[i] [Amharic spoken]. Um… Would you like to introduce yourself?
[r] Yes.
Yes. Yes, please. I’m [name] I was born in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. I have, uh, mother and five siblings. I came from nine siblings. I’ve lived here in Holland since 1991. As a refugee. But I came as a love refugee, not really an asylum seeker for all sorts of reasons, but I came with my husband. As a refugee, in love. So I flew with my husband, because my husband has to flee and… I’d like to be with him. That’s why I’m here in Holland.
[i] Thank you. You have something in your hand. Um…a picture. Who’s that person with the picture?
[r] That woman is actually one of my fellow villagers. And a very good friend. She’s 83 now
[i] Yeah.
[r] and she’s really got a lot into our lives. She’s, uh, changed our lives in all kinds of ways. From, among other things, giving advice as a mother. Trust us. Who we are. Not what we have, but who we are. And, um, so far, she’s still a very good friend.
[i] Where did you get that contact?
Yeah, it started back in 1993. We came here in the Netherlands as an asylum seeker, so we were somewhere else first, in Borger, in Assen. There we asked for asylum, actually. We were in a hotel for three months. And then we came here to Leersum. After Leersum we got housing here in Maarn. In the beginning, my husband and I were really struggling, because we came from the city, Addis Ababa. And then another city, Russia, St. Petersburg. So it was very difficult for us to come and live in such a small village.
[i] Did you choose to live here?
[r] No. No,
[r] No, we didn’t choose. We asked for asylum here, and yet, our dream was to continue our studies. To develop ourselves. And we thought, well, this place is just such a small town, we didn’t think. But at first, we wanted to go to Rotterdam or Amsterdam. Or Utrecht. But we’ve gotten housing twice far away somewhere in Groningen. We thought, no, we don’t want to go there, because we just want to finish our studies here close to Rotterdam, Amsterdam. So. After three times, you can’t refuse, otherwise, yes, they’re going to send you everywhere, all over the country. So we thought, well, we got Maarn a house, we decided we’ll do it, because if you refuse a third time, you’ll be somewhere else, er… dumped. So we don’t want to, uh… It’s close to Rotterdam, close to Amsterdam and Utrecht, so we can finish our studies. So we thought, well, Maarn’s not that far away from Utrecht, so we decided to, okay, we accept. But twice we’ve refused with different places.
[i] What’s that lady’s name? The one…
[r] She’s called. [name]
[i] Clara.
[i] Does she live around here?
[r] Yeah, she lives here in Maarn.
[i] Yeah,
[i] Yeah, but how do you get first time just the contact?
[r] Yeah, she was our refugee contact.
[i] [unintelligible] connected?
Yeah. The Refugee Workers here in Maarn, they linked us, and our son was two years old at the time. And she came to us to help us develop and show us the way. For, yes, in the village…to build the future. But at that time we didn’t have a permit.
[i] How was her role in your life?
Yes, she has great faith in us. Very much. She was really very thoughtful. But she also has full confidence that we have a future here in the Netherlands. She wants to help us and guide us. But in that period we were really in trouble, we can’t stay. We had to leave the country for all kinds of reasons. We even came with one of the five hundred asylum seekers who had exhausted all legal remedies. So eh, she decided to quit Refugee Work, because she couldn’t help us that way. But as a person, she decided to help us. Just as a friend to us.
[i] Are you guys in daily contact now?
Yeah. Daily contact. She’s really, really dear to me.
That’s why you have that picture at your house…
Yeah, for me, for my kids. My kids and for my husband. So she’s a really special woman to us. So I chose it special, because she’s changed my life in many ways.
[i] Like what? Like what?
Like, for example, that I could… After our permit stay, after eleven years, we’ve really had to wait eleven years for our permit stay. And, uh… But what she did, actually, is in 2000, um, 1997, they did an action to keep us here.
[i] Here in the village?
[r] Yes, in the [‘t] village.
[i] In the village, yes.
And er…
[i] How did she do it? With…
[r] They got the group together, some people, other two women, they got together. They say, we have to keep these people here in Holland. It can’t be that way, they’re insecure, we want to help them. They’ve, uh, gotten together, talked, and they’ve done an action. It was, yeah,
[i] I did it.
[r] the inhabitants of Maarn, about 3000 people and it had come 2000 signatures.
[i] So, everybody knows, by her now everybody knows you?
[r] Us. But after that, they did a campaign and even here they have the previous former Green Left eh… representative Paul Rosenmöller had come to our door to take this petition to the House of Representatives. It was a huge happening and also the school of my eldest son, also involved, enne… A lot of people from the surrounding area also came to the door. And Mr Paul Rosenmöller took the petition to the Lower House.
[i] Okay. So, she’s an important person in your life.
[r] Yes, she is important… Yes, but among other things, among others. There are other people, but she’s, uh, yes.
[i] Number one.
[r] Yes.
Okay. If I go back with your story, if I understand correctly, your husband fled first and then you came.
No. We fled together.
[i] Fled together, okay. From Ethiopia?
No. We were in Russia.
[i]From what?
[r] As a student.
[i] Yes, as a student?
[i] And after that?
We both, uh… we studied economics.
[i] You too, he too.
Me too and him too. And my husband graduated just that time from, uh, the government just changed, or… Just changed power from Mengistu Hailemariam to, uh…
[i] Regime?
Yes, to er… the government change. So the change of power came in May and my husband hadn’t graduated at the time. And he had to go back or he had to flee.
[i] Yes.
[r] Because
r] Because there were a lot of people in prison in that period, after graduation came to the country.
[i] Because she graduated somewhere else? Or…
[r] No.
[r] No, we were actually, uh, used to be in Ethiopia, you have to go to Russia to study.
[i] Yeah.
[r] That’s actually our bond with Russia because we, our country was socialist.
[i] Yeah.
[r] And Russia. So we got that help, or as a scholarship. My husband had to flee because he couldn’t go back, because he had something to do with the previous government.
[i] Okay.
[r] That’s the reason, but I thought, well, well, I was studying in Russia for three years, but I was very much in love with my husband and, um, I thought, no….
[i] You met there?
[i] In Russia?
Yes, in Russia.
Oh… so…
[r] Yes, our love began there in Russia. We lived there together for two years and, uh… Then when my husband graduated, we had to flee, in 1991.
[i] Okay. If your husband wasn’t, then you
[r] No, I wasn’t here.
[i] not here, okay. What’s your first impression in Holland?
[r] Yeah, when we came here to Holland, it was unexpected. I didn’t exactly know I was coming to Holland either. I even brought the sheets, for example. I really have no idea what kind of country it is, or that rich country, or, uh… I really didn’t make a conscious choice to be here, so I brought very old sheets. And toothbrush, toothpaste, things that are really… important. But I didn’t expect to find, you know… I didn’t think Holland was rich country, so I really need to be in that country. So for me, actually, it was an unknown country from the beginning. Such a small country where I’ve never really heard of. I know Holland, but not Holland. So… I’ve… I’ve… been an unknown country to me. And…
[i] Okay. So, what do you experience? Just everyday life different? What makes it really, uh…
[r] Yeah, first year or first half year, as refugees, you’d be queuing up to get food. And, it’s annoying. Very touching. I was pregnant, too. The first child. I came here in Holland three months pregnant, so I was really very homesick for my country, my parents. Also at the same time that, yes, the shame just, you really stood in line to get food and drink, while, yes, I didn’t expect that. So for my feeling that, I came here in the Netherlands, I can live in my house right away, and finish my studies right away, that’s my…my ambition, my…yes, next to my husband so I just want to develop. But, yes, the first year, especially the first half year was very difficult, because I’m also expecting. The hormones were changing. Sad. But, yes, fortunately there were also, um…from the beginning Dutch people who at that moment they helped us very much.
[i] Where? It’s in, yes, the asylum seekers’ centre?
[r] In eh, in eh Borger, in Assen.
[i] Yes.
[i] Yes.
[r] We just have a Dutch woman who helps people develop the language, just, that for three months has helped us enormously.
