and interpretations, but the main line is just God, prophet and be a good man.

[i] Yes. Yeah, yeah, that’s nice.

[r] That’s it.

[i] And now if you look at the situation in Afghanistan, of course I’ll go on about Utrecht.

[r] Hmhm.

[i] But I’m curious to know how you feel about that. Because you know two cultures, and how do you just look at Kabul from that mix of knowledge and experience of two cultures?

Um, I’ve actually never been back before… Never been back, actually.

[i] What you get on television.

[r] What I get on television…

[i] Through your family?

Um, yeah, the mix… They’re trying to be modern, I think they can do that. They are rebuilding, but then of course you have people who are still a bit behind or… Yes, I know, I don’t really know, because I don’t really follow the news anymore, because it’s just too much misery there. Because it will come, I’ve always said it will only come over, in 100 years or so that it will be okay again. I still say. We don’t experience that time anyway, that we really become normal again, like for example the Netherlands or how it used to be. But for the rest, yes, I…

[i] But why do you think it’s gonna take so long?

[r] Yes, it’s a war of, of 40 years, a civil war. Yeah, it’s over now, if that’s all right. Then came the Al-Qaeda and it’s still active. And yes, the whole country is destroyed and the people are, have no knowledge, no education… No normal roads. Um… We just turned into monsters, actually. What I got, is if you go there as a foreigner, as an Afghan living in the Netherlands, if you go there on holiday they see immediately equal to your attitude, to your… How you talk, how you speak, being able to see right away that you are not from Afghanistan, because they have become more loud and they immediately speak really loud and aggressive. And for example when I am there, I say ‘Hello, how are you?’, or eh just very quiet, normal, subtle talk. And they say right away, right away, they say what they want and not really softly.

[i] Hm.

[r] So they notice. I’ve heard a lot about them being hard and antisocial…


Get used to it.


Because they’ve been through a lot of misery.

Yeah, yeah.

And corruption, of course.

[i] Yes. And from the same, that– that same perspective, how do you describe that, how do you look at Holland?

[r] Yeah, that’s Holland, yeah, pretty normal. What we actually think is normal then, maybe they don’t think it’s normal. Yeah, quiet. Living.

[i] Have you ever felt uprooted here? In Holland?

[r] No, never.

[i] No?

Yeah, I’ve been here since I was six, so yeah.

[i] Yeah, yeah. Hey, and then you come, you come to Holland when you’re about six. Then you’re gonna live in Oog in Al first, where you live a big time of your childhood.

[r] Yeah, right.

[i] And did you have a lot of Afghan-Dutch friends there?

[r] No, in Oog in Al I never actually saw any Afghans. They were usually, um… In the whole street we were maybe Max with ten kids, like 100 houses or something, apartments, and those ten kids, we were just really good friends, just playing football, hide-and-seek every day… Going to war. And that was it, actually. It was more Moroccan and Turkish.

[i] Okay, sorry, yeah.

[r] Yeah.

[i] And did you come to their house, or did they come to your house?

[r] Not very often, no, I did once or twice. We were always outside. We had nothing to do at home.

[i] Yeah.

[r] Yeah.

Okay. And, uh, and at school you had more Dutch…

[r] At school I was, I was the only foreigner actually in high school, or eh in elementary school. And, yeah, I didn’t really feel displaced or anything, no.

[i] And when are you going to get to know more Afghans? Cause you’re, uh, secretary of foundation-

[r] [Name of Afghan foundation]

[i] [Name of Afghan Foundation]

[r] Yeah, that’s right.

[i] And that’s… Can you tell me something about that?

[r] Yeah, that’s when I was just finishing high school. When I was 17 or so, 18. Yeah, I was, I wanted to do a little more… Yeah, I had some contact here, in Overvecht, with Afghans. Suddenly, I’d come across an Afghan forum, I’d become a member and, uh, conversations, discussions and stuff… Was kind of fun, I thought. And yes, and then it started more eh, it started more of an Afghan community, through the internet actually, I started to get more in touch. And so I also met some friends that I hadn’t seen for years, I suddenly came across them. New friends made through the forum and, yes, one thing led to another.

[r] That was it. And then I started to look a bit wider from Utrecht, I met other Afghans again. Now we actually have a lot more Afghan friends than Dutch or Turkish friends together.

[i] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And is that important to you, that you have friends from that group as well, or?

[r] Important… Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, they’re your countrymen and you have the same background, the same language, the same thoughts sometimes, or most of the time.

Habits maybe…

Habits and…

Like what?

Habits, you mean?

Yeah or, just, yeah, habits.

Yeah… Let’s see, that’s… Um, yeah… Yeah, I don’t really know. Habits, yeah…

In clothing style, in… Music?

Yes, music.

[i] The way you celebrate something, for example.

[r] Music indeed, and celebrating something, we have New Years, Norouz is, is called that. We have, I thought that’s on March 21st. When spring or, spring or autumn? Spring starts, I thought.

[i] Spring? Yeah.

[r] That’s the first day of spring if it’s good. And yes, music, language…

Wait a minute, so that’s Afghan New Year?

No, not really Afghan, it’s actually Persian. Iran does it, Afghanistan… Who else? Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or something, but that’s not really Afghan, that’s just more when it used to be, I guess that originated, but apart from that I like me yes…

[i] And then you celebrate it, then you celebrate with your Afghan friends?

