[i] Good day [name] !

[r] Good day [name] !

[i] I’ll interview you today at the Red Star Line museum and before I start with my questions, can you tell me a little about yourself, please? What is your name? What country are you from?

[r] Yes. My name is [name] . That’s actually an Arabic name. But it is [name] . My last name is [name] . I’m from Afghanistan. Actually the South of Afghanistan. I have already studied. I got my bachelor there. English literature. The languages and literature. After my studies…that was in 2015 I left for Belgium.

[i] And can you tell me a little about your family? Do you have sisters or brothers?

[r] Yes. I have a beautiful sister. She is the oldest in our family. Two brothers. I am the middle one. And mom and dad. So we live together. As you know about our culture, Afghans usually live together. In English we call that “a joint family”. So my older brother lives here with me. And the rest of my family is there. In my country.

[i] And what kind of child have you been? Can you tell me about your childhood?

[r] In my childhood, I wasn’t that naughty. I was very calm. But that was… I did some bad things. And I was my daddy’s baby. Why do I tell my daddy’s baby? My dad loves me the most among my family members. I was a little more intelligent than my brothers. And sisters too. So Daddy loved me the most. And everyone respected me too. Not so naughty… but a few things.

[i] And did you go to school?

[r] Yes. Together with my older brother. And the little one was still very small. My school wasn’t always in the same place. The first school I started was in 1996. When we were in Pakistan. And we were refugees there too. The political situation in our country was not good. Then the Soviet Union was in Afghanistan. The first years of my school were in Pakistan. In Peshawar. It is in the north of Pakistan. And then we went to Islamabad. The 4th and 5th years I studied there. Yes. I still remember some good things from there. We didn’t have schools for boys. So we went to schools of the girls. And also what I find interesting is that I also fell in love with a girl. She was my classmate.

[i] And how old were you?

[r] We were children. Really. Then I didn’t know why I thought her rock was beautiful and interesting. And I always wanted to… talking to her. But if she happened to come to me, I couldn’t talk to her anymore. When I think about those thoughts now, I know that I was just in love with that girl. And what I found interesting in her face… She was very friendly and calm… But the most beautiful part was her dimples. Do you know the dimples? When someone laughs… Not everyone. Only a few people have them. When she laughed, the dimples came into her cheeks immediately. So I liked that very much. Even now, when I see a girl or a man, it doesn’t matter but with those two dimples… I like that.

[i] And do you remember the period when you went from Afghanistan to Pakistan?

[r] No. Not really. I was born in Pakistan. So I don’t really know how we went from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

[i] And how long have you lived in Pakistan?

[r] We may have been… from 1988 to 2003. So that was almost 15 or 16 years. Yes, we were there in Pakistan.

And after that? Did you go back?

Yes, we went back to our country. The U.S. came there. So the situation had improved a little.

[i] And how long did you live there?

[r] From 2003 until 2015 I was back in Afghanistan. In my own country.

[i] And can you tell a bit more about these years please? What was life like then?

[r] Yes. Life was beautiful. The first years when we were children we worked together with my dad. He was alone so… You know there’s no social system there or anything. Like in Europe. So in the morning we went to school. The three brothers. And from noon to night we worked with my dad. We had a… Actually not a shop but such a big place where we put our things from formwork.

From whom?

[r] Formwork. That’s a Dutch name. I think ‘Formwork’ is in English. For example, if you make something, you use a few… things before you make the ceiling. In English, we call that ‘a lentil’. If you know that one. So we had those things. That was a construction company. But yes. That was a very good life for us. And we earned very well. So when we grew up a bit, in my puberty we already had a car, our own house. A very good life. Yes. And I already worked at the American Embassy in 2007. As a trainer. And then back in 2010 as an interpreter working for the U.S. Army. So those two were the main reasons why I had to go to another country. Or I had to leave my country.

[i] Can you tell me a little bit more?

[r] Yes. That’s a bit of a difficult situation. You know the situation of our country better. People who worked for the government or for the US are the enemies. They are against the Taliban or ISIS. So yes. The first years were very good. The situation was very good in our city. But at the end from 2013-2014 they got a lot of control over a few cities in our country. So they caused problems for people who have worked for the government or for the US. So that’s why I had to leave my country. That was the hardest decision I ever made.

[i] And can you tell me a little about your university life? Did you study in Pakistan?

