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Your Friends

It is grey again. Dark clouds are hiding the blue skies. Birds flying by. Thank God that it doesn’t rain. It rained for days already… The cars are barely visible because of the fog. I hate it when the weather is like this.  There is barely movement outside because everyone is at work at this time of the day. Oh no there is one car driving by now. I don’t know who they are, they must be living in the apartment on the other side of my house. It is so cold outside that I can see the man breathing while he walks to the apartment block. The trees are on their best right now. They are full of colors. I didn’t really noticed it before, strange because they are like this every year in December…

Well enough dreaming. I need to continue with my work now. I need to fill in this files before tomorrow. I work for a big company as administrator. Their head office is in Amsterdam just 50 minutes from my house with the bus. I love my job. It gives me all the comfort I need. One break of fifteen minutes in the morning and one of thirty minutes in the afternoon. While I turn up the music I try to concentrate again.

Let me introduce myself. I'm Achmed and I'm 22 years old. I live in Zeedam. You don’t know it? Don’t worry no-one does. It is a small village near Amsterdam. Yes I know what you are thinking right now, is this boy from Morocco? No I am half Tunisian. My dad is from Tunisia and my mom comes from the Netherlands. I'm planning to go to Tunisia for ten years.  The company I work for will open a new settlement in Tunis next month and they offered me a job there. The only thing I need to do is to rent a house. It won’t be that hard I guess. I already speak some Arabic and since the company is international I only need English. My family lives in the south though, so I won’t be able to see them a lot. Maybe I will introduce them to you next summer. My plan is to go to Tunis in the beginning of next year. I'm so curious of how live in Tunis will be. I have been many times in Tunisia, of course because I am Tunisian myself. Nevertheless, I never went there for such a long time. Now I will really get into every single little piece of Tunisia. I will try to build my own life there. I'm super excited and a little scared to be honest. In the Netherlands I have such a secure life. I will leave everything behind when I go to Tunisia.

,,Very welcome at Tunis Airport Carthage'': I hear the steward saying. Finally after one hour delay we have arrived. I quickly collect my bags so I can look for a taxi. They aren’t hard to find though. I see thousands of yellow taxi drivers patiently waiting for costumers. I take the first one and ask him to bring me to my apartment. I found it last minute by a friend who brought it up as a suggestion. The price was good and the apartment looked okay to me. Not that luxe as I was used to in the Netherlands but at least I got something.

The taxi driver gets me to the apartment quickly. It is already late, I must be his last client. I thank him and go to the apartment building. I got a strange feeling overtaking me. This is big, this is a new beginning, a new chapter that opens. The concierge is already waiting for me so he can give me the key. He asks me why I'm so late so I tell him that my flight was delayed. He looks friendly to me.

I feel excited when I open the door of my apartment for the first time. A small hallway has a kitchen installed at your left and there is a bathroom and sleeping room at your right. The living room is at the end of the hall. It is not big but there is enough room since I am just alone. I unpack my bags and decide to eat something and go to sleep. I will see what I need to do tomorrow. I'm too tired to get into details now.

The following morning I look outside to the avenue Habib Bourguiba road. There is a lot of traffic in the morning, a well if you count ten o’clock as morning of course. I get myself ready to go outside. I have a meetup with some friends I didn’t see for a long time. They used to life in Djerba but they moved to Tunis because they didn’t find a job in Djerba. Tunis is gigantic so you get lost easily. Thankfully I know where the café is.

I see that Azhar, Jalal and Nadir are already waiting for me. We know each other for years now. They are such a great friends. They accept me as I am.  They respect me and my decisions. Although we are all different we get along easily. I guess it is because we never expect anything from each other. They also never pushed me to do anything I didn’t want to do. Because I am practicing my beliefs I am not a party boy so they won’t push me to go party with them. I'm also not a fan of smoking. I don’t know why really, I just never felt the need of going to smoke.  Azhar tells me that he is busy with a new project. He wants to open his own café in Tunis. He sounds so ambitious but in the main time I always stay realistic and know that there is a high possibility that he never dares to really execute his plans.  Jalal tells me that he is looking for an opportunity to go to France. He wants to study there. I don’t want to ruin his plans so I act like it is a good idea. If he really will be able to find a good job in France after his studies? I doubt it. Nadir is the opposite of Jalal. He is too proud of his nationality and would never think of leaving Tunisia. He has ambitious plans to change the future of Tunisia. He even gets me excited with his ideas. I love it when people are fighting for Tunisia. It gives me hope that the younger generation will fix at least something .