[r] Well, not really celebrating, yes, I’m celebrating, but then there will be a party somewhere, that’s where I’m going. Then you’ll see those people again that you haven’t seen in a long time. Or you’ll see new people again.

[i] Nice. Hey, because I was wondering to what extent your cultural background also determined your choices?

[r] Um

[i] In, so far in your life

[r] Yes, study, I had to go from… Yeah, I don’t know, that’s not really culture, but my parents really wanted me to study, and I wanted to study. That’s actually normal. But other really cultural things, have not really played in my life, I think. Important things.

[i] Well, the fact that you do have an Afghan background. From, like, just, like… What you eat.


What your tastes are?


What you, yeah, what you think of the world. About, yes, the choices you make.

Yeah, at most like you said, the food is totally different of course, how you cook and the spices…

Yeah, how do you cook?

Yeah, I don’t cook myself, but my parents, yeah, my mom cooks. I can’t really cook Afghan myself. But then it’s more rice, meat and a lot of taste in it and, spicy, spicier than what you’re used to in Holland, that’s actually it. And more greasy actually, a lot of oil.

[i] Yeah, yeah.

[r] It’s tasty.

Yeah, what, what’s your favorite food?

I don’t really have any. It’s, yeah, I don’t really, I actually eat all kinds of things.

Yeah, yeah.

I don’t really have the favorite food. I want to eat everything, so, I’m not that hard.

No, you don’t drink coffee or tea.

[r] I don’t drink, I’ve never had coffee, yes I’ve tried it before, I think it’s super dirty.

[i] Dirty.

[r] And tea, yeah, that’s weird, people look at me weird that I don’t drink tea, while my parents really drink cups of tea one evening, and that’s actually normal for Afghani. Slurping tea inside. But I’ve never actually done that, yes, I drink it very sometimes, when I’m visiting or somewhere, one cup maybe and I usually just forget that. And then yeah, not really that I’m used to drinking tea or anything.

And what do you drink with…

Water or soda.


Yeah, or just gravy most of the time, that’s fine, otherwise no hot, or chocolate, that’s the only hot drink I drink, that’s just chocolate actually.

[i] Okay. But so that… The fact that you have a cultural Afghani background didn’t determine your choices.

[r] Right. Yeah. I was just, we were raised freely by my parents, not strictly Afghan or Dutch or Muslim. Yeah, just like do your thing and keep it in order and keep it within limits. Were always cheered on by my parents. Supported actually by everything we did.

[i] Nice. Nice.


[i] And you said that too, that you’re taking pictures?

That’s right.

Since when do you do that?

About 6 years, 7 years or so, or… Yeah, sort of… 6 years I think I got my first DSLR camera in my hands, my parents, yeah, my dad really likes pictures. He bought a small compact camera, but he thought it was too small, not nice. Then at some point he went to buy an DSLR camera, but yes, you only shoot with a car mode, you only shoot pictures. Then I thought, yes, that’s an expensive camera too, and, I opened the book, a bit of reading. I thought it would be interesting to work with a camera like that. And then it started a little bit. Experimenting, taking pictures… And I’d been photoshopping since I was a kid, 16 years old, too. So, photography, photoshopping, is actually very close together. And yes, now I do it for hobbies a lot and for parties for friends, who need me, I do it, or here and there some assignments for… The other day I did one, for a friend, who has opened a restaurant, I have dishes, I photographed as well.

Here in Utrecht?

In Utrecht, in Channel Island.

Oh yeah.

It opens in two weeks or so, I think. Yes, I do these little things and for the rest I just do it for hobby actually usually.

And, let’s see, that restaurant, that, what restaurant is that?

It’s a restaurant lounge. You can, for example, pay entrance fee, just pay entrance money, and then you can just eat and drink anything you want. Further yes, I don’t know the concept very well yet and it’s just, it’s a Moroccan friend of mine. But he doesn’t really want to keep it Moroccan or Arabic, but he really wants to mix all kinds of things, to attract everyone.

[i] And you took the pictures for the menu there?

[r] Right, yeah.

[i] Nice. And good food too, so…

[r] Yeah, great food, yeah! Sure.

Hey, and if you’re shooting, where… What, what, yeah, what do you like to shoot? Is it more people or is it more of a landscape?

[r] I’m more of an all-rounder actually. I just like it when I see something, for example, and I find it really interesting at that moment, then I take a picture of it. I have a lot of pictures of objects, of people, of landscape. Animals I have. Yeah, a lot of everything, really. I experiment with everything.

Yeah? And how do you do that? Do you have an example by any chance, a picture you could show me?


I like it.

Let’s see… Yeah, I’m on, I’ve got a website.

Yeah? Oh! You got it, okay.

Let’s see. And yeah, and I have a facebook page too, but the website’s easier if it’s good. It’s called A.A. Pictures. Pictures, it’s called. And, uh, let’s see.

[i] Yeah, [let’s see if he does it]

[i] Aha!

[r] Yeah, yeah, just people I photographed. That was, this was at a party.

[i] How nice.

[r] And yeah, I [… was there beard, I’d really like that one. [sighs] Yeah, can I take your picture? [sighs] Yeah, sure. And he, let’s see where’s my mouse… I saw him on a train, he was just sitting across from me. Um, I just, yeah, I thought what he looked like was really, really good and was just a snapshot. And I asked him for a picture, and at first he was surprised by “huh, why? And explained to him why, and what I photograph, and hobby. Did he like it? And yes, I thought it was a very nice picture. This was back here. Was maybe 5:00 in the morning when I went to internship. I took this one. And for the rest, yeah, that’s the way it goes, actually.