[r] No. Not all my studies were in Pakistan. Until the 7th year I was in Pakistan. After that we went back to our country. And we had a very difficult education system. A student has to go to school for up to 12 years. From year 1 to 6 there is the primary school. From 6 to 9 there is the middle school. And from 10 to 12 there is the high school. So you first have to study until high school. After that you have to study for another year. That is not really studying. But you have to repeat the foreknowledge of your previous studies. Actually practice. And you are going to take a big exam. We call it a ‘Concour exam’. And if you’ve passed this exam, you’re going to study something… engineer, doctor or something. Literature. They will look at your points. If you have the highest marks, you can study medicine.

[i] And what was it like for you?

[r] My exam wasn’t so good. My points weren’t so good. So that’s why I studied literature.

[i] Didn’t you have time to study?

[r] Yes. During a period of one year I didn’t have time to study. That year I was very busy with my dad. In 2010 or 2009. I was very busy building with my dad. So there was no time to practice anything. Maybe that’s my…in English we say ‘bad luck’. Every year we had to take the exams after 1 year. At that moment I thought, “Okay. I still have 6 months to study”. And then the government said that the exam will take place after 6 months. Wow! Why is that? So there was no time to study. That’s why I didn’t have any good points. But still I am happy. I’m very happy that I studied literature.

[i] Why did you choose literature to study?

[r] When you take that exam, you get a paper with all the faculties. So the people with the highest points are the first to choose. For example, there is a maximum of 360 points for this exam. For example, if you get the highest points, for medicine from 300 to 360 points. That is very difficult to get so many points. Not difficult, but if you have studied well that is no problem. Then you’re going to get that anyway. But then you can study medicine. From 280 to 300 points you can study engineering sciences. From 260 to 280 you can study economics. And from 240 to 260 you can study literature, and… Agriculture”. What do you call that in Dutch? And those subjects anyway. So that’s why I chose it. They sent me directly to literature.

[i] So that wasn’t really your choice?

[r] Yes, I did. That was my choice. I’ve already chosen that. You have 5 choices. You can choose 5 directions. For example: medicine, science engineer, economics, literature or something else. And they will look at your points. Which choice is perfect for your points? So yes.

[i] And how were your university years?

[r] Student time is always very cool. So I studied English literature. So… So English or the languages of other countries are always a bit difficult. But there are also too few people who study other languages in my country. English or Arabic. We have 5 languages in our university. Arabic, Hindi, English, Pashto and the two official languages of our country. So only for Pashto and English you have to take an exam. Because everyone wants to learn those two languages. And I also took the second exam. And I got the highest marks. Because I had already studied English. And the university years were very chill. What I really liked was that the teachers were very young. And if you have a young professor, they are very curious. They think they can learn new methods. And they also want you to make contact with other countries or with other universities. They give you books or syllabus that are up to date and modern. But in the other faculties, the professors were old. We don’t have a student-wise system in our country. That is a professor-wise system. Everything is done by a professor. Students are very lazy, we might say. So we were happy to have young professors. And they gave us very up-to-date information. And the lectures and the books. We were 5 naughty men in our group. Me, and the second is a director of a big course. An English and computer course. So he is the director. The other person, my classmate is now a director of something in economics. In the Ministry of Economy. The third is a freelancer or a business manager of a car company. And everyone has a good life.

[i] And did you have the chance to graduate?

[r] Me? What do you mean by that?

[i] To get a diploma?

[r] Yes yes yes. I got a bachelor’s degree. And after my bachelor I went to several companies to apply. That was within 1 year. But when I got a political problem… So I decided to go to another country.

[i] So was it right after your university?

[r] No no. The last year of college. When I was in college… And I’ve said it before. People from ISIS or other people had control over a few cities in our country. So at that time, our city was almost safe. But when I graduated, they got more control over more cities. So I got some warnings from them.

[i] How did you get such a warning?

[r] They send you some papers like that.

[i] By post or by email?

[r] We don’t have any mail or email. Through their own agents. Yes. They have their own hidden agents. You don’t know him. But he is in your neighbourhood or in your village. You don’t know him. But he will give you this piece of paper in the evening in the mosque. Or slide it under your door. Or something like that. So they were in the mosque.

[i] And what had they written?

[r] That I have already worked with the American army. And something like that. And that I am the greatest enemy of Islam. Or something like that. But yes…

[i] And that’s someone from ISIS?

[r] That person was from the Taliban. ISIS now has no control over us. They do have control, but those are a few cities on the other side of the country.

[i] And when exactly did you decide to leave after this message?

[r] After this message my dad and the whole family sat together and decided that I can leave the country now.