[i] Is that in the asylum seekers’ centre?
[r] No.
[r] No. In a hotel.
[i] Hotel, house? Hotel is just…
Fifty people put together, they have them there in hotel.
[i] Is that asylum or OC?
Not OC, not asylum. That’s the first couple of months you’re… you’re taken in by, uh… staff. But we do it ourselves. We cook ourselves. We used to cook ourselves.
[i] Do you guys get any money?
[r] Yeah. No, we don’t. We don’t get any money, but that lady from that boarding house, she does.
Oh, so… you guys are, uh… just like in a hotel.
Yeah, like in a hotel.
[i] And after that?
[r] After that we, uh…were, uh…sent to Leersum, an asylum seekers’ centre in Leersum.
[r] Then I was pregnant, too… Do I have to, um… Yeah. Six months pregnant, I came to Leersum. And, yeah, we actually had to eat… Yeah, yeah, what I’m saying is, we’re queuing up to get food. And sleep in one room. Was really very hot period and we’re really struggling. So it was really hard to confront it that way. For us, it’s not really like…
[i] How long was that?
[r] Nine months.
[i] Nine months, and after that? The child was born there?
Born, yes. Yeah. Born in Zeist, but back to the asylum seekers’ centre.
[i] Yes.
[r] I gave birth in hospital, but I had to go back to the asylum seekers’ centre, but I also slept in one room. So it was really, um, yeah.
[i] How long did you stay in that asylum seekers’ centre?
[r] We have nine months. Yeah.
[i] Nine months after that? And after that?
[r] But my son was just three months, we had to come here in Maarn.
In Maarn. And that’s a house or ROA house?
[r] It’s a ROA house. Still with me.
[i] ROA house? Is it with you guys alone? From your family?
[r] Yes.
[r] Yes.
[i] Or with other people?
[r] No no. We were here in this house. And, uh, just my husband, me and my son, three months’ son.
[i] How long did you wait in Maarn after that?
In Maarn, uh, ten years.
Ten years.
[r] Yeah.
[i] Okay. What was the, uh… mean, yeah, how was Maarn… You guys have ten years, yeah, here without paper? And after that, when did you get residence permits?
[r] We got in, uh, 2003.
[i] 2003?
Yeah. January 2003 we got permits, but we came here in August 1992.
[i] Okay. How was that, waiting all these years?
[r] Waiting is always hard. Even five minutes waiting is hard, but for us it’s really bad. Very bad, that…hard to describe. [unintelligible] say. I really can’t describe, because every half, every two months or so we get a letter from the IND, we had to leave the country and we have to leave, and…. and, uh, I always had to cry. Sleepless nights. Different therapists. And, uh, yeah. In spite of everything, it’s been a really long time. But especially the environment has helped us enormously, enormously, enormously.
[i] So during those ten years of waiting, you were, so, did you have any contact with the area?
[r] Yeah, because thanks to our son, we came here three months old, and, uh, when my son was two and a half years old, he went to the kindergarten.
[i] Yeah.
[i] Yeah.
[r] Contact started since then.
[i] By
[i] By him most of all.
[r] Except for the lady who helped us as refugees, we really had a lot of contact with the kindergarten and with young mothers who had their children there as well. That is how we also started, and at school too. And…that is our contact [unintelligible].
[i] And that
[i] And in the meantime, do you, your husband and you, study or language?
[r] No. No. We can do the first year, when we came here in Maarn, we can do for about a year, we could fill the language… er… …language lessons. But…when the…from the IND came that we had to leave the country, then we had to stop learning language too.
So ten years you just stood there without…
Without. Without.
Without development. It was, our lives had come to a complete standstill.
[i] How was that for you?
[r] Very painful. Really painful. I really can’t explain it. And very sad, very often weepy and… But people came to me, happily. There are plenty of people who want to support us, but they were really powerless. They want to help us somehow.
[i] Why do you think all kinds of people come here, you want to keep here? Why is that?
Um… Yeah, they were really surprised how we were involved here in Maarn, you know. At school… At school… that I’d been a classmother.
[i] Yeah? What’s that?
[r] Class mother is actually that taking responsibility for all the parents, and organizing all kinds of things for kids. I’d actually been a reading mom too. And did a lot of things, in church too. And people think we do a lot. And my husband has also … He trains the children, as a trainer, soccer.
Yeah. He was a coach. He was a referee. He did everything while we were in that suspense. We never stopped doing anything to ourselves. Cause standing still isn’t like us. It wasn’t our dream, it wasn’t our…goal. So… at least I want to do something for my child. That’s why I gave myself up as a classmother at school. And then I did. And the school and… and the congregation, that’s why they did the action that we belong here in Maarn. We didn’t have to leave. Was huge action with, uh, yeah, huge flag. That we belong here in Maarn, that’s what they did.
[i] Okay. I mean, yeah, they took the initiative.
[r] Yeah.
Yeah, they did. We didn’t ask. But my grief touched people. Because… how is that possible? How can people wait so long? It was actually almost five years in Holland. But [because] for them it was a long time. Yeah. So say, hey, it’s really not possible anymore
[i] It was ten years.
[r] that way. No, it was five years. In the beginning, when that action happened in 1997.
[i] Oh, the action itself takes five years?
Yes, the action…
[i] To get the answer?
[r] Yes. Well, the answer had nothing to do with that action either. It was almost seven years later, we got that permit. But that action helped us keep us here.
[i] Was on newspaper or how to know
[r] Yeah,
[r] Yeah, we were on the newspaper, standing. And the council even made a decision when the benefit stopped. And the congregation kept us in this house, because
[i] The rent paid
[r] The rent
[r] The rent didn’t pay. And we’re not allowed to get any benefits. We have… But even the church has a certain amount of money every week for us to eat, drink. Every month.
[i] Yeah. How was that for you guys?
[r] Yeah, um…one side, I just notice that, just how sweet people are. Being very nice. And when people want to keep you, you really feel… I’ve been here in those ten years, I feel like I belong here. I really feel so at home. And that moment for me was actually when I started crying, they’d come and hug me. “[name], it’s gonna be okay, hold on, keep going.” So that’s huge for me… yeah. Maarn’s support for me is special, I think.
[i] So when did you get your permanent residence permit?
[r] Um…um…January two thousand…three,
[i] Three.
[r] we got it.
How was that? Was it the big difference in life without paper and after?
Yeah, it’s huge. It’s really… I really can’t describe it. That’s a huge relief for us, because all these years I’ve been waiting for that permit, but also for the second child. I actually wanted to have a second child.
You decide… Second child, is that…
Yeah, I just… I actually wanted that second child, but for ten years I was waiting and my eldest son said to me, “Mama, I would like a little brother, I would like to share my bread. I want a brother. Otherwise, when I turn ten, I’d like a dog for my birthday.”
[i] Oh.
[r] That’s really one of those…that [unintelligible] me. He also left school crying and came home. “Mommy, I’d like a little brother or sister.”
[r] But I’ve really got that… When he… so ten years later, I… almost ten years, I decided, well, my husband…
Without paper.
[r] Without paper said to my husband, “It’s done. I’m getting old. I’ve waited ten years. There’s nothing in our hand. No paper, no future, no study.
[i] So…
[r] So at least I want to have a child. That’s my goal. I told you. I’d like to have a child before I grow old. But my husband says, how’s possible? We might have to leave soon. Well, it really doesn’t matter. I’d like [indistinctly]. But among other things, with that girlfriend, I’ve shown her before, I’ve told my story. How long am I gonna wait? What am I gonna do? But what she said to me: “[name], you have done your best, you have really fought hard for your existence, as a mother I would like to give you some advice. Then don’t wait anymore, go have a child.” And that, the next day I just went to the doctor, I said, “I want child. Ready. I don’t want to wait anymore.” So I’ve had to wait a… year for my pregnancy. At that time there was no license to stay, so time went fast and I thought I couldn’t have a child.
Oh. So you weren’t pregnant right away?
[r] No, it was one year.
[i] What do you think was the reason?