[i] That’s Overfight?

This is Overvecht. Yeah, that’s back there.

[i] Nice. But did you photoshoot that too?

[r] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah… The photos I Photoshop anyway, in terms of color, in terms of more or less exposure. Because yes, you can never get a perfect picture, yes, you can, very sometimes, but I always retouch it.

[i] Yeah, yeah.

[r] Yes, to maybe create a different image and maybe a more beautiful or an uglier one. Totally different from what’s normal.

[i] Do you, do you have any idea about that? Or do you just take the picture first and then think about it?

[r] Sometimes I have an idea of what I want, for example with that guy I saw on the train. and he’s got a tattoo here. And at that moment he did have a low neck and earplugs, and that tatoo was also in color. That’s when I knew right away that I want to have a picture in black and white, and I just want to have the tatoo in color. So sometimes I know what I want, and sometimes I’m sitting during the, yes, editing that I think, oh wait, this is also possible, and this is also possible, and that too. And that’s how a picture comes about.

[i] Nice. Do you have any other pictures from Utrecht?

[r] From Utrecht? Let’s see… Grab my mouse, otherwise I can’t scroll.


From Utrecht, no, not really, I guess. This is right here. This is right here.

Oh, yeah.

That’s with us… Is it all right?

Um, yeah, that, uh, maybe, it’s a nice picture, yeah.

I could enlarge it, I think.

[i] So maybe it could be a little bigger, yeah. It’s interesting. Yeah, yeah. Could you sit back a little bit? Yeah, it’s better that way. Yeah, this is best. And the picture, yes you… Maybe you can lift it up a bit, yeah, move it towards, towards the camera, then we can see it a bit, yeah.


Yeah. Nice.

That’s across the street, the apartments here.

Wow, oh yeah. I see it, yeah.



That was at sunset that was.


[r] And there was a very nice glow and the sun was really just setting, as you can see.

[i] Yeah.

[r] And I went out onto the balcony with my camera and, yes, I shot until I had the perfect shot. Of course, I also edited this.


Darkened it a bit, and made the sun come up and let you see the glow.

Yeah. Do you have any other places in Utrecht that you, yeah, like, or that you like?

Um… No, I didn’t really look it up, actually.

But where…

[r] I’ve never really undressed Utrecht, say, in the 20 years I’ve lived here. I was usually just busy with school, sports, and then back home, homework, school, sports, outdoor games …

[i] But you do feel like a funnel?

[r] Yeah, it’s just my town, actually. Cause I’m used to all this, I know where everything is, I know what’s, and where what is. I know exactly how to find my way around here, so I never get lost, if that’s okay. But other than that, I don’t really, say what I said, really well researched of what that is, or where you really have the most beautiful place. Actually, no.

[i] Hm. So, uh… Yeah, but Utrecht means something to you, doesn’t it?

Yeah. Utrecht is just the city where I live. Where I actually spent my childhood and, yeah, still do. I think my rightful place is here. I guess I’m never gonna leave Utrecht, I guess.

[i] Yeah.

[r] ‘Cause you got everything here. Everything’s at your fingertips, and central. I call it the heart of Holland, but of course it’s not the heart of Holland. I call it ‘the heart of Holland’, because it’s just connection of everything. You have to go to Utrecht, and only then you can spread to the other side of the Netherlands. So I think of yes why should I leave Nederl-, or Utrecht, if I already have a perfect city.

[i] And if you turn it around, huh, from yes, all those things Utrecht gives you, so the fact that it’s in the, more or less central. And, everything at your fingertips. And so Utrecht gives you a lot.

[r] Yeah.

[i] So, what if you turn it around? What would, what would you give Utrecht?

What would I give Utrecht? Um, yeah, tax dollars, I guess.

Yeah, yeah!

Yeah, yeah, I’m proud of it. And apart from that, I don’t really know that I really, really haven’t thought about what I can give back or give back Utrecht.

[i] No. But you do have places in Utrecht, I mean, you know a lot of neighborhoods. You live in Overvecht and you’ve also lived in Oog in Al, in Zuilen, you mentioned. Could you tell us a bit about that, about that time in Zuilen for example, how you experienced that, what the difference is between Zuilen and Overvecht, which you really notice?

[r] Columns that’s when we just got, uh, a, a new home. So those were apartments that were demolished first. And the planning was to say more… That was also a, a kind of black neighborhood, to attract more Dutch people, and then those apartments there were demolished, new houses were made. And yes, we had the opportunity to move there, my parents immediately said, yes why not? And, it’s a little quieter, um, there are a lot of small children. Are, uh, families that just had kids, or are newlyweds. You don’t really see kids over 12, I think, there. So it’s actually a more one, a neighborhood, not really a neighborhood, but street actually, just where a lot of small children can grow up together. And not, for example, that they are harassed by boys or young people, or are a bit older. There are no hanging youngsters there either, not at all. That’s nice. Yeah, everyone’s having a good time, I think, over there. It’s quiet and no noise or anything. Unlike Overvecht. There’s just all sorts of things here. Everything’s open here, and everybody can go anywhere and, yeah, you’ve got different kinds of people here, actually.

[i] Like what?

Yeah, some more civilized people, some more anti-social people… Old, young… Newly married couples… bachelors… Students here… And you have some people who have a bit more income than average, I think. I’m sure you have them somewhere. But I think they are more outside, something outside Overvecht, or just at the border.