[i] Was that only for yourself?

[r] That was only for me. What is stuck in the culture of my country is that if you are against someone you can’t do or say anything bad to his wife, children and also the older people. That is cultural. We have a lot of respect for those 3 kinds of people. Children, women and old people. Mom or Dad. So that’s why. They also received a few warnings. Where is your son? Where is he?” “If you don’t bring him to us, we’re going to kill you. But they only give warnings. But I hope they won’t say anything to them. But still I am afraid of them. Certainly. That is my family.

[i] But were they in real danger?

[r] When I call my family, for example now or later, they’re going to tell me anyway, “Okay. We are safe. That’s no problem if you’re happy there. We’re happy here too. But I don’t think so. They’re not happy. They’re not in a safe situation. I know the situation in our country. But… I hope. That they are going to come here.

[i] But was the situation always so bad? Do you remember that? Or has it changed?

[r] I’ve been in Belgium for 3 years. Actually I have no idea if that has changed or not. If you look at Facebook, Whatsapp or Twitter you see a few people who have positive ideas and then you become positive anyway. But there are still people who always give you an example of your own situation. So that’s terrible.

[i] Do you have a lot of contact with your family?

[r] Yes. Luckily, now it is. But 6 or 5 months ago we didn’t have internet in our village. So I just had to call and that costs too much. So then I could call every two or three days. To my daddy, mommy, baby, wife or my uncle. But now the internet is working in my village. And I call every day.

[i] And so you are married?

[r] Yes. Yes.

And how long?

[r] That is a very good question. In our country, people get married very early. For example, I was 19 years old.

[i] And she?

[r] The same. 18 or so. Not 19. But 18 anyway.

And where did you get to know each other?

[r] She is my…she is the daughter of my uncle. So actually my cousin.

Ah, is that normal in Afghanistan?

[r] Yes. That is normal in our country. That daughter of your uncle or your aunt. Grandma…not grandma but that’s it. That is normal in our country.

[i] How long have you been married?

[r] Almost 8 years. Yes. From 2010 to 2018. That’s 8 or 9 years.

[i] And do you have a baby?

[r] Yes. We have a baby yes. Very nice.

[i] And is that a girl or a boy?

[r] A boy. Yes.

[i] And how old is he?

[r] 7 years old. Almost 8 years old.

[i] And how long have you not seen your child?

[r] In July and August I went on a trip. And I visited my family. In Pakistan. I invited them. They had to come to Pakistan. And fortunately I saw everyone there. So I was travelling there. Yes, I hadn’t seen them for almost 3 years. But luckily I visited my family last August and July.

[i] And do you remember the first day when you came to Belgium? And can you also tell me a little about the flight?

[r] Allez. The first day and flight… You know better. If a refugee starts his or her journey to Europe or the US or another country, it will always be very difficult. So it took me 1 month to get to Belgium.

[i] What means of transport did you use?

[r] First by plane from Kabul to Tehran. In Iran. And from Iran we went sometimes by car, sometimes on foot. So in different ways. And we had a lot of problems.

[i] For example?

[r] For example, I’ll tell you about the biggest problem. We were walking in the mountains. We had to walk for 2 days and 1 night. And where was that? When we were crossing the border between Iran and Turkey. And we were in Turkey. On those mountains I saw a boy. He seemed 16 or 17 years old. And he was dead. And he was lying between the mountains. And everyone was just passing by… And so was I. And we just looked: ”Allez. He passed away. He had dust on his body. And nobody was there to help him. Or to find something in his wallet to maybe contact his family.

[i] And did you know the reason? What happened to him?

[r] The reason is just thirst. If you go 2 days and 1 night on a mountain up and then back down and then climb again and back down without pause or even with a pause. Every 2 hours you can sit for 10 or 5 minutes. And if you don’t have any water either… Or yes, but not that much water. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to climb that long. So you had to have a small bottle of water. And that is not enough. That is for 2 days and 1 night. That also happened to us. But fortunately we were 3 best friends together. And my cousin. The other two were my friends. So we were together. What did we decide? Each person should have 2 bottles of water. In his backpack. And if you are tired then you have to give your backpack to me. If I am tired I will give you my backpack. We had to help each other. And that was a very good idea from us. That’s why we were lucky.

[i] And were you 3 best friends from the same village?

[r] No no. My cousin did. That’s my cousin. He has already worked in the ANA. The Afghan National Army. And the third we had just seen there. And we became friends. So yes. So that wasn’t from the past. But he is a good friend now.