[r] The reason you spent a long…time going through your…the excitement, especially, among other things, what we’ve been through. But also, yeah, how long your uterus has been inactive, then it takes a long time, my doctor says. So that’s what we had, right after a year I went back to the doctor. I started crying, crying.
[i] How old were you?
[r] I was 34.
[i] Yeah. I guess I was… Then
[i] When?
Then. So, uh…
[i] Yes.
[i] 35. Yeah.
Cause I was, like, my eldest son when I was 24. So after ten years, then, I really couldn’t… I thought now it’s done. Nowhere am I happy, you know. I was sad, just. Yeah, you were. It’s my fault, if only I’d just done the second kid right. Yeah, I wish I’d put that fear aside, just do something that makes me happy. But I didn’t. So yeah. After a year, exactly, my doctor said to me, “Well, [name], you can go to hospital. Have a picture taken. Let’s see your uterus. Maybe something’s going on.” Well, I thought, well, it’s, uh… it hurts, but I thought okay… Well, I made a home appointment with the hospital myself. But before I went to the hospital, I’m pregnant. I was pregnant.
[i] Air.
[r] It was, uh, it wasn’t relieved. I was scared. Now what? We still don’t have a permit.
[i] Always.
[r] All the time. And I knew Friday was pregnant. I knew that because of the tester. And I said to my husband, “Um, now what?” And he said to me, “Well, what do you want?”
You want it, don’t you?
[r] “You do, don’t you? This… wanted this… Why do you have to cry?” I said, “How, well, if we’re going to leave later. What do we want?”
[i] But rather you want it yourself.
I wanted to.
You want to see your doctor, don’t you?
[r] I’ve been in treatment for a year. And then I had to go to hospital. Didn’t you? Actually, that was my dream. I actually want to have more kids, but it was that… yeah… stability for us, good future for us. And when my husband said, “Well, you’re really not doing that right.” [name] So, what’s your goal? What do you want?” I don’t know. I don’t know. I was really crying for three, four days. Sad. What’s next? Yeah. I was really praying. Really kneeling. Just, God help me. I don’t know what to do. Then I, uh…
[i] And after that?
[r] That was Friday. That was Friday, but our lawyer called on Tuesday. “We have good news for you. You can stay.”
Yeah, that’s really, uh, hard to describe. That’s really special. That’s really, uh… I can’t… That moment, I can’t… say. I can’t describe it. I don’t have a word. In fact, right now. I still see that day.
That’s… that’s… that’s… that’s that important potential in your life?
Yes. That’s the most important event of my life, because everything that I really wanted happened. Permission to stay, stable life, second child. That was my son. That was in my belly.
[i] What’s your son’s name?
[r] [name]
How old is he?
[r] He’s
[r] He’s now…er…eleven.
[i] Eleven.
[i] He’s enough child?
[r] Lovely child. He was born on Sunday. That’s what they call it. When you’re born on Sunday, you’re also a happy child. But he’s really happy. Because from the day I knew, I was really happy. And he’s really born too, really…smiling kid. Really from my belly, he was really happy.
[i] More [unintelligible] than the other child is…sad?
Yeah. Yeah.
Because was another asylum…
[r] We didn’t pay any attention to him. My eldest son. When he was seven years old, he got gray hair. Gray hair. While I haven’t even seen that. When it happened, I didn’t know.
[i] Is that hormone?
[r] But I only saw,
[r] so much gray hair. Because of the stress, I guess. Yeah, it was all kinds of things at school, too. The kids came to him. When are you going home? When are you leaving? It hurt him. Even a few days ago, I talked to someone. “Do you remember,” she says to me, “that your son wants to be a white kid, white kid. One of his wish list is that he would like to be a white kid.”
Why do you think he’s got…
[r] Because he’d like to be one of them. Because he’s dark, that’s why he had to leave. He just thought, yeah, he’s young. He was five at the time, he doesn’t know anything about it. Just that he wanted to be
[r] be here.
[i] But are you telling me your situation in front of the child?
No, he was five. What, what do you… How would you tell for… for your child? To er… to er… Yeah. W… Who are you, or how did you get here and what happened? You know… I really can’t tell you. So when he was seven, he had gray hair. I didn’t see that.
[i] Did you ask medically, then, how [unintelligible] so?
[i] And then, there’s an explanation?
Yes. Yeah, they said that, that can be really stressful.
[i] And now all the hair is gray, too? Or some?
[r] No. Luckily it’s all better now. Even got dark hair now.
[i] Yes? Oh?!
Yeah. Even he was sent to Amsterdam hospital for those grey hairs, they couldn’t do anything. But now he’s really gone and he just
[i] Just stay stable.
Yeah. [unintelligible]
[i] [Unintelligible] growing.
[r] Who grows and he has the place where he is white even, still comes dark hair.
[i] Wow.
[r] [Unintelligible] special. So for me
[i] But now he’s happy?
Yes. Sure he is.
[i] And how old And how old is he now?
He’s 23.
The name is…
[r] [name]. [name]
What does he do? He’s studying? He works?
[r] He’s studying.
What is he studying?
Wow. Where?
In Amsterdam. AMC.
Er…how much er… Well, I mean…
[r] He’s now his third year. He’s ready for his first three years and he’s about to co-ship, so he’s gonna do an internship, actually, for the medical…
how do you feel about your son?
Very, very, yes. Because he’s been fighting really hard and school is actually the only place that makes him happy. Cause he couldn’t go anywhere in those ten years back then. We couldn’t take a vacation. We weren’t going anywhere. In the holidays he always had to… even I had to wait, at home, for the school to open.
Yeah. He started crying. When are we leaving? Because here Maarn, so big village, um, so small village, but really everyone, rich village. So everybody went on vacation, wherever. But when he came back after the holiday, he couldn’t tell us anything. He was sad very often. But the school was for him a place where he felt safe. And a lot of reading and learning. His way of coping actually, his sadness.
[i] How old was he when you guys got a residence permit?
[r] He was just twelve. Eleven.
[i] Oh, so he was in high school here at the time?
[r] Elementary school. Yeah.
Um, no, elementary school. And after that?
[r] After that he went, yeah, actually, he had to go to certain school because he wanted to do bilingual education.
[i] Yeah.
[r] Vwo bilingual. So for that bilingual, you actually had to have a permit, because you can’t just… Without a permit, you can’t go to high school. Especially with that bilingual you couldn’t do. But we were really sad. What shall we do with him. What can we do? How would his dream… What, how could he make it come true? But then 8th grade… We can stay. And that’s actually…
[i] Is it in Maarn?
In Maarn.
In Maarn. He could stay, so uh… stay when he was 8th grade, so he could easily go to high school what he chose, [unintelligible] is in Doorn. And he could start his studies there, high school. Bilingual education and vwo. Atheneum. He did.
[i] He’s also one of the best students, I think.
[r] Yeah, [unintelligible] He was one of the best students, and he did a really good job, really just having fun. And, uh… He’s really having a dream, too. When he was sixth grade, he said, “I’d like to be a doctor.” That was sixth grade. So when he was in sixth grade elementary school, he had a dream. And I’m hoping he’s gonna finish the dream later. He’s now studying what he dreamed. So he’s, uh… yeah, studying and working at the same time.
[i] Yeah.
He’d like to cover the costs…
So he doesn’t live here?
No, he doesn’t.
[r] No, he lives in Amsterdam. And he studies, he works and he has social life in Amsterdam. So, uh…
[i] And er…you live, er…you, your husband and another kid.
[r] [name].
[i] [name]. And how’s [name]? [name] is er… He’s having a dream? [name] is spoiled child.
Yeah, he’d also like to, uh… He’s having a dream and he’d like to, uh… study physics. He said that’s his dream. He’s in the 8th grade now. He’s eleven, but next year he’ll be twelve. And he’s also going to vwo, where his brother went to high school. That’s his dream too, [unintelligible] as his brother he really wants a future. So it’s very nice actually that…at least our lives are improved by our children. So our life isn’t really how we want it to be, but our kids, they’ve made us happy. We are happy right now, because of my children.