And you feel at home here?

Well, I wouldn’t call it home, but I wouldn’t call it outdoors or anything. It’s just normal.

[i] Do you, do you have any connections to the neighborhood, specifically? Do you do anything for the neighborhood?


Are there meetings for the neighborhood, residents?

Yeah, I’m sure there are. I do get a few things in, folders, but yeah, I don’t have time to go there, or anything. I’ll be away from home by nine in the morning, and then I’ll be back here by five, six. And then I go exercise or go to my parents’, and then I don’t have time for anything like that. And I work weekends, too, so…

[i] Ah, okay. Hey, and where do you work out?

[r] Um, back here is Fit For Free, so actually, walk a minute. So that’s where I work out.

Every day?

No, not every day. Yeah, I do taekwondo. Taekwondo that’s about five minutes away from here. I do that twice a week. And once a week I do soccer, on Sundays. And the days I don’t do football or taekwondo, I try to work out.

[i] Taekwondo, what’s that?

It’s a Korean martial art, self-defense actually. It’s, uh… Have you ever seen it on TV? Taekwondo? Never heard of it?



[i] Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard of it.

Heard of it… Sort of, yeah, karate, of course, everybody knows karate.


Taekwondo is more like footwork. You actually train your feet, but you hardly use your hands. It’s more real speed with your feet, strength with your feet actually, just kicking it is actually. But of course there are two kinds, ITF, that’s what I do with punching. And WTF, that’s really what they do at Olympic Games, but that’s really just footwork and something else.

[i] Technically.

[r] Sorry?

[i] Very technical, isn’t it?

More speed and power actually. And technically, yeah, taekwondo is always technical anyway. And I got that, five years ago. Yeah, it was, I thought it was interesting, and at one point… I thought it was gonna be beautiful at some point. Because you’ve got these really nice moves, it gives you peace, discipline, and more self-confidence. Yeah, that’s what I did it for, to create more self-confidence, more discipline… And a little more to my, how do you say? That you say keep yourself in check, don’t get aggressive too fast. That you’re just saying… The moment can sense what you have to do or what you don’t have to do. For example, if someone comes at you aggressively. You can hit him right away, or you can just stay calm and keep him calm. There are two, many kinds of things you can learn there. And, of course, self-defense. Taekwondo shouldn’t be used as an attack, but only in self-defense. That’s in any martial arts, actually. And I did that for two years, then I quit. Um, now I’ve started again for about six months.

[i] At the club back here?

[r] No, that was a different club. That was an Afghan man. That yeah, my cousin’s husband, actually. That, uh… Did 20 years, 25 years of taekwondo. And he started teaching. And I went to his school. And he’s a surgeon,too,and at one point,he ran out of time. So the whole school was completely closed at one point. I was really sorry. And now I found another one called Eneidokwan, that is a very famous school in the Netherlands. One of the biggest if it is good. Yes, very nice, nice, good teachers too. And interesting lessons too.

[i] And, he’s here too?

[r] He’s also here in the neighborhood. Yeah, that’s about five minutes by bike.

[i] And are there more people from the neighborhood who, and that way you have contact with people from the neighborhood again through the taekwondo school, or…. With young people?

[r] Yes, it will come… Most of them will come around Garden Village, I think, or, or Overvecht. The nearby neighborhoods.

And you have a fixed time that you train there too?

Yeah, Monday and Thursday.

An hour and a half or so of training?

Monday is about an hour of training, and Thursday is about an hour and a half. But usually it’s about an hour and a quarter.

[r] That’s funny, because that’s very different from Afghan and Dutch culture, isn’t it? Taekwondo.

[r] No, there are a lot of Dutch people there too!

[i] Yes, I understand that, but the, the sport itself…

[r] Yes.

[i] Is of course, comes from a completely different angle.

[r] Yeah, right, that’s Korean. They do a lot of taekwondo in Afghanistan, actually. Very famous in Afghanistan actually.

[i] Oh yeah?

One of the most common sports besides soccer, martial arts is taekwondo. And last Olympics was the Afghan taekwondoka, was the very first medal won for Afghanistan in history actually, bronze. Of course, everybody was proud of it, and, uh, everybody was totally happy…

[i] Then you thought, “I’m gonna do the taekwondo again?

[r] Yeah, I did it then!

[i] Okay!

[r] Then I did it. Yeah, then my motivation started more, of course, but in Afghanistan taekwondo is very much into actually.

[i] So do you meet any other Afghani boys or girls there?

Um, I did at my last school. Which I used to go to.

[i] So that was a relative?

[r] Exactly, yes. Yeah, yeah. Of course, there were other… Dutch, Turks and Moroccans, Surinamese, were also there. But there were also say a few, a piece or three, four, Afghans. But not in this one, no. Not this one, no.

[i] Nice.


[i] So that’s another hobby of yours, taekwondo, photography.

[r] Right.

[i] And playing soccer. Where, are you at FC Utrecht?

[r] No, no, no! Luckily not no. No, I’m kidding! No, FC Utrecht, if only it were true, yes… No, it would have been a dream of mine too. To become a soccer player.

[i] [at the same time] Become a soccer player?

Yeah. But that didn’t work out. Yeah, but yeah, I do. We actually do it every Sunday. Made a group of friends. And we do it at Hercules’. That’s about fifteen minutes away from here.

Where, where in… Let’s see, in Utrecht… Is that it, Hercules?