[i] And what other difficulties were there during your flight?

[r] Allez. Anyway, every situation is difficult. If you pass 1 country, the second country is going to be difficult anyway. For example, if you go from Turkey to Bulgaria there you have to walk 5 days and 5 nights through the jungle. Climbing and hiking. 5 days! And you had to bring small bags of beans or something to eat. But you couldn’t even eat. You don’t feel like eating anything. Because you only think about your goal. Your target. When am I going to get to Bulgaria? So yes. Every situation is difficult.

[i] Could you please tell us a little bit more about the borders? What was it like at the borders?

[r] The borders are always difficult anyway. And you must always be hidden. So the police or the army of the country are not allowed to see you. So you have to hide. What do you call that? You have to choose the most difficult roads where no one goes… The most difficult roads… So on that road you have to go. And you always have to be hidden.

[i] And how did you know which way it is?

[r] We didn’t really know that. We were with a person from this place. So he was our guide. We were allowed to follow him. So we followed that person.

[i] And did you pay him?

Yes, yes, yes. You have to pay for that.

[i] Each person or in a group?

[r] No. You have to pay in general. For example, I already paid that in my country. And that person has contact with the other one… That’s a big chain. That’s how you put it in English. So you don’t really know who that is. But he only knows you through that person’s name. That person from your country. So that was a difficult situation.

[i] So which countries should you go through?

[r] So the first country was Iran. Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary then Austria, then Germany and then Belgium. So there will be 9 or 8 countries.

[i] And how long did the journey last?

[r] As I said 1 month.

[i] And did you have a chance to sleep?

[r] Yes yes. In a few countries. For example… Ah sorry, I forgot Serbia too. When we went from Bulgaria to Serbia it was there ça va. So we were in a safe place. There were a few buses or trains to Germany where we could easily get on and go to Germany. So that was good. And in Bulgaria there were also small rooms just for 2 or 3 people. But there were 20 of us in that room. But we could sleep there. A bit difficult but ça va. Yes ….

And sometimes in hotels or not?

[r] Never. Allez. I told you that we had to hide. If you go to a hotel then everyone will see you. Do you understand? So you can never go to a hotel. Well, in Turkey it wasn’t that hidden. But you may not go with 5 or 6 people together. If you walk around there alone, no one will ask you, “Who are you?” “Where are you going?” “What are you doing? Ca va. That’s all right. But if you go somewhere with a group, a policeman or someone else can ask you, “Give me your ID.” So I was in Turkey for 7 days. We went to the Zeitoun Borno park. We have seen some of the most beautiful places in Istanbul. I really like Istanbul.

[i] So you also got a chance to enjoy?

[r] Yes yes! That was a small piece we enjoyed. That is true. In Turkey. And then in Bulgaria never… The most difficult country is Bulgaria. I think so.

[i] Why?

[r] If you go from Turkey to Bulgaria you have to walk through the woods for 5 days and 5 nights. No room. No hotel. Nothing. You have to sleep in the woods. And then we had bad luck. Every day it rained in the evening. See you in the morning. What did we do? We tied a lot of trees together and we burned them. And we sat together with a few people. Then we could sleep. But I couldn’t sleep. Maybe just me and a few other people. The rest of the people were sleeping. Even when it rained.

[i] And didn’t you have any tents?

[r] No tents. No. But we did have big garbage bags. We bought them in Turkey. Everyone had a big garbage bag. If you put it on like this, it will come to this. So you are safe. Allez. Crazy time. Yes. Everyone had it that way.

[i] And when you were in Afghanistan, did you already have an idea that you would go to Belgium?

[r] No. I never thought I would come to Belgium.

[i] And how did you decide that?

[r] Allez. That was the political reason I already said…

[i] No. I mean how did you choose Belgium from other countries?

[r] Ah yes. I have some friends here and my cousin who have been living in Belgium for 7 or 8 years. So that was the biggest reason. And I also checked a few countries. For example, Germany, Belgium… Brussels is the heart of Europe. Everyone told me that I would get my papers there soon. And that people are friendly to refugees and so on. And I thought, “Okay. Belgium sounds good.

[i] And when you were in Afghanistan, what image did you have of Belgium?