So what do you miss in your life?
Yeah, I didn’t finish my studies. I actually wanted to study, but because of those last ten years of asylum trouble, I’ve lost a lot. Yeah, my memory. I forget a lot of things. That’s why I’m having a really hard time with, uh… Yeah. I’d like to study, but it wouldn’t work out.
[i] Was there a possibility? After those years?
[r] No. No.
[r] No. I didn’t have any either. I wanted to… actually, I wanted to study law, but after giving birth and like, I wanted to get started. So I only did a little training.
What was your education?
[r] Um…socio-educational worker and I’m a kindergarten teacher.
[i] Okay, how long did you study?
[r] A year. Normally it would take three years, but I finished within a year.
[i] So now you work this job
[r] Yeah.
[i] right now?
[r] I’ve been working for six years now.
Yeah. At school?
[r] No, at child care.
[i] To day care.
Yes. Yeah.
Yes. How do you… What exactly is it?
[r] Yes. I’m like a chaperone, nurse. And, um, yeah. Socially… development of the children. I’m, uh… that’s childcare. Actually, as a guidance counselor, she’s got… she’s not just babysitting the kids. But then you’re a role model and you’re a caregiver and you’re a tutor. You’re going to help the children with all kinds of areas.
Are you happy with this work?
[r] Very much. That’s That’s really nice. I often say to the parents: I have chosen the most beautiful profession. Unexpectedly, but really the most beautiful profession, because the children are so honest. So… cheerful. And I really make happy children every day. Happy children. And I’m really having a great time here in the village. I happen to work here too, in the village.
[i] In Maarn
[i] In Maarn.
In Maarn.
So…your colleagues are from Maarn, too?
No. No, they’re not. I’m sorry, but I was really lucky.
How’s the contact between your colleague?
Um… Um… me er… It’s difficult.
Yes? Yeah?
What makes it difficult?
[r] It makes difficult is actually my past.
My language background.
Um… I’ve done almost nothing for ten years. And, uh… And, uh, yeah, it’s really hard to understand me.
The language deficiency?
The language deficiency.
The communication?
The communication.
[r] They’ve really got the communication… They’re really struggling.
Do you have to write it to them? Or do you have to write something…
Yeah. Yes, you [here] have a lot to do. Yeah, actually, as a child care, as a leader, do all kinds of things. You have to write your minutes, you have to think of your activity, you have to observe your um…children, you have to have your parents’ conversation. Uh… yeah, intake interview. When new kids come in, you have to have intake interviews with those parents… Yeah, write all kinds of, uh, reports, like the day about the kids, what they’ve been doing all day. Especially the kids, especially the babies. Zero to one year, you have to write all kinds of stories. How was their day, what did they do? Did they crawl, did they take the first step? Did they cry? Did they drink good, did they drink bad? You name it. What the… …or how often did they sleep?
[i] Who are you writing this for?
[r] For the parents. For the parents.
[i] For the parents.
[r] Yes.
Who needs to hear it every day?
Every day, yes.
Do you, when you’re working on that, do you need that report… we have a children’s notebook where we write.
[i] Every day? Every day? You give the parent something in hand?
Yes, the parents. Yes, of course. That’s, uh… Because you can’t er… The parents come at 6:30. Or, for example, at a quarter to six, we’re closed at six. That’s when you actually have to give the right assignment. But you can’t do that for so many kids. For example, we have twelve children, out of twelve we have three or four babies. So then you can for those parents, you have to do the report. If you can’t, in writing, but it’s mandatory to write.
[i] To do that?
[r] Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
[i] So is that, how many colleagues are there?
Yes, there are many. I actually work as an er…
[i] Counselor.
Yeah, counselor. But different, we have different groups. We have so many colleagues. About twenty of us. I have really good colleagues who understand me. And, uh, they [so] say to me, “Well, [name], yeah, you did this, I do this. I’m gonna do the writing, you’re gonna feed the baby, yeah. Or we’re gonna, um, yeah, you gotta think of some activity, I’m gonna work it out. That way we’re gonna talk, but there’s colleagues who just– I don’t understand you. What do you mean? That’s really… It touches me, sometimes… I can’t tell very often, I’m really struggling or something. But you want them to understand you. But sometimes it’s hard. Especially the younger generation. They’re really struggling. To accept who I am, especially.
Hmmm. Is that, uh… do you think that, um… What do you feel at that moment?
Sad. Sorrow for my language, for my country. It would have been really easy for me to tell you if it had been my language. I wouldn’t think about it, nothing really. Even [you] don’t have so many words to think about, you know exactly what to say, but at that moment I feel really sad. Yeah, then you think, how long am I gonna go on like this? When will I get better? When will my language get better? How would I do to improve my language? And I read a lot, I try. But really, that past of mine, standing still for ten years, has made me, yeah, who I am now. So then, yeah, hard to accept myself. I’m still fighting for that existence, that who I am. And er… yeah, it’s hard. I still feel like once in a while when I think… Sometimes I have sleepless nights. But what I’ve got here in Maarn, I feel all mary. So for me it’s actually a double feeling, you know. That I’m at home here, I feel at home. But for my work, I don’t feel a hundred percent.
[i] Then what makes you feel at home in Maarn?
[r] Yeah, people see me as one of the countrymen. Honestly. I can’t walk halfway, for God’s sake. …first I have to salute [unintelligible] for one. When I go to the store, I’m chatting for half an hour. And when I’m sick, they come to visit me. When it’s someone’s birthday, I’m invited. When someone’s getting married, I’m there too. If someone’s going to be baptized a child, I’m invited. I don’t know. There’s a lot of things that, yeah, I can’t explain. I really feel at home.
[i] Okay, then you feel Ethiopians in Holland, or Maarn, or Dutch?
[r] No, I really feel Maroons.
[i] Yeah? What the…
[r] Yeah, sometimes I forget my color too, honestly. That I’m dark or… different, no. I really feel… When I’m in Maarn, I really just feel Dutch.
[i] Okay.
Okay. Except that Maarn like… Except for the people in Maarn, what makes Maarn special to you? What’s Maarn mean to you?
[r] Maarn has made me an adult. Don’t you dare. Dare to be yourself. Don’t be afraid. My background says very often, you shouldn’t look directly at eyes. With older people or someone who’s…above you. Or er…if you see a boss or someone who’s mayor, for example. In my country, I wouldn’t dare look at eyes. But now the same mayor has grown me up. I could look at the mayor right in the eye. I can tell my story. Or I… I do what I want, who I am. And the fear is no more like, uh… a comparison of my past. Very often I don’t dare look at eyes, at people. But now I really dare to look at the eyes. And, uh… even that has a downside for my country, because I’ve changed so much. When I look at the eyes in my country, when I happen to be there visiting, there I am… But I look at the eyes, people don’t want to look at my eyes, because it’s not part of our tradition. Looking at the eyes is actually kind of cheeky.
Which is… What was it like in the beginning?
How did you come to improve this… this habit or tradition?
No, it’s confidence building, you know. Dare to say what you want to say. Accept who you are. That gives you tremendous satisfaction. So I dare now eh…because, yeah, they’ve accepted me for who I am, not what I have. I didn’t have anything then, but still the mayor came to my house. “You belong here. Or the doctor said to me, “Well, you get the care. We’re doing the best we can. You have to go to the doctor, you have to go to the hospital.” Really? That’s the way it’s trusted us.
[i] Yeah.
[r] That’s got you… yes, very… Yeah, I hear it here. I’m one of those people. I’m Marenaars, so.
Fine. And um… there’s a neighborhood? Where do you meet people every time? Or where do you meet people, except in a shop, on the street. Are you going somewhere active…
Yeah, I’m gonna do sports once a week. That’s where I meet people. Physio. I also have physiotherapist and physio-sport, so not separately, but physio-sport. That’s where I meet people. I go to church. I meet people there. Yeah. I go to the store. I meet people. So everywhere, you know.
[i] But are you girlfriend then? Dutch girlfriend in Maarn?