That’s… I don’t know what that’s called…

[i] Isn’t that also in Oog in Al?

No. No, that’s direction… Also direction Garden Village or so I thought… I don’t know what that neighborhood there is called, I don’t know. It’s a very famous club it is, but we can borrow the field every Sunday then play soccer, just have a game with each other. Group of about twenty men.

So you’ve got your connections in this town…

[r] Yeah, I do. Everywhere. Yeah, that’s right.

Ben, are you a network guy?


[i] Because to be able to get to Hercules on a field over there… Every Sunday.

[r] Yeah, I’m not really the connection in there actually, so say I’m rolled in, actually. They already did. But I do like to know more people, say, yes… And doing something with them. Different kinds of people.

[i] Like what?

[r] Yeah, like, for example, at taekwondo, what I’m doing now, the school I’m in, they’re not Afghans at all. I don’t mind, because I like, for example, not being with Afghans, touching friends. I already have enough Afghan friends, which I really almost every day I think I talk to, or sit with. Yeah, Surinamese, Chinese… I’ve also worked in a restaurant where a lot of Chinese worked, Chinese restaurant it was, Restaurant Today. I’ve actually worked with a lot of people, or yes, connections, actually. So I’m not really someone who looks up one people or something, or one kind of people. I’m actually like, I can actually befriend anybody. It’s very easy. I can get along with anybody.

So friendship is important to you?

[r] Yeah, no, not really friendship. It’s just people you can get along with. Just have a little chat. I’ve never had a best friend, actually. Never really needed one. I do have friends, but I’ve never had a best friend. And, uh, I didn’t really mind or anything. So I’m actually, yeah, I’m in touch with everybody. Here and there.

Hey, back to the city, huh? For example, if you… You’d, you’d go out with one, with friends. Where would you go in, in Utrecht?

To go out in terms of…?

To go out in terms of… Like eating out… or, I don’t know, dancing… Or to the cinema… Where in the city do you move?

When I’m at…

[i] But then I’m really talking about the center, huh?

Yeah. When I go to the movies in the city, I usually go to, High Catherine. That’s easy and close and big too, most movies. And when I go out to dinner, it’s usually by the Oudegracht there. And yes, when it comes to dancing, I hardly ever go out, but I’ve been to Tivoli a few times…

[i] Oh, yeah.

[r] I did go there a couple of times, some friends…

on the Oudegracht or the?

No, at the…

The Slope?

The Slope, yes, the Slope. I went there twice. Because there was some kind of concert. That’s why I actually went. But other than that, in terms of going out, in terms of dancing, I hardly ever go out actually. And other than that… Yeah, and then just one, yeah… I like it when someone is just new in Utrecht, or outside Utrecht, I did give a tour of Utrecht a couple of times, just walking… And tell you a bit about history, about the Dom Tower of course… And…

[i] Yeah, where do you take someone, if you, imagine, a family of yours comes from Afghanistan, from Kabul, comes here, and you’re super proud of Utrecht.

[r] Yeah.

[i] What do you show then?

Yeah, of course. Downtown, actually. Downtown itself. Has enough, enough history I think. Always climbing the Cathedral Tower, of course. Standard.

[i] Yes. Good for the condition.

[r] Also, too, exactly! Yeah, just really downtown, the old… the, the houses and the… The what, what’s new, what’s being built right now, the new CU30. That’s totally… Just the whole of Utrecht changes with that, the whole of the inner city actually, changes with that, you almost don’t know it anymore I guess. High Catharijne…

That, that’s around Hoog Catharijne and…

Exactly, the Singel, yes there. Because the area where the car used to be, where you could go, is now completely closed off. That viaduct. Of course there will be water again. First it was water, then it was made a road again, and now the water is coming back again. Very nice picture of it just coming back from the past. And for the rest yes, Utrecht is being renewed a lot actually, inner city is being renewed a lot. And besides that you still have the old part. So you see it, contrast is very easy to see.

[i] Yes, because do you follow that more or less also because of your studies?

[r] I have for, of my study I have a … How do you say…


[r] College, exactly, a college over! And I follow it myself too, because of course it’s Utrecht. And you want to know what’s going on in Utrecht. What it will look like and on my study background, yes new buildings all and how it will look like, and where and why.

[i] And you study architecture?

[r] Yes, I am.

[i] And why did you choose that?

[r] It used to be because I wanted to be an architect and go back to Afghanistan wide to help with construction. Actually, that was my main goal. And now it’s all wiped out. Because I don’t trust that anymore anyway. The whole construction right now with buildings Enzo. So that has now become more in the background, it is now more of yes, I have chosen for it, and now I have to finish it and see what it, what it brings then later in terms of work area.

[i] Yes, and if, from an architectural point of view, you’re working with cities, with, with space, I suppose. Buildings and how the… The city…

[r] Right.

[i] Is. Do you ever walk around town with those eyes?

Yeah, sure.

Yeah? Can you, can you say something about that?

Yeah, a lot, a lot!

Can you say anything about that?

Can you give an example or something?

[r] Sorry?

[i] Give an example or something?

[r] The new Tivoli building, I don’t know if you’ve seen it?

Yeah, from the outside.

[r] On the outside, yeah, me too, I haven’t, not been inside. That really appeals to me, because I think it’s a super ugly building.

[i] Mm.

[r] Super big building, it’s too high and too big for a place like that and I think it’s really awful ugly. And the thought of that, I get, yeah… You’ve got those, those white squares, I don’t get that either. Yeah, I just think it’s an ugly building, so…

[i] So how would you like it?