[r] Allez. If you live in Afghanistan, you have a great idea of Brussels and the Atomium anyway. From France and Paris everyone knows the Eiffel Tower. We read that in our books. We have a very big picture… One day I will go to the Eiffel Tower. One day I will go to Atomium. Yes, we had a big picture of these countries. But when I came here it was so normal. So what I thought and I said… That it was good that I was in this country. The thoughts were keimooi. But now that I live here I don’t feel like going to the Atomium. I have been there 2 or 3 times already. But now I don’t feel like going to the Atomium anymore. That is not so far from here. That is almost 30 minutes. From Antwerp. So yes. We have a very big picture of these countries.

[i] Do you remember your first day when you came to Belgium?

[r] Yes. The first day was… That wasn’t so special. It was at noon when I came to Antwerp.

[i] You came to Antwerp first?

[r] Yes. To Antwerp. So Antwerp was the first city in Belgium. And that’s why I live here so far. I think Antwerp is a very beautiful city. Also the studies. And that is also the city where I try to make my dreams come true. So yes. And then after 1 day, that was in the evening when I came here and after 1 day we went to Park Spoor Noord. and also to the Scheldt. I didn’t know the names. Track North or Scheldt. But I like those 2 places so far. And I feel like going to those 2 places every day. Yes. those were the first places.

[i] Did you also come to other countries for Belgium?

[r] Yes. Only the countries that were on our way. Like I said: Serbia, Bulgaria. Those countries. Not as special as now. For example, now I’ve been to the Netherlands. My classmate lives there. To France. So not like these 2 countries. But only the countries on the way. So never.

[i] And how long have you lived in Belgium?

[r] Almost 3 years. So yes. 3 years. Exactly 3 years.

[i] What have you done during these 3 years?

[r] A lot. A lot. The first 13-16 months I was in the asylum centre. The first 13 months. And that was in Wallonia. It’s called Tournai. The city is called Tournai. Tournai in Dutch. There I learned French. After the positive decision on my application for asylum I came to Antwerp. So in January 2017 I came to Antwerp. So I live in Antwerp for about 2 years. And I have been working here for 1 year. At the Arenberg Schouwburg. And I also learned Dutch. I followed a few courses. Up to level 3 at Linguapolis. Now I have become a student this year. Master student in communication sciences. That’s in English. At the VUB. Communication Sciences. So now I’m already a student.

[i] And do you feel that you are already integrated into Belgian society?

[r] Yes yes. I feel that I am already integrated.

[i] Why?

[r] Most of it is my Dutch. I know it. I understand the people. So yes. I am already integrated.

[i] And what was it like in the beginning? The first few years?

[r] The first year was also good. But if you live in an asylum centre, you get into a lot of trouble. Or you feel that way. Yes. That was a very difficult time.

[i] And what problems do you mean?

[r] The problem, for example… a person like me who had a good life in his country got a diploma. But if you come to an environment where everyone has a negative idea… The people who live in an asylum centre have really negative ideas. When am I going to get a positive result? When…?” And I was saying to everyone: “Look! You shouldn’t think about those papers. You need to think about something else. You are already in Europe. They are going to give you freedom. For example, study. First, what is the most important thing? You have to learn the language. If you live in Wallonia, you have to learn French. In Flanders, you have to learn Dutch. But there were a few people who were good. But the rest were: “No no. First I have to get papers.” That wasn’t good. I don’t think it’s good. The first year was a bit difficult. But it was cool. I made a lot of Belgian friends. I also found a very friendly teacher. For French. Who came to our asylum centre twice a week. And gave lessons to us. Special lessons of French. I have contact with her so far. Sometimes in French and sometimes in Dutch. She is very friendly. I call her ”mama”.

[i] And wasn’t it possible to go to Antwerp immediately?

[r] No. That was not possible. I have tried many times to go to Antwerp or Flanders. I asked, “Look. I want to learn Dutch. I want to live in Flanders. What am I going to do now? If I live here for one year and then there. But at that time, a lot of refugees were coming. So they couldn’t arrange that. Or make a solution: ”Okay. Just go there.” There were also a few asylum centres in Flanders. But you can’t choose that. They said: “If you want to go, just wait for the positive decision. After the positive decision, you can go there. That was compulsory.

[i] And how long did you have to wait?

[r] That was 13-14 months.

[i] And was the decision positive from the first time?

[r] Yes. No… At that time…Now there are a little more interviews. But we had 2 interviews. A small interview of 1 hour or half an hour. And a big interview of 2 to 5-6 hours. So after the second interview I got a positive decision.

[i] What questions did they ask you?

[r] The same one you are asking me now. About my life. What was the problem? How did you get here? What was the biggest problem? And about my family. That was like this interview.