[r] Yes, I have a Dutch girlfriend. Especially I have a girlfriend who, my youngest son, I met at pregnancy gymnastics. Well I have, in that time I got to know her. So I have a young woman who, well, younger than my age I have girlfriend. And I really have enough girlfriend here in Maarn, so, uh…
[i] So don’t feel homesick.
[r] Not at all, no.
[r] Not at all, no, I really don’t feel homesick. But I miss my family. I miss my sister, my brothers and everybody. But I don’t miss them. I’m not really homesick. I really always… I really want to be here.
[i] Suppose if you leave Maarssen [?], do you have a dream to live somewhere? Or…
[r] Yes. If I er…if I leave Maarn, I wouldn’t live here, I’d actually be in Canada, with my sister.
[i] Okay. So do you have plan B?
Emigrate? No, I don’t.
I don’t know. I don’t know, because I have kids. They’re, uh… I don’t know, what do they want, where do they want?
So I’m actually living here, happily. I’m happy here. But if I ever left this village, I would… I don’t know if I’m gonna get someplace else so nice, I don’t know, but I do have a… sister who…
[i] Okay. So, how’s your daily life? Example of [unintelligible] the occasional weekend.
[r] Yeah…
[r] I’ve really got it. Yeah, full schedule. Yeah, I actually work at day care.
[i] Is…how many days?
[r] I work four days sometimes, three days sometimes. But then I actually start preschool in the morning at 7:30. And then I come back. Then I’m home. Doing all kinds of things, cooking, preparing. Then in the afternoon I go after school. I’m going to welcome the children from 4 to 12 years old. Once in a while I work all day. Once a week I’m all day, but the other days I’m half day. So my day is actually when someone is sick, for example, I go and visit sick people.
[i] Just in the village?
[r] In the village, yes. Girlfriend who’s sick or um… Well, drinking coffee, for example. I’ll make an appointment and then I’ll have coffee or they’ll come to me. Just during the week. And er… yeah. That’s how I got
[i] And the rest? What’s your hobby? Do you have hobbies?
[r] Yes.
[r] Yes… Well, not really. I
[i] What do you do in your spare time? What would you rather do?
Yeah, I sew. I learned to sew here. And I embroider. I like to read books. Also Dutch books that…good writer I have right now. So I read her books a lot.
About what… What’s the book about?
It’s about er… love, romance and detective. So I read books like that a lot. But very often I also have a special writer, Loes the Dutchman, Saskia Noort. They’re really one of… two of my favourite writers. Khaled Hosseini, actually. One of the foreign writers. Wrote about the Kitekeeper. Wrote “A Thousand Beautiful Suns”. So I like stories that really deal with refugees. So I read a lot, so I like reading books. Too bad, but after reading so much, you really don’t develop your language area that much. To be honest.
[i] But there’s no other way to get lessons or improve anything?
[r] Well, for the future, I want [unintelligible]. I’ve already indicated for my performance review for my work that I actually want to improve that. I don’t know if I can do that, but I might get a personal coach. So, um, might change, I don’t know. But that’s my dream for the future. I’d like that, actually.
[i] The hardest thing is to write or to speak?
[r] Mostly to articulate.
[i] [unintelligible]
[r] Exactly
[i] Did you take the exam? Dutch language exam?
[r] No.
[r] No, I didn’t. I did have a course. I’ve had all kinds of certificates. But then I didn’t take an exam. But I…
[i] How do you know
[i] How do you know your level, what do you think your level is?
[r] My level
[r] My level is always [unintelligible]. Just stay… still in the same place, I’m making the same mistake. Um… It’s okay, I can communicate, I’ve been working for seven years now. But then I’m really struggling to tell myself exactly what I want to say or eh
Then what does that mean to you? It makes you feel?
[r] Frustrating
[r] Frustrating. Very much so. I get angry sometimes. Why can’t I? Why? Yeah, why can’t I say what I want to say?
[i] What’s the effect, then? Do you see an er…
[r] Dissatisfied. Just, really sad. It also helps me improve myself, you know, when you’re angry. That lingers on your sadness. Sometimes I’m really struggling, and yeah, I just want to, but…
Are you gonna find a way now… or are you just gonna…
Yeah, it’s still the same. That I’m… seeing someone right now, spontaneously. Just saying what I want to say, but… After that I really, yeah, I just hang on to my grief or something. So then I’m actually hard…
And at home with your kids, do you speak Dutch or your language?
[r] We speak Dutch.
And do your children correct often?
[r] Yes. Yes.
(i) Do you ask your children yourself if…
[r] Yes. No
[r] No, very often my youngest son. My eldest is already from home. But my youngest son also very often improves me and he helps me a lot, you know. I have a really sweet boy who’s really good to me… Actually, I’m going to guide him, but he really helped me, also very well.
Yeah, and, uh… you’re married? Living together?
Yeah, we’re married.
Yeah, we’re married.
[i] Married.
[r] Yes.
[i] From the beginning, you’re married?
[r] From the beginning.
And your husband, does he work?
Yes. Yes, he has a job. He does financial administration.
Yeah? How was that for him, then? You were studying. Is it different for him? The language or the situation?
[r] Yeah, he did the course right away. While he does have a degree from Russia. He got his diploma. But, yes. It’s been a long time. Ten years is a really long time to do nothing. He did a little bit of training himself. MBA, that’s what it’s called. Specially in accounting… field, he’s been trained. And he just volunteered somewhere else as a janitor. And then he volunteered two more days as a bookkeeper. After that, he was allowed to start working for two days. And for about six years now, he’s been doing full-time work five days a week. He’s got a nice job, he likes it. As an accountant, but not at his level or at his profession…
what was the level, is higher?
[r] He studied economics, graduated.
University of Applied Sciences? Mbo?
No, college?
[r] High school. Hbo. Yeah, college graduate. He did his master’s in Russia. So that’s, yeah. It’s… He also got his degree appreciated, but it doesn’t have that much…
[i] Yeah, he’s happy?
Yeah. Happy in the sense of… doesn’t mean what we’ve accomplished, but he’s happy just from ordinary life, you know, everyday life. We’re both happy. But what he… what he wants to accomplish, he hasn’t accomplished yet. And the same for me. So we’re not really happy with what we have.
But are you guys talking about this or…?
[r] Yeah, yeah.
[i] And for your children too? She knows that?
[r] Yeah. They’re really sorry about what happened. They’re proud of us, but still they say: do your best, it’s okay. You still can. They’re really, yeah, trying to help us. And yeah, somehow they’re really, uh…
And Maarn village, he’s proud of you? Or your pride in village?
[r] Both of them.
Yeah, really er… when they see us. They’re so happy, so happy, when you see, yes. My husband’s five days at work, so for him…
Where does he work? In Maarn, or in…?
No, in Utrecht.
In Utrecht.
Yeah, in Low Meadow, yeah. But I’ve been working here for five days, I’ve been here, actually, almost seven days. So yeah, I just, wow, we’re glad to see you. We’re very happy to see you in Maarn, so grown up. You guys deserve that. You belong here, right. You know, really like, that… Yeah, I don’t have a word, but they’re so happy to see us. And speaking on the street, just, how’s [name]? And then, well, what’s he doing now? And then, wow, they’re really happy to hear and really… And one more month from now, how’s it going, really, how’s it going with [name], asked a lot of times. And they’re so happy. And then when you…someone happy to meet you, say goodbye and they start asking all kinds of questions that how happy they are with us, then you are proud of them. You are. That’s… that’s…
…do you like being asked all kinds of questions?
[r] Yeah.
[r] Yeah, I like it a lot.
[i] What less do you like not being asked? What was that?
[r] I almost make
[r] I hardly ever make, but the occasional stranger, for example, is going to ask you eh…are you going back to your country? Then really, you’re sad. But really, I forget right away. That’s not important to me, you know. These people don’t know me, they can say what they want. But the people who know me, I really have a lot of friends who say, you’re not going back to your country there, are you? You’re not going, are you? So, really with… I can’t go without you. Literally, when you hear that… That really hurts you and… to be loved by the people.