How I, how I would do that…

[r] How would you Utrecht… If you were the architect of Utrecht, what would you change, what would you leave like that?

[r] Yes…

[i] What more do you think the city needs?

I’d leave the city more old-fashioned, the way it was. Because yes, the Romans had forts there and the Dom… And it’s all old, and I like that and, history. And outside the cities, say, the neighborhoods, that could be renewed. I don’t mind that very much, because the city itself, the centre, that is to say, has its own character actually. Because I think that’s a very important point in Utrecht.

[i] But based on that, that vision of yours, do you think that new Vredenburg building is ugly?

[r] No, I just think it’s ugly in terms of its size.

[i] It’s too big.

It’s too big and certain things I don’t understand why that was done, but…

[i] Like what?

Yeah, like, you’ve got those sides, you’ve got the white circles, the things…

Yeah, they’re like big circles or something.

[r] Exactly, yeah! I, I don’t get the idea, but I think it’s because it’s a, because Vredenburg is a music center. Have you ever had a conductor or a music notebook on a…

Seen it by default, yeah?

Seen it by default. They’ve got those spikes too, right?


I think that’s where it’s from, but I’m not sure. If it comes from that, okay, nice thought, you know, and, but, uh, I don’t really like it.

[i] It’s not your style?

[r] It’s not my style. But, like, the new town hall.

[i] Yeah.

[r] Or town hall, I think it’s super nice, very big, it exudes power…

[i] That style [is] not Utrecht, huh, that building?

[r] No, definitely not no, no not at all, no no. It’s just more, it’s just more modern than Utrecht actually. It’s just very big, it radiates power, and as a municipality, you also have to have power over, it’s very high. I think you have to have an overview, but the municipality has to have an overview of the whole of Utrecht. I think that’s the vision, that’s also very big and high. And I think that’s very beautiful, I’ve been inside, very beautiful, very big. Very public as well. Only there have been complaints because there’s too much noise coming in, people can’t work there of course. Because there are a lot of people walking back and forth and talking… It’s too, too open for everyone, everyone can just walk inside. But apart from that I think it’s a nice building.

[i] Yeah, yeah. Also white, but there are also so to speak

[i] holes in, that you…

[r] Yeah, there’s those, like, those white stripes, but that’s the construction of it.


So, it’s with the wind bandages, you get it… It doesn’t mean anything to you, wind bandages are constructions. Because it is made of steel, and those wind bandages keep the steel, so the construction stops it, for example, when there is a lot of wind or something, or earthquake, that it doesn’t topple over.

[i] Oh yeah…

[r] And those wind bandages that cross each other that hold it tight, so to speak. And to hide the wind bandages, they have, so to speak, the white… White facade, so to speak, white pieces made over them. Because, you know, you see they’re wind bandages, but you don’t see the ugliness of it. Cause it’s made a little nicer.

[i] So you like that style, too?

[r] I do like it. Yeah, yeah, right.

[i] More beautiful than the new Vredenburg Building.

[r] I like it better than the Vredenburg, yes.

[i] But those are two new buildings that the city has, aren’t they?

[r] That’s right. They are.

[i] And if you, because you, you were just talking about contrast. I do find that interesting. Could you tell me more about that, because of course we have the old city centre, and then all of a sudden, new buildings loom up in Utrecht that actually give the city a completely different twist, a different vision, a different experience.

[r] Right, yes.

[r] I think that…

[i] How do you see that?

[r] I think that’s done I think, because Utrecht is going to be more like one of the most visited cities I think, if it already is. Because I heard that around 2 million people a day there, in the…

[i] Is, excuse me…


Is that on?


Would you turn it on, please?

Yes, now it’s on.

Thank you very much.

Yeah, it’ll be hot in a minute.


[r] Yeah, I guess because, yeah, Utrecht station’s been renovated, too. And 2 million people travel through there every day, if it’s okay. And, and Utrecht is getting more central as well, every day I think, and that’s why they’ve made the side of the station more modern, to attract more people in terms of business people, or more offices…

put down or something.

Exactly, yeah.

[r] To attract more companies there. I think that’s why it’s a little more renewed than it is on the other side of town.

[i] And if you’re a structural engineer, would you, uh, like to do something in there later? As a structural engineer you also want your vision or your experiences there, no because you just live in Utrecht, you grew up here, you have a connection with the city… You study architecture, you know, you know something about it, would you like to play a role in that yourself?

[r] When I, the interesting thing is, when I just started engineering and then it was the project, then a year later I think about it. I always wanted to participate in such a project, CU30. And last year when I did an internship at JHK Architects. That’s in, in Papendorp. Do they have a building for the project they designed, actually, and I was able to work on it. Or yes, in itself, they couldn’t really work on it, but I was in it. I knew, I know what the building looks like, I’m not allowed to bring anything outside, but it’s not until 2016-17 or so they’re going to start, I think. But now I just know exactly what that building looks like, where it’s going to be, and stuff like that. So I like that very much, because I do have a role in that…

[r] Played.

[r] Played for what I wanted before, actually, when they just started the project, so I really liked that, because I did do what I wanted to do, actually.

[i] Yeah. Spatiality, so how to make a city… How people walk around the city or something, what they notice… Is that more what you… Because I understand that architects or builders are always concerned with how you experience a city or a building, space.

[r] Hmhm.