[i] And then you came to Antwerp?

[r] Yes.

[i] Did you immediately start with your Dutch?

[r] After 3 months. Yes. After 2 months. In February 2017 I started my first Dutch course.

[i] At which organisation?

[r] That was at Encora. A language bath. The fastest. 1.1 we did it within 1 month. Then 1.2. And after 1.2 I wanted to learn Dutch academically. So I asked Atlas: “Look. I have already studied. I got a bachelor’s degree. I want to learn a little academic Dutch. And that’s why I took a few exams at Atlas. And they sent me to Linguapolis where I started with level 2. And I studied there up to level 3.

[i] And what was it like for you to learn Dutch?

[r] Dutch was not so difficult but still a bit difficult. I find it difficult to learn Dutch. I know 6 languages.

[i] What languages do you speak?

[r] Two are official languages of my country. I am fluent in them.

[i] Do you speak two languages of your country?

[r] Yes yes.

[i] And is that normal?

[r] No. Actually, no. Why? My mother tongue is Pashto. That is very difficult. So the people in the north of the country speak ”Den”. So for us it is very easy to learn their language. But for them it is very difficult to learn our language. So they understand him but they can’t speak him. That is a big problem. And most people can’t understand it either. But we do understand and speak their language. And also Urdu and Hindi. Hindi and Urdu are the same in speaking. But the writing language is different. And I don’t know the writing language of Hindi. And when I was in Pakistan I learned Urdu. Then English, French and Dutch.

[i] So already 7?

[r] 6.

[i] 7.

[r] Ah yes. With Hindi. Yes. Actually, there is no big difference between Hindi and Urdu. So only the writing language is different. I don’t know that. But I can speak. That’s the same as Urdu. So when I see someone who speaks Hindi, I can easily speak to that person.

[i] So that’s why it was easier for you to learn Dutch?

[r] Yes. It was easy for me. But it affects my English. If I now speak English with someone I use a lot or a few words in Dutch. So that’s why I find this language a bit difficult. That has an effect on your other languages.

[i] And why did you choose to study communication sciences?

[r] My profession is actually communication. Those languages. So I want to study something a little further that has a connection with my background. And communication has this connection with my older studies.

[i] And what is the plan for your studies? And what will you do after your studies?

[r] Now I’m studying journalism and media in Europe. I’m sorry. Yes, sorry. And I have plans to work in my direction here. That’s also the advantage of my languages. I’m not sure. But I hope so. That I’m going to find a good job. In my direction.

[i] As a journalist?

[r] Yes. As a journalist. Or something in communication.

[i] In what language would you like to do that?

[r] Allez. In Dutch anyway. I live in Flanders. Allez… I live in Flanders. I’m sorry. Dutch is the most important. But together with Dutch, the other languages are a plus. I find the communication interesting. And I feel good in this area.

[i] And do you intend to bring your family here as well?

[r] Yes. I have already sent all the papers to the Belgian embassy. And I hope they will come here soon.

[i] And do they have any idea about your life here in Belgium? I mean, when they come here, do they have a plan or what they are going to do? Are they going to study or work? Or don’t they know yet?

[r] My family?

[i] Yes.

[r] Yes. My dad always forced me to study. And he has many great dreams for me. But he’s my dad after all. And besides studying, I also have to work. If you live here, you have to pay for everything. For your rent, for your clothes, for the food. And besides that I don’t know what it’s like with other people but with us we live, as I said, in “joint families”. So I have to support my family financially. I also have to send some money to them every month. Because the situation there is not so good at the moment. Not like before. I’ve already said that. Almost everyone is unemployed.

[i] And your family too?

[r] My daddy is already old. He can’t work anymore.

[i] How old?

[r] 60 years old. So he can’t work anymore. My little brother is still a student. At the University. And we are two brothers. We have to support our family.

[i] And your wife? Doesn’t she work either?

[r] Allez. In our country it is a bit difficult. For women to work. And she hasn’t studied much either. Until the 9th year. I told her, “You have to study further.” But she doesn’t want that. I don’t know why. I want her to study something. Look. You have to study. When you come to Belgium, you have to know a little bit of English. Also Dutch. If you know a bit of English, it’s easy to learn Dutch anyway. But if you have no idea, you’re going to find it a bit difficult to learn Dutch. But yes. She is also a bit lazy.

[i] And do you know when it will be possible to bring your family here?

[r] Allez. I want today or tomorrow. But I can’t. But I hope soon.

