Stories from the camp

Sound engineer from Syria hopeful for a new beginning in the Netherlands


I’d be so glad to stay here after I get my permit, not here in the camp, but in Nijmegen

We meet Manar, a young Syrian man in his twenties, in the restaurant of tent camp Heumensoord. His long black hair falls gently over his shoulders and a white smile appears under his mustache. Manar begins telling us about his journey and job before coming to the Netherlands. He studied English literature in Damascus. His passion, however, is music engineering. He worked hard as a sound engineer in Syria and Thailand where he mixed sound effects, made tracks for movies and managed sound systems in a studio and a bar. Upon arriving in the Netherlands, he is now looking forward to continue making music.

Adopting to life in the camp

When Manar came to Heumensoord, he was unpleasantly surprised. “My first impression of this place was what the fuck.” He had previously stayed in a temporary shelter in Amsterdam where he enjoyed more privacy and silence. Unfortunately, these are impossible to find in Heumensoord. The bunk bedrooms designed for eight people have no doors, only curtains. The neon lights from the ceiling cannot be switched off individually. Furthermore, people’s voices are heard regularly in the corridor due to the thin wall isolation.

Manar shares also that many people in camp Heumensoord feel sad and complain about the living conditions and food. Nonetheless, our interlocutor has stopped paying serious attention to these material conditions because he wants to preoccupy his mind and time with more useful activities. “I don’t have much time to sit and complain.” – he emphasizes.  “I’m not kind of a guy who complains when facing a problem. I try to either ignore it or find a solution.” The only serious disadvantage of living in the camp for him is the noise nuisance. To avoid the noise nuisance, our interviewee searches for solitude in the forest surrounding the camp or by the river Waal in the city center, favorite spots to meditate and to surpass the daily hassles in the camp. He likes cycling and walking at least one hour a day.

Goals and passion

Setting up goals and working towards them helps the young man to create a meaning in this new and peculiar environment. Once out of Syria, Manar is hopeful to get a better chance. “If you have a goal and with some help, you can reach your goal. The key is to have a goal and work on it, ask people. If you ask people for help, you’ll be able to help them later.” He acknowledges also the importance of keeping oneself occupied with activities like sport, learning and going out.

Manar started learning music at the age of five and wanted to continue developing as a music engineer. Because music engineering was not offered as a study program in Syria, he is currently eager to find more opportunities in this field in the Netherlands. He has always wanted to make music. Not long ago he got in contact with a hip-hop DJ. He has visited his home studio where they jammed together. They are planning a future collaborative project for which they are looking for a vocal. Our interlocutor wants to finish his first album once he receives his laptop. So far, he has made four audio tracks.

New friends

Not only does our new Syrian friend befriend a Dutch DJ, but also many people from and outside camp Heumensoord. His friends keep him active. He communicates with people from different age groups because he believes one learns a lot more when interacting with diverse people.  For example, he shares they might soon learn Dutch from the kids who are currently attending school. Moreover, a friend of his has recently started teaching him Dutch. He is thankful he has met many people in the city that help refugees and enrich their daily life.

Learning to live alone and away from family is a difficult but advantageous skill in Heumensoord. Our interview’s action-orientation towards problems keeps him dreaming and motivated to continue his life in the Netherlands.

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