[i] Can you give an example of a place in Utrecht, where you, where things come together that you really like. Like what you just described, also in the new town hall, building. Is there another place where you think, huh…

In the city?

Yeah, or just, maybe here in your neighborhood or in the neighborhood where your parents live…

[r] Let’s see, yeah, the Central Station actually, because there’s just everything there. Because when you’re at Central Station, you can either go straight to Hoog Catharijne, or you can go into the city. So I think that’s a point where you go in three directions, either you go to Central Station, or you go to Hoog Catharijne, or you go down the canals….

[i] The buses.

[r] Or the buses indeed.

[r] I think so anyway, in the city I think that’s a…

[i] Important.

An important point, yes.

[i] Why?

Yeah. Yeah, you’ve just gotta get into Central Station, Utrecht. Then you’ve got, yeah, sides to go on. The trains, Oudegracht to the buses, all obvious, actually. You don’t have to go looking, actually, and yes…

[i] So if I understand correctly a kind of direction and easy, easy access. Something that gives easy access to… Shops or work…

[r] Right.

Or living.

Yeah, yeah. Because wherever you have trains you have a very large tower, those are the meeting rooms, you can just rent them, so there can be a lot of meetings that important people have, that’s really only two minutes walk actually, in the centre, or yes, in Hoog Catharijne itself actually. So that’s all very well, I think we’ve thought about that. How they all want to do that.

[i] And you think about that too?


For example, suppose you go when you graduate, you’re now in your final year.

[r] Right.

[i] And you become part of such a team, would you like to think about how, for example, people can move around the city more easily? Or do you have more to do with a building, or with the history of a city like Utrecht?

[r] I think a bit more with the history, because if you design a building for example, it has to fit in the picture of the city for example. I think I will think more in that direction. That it is in the, for example, you are going to make, build, design something in a neighbourhood, and then if, for example, it is completely different, than what the others, or how the other things look like, then it doesn’t fit in the picture of the neighbourhood at all. But you have to bring the character back into the building, that’s important to me.

[i] Yes?

[r] Yes. Yeah.

[i] And that building, that new council building has that? In your very own way, because it’s not Utrechts at all.

[r] No, it’s not.

[i] Do you have a building that you really think is Utrecht?

What I find in Utrecht, let’s see… Yeah, the mansions in Utrecht.

Yes? Okay.

[r] That’s, like, downtown when you walk, you’ll see all those big buildings with those weird shapes, so to speak. That’s what Utrecht is, actually.

Yeah, yeah. You really think that’s Utrecht.

[r] That, that is Utrecht, yes Amsterdam has it too, but they are inhabited. In the city centre of Utrecht, they are, they’re usually transformed into a shop or something else, and I think that’s something Utrechts, yes.

[i] Do you like that too?

[r] I like it, yeah, it’s got something. It actually represents history. What it used to be like.

[i] You, uh, you often refer to history, huh. Is that an interest in you?

That’s like… I always like history, I always liked it, too. I always want to know the background of something that’s interesting, because you have to, you want to know how something came about. So that’s important to me. To gain more information about that. And then you also know why something was done, and why it wasn’t done, and why it was done. And what happened to it and what it was first, and what it was then, and what kind of development it actually went through.

[i] Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s, um, that’s also interesting to understand more, maybe, something.


[i] Why things work.

Yeah, yeah.

[i] But you, yeah, you really have a connection with Utrecht. And not with, you really feel like you’re from here.


[i] Utrecht.

[r] When I cycle through town, I think of, yeah, that’s mine.

[i] Is yours!

[r] Is mine! Yeah, I know where everything is, so I don’t feel weird or anything, like when I go to Amsterdam I think of, I don’t act like I’m weird there, but then I think of, okay, you know, okay, where is where, and what is that, and how do I get there. I’ve got that. You have to figure it out first, but then you know where it is.

[i] You like to cycle?

[r] I like to cycle, you could say that, I cycle a lot.

Yes? And do you have fixed routes as well?

[r] Fixed route is when I’m with my parents.

[i] And where did your parents live again?

In Columns.

In Columns.

[r] Yes, then you have the Amsterdamsestraatweg.

[i] Yes.

[r] Very long street from, starts from, from around Columns it has a direct connection to the city, it’s a very long road, you just cycle, within fifteen minutes you’re in the city actually. That’s what, when I’m with my parents. And in Utrecht, when I’m here, at home, I cycle between the neighbourhoods past my school to the city, so I actually have

[r] some.

[i] Could you maybe pick up a moment now that you’re cycling that route from here to your school?

[r] Hmm.

[i] And tell you that? What you notice then, what, like a moment back, a day that you leave home for school early in the morning and what you notice then?

[r] When I leave for school from here, I pass by a waterfront, which I had just shown, the tower, so to speak, on the picture I had taken, I pass by. I pass the mall. Then, yeah, you see people just opening stores. And then I cycle along the, let’s see… Yeah, past a high school. It’s called Father Rijen college. Then see, past me or behind me is usually a bus or, I always meet the bus, you see the kids get off. I guess wow, I’ve been there once. And it, I miss actually.

[i] Yeah.

[r] High school. Was kind of fun. I always think to myself, wait, but your time will come, if you’re gonna stress really hard. Then yeah, I’ve got a way to go. That’s all straight ahead, and there’s a new bridge. It’s called The Red Bridge. And that’s only been five years or so. That it’s just been made new. And then I cycle over it and then cars have to stop for me or I stop for the cars. Because you can only do one at a time. And then I pass the baker and that’s where I always get a sandwich. Then the bakery is just open, or yes of course it is already open and then you see all those people lined up for nice and warm bread. And then I’m back at school.