[i] And how long has it been going on?

[r] It’s gotten a little longer. I don’t know why. Almost 9 months or 10 months ago I sent all the papers. And I got the answer after 9 months. And that was negative. And when I ask them, “What is the problem?” The original marriage certificate did mention the date of our marriage but the translator made a mistake. He forgot to translate that. Yes. I got a little angry with that person. And then I called him, “Look. You have to look carefully. And he said: “You have to look too. When you do something. So it went wrong. Now, two weeks ago, I was sitting with my lawyer. And he said: “That’s very good that the date is in the original. And so we’re going to translate it again. So I’ve already retranslated it and returned it to my lawyer. So hopefully.

[i] And how much do you have to pay for these papers?

[r] That depends on it. So you have to pay an advance to a lawyer. That is 600 euros. So that is a debt. Maybe there will be more. We can’t say that. That’s 150 euros per hour. I have already paid 120 for the translation. But they said it wasn’t a good translation. They’re going to recommend another translator or an interpreter. So I have to pay for the second time.

[i] How much have you paid in general?

[r] I have paid a lot. For my mom and dad and their papers I have already paid 700 euros extra. When they were in Pakistan. And for the rest…what do you call that? In English it is ”miscellaneous”. Little little things. If you add it up, it comes to 2000 or 3000 euros.

[i] And are your brothers going to come too?

[r] No. He is not young. I’m going to try to do something for him anyway to come here. Yes.

Is it possible?

[r] Yes. A little difficult but possible.

[i] And what is your plan? To bring everyone here?

[r] Allez. Anyway. And our family isn’t that big either. Two brothers. A sister. And mom and dad. So that’s not such a big family. Like a real Afghan family.

[i] Is it common in Afghan culture to be with everyone?

[r] Yes. Uncle, Dad, Mom, everyone! Such a big family. So my daddy is the oldest of our family members. Among the uncles, aunts… So everyone respects my dad. And when my dad says something, everyone has to do it. Yes. So he is the oldest. My uncle, I, everyone has to listen to him. So yes. We still live together.

But when they come here, will you also live together in the same building?

[r] Yes yes yes yes. That’s why I try to bring them. I hurry to bring them here.

[i] Do you already have a plan for your future here in Belgium?

[r] Allez. Why not? I feel at home in Belgium. How do you say that in Dutch? I’m not sure if my country will be all right. If everything is going to be okay I want to go back there. But… Nobody knows. Whether it will be all right. We can only hope.

[i] Are you aware of what is happening now in Afghanistan?

[r] Yes yes. I also write a few sentences on my Facebook page. So yes… So if we look at what the situation is like now, it’s a bit hard to know. But the President who is in power now is very cool. Very good. And I hope that…in 6 months there will be the elections. The elections. So I hope that the second time he will become president as well. And for the second time he is going to do so many good things that we can expect from him.

[i] What do you think is going to change specifically?

[r] The biggest thing is… We have a lot of water. Rivers. But we cannot control them. The water goes to Pakistan and Iran. That was their advantage. They never paid us. Now we have the water under control. And yesterday we got some very good news. Pakistan says, “We’re going to pay now.” If we are going to get money for our water, Pakistan and Iran will have to pay 15 billion dollars to us every year. These two countries. And our country’s budget is 10 billion dollars a year. So this is how we are going to save 30 billion dollars. So that is only for water. We have many mines. In Dutch it is also mines. Afghanistan is a large country. We also have a lot of precious metals. We have diamonds, rubies and many other precious metals.

[i] And do you know what the biggest problem is of the situation in Afghanistan?

[r] The biggest problem is… lack of education. That is the biggest problem. For example, what is my idea? If I can recommend something to the president of my country or to someone in power, I’m going to say that he has to teach every person first. He has to give a book to people. If a person has a good upbringing, he or she will not want to fight. So that is the biggest problem. So almost 70% or 90% of the population in my country has no education. So they don’t know who their friend is or who their enemy is. And with whom should I be friends? For example, if someone from the other countries gives them money and tells them to destroy that bridge. Or that they have to make a bomb or that they have to shoot a person. That is the biggest problem. But if he or she uses his or her head, “Why do I have to shoot that person? He is also an Afghan. He is my compatriot. But that’s the big problem. First we have to spend almost half of our budget on the education system. We have to improve it. So I can only recommend that.

[i] And why do you think it’s not happening now?