[i] What makes you special? What do you think? What are you doing with those people?
We don’t do anything, actually. We’re just doing who we are. When it’s my birthday, they come, I make coffee. And they drink quietly, and then they say: ah, how nice, what a beautiful culture you have.
Admire what culture?
The coffee, the Ethiopian coffee. The landscape of our country, stories about our country. Our er… yes.
Can you describe them, just about your country?
We don’t have to write, they see it for themselves.
[i] Describe.
They just see it, they say: well, you know, that… Kind of, yeah. Very often we’re willing to help people. For example, here in the village when someone asks me, would you please run some errands with me? Sure, I’m willing. Or, you know, I… like in my country, helping each other, it’s part of our country, our culture. And that’s what we’re gonna do here. And yeah.
[i] Official not volunteering, not official. But just…
[r] Yeah, just. Just a villager. You know, like you, yeah… I have a girlfriend… and yeah… she just lost her husband two years ago. And he’s really, really, really sweet man. And ever since then she’s been a little blind and everything. She can’t drive, she doesn’t do anything. So she needs help. And then when she asked me, [name], can I go shopping with you tomorrow? If I can, I say, sure! And then I’m gonna go shopping with her and, um… And, um, she’s really so happy. How can I be without you… Really, if
[i] For Marenaar, you’re paying back, is that right?
Well, I don’t know if paying back… I’ll never repay… What did you get, that love… I can’t… I really can’t pay it back. That moment, that love. I can’t repay. I don’t know how, but I’m doing all kinds of volunteer work right now.
[i] Yeah, like what?
[r] I’m the organizer of Asthma Fund, the collection organizer. So, uh, once a year, for example, I’m gonna connect people, the collectors here from Maarn. Then I’ll go to the people. Yeah, they have to collect. And me too. I’m in. My husband collects, too. So, uh… Yeah, and at the end of the collection, I’m gonna take that money to the bank and I’m gonna turn it in for the lung fund. So really… my way I’d like to pay you back, but it’s just the little things you can do. I go too. I go to church, for example, on Sundays, every now and then. Once every two months I’m scheduled as a babysitter for the kids. For the babies or something, then I’m a babysitter. Officially I’m scheduled, so I do volunteer work that way. But I also used to do as an er…at the World Shop, I did as a salesgirl. As a volunteer. But until I got a job, I did.
[i] So, uh…yeah. This all kinds of stuff to do in society, it makes you feel different?
[r] Sure, yeah. You feel, uh, you belong. You’re one of the Dutch. You, uh… I just feel at home!
[i] Why do you do that?
To feel at home? Yes, I do it on purpose, because I want to feel at home. I’m here. I want to live right now. I don’t want to dream and in a year or three, because I missed it. Could dream, like dreaming that I’m gonna… find a job. But I’d like to live for today, among other things. And that’s my dream. That’s what I’m doing…
[i] Do you have any dreams for the future?
Yeah. Lots of them.
Tell me.
[r] But in my dream, among other things, that’s just… a lot of, uh… to show you my country. Where am I from? Who are they, the people? What are they like, in each other? That’s really my dream, mostly.
[i] Showing who from?
From… For Maarn, or for many other Dutch people who want to get to know Ethiopia. I always have that in my head, of how people are, how… What kind of culture do we have?
[i] How do you do that? How do you want to do it? Are you doing something now, from now on, or do you want to do something in the future?
[r] Yes…I tried, but at the moment it’s due to lack of time and all kinds of reasons I didn’t do it. But for the future, for example… March 8th is Women’s Day. I would like to rent a certain room and show our coffee ceremony. For women. And show how Ethiopia… What kind of land, what kind of background and what is the landscape? How many languages do we have? How many cultures do we have? Really, you can’t just say simple things, you can really collect all kinds of documentary stuff. I just want to tell you, that’s really my dream. I’d just like to work on that. I’ve already started at home. A lot of people already know where we’re from here. What kind of land we have. What kind of culture we have. And we try every now and then, they come to us. We eat with people. I invite people here. I show them what kind of food we have. How are we gonna eat? Very often, if I’m going to invite them, they have to eat by hand. I have to say it, because I don’t want the cult… with fork and injerra with fork, no. Well, wash your hands. Eat by hand, I think. It’s ours. And so, they do, and they love it, and they say, well, you guys have such good food, beautiful culture. And, yeah, they really like it.
Yeah, I don’t know, influence your relationship within people, accept people like…
[r] We are?
[i] they appreciate or er…
[r] No. It’s actually with that doing, you wouldn’t get it, honestly. Just… I think people accept us for who we are, just from the beginning. It’s not now. I [unintelligible] now like…
[i] Identity?
Yes. Yeah, that who I am, and just once in a while when it’s my birthday, I make coffee. It’s part of my birthday. Making coffee is part of my birthday. So they come to celebrate my birthday, but with coffee.
[i] Okay. So, what do you take from Holland culture, what do you take from Ethiopia?
I actually think of my country culture as involvement, loving contact, um…that’s just my identity, feeling really involved. Neighbors, family, friends. It’s just… I just… I want to love my country.
[i] Is it like [name], or like just Ethiopian?
[r] As an Ethiopian.
[i] Okay.
[i] Then more… [unintelligible] Ethiopian. [unintelligible]
[r] That’s just in our country, I…my mother I see, my sisters, they’re all real, they give a lot of love to each other. That’s just… I just do it in my work for my colleagues, despite everything I go through. I keep being sweet. And knowing that, [name] is always… But that being sweet is actually… sometimes a lot of harm.
[i] Like what?
[r] Like, yeah…like you’re scared or like you…yeah, have something to hide. That kind of thing… that’s from my country I’ve brought with me, giving love or feeling involved. Cuddling, giving attention. But most people from Maarn, they really like that. They really do… They appreciate it. That’s from my mother, I got it. I’m gonna pass that on to my Dutch friends.
[i] Do you think you get from family, from upbringing? Or from the country culture?
[r] No, it’s parenting. What is culture, anyway? Culture is the collection of upbringing. If I see, well, where does it come from? Actually, I think that, uh, this is actually… my mother’s, uh, got from her mother. Her mother got it from her mother, it’s not just anything…
It’s just some kind of tradition.
Yeah, tradition, because you’d really get it.
[i] Okay. What other traditions have you brought back from Ethiopia?
Sharing. Despite everything…sharing. In the sense of… Dutch people have no shortage of money, no shortage of food, but sharing love is really hard, I mean, in the sense of…
[i] Different?
[r] Different. I really learned our way of sharing from my country. I share my love.
[i] So you want to pass it on to the Dutch?
[r] And they amaze very often. How do you do that? How can you? Somebody like that hurt you. Yet you…treat with love. Yeah. That’s what I learned, that my mother gave me. You know, forgive, or… Yeah. Treat me with love as much as you can, you know. For me, that’s the point I, uh…
You wear this for your kids, too?
Also, yeah. Also very often confirmed by Maroons, you know.
[i] Are different from other children?
Yeah, they say how did you raise them? They’re really, uh… Yeah, modest. Helpful. A little real, too, mostly… They’re not cheeky. Really, they just do it when someone comes, they cuddle, or they just accept, like in my country. People respect the guest, for example, when guests come, they get up right away, and… yeah. They just see… They say, well, how did you raise them? And they were involved in the church, too. And so, somehow they don’t see the same thing as a Dutch guy.
Do you have that influence on them?
[r] They say that
[r] They say that, but I don’t know. I didn’t do it on purpose. I just raised who we are. Just, give what you’ve got, share what you can. So, uh… I don’t know. We just, like, did what we do at home. Not particularly, but the other people see that
[r] see that very much.
Okay, now you work as a… in a day care center. Do you notice that the exercise is different from your country, Ethiopia?
[r] Yeah, sure.
What’s the big difference?