[i] Yeah, because your school is?

[r] Hogeschool Utrecht and that is really ten minutes cycling from here.

[i] Yeah, that’s it? At the Willem van Noortplein?

[r] Nijenoord.

[i] Okay.

[r] Nijenoord.

[i] Yes. Yeah, see, I was just [indistinct].


[i] That’s a little on the corner there.


[i] At that t-junction.

[r] Yeah, right, right, yeah, yeah, right.

[i] And that’s where you get, that’s where you have lessons?

[r] Yeah, that’s where I have class, yeah.

[i] Cause you’re in your senior year now?

[r] Hmhm. And, uh… How’s graduation going?

[r] Yeah, I get to start graduating next Monday, February 2nd. That’s a difficult time, because I had to find a place to graduate, so to speak. That was very, very difficult.

[i] Did you find anything? Here in Utrecht?

[r] Yes, that’s really ten minutes away from here, fifteen minutes by bike, so I really like it here in Utrecht, at least that’s easy too. Because I cycle, I don’t have public transport anymore. Yes, it is, my motivation was a bit less last year. Because there, because I, yes… I don’t know why really. But now I have motivation to continue. It’s my last six months, actually. Then I’m done, hopefully, and then I can start working.

[i] And what would you like to work in, when you’re done? Because I can imagine that you have a lot of options with your studies.

[r] I wanted to study architecture first, but I’m not going to. I don’t feel like learning at school and now you have to pay for it yourself. I don’t have that kind of money right now. What I’m going to do for where I’m going to graduate is a totally new innovation, is a programme that a lot of people can work on. It’s a, yes, how shall I explain it? It’s say one, it’s one, there are [unclear]. It’s a project, a building. Several parties are working on it. And there’s a new program. It makes the building. And, I can work on it at home and someone else can work on it at home. So that’s new in that company, is new. And they want to do a lot of research on that and they want to make planning in the programme easier and more understandable. And I can contribute to that. I think that’s interesting, that’s innovation. And innovation always appeals to me. And it’s just something new, also in that, in that company. And then I can just start from scratch. And work with that. It’s hard to explain what it’s like when you…

[i] It’s an abstract.


I imagine it as, or I imagine Utrecht as some kind of building, place, space.


You know?


And, uh, it’s got… Cross… Roads that cross, high low. Depth, proximity. Yeah, I’ll make a link between what you do, with your studies, and the environment. So, uh… But do you feel like doing that?

[r] Yeah, sure. Totally something new, then. Funny that you end up there. Really good of you.

[r] Yeah, yeah, that worked out for me from when I was doing internships, so.

[i] ‘Cause you’ve done internships here in Utrecht, too?

[r] Yes, I did two internships in Utrecht and one in Ede.

[i] Okay. So you lived in Utrecht, went to school in Utrecht worked, studied, everything. Parties in Utrecht?

[r] Parties, also outside Utrecht, but also inside Utrecht.

[i] Nice! And sports here too?

[r] Also sports, right.

[i] Nice.

[r] Yeah.

Lots of… Lots of things. You really make the most of the opportunities in the city. The way you tell it. Nice.

[r] Right. Let’s see. [name] Well, we’ve talked about all kinds of things, there are things we can work towards a conclusion.

Hmhm. But are there, is there anything else you’d like to talk about? Your relationship to the city of Utrecht, about what you Utrecht, what you would like to give to Utrecht, or your contribution? To the city?

[r] I think Utrecht already has everything.

[i] Yes?


[i] So it’s perfect?

[r] It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough to be happy with. It’s just a little less than perfect. I feel like you’ve got everything. You don’t miss anything here. Yeah, so what else do you want?

[i] Yeah. Yeah, for example, that they, uh, work less on roads.

[r] You don’t have that much. So that’s just, it, yeah… If you’re downtown, you get lost anyway if you, if you’re in the car. Then you really, really, really need to have perfect knowledge to get you out of there. That’s the only thing that bothers me more than when I’m downtown by car. But I hardly ever am. But other than that… …Utrecht doesn’t really bother me or have a negative attitude, really. It’s multicultural, so yeah, everybody’s here, student city. Old, young. Yeah, everything.

[i] Hey, and lastly when you were with Foundation [name]… Do you guys organize a lot of evenings or information evenings or activities in Utrecht?

[r] We usually do that in, yes in Utrecht have also done a lot, but in Leiden, The Hague, in Amsterdam.

[i] You are really everywhere.

[r] In the suburbs. Yeah.

[i] And are there specific things, if you organize something, are there specific subjects or themes that you link to the city of Utrecht?

[r] No, not to the city of Utrecht no. No, it’s just, yeah, when we organize something in Utrecht it’s because it’s, it’s easily accessible. Because at that moment we have found a good spot here for an event. But not that it’s really linked to Utrecht, no.

[i] And foundation [name], is it very bad for young people or for all generations of Afghans in Utrecht and other cities?

[r] It is for everyone actually, but mostly then all are students. It is actually more aimed at students, more Afghans, say, who want to know more about Afghanistan, or integration. Cooperation between Afghanistan and the Netherlands, whatever we do, that’s what it really is.

[i] Okay. All right.


[i] Thank you for your time.

[r] Please, please. You’re welcome.

And your story.