“This is my first day in Amsterdam ever. Mom has already been here and today she took me with her. The buildings here are so big and there are so many people on the street. We just met a man who is an artist. He makes hats and T-shirts and look he made this hat with my name on it and mom bought it for me. Tomorrow I’m going to show everyone in my class. Amsterdam is so nice. I hope we can come back here.”

“I never had a strong desire to become a parent. Neither did my wife. We took over my parents cafe instead. We worked for more than 40 years to keep the business going. You could say that the cafe was our child. When we retired we had to sell the cafe. It was hard giving up our business. However, we still live above the cafe and the new owners are doing a great job. Now that I am retired, I spend most of my days reading the paper and taking walks around Amsterdam. When I am tired I stay nearby. When I feel adventurous, I explore different parts of town. My wife and I, we do our own thing. We have no rules. Well except for one: Every day at 5PM we meet at the house and we drink a glass of dry white wine in the living room. No matter how far I walk, she knows I’ll be home 5PM sharp.”

‘’Julia studies medicine in Warsaw and I study music composition here at the conservatory. We have been doing this long-distance-kind-of-relationship for a while now. A while ago, I needed to come up with a new concept for an opera. I couldn’t come up with anything when Julia all of a sudden said: ‘’maybe you should do your next piece about the Albatross birds.’’ I had never heard of this bird but she explained that the Albatross is a very strong an independent bird. It is fine with traveling across the world all by its self. However sooner or later it always returns to their significant other just like Julia and I. The Albatross bird teaches us that we need to find our own paradise first before we can truly commit to someone else. The opera will premier in March and it is inspired by the Albatross, by our story and by Julia.’’

3/3 “I always wanted to learn how to play basketball so I googled: How to play basketball? in Arabic. I only got English search results so that is when I realized I needed to learn English. Since I only had an education until the age of 9, a lot of basic things like reading and writing or knowing how to use a computer is really difficult for me. I found out about free classes at the Migrant CommunityCentre in Beirut. I took English and Computer classes and I met a lot of people from different backgrounds. One day I met a volunteer. She was a therapist and I told her my story. She offered me free therapy sessions. For three months straight I would see her every week and I would talk to her about my past. She helped me a lot. All my life I was raised to believe that I was a ‘’nobody’’. It will take a long time before I can feel that I am ’‘somebody”. I don’t need to be better or smarter than other people, I just want to feel that I am equal to others. Learning English has given me a lot of confidence. I have found a nice place to live and I made a lot of friends her at the Migrant Centre. I know that my life will improve, all I got to do is keep on educating myself’’
(Beirut, Lebanon)

2/3 ”My friend told me that my youngest brother got murdered. He got into trouble with a group of criminals in Aleppo and they killed him. I immediately packed my stuff and I went back to Aleppo for the funeral. The next day, after the funeral my father and grandfather came up to me. They told me that I needed to take revenge on the men who killed my little brother. They had already arranged a gun for me. As much as I was hurt, there was no way I was going to kill anyone. I told them: ‘’If I do it, there is no difference between me and the criminals who killed my brother.’’ That night I left Aleppo and I decided to never come back. I got back to Damascus and someone had broken into my room and stolen all my money and clothes. I have never felt so lonely in my entire life. I couldn’t ask anyone for help. I went back to work and tried to survive and rebuild my financial situation. In 2011 the war started and the situation in Damascus became unstable. A few years later I got drafted in by the Army. Again I didn’t want to fight so I postponed my service and left Syria. I came to Lebanon and the first thing I did was trying to find a job. Once I found work I was tried to find shelter. I went to the UN office because someone told me that Syrians could apply for refugee status which can give you benefits. When I arrived at the UN office there was a huge line and people were treated horribly. I realized that it would take days for me to receive some sort of help. I didn’t want to risk losing my new job as a tailor. So even though I fled my country, officially I am not a refugee.”