[r] Yeah, kids they’ve raised really free here. They still are. And kids can say what they want to say. Even we have children’s council, that’s what it’s called. Children are free to choose. Children can… buy toys, for example. They have to argue with each other for a while. And then they go, well, we want this. Then they’re going to choose. But that’s because of children’s council. They’re also going to present themselves, for example. I’d like to be the chairman of the Children’s Council. Yeah, in our country, things like that, no, you can’t do that. Because you’re not allowed to say anything. Stay put. Don’t say anything. That was actually my past, but I don’t know how it goes now. I keep hearing things get better and children are allowed to say. But in my time it was really quiet, not saying anything. But here’s too much. I feel like children were raised too freely. That’s hard for me to combine my past and my now… my now. That combination sometimes clashes, but I’m trying to process it a little… yeah. It’s not easy, but…
I mean, you’ve had an adolescent, right?
Your er… the big one.
[r] Is 23.
[i] Has been. And now the young one. Do you notice your childhood and um…yeah, with your kids, what’s different?
No, I don’t… It is, that’s why people say that, you have special children. My eldest son never pubed.
Never bothered?
Never no, and the youngest now is almost twelve. Really obedient. He does a lot of things. He’s really going, if you’re going to ask, “[name], do you want to hang the laundry?” “Yes, I do!” “[name] do that.” “Yeah.” “[name] television off, now you’re gonna do this.” “All right.” And I’m gonna compare lots of times. How’s that possible? Does he have any expectations, no, anything like that. But he really… I just haven’t seen either of them yet. So I don’t dare say I’ve had it really… bad, or childhood or something. No. I was obedient and my kids are obedient all the time. So it’s very hard to tell the difference between my kids. In terms of culture, I also notice that my children are really independent. Yes, for example, she can er…my eldest son he just sits down, he grabs a sandwich and he eats himself. He’s not going to ask: “Do you want to eat” or something? That’s just real, yeah, he’s hungry, he eats and then he’s done. But in my culture, you can’t just sit down and eat without asking. I think that’s a little… Yeah, they’ve changed.
[i] What do you say?
Well… Aren’t you gonna ask us or something, you know. Yeah, I thought I’d let you know, you know, so simple. So I accept that, because they’re here. They’re in a hurry, they have to do something, as soon as possible. So thinking about me at length… Yeah, no time. So then they’ve developed their way, in the Dutch way. Do what they want.
[i] So you just give your kids Dutch upbringing? Or eh…Ethiopian and [in] Holland.
[r] Mix. No, that’s mix. Yeah.
[i] For example, what’s mix?
Yeah, uh… I don’t know, hard to say exactly. Cause we’re here, we live, we live Ethiopian way.
What’s Ethiopian way of living?
Yeah, we, yeah. For example, you’re gonna
[i] Eat?
…with food… Yeah, eating together. You’re not going, just yeah, personally. For one i’m cooking this, for another i’m cooking that. No. Just sit at the table, we’ll eat together. Yeah, that’s our Ethiopian way. We eat injerra, we eat Dutch kale. That kind of thing. So for me it’s really just, I don’t know if the upbringing has any, uh…
[i] Just uneventful…
[i] Just goes unconsciously?
[r] Unconsciously, yes.
[i] Also goes unconsciously. You told me how from the beginning, for your life, just wrestling with residence permits, with that pregnancy and… expecting a long time. Then your education isn’t finished either. Between times you have done your best. All kinds of ways to volunteer and then you did training. And now you’re working. And you too are really proud of two sons, eh two sons. And all this says something about you. You’re really a go-getter. You’re a very strong woman. But do you know that everything you do is a contribution to the Maarn or to the Netherlands?
[r] Yes… I think it’s…contributing, but it’s what’s, uh…given me so much confidence and made me who I am. Because every step I take has given me enormous… At first I’m afraid to try, to do. But later on, how did I do that? That has me, I don’t see it as a contribution, but kind of development of myself.
[i] Personal development?
Personal development. Development, so for me that’s actually… Yeah. Makes me feel great.
[i] How does [name] describe [in] all these years? How were you [unintelligible].
[r] Yeah… I was really insecure. Yeah, of my past. Might as well be my background. Uncertain. A little… yeah. But every year I see myself change. In spite of all these problems, I’ve progressed. I just see it… …changed. I dare to do things, I dare to say, I dare to be myself. Especially me. And yes.
[i] Do you think it’s because of all the trouble you’ve been through?
[r] Yeah, made me a very different person, I guess.
If I just set up your life like you graduated in Russia and all that. Think you’d be different?
Yeah. I would actually… I’d have a very different contact with the Dutch, for one thing. Cause I wouldn’t get what I got, first of all. I’ve really grown enormously because of those problems. Also… in all kinds of ways, that really… Whatever I say, from sewing, sewing clothes I learned, because I want to forget my problems by being busy. Or er…I went swimming because I want to be with my child here in the village as well… We have a swimming pool nearby… like a lake. Then I want to swim with him. You name it. Something I’ve done is for my self-development. I did it just because I want to. If maybe I graduated, I’d have a job. Maybe I’m an educated woman, but maybe without a job. You could be, ’cause it’s not always that you graduate, you always have a job. But I feel like my way here, in Maarn, um… I just feel like I’ve grown a lot. Really huge, in a good way. I won’t say that 11 years in the last… in that period I’ve… I haven’t been sad. No, I’ve cried a lot. Always, yeah, taking medication to feel better. I’ve done a lot of things. But in the process, I got to know so many people from Maarn. I’ve really improved a lot.
[i] What do people say to you?
“”Oh, [r] “[name], how you’ve grown.”” “What a brave woman you are.” And yes, it’s really nice…very often, very often, I get nice compliments Very often, still, they say, “Well, how you’ve changed. Do you remember ten years ago?” They’ve said so, I’ve already forgotten. Well, you think, that’s really pretty of you. And even my supervisor said a lot of times, every year I have a performance review. “Don’t feel so insecure, you’re doing so good, you’ve changed so much, you’ve progressed so much.” You always get confirmation of what you’re doing. It’s nothing for nothing. So for me it’s actually that enormous personal development, I’ve grown. It’s made me a very different person.
If you’re describing this, how do you describe it? Now, how… who are you?
Yeah, I’m a grown woman with a lot of experience. With love I have continued here. Really got through. Yeah, I’ve got it all now, I think.
Do you feel happier?
Yes, I’ve got it all… Everything in the sense of not materially, but spiritually I’m way ahead And yes, I’m a happy woman, so that’s important to me. And my children are happy. And we’re healthy, all four of us. That gives me enormous pleasure.
[i] Yeah, and do you notice that your relationship is growing better, too? Then, a few years ago and now?
Yeah, it’s changed a lot, it was, uh… My husband and I, yeah, that’s our culture. Men they always have, uh, head and… all kinds of things with housework, home, housework. With cooking. And… you name it. There are all kinds of things that men really have they have no place in the kitchen in our country. But here, yes, since the last ten years, mostly, before that we have always been busy with our problems, but since I started working, studying, my husband has helped enormously. And as of now, I actually see tremendous progress. We can really talk together. He can cook, he can wash, he can… When I’m gone, I’m sure that… No doubt I can go away for a month. He can really take care of the kids. He can do his best for, yeah, for home, too.
Is that a lot of men like that? With your girlfriends or something, Ethiopian?
Absolutely not! Absolutely not.
Yeah? What are you making me do?
[r] Dutchmen were surprised. “Remember, [name] ten years ago, Abebe?” And now they’re saying, “Yeah, I just see it.” Yeah, he’s just active. When visitors come, I can sit really quietly. He can make coffee. Make coffee with the [unintelligible].
[i] Not for that?
[r] No.
How’s that…
[r] [Unintelligible] He’s waiting for me to bring something to the table. But now it’s really just… He’s taking initiative, you know. When people come here, “Well, do you want coffee?” And he goes to the kitchen himself, while I just sit there. So for me it’s actually a special development that even that cultural difference… We’ve made ourselves tremendously strong. [unintelligible] I’m working. He’s working. If he hadn’t helped me, I wouldn’t be saving him. But really, if I want to go somewhere with my girlfriend, I can go easy because he’s home. So it’s [really] huge… Yeah, it’s huge for me, I see. He’s emancipated. Not me, but him.