We had a good talk and I decide to do some grocery after. I went to the souk, there is a market today. They sell everything from food to clothes. I buy some vegetables and would like to get some chicken too for tonight. I don’t see any in the marked though so I decide to go to the butchery. There is a long row, a good moment to look at my surroundings. The shop is small but full of life. I mean real life, the chickens are still alive before they sell them. The slaughter asks his clients if they would like the chicken alive or death. Well that is something else as in the Netherlands where you buy them in packages in the supermarket. People don’t really know what a row is here though. You see people hustle all the time. I don’t really care because I have the time at the moment. After ten minutes it is finally my turn.

Ones home I decide to take a shower before I will get into the kitchen. The water of the shower is colder than I am used to, the chicken tastes amazing though. I will try to settle down a bit. Next week is my first workday. I am super excited! I didn’t meet anyone of the company in Tunis yet. I hope that I will have nice co-workers. I try to look some television before I will go to sleep but I don’t really get the Tunisian television. To be honest its rather boring for me. Therefore I decide to go to sleep earlier then I initially wanted.

First day of work! I am soo excited. I got up earlier to be sure that I would have enough time. I know they find it very important to look spotless here. Looks are everything, you have to look professional. Personally I don’t really get why. It is a bit old fashioned but I will go with the flow and try to dress up. 

I ended up to be the only foreigner of the group. We are working with ten people at the administration. The bureaus are placed two by two so you end up sitting with someone else next to you. The others are look kind but I feel a bit lost, whether this comes because I am the only foreigner or because my Arabic is not that good yet. Thankfully my neighbor ends up to be speaking English fluently. His name is Rashad and he looks like a nice guy. He asks me about The Netherlands and he even tries to learn some Dutch words like hallo (hello) and hoe gaat het met u? (how are you?).  He asks me to go to the café in the night what looks like a good idea to me. All with all I had a good first workday. I met good people and really enjoyed the company of Rashad.

In the night I meet Rashad in the café. He is with some other guys, I guess his friends. The other guys look a bit anxious at me. As Rashad explains that I am from the Netherlands I see some guys look a bit disgusted. It makes me feel uncomfortable but what can I do?  Politely as I am I try to get into some discussions but they let me feel like they don’t appreciate me talking with them. They even tell me that I can’t get what they say because I am just from the Netherlands where everything is different. I drink my filter and question myself why did I need to go here? Rashad sees that I look a bit irritated and tries to drag me a bit into the conversation.

After the rest of the guys are gone he tells me that they are not really used to foreigners. I tell him that I'm Tunisian too but he tells me as long as you come from Europe you are not really Tunisian in their eyes. He asks me if I want to go to a nightclub but I tell him that I am not into that lifestyle. You life in Europe but you are not into that lifestyle he says while he can't stop his laughter. Okay lets have another filter then. 


The week goes by. Rachel didn’t ask me again to go to the café and I am don’t blame him. I like the rest, the time I have for myself. I enjoy being in other surroundings. Comparing to Amsterdam I feel like I can fully life. Every day I can see the blue sky and  I have lovely weather. In general the people are very nice.

Rachel calls me and it is Saturday night. He asks if I want to go to the café with him. I think why not. It's weekend and I've nothing else to do. Ones I arrive in the café I see him sitting with the same guys. I am a bit disappointed but decide to join them anyway. His friends act like they don’t really notice me until one of them suddenly asks if I want to get a joint. I tell him I am not into drugs. He keeps on pushing but I insist him that I'm really not into the drugs.  The guy next to me comes up with a package and tells me that I can get it for just one hundred dinar. I tell them again I'm really not interested. The guy suddenly gets a knife and insist me to get the package with me. You can pay Rachad tomorrow at work they say and they leave. I am too surprised to react. Nobody around me in the café seems to react, even the staff just carries on with their work. I decide to take one filter before going home so I can think of what to do. How could Rachad do this to me? He looked like a nice person. I really didn’t expect him to have this kind of intentions. It is already midnight and I see another police car pass. The security is on high in Tunis, especially since the Dutch minister is visiting Tunisia this weekend. This time the police car does something weird. It turns and stops in front of the café. Ten officers come inside and they begin to investigate everyone. I wonder why they do it? Do they know I got the drugs? What do I do now? I can’t hide it anywhere, I feel like I'm trapped. Why did I need to take that filter? Why didn’t I just go home I think by myself. The police officer looks at my Card Identity. Ah Holland he says and he makes a joke that there are a lot of drug dealers in the Netherlands. I try to laugh but don’t really succeed at it. I tried to hide the drugs in a pocket inside of my jacked but into my greatest concerns the officer starts to search my jacked. I feel frozen when he finds the drugs. Well, well my friend I see you got some from the Netherlands with you? We might need to investigate this. They tell me to follow them to the car and I got sentence to one year in jail.



Know who your friends are,
                        They make you
   They break you

Thankfully Azhar, Jalal and Nadir got me free after one week. They are anxious at me. Why were you so reckless? You could have been sitting with us! Well at least I learnt a good lesson. You better know who your friends are….