[r] That’s not happening by… the corruption. The corruption is the highest in my country. So that’s why I hope this president is very good. And he has done a few things very well in a few ministries. He has appointed very good people as ministers and administrators. So we hope so. That everything will be in order.

[i] Is there something you miss very much in your country? If you are here in Belgium.

[r] Yes. Anyway, I miss the climate…

[i] What is the climate?

[r] Climate is…

[i] Yes. I mean what climate is there in Afghanistan?

[r] Everything. For example, if you live here in Belgium you will only see the sun for 2 or 3 months anyway. But in my country we see the sun every day. In the summer or in the winter. Doesn’t matter. From 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning until 4 or 6 o’clock in the evening. During these hours you will see the sun anyway. You get a lot of energy from vitamin D. You are ”energetic”. We can say that in English. And here you feel a bit boring. No energy. It is always so dark. So yes. I miss that.

[i] And something that is in Belgium and you can’t find in Afghanistan? Something special you like in Belgium?

[r] Yes. The way people meet. The way people react to the situations. For example, if someone in Afghanistan pushes you onto the street, nobody is going to say sorry or please to you. They are going to give you an angry look. But here, even if it is your fault, the other person will say sorry or please to you. For example.

[i] And can you please tell me what you think the impression of the flight is on your life? What has changed in your character?

[r] There are a lot of changes in my life. And the biggest one is that I have become very positive. Yes. I am very far from my family. There are things that are very annoying. But when I was in my country… You always feel very scared there. Every day you get a warning or something. You can’t concentrate on your profession. Or on things you want to do yourself. But here I have become very positive. And what I really like is that everyone supports each other. For example, the government and the people. When I say to my colleague: “Okay. I might want to open my own business. “Oh, that’s a very good idea! You have to start with it!” That’s something you can count on. To your colleagues. To speak to them. And that motivates me. But if you ask someone there the same question: “Look. I want to do that…” “Ah okay. That’s a good idea, but… But it’s always the biggest problem. “But you’re going to make that less… you’re going to be like this…” That’s the problem. That’s why I say that I’ve become very positive here.

[i] But why do they think that everything is so difficult?

[r] The biggest problem as I said before is a lack of education. Most people have not been educated. They don’t think broadly. They think directly. So they have no idea how to live. And about what to do. And so they don’t know how to react to a difficult situation. So they don’t really know that. There are a few people who are very positive. Even my friends. And I love them. I have had many contacts with them so far. They are also positive. But most people are not like my friends. And I am among the negative people. And yes, something special. I’m the only person in my whole family who got a bachelor’s degree. I am the only person. And the second is my little brother. So now you can have an idea about the mentality of my family. Do you understand? If I’m the only person, how many problems did I have during my school years? Even my daddy has thought a few times when I got too hard at work or something like, “I might not let [name] go to school anymore.” Maybe that’s what he thought. But how did I make that positive? With my teacher. My teachers always motivated me. And they invited my mom and dad to school. Look. Your son is very smart. You don’t have to let him work. He has to study!” And my dad got so motivated. Okay. [Name] is my son. Not from the teacher. But he is very friendly. And he loves my son. By his intelligence. Why shouldn’t I let him study?” That was a turning point in my life. That’s why I already studied in my country. And then my little brother. I always motivate my daddy: ”Look at daddy. Let him study. I’m going to help you in your construction company. I’ll do anything. But let my brother study. So that’s why he already studied. So yes.

[i] And is there a difference between the mentalities of Belgian and Afghan people?

[r] A very big difference.

[i] What is the biggest difference?

[r] The big difference is the positivity. I also gave you an example. If you ask your colleague a question: “I might study something. He is going to motivate you or they are going to motivate you. For example, if I now ask my colleague or someone a question: ”Look. I want to go on studying.”’ Ah [name] . Go and study! That’s a good idea” They’re going to motivate me. But if you ask the same question to someone in my country, everyone will say, ”Yes, but…”. But is the big problem. But you’re going to waste your time. You’re not going to get results and so on… Just the negative mentality. There are a few positive people. But there are too few. So that’s a big difference. Thinking positively and negatively.

[i] And I asked you to bring a special object. Can you tell me a bit about it?

[r] Mmm special… Allez. Every object is special in my life. But right now… I think my cell phone is a special object with which I can contact my family and hear them… So that is a special object for me. Yes.

[i] Okay. Thank you [name] for the interview. It was very interesting. And good luck with your studies. And with your future in Belgium. And hopefully you can bring your family here too.

[r] Merci merci.

Thank you very much.

[r] Merci.