[i] I see. Ha ha ha. What about you?
[r] I’m also emancipated, towards him.
He’s manpowered towards you? [emancipated]
[r] And I to him.
[i] Then to him?
[r] Also, yes.
[i] In [And] what way you?
Yes, I er… For example, towards him, in the sense… We dare, woman, we dare not say so much.
[i] Yes.
Yes? But now I can really say, my feelings, if something’s not right, or confrontation. Before, I didn’t dare say, but now I can say really easily: Well, [unintelligible]. So, that doesn’t happen. And I can say my feelings, easily. And he says, “Right, yeah, did… did I?” Or, we can really communicate very well. I dare say. So that’s just manners. Men dare to do, say, but women really always have to be obedient, sweet and… that’s what we call it in our country, that belongs to women. But now I’m emancipated. I dare say what I want to say to my husband. I’m not afraid. But he also accepts, yes… very often that’s right… when I say something, it’s… He just appreciates it. It’s not like, well, she’s gotten cheeky or anything. No, she hasn’t. Definitely not, actually.
[i] Where do you guys think you learned this?
[r] No. The time… You’re growing up. Then you’re here in Maarn. Then you see the relationship between man and woman here in Maarn, how it goes. Yeah. Feeling equal with each other, you just see that every day. We go to birthday parties, we go visit friends, we really go in between. Then you’ll see how we get along.
[i] The Dutch.
[r] Yeah.
[i] The relationship between men and women in the house.
[r] Between man and woman, yes. In the house, yes. In the house.
[i] Okay. Is that always the case? Don’t you see anything special in here, I mean. In between too?
[r] Yeah, there’s between, too…there’s still between, too. There are men who still don’t go to the kitchen. They wait for their wives to come to make coffee. There are, but it goes here now, I just see it differently here. When you’re in touch with younger people, you just notice… It’s supposed to be like this. You know, women and men are alike. Even if you don’t have a job. Even if you’re less educated. That doesn’t mean anything. If you have really good communication, that er…difference doesn’t really go too far.
Okay. What do you want to change or improve in Maarn? Do you ever have Maarn’s eyes? What do you think less of Maarn?
Um, that’s hard, I don’t know, there’s really nothing less. It’s good for me. It’s really good. People are really nice. They understand you very well and… yeah, I don’t know. From the beginning, they really hit on love, you know. For me, does anything [this] need to be changed? No, I can’t say. I really can’t.
[i] And now you feel like Maroons, yeah?
[i] But do you have Dutch nationality?
[r] Yes, I have Dutch nationality.
[i] Okay. Okay. How was that to change that nationality? So as Ethiopian came, changed to Holland. What was the feeling?
[r] I really didn’t even think, you know. What I told you, my past. So people demonstrated. They belonged to us. And I’m pregnant. I’m allowed to stay. What’s for me to doubt not to be? I have everything. I’ve got the people here, I’ve got my kids here. I’ve got my husband. I’ve got the land, so why not? Why don’t you… I really didn’t even think for one minute about this Dutchmanship… and get it. I really haven’t thought for a minute. I’m here. I’m here. I belong here. And I never really had any doubts. So for me is actually a part of who I am. Aside from my color or my language, I do have, uh… Haha.
[i] Have you ever been discriminated against by your color?
Um… Yes, I have.
Or your children, or your husband, right?
Yeah. Yeah, I’ve been discriminated against, because I’ve been here a lot. When you leave Maarn village, it starts already, you know. In that shop. Where do you go to the shop? In Utrecht, for example. And then you look for something, clothes, you name it. Every time the person walks behind you, because of you… While there are enough people to help. Then someone comes behind you, yeah, to check, have you brought something in your bag or something. It hurts to see that… But I’ve been discriminated against in all sorts of ways. I once… I have to go to the store. Not to the store, but to my work by bus. So the bus goes from Maarn via Doorn to Leersum. Leersum was where I used to be in the asylum seekers’ centre. And er… I actually had to, I’m as a raid for the childcare I had to work somewhere in another village. I had to work, so I got on that bus. And the bus driver said to me, um… I told her, “Two, two strips.” He said to me, “No, it has to be five,” said to me. “No, I said two.” “No, I said five.” Well, he thought, “Then you’re going to that asylum seekers’ centre. I was really freaked out, because it was my place. I spent my first six months there. There’s no window. It’s really 500 people in there. You know, that really touched me. You know, the people who don’t know you. Suddenly confronting your past. Totally. I never saw that bus driver. But the moment I got on that bus, he said to me, “No, you need five.” While I knew where I was going. But he doesn’t know me, yet he was right to condemn me. You’re an asylum seeker, right? Then you need five. So that’s the kind of moment you give up, because of my color, you name it. What would be the reason? I don’t know.
[i] [unintelligible] your asylum seeker background, yes.
[r] Yeah, background. So… that he’s… Could’ve been married here in Maarn. He doesn’t know anything about it, but he was right to say, “Well, you need five strips.” I say, “Why?” “You’re going to the Leersum asylum seekers’ centre, aren’t you? While I’ve been going for years, I’ve forgotten that moment. I didn’t even go to that asylum seekers’ centre. Never, I don’t really want to.
Do you have any influence?
[i] Your memory comes back?
Yes, but because every… When we came to live here in Maarn, for about five, six years we had to go there every week for the stamps, because your presence, you had to go there every week. That you’re there. Usually when you’re in prison… you have to go to the police every week. That hurt us. It’s hard to forget that moment. While you’re living in that house, you always have to report to the asylum seekers’ centre. It’s touched us tremendously. So for me, to hear that, you’re still an asylum seeker. Really hurts me.
That’s the memory you have. What’s the best memory you have?
Er… yeah, sure, the best memory is actually the 14th of January that we get to stay. January 15th. And heard the people here in the village and the first day our house was full of flowers. That’s really a moment, so happy. Everyone was happy for us. Everyone was really so happy, just the people we don’t know. A lot of cards, a lot of letters, a lot of flowers, that really our house was full of flowers. That was really the best memory for me that really, yeah…I still cherish, still cherish, that flowers. That er… yeah. That even the people who weren’t… I don’t know who were there, who were where. So the flowers actually belonged to an unknown person. I don’t know that name. Just villagers who were happy with us. So everyone called each other and our day was… Yeah. That was the nicest memory for me. Haha.
[i] So now that I’ve asked you. But do you have anything for me, um…yeah, I didn’t say or ask during your life story, you want to tell me something. General, what haven’t I talked about so far? You want to get rid of it?
Yeah. You asked me about the homesickness. I’m very homesick about it? No, you’re not. But what we, uh… What I miss, for example, my family, my parents. All these years I’ve missed. That’s for us, too, my husband, the same thing, we really, er… Every year, every month, we live with fear, because we’re so happy here, we live so nice and we have everything great. People in my country, my parents, my sisters, my husband’s parents, who really… yeah… miss that… first of all, that freedom. I’m so happy. Um… health care. So, if I’m sick, I could really go straight to the doctor. I’m being treated. And when I see my mum’s sick, she goes to the doctor with all the trouble and she doesn’t get so much good help. That’s actually a sad moment for me. If I think that, then I’m unhappy, frankly. Actually, I’d like to bring everyone here. And I actually wanted everyone with me… If only they’d seen it. It’s important to me. If only they could be here. I’m really one hundred percent happy. But not really, honestly. I’m happy, the way of life, the way of all this er…our situation. Not materially, but spiritually I feel really rich. But when I think of my parents, my family or my husband’s family and all those Ethiopians who are in all kinds of trouble, especially with health care, with eh…yes, study, all kinds of things. Actually, I think, I have everything here. And then they have so little there. That hurts me a bit. That’s what I want to tell you, why… But I’m also kind of between two worlds, then. Because I’m happy, I’ve got everything, I can say, but not one hundred percent. As long as my family, as long as my fellow countrymen are in trouble, I can’t help. That touches me very much
[i] Well, I’m done with your interview. Thank you very much.
[r] You’re welcome.