Twenty years ago today, I arrived in the Netherlands... I was practically a kid, alone, all my belongings fitted in just two duffel bags but my hopes were larger than life! I wanted to be independent! I wanted to be accomplished and successful too but mostly, I wanted to be independent! To have a steady salary, to have a life in order, a life where the expression “we’ll see” would not have a place anymore, because, I would know whether something was possible or not right away. Growing up, this “we’ll see” and the insecurity that it entailed, had haunted my childhood... every time I wanted something, every time I asked for something, anything, the answer was usually that. Not “yes”, not “no”... just this limbo... which usually ended up in a “no” but the worst was the time it took to get me to the “no”. And I wanted, finally (and for good), to have a life without this painful anticipation.
I achieved that. In the twenty years that followed, I achieved much more. My belongings now cannot fit in two duffel bags... I mean the shoes alone can’t fit in my car...!! And I have a car. A mini car, but a car nonetheless. And I have travelled the world just like I wanted since I was a child, reading “The children of Captain Grant” again and again! I have seen incredible beauty, I have tasted deliciousness. I have made friends who are my family now. I have done work I can be proud of and I have passed my knowledge down to younger colleagues. I have fought for my rights. I have lost battles but I am still standing. I have loved. I have laughed. I have experienced great losses and I have not given up. And I have a cat! My darling Lucifer, the light of my life, who gives me so much love I never thought it would be possible! (he’s curled up next to me as I write this, purring in absolute contentment!)
Not too shabby, right? I mean, surely, other people have achieved much more and there is always Malala who is making each and everyone of us look like underachievers no matter what but, blimey, it surely isn’t bad for the 26-year-old girl, who came here alone with almost nothing and managed to build a life from scratch, all by herself! Has it always been “better than shoes”? The answer to that is a resounding “no”. There were times tough as nails. But what has been “better than shoes”, beyond any doubt, was my decision to come here. A decision I have not regretted not for a moment in these two decades! I have taken a chance and it has paid off. No matter what, I can say I made it on my own. It did not come cheaply. But the reward was worth the price!