Welcome back to my blog. This is the second part of my background story. If you haven’t read part 1, I suggest that you read that first so that you can understand what I am going to talk about in this post.
I ended my last post by telling you that we moved to the apartment where we are currently living. My brothers and I were still going to the same school, but we didn’t live close to the school anymore. At the end of 2020, I went back to my old neighborhood, and it took me about 20/25 minutes to walk to my old elementary school. So back then it probably took us even longer. My mother couldn’t afford public transport or a bike for all three of us, so we didn’t have any other option than to walk.
Waking up early and the walking distance was hard on my little brother. When we moved he was only 4 years old. He just didn’t get used to it like my older brother and me. He was tired during class all the time. He would even fall asleep in class. So during his second year in that school, his teacher talked to my mom and suggested that he went to a school nearby in the next school year. And that’s what we decided to do.
My brothers and I already made a lot of friends in our new neighborhood. During the summer break, I was telling them that my little brother was going to their school after the summer. My friends begged me to also go to that school. So I thought about it for a short period of time and told my mom that I wanted to change school as well. And I’m so glad I did. So for my last 2 years of elementary school, I went to a different school, my third school. My older brother stayed at the old school because he only had 1 year left.
At my new school, I felt like I had a new start. My little brother and I were not those kids with the father who fell sick anymore. However, we were still asylum-seekers. But, this changed at the end of 2006. The government decided to give all immigrants who were living in The Netherlands for longer than 5 years a residence permit. After going to all those appointments and filling in all those papers, we finally received our residence permits. I really applaud my mom for staying on top of everything. The things we had to do were so much. We are a family of five, so some forms we had to fill in five times. Of course, I helped my mom fill in those forms because she didn’t understand everything. But my mom made sure that I had all the information that I needed. And she was the one handing in everything and coming home with the next forms that needed to be filled in.
At some appointments, we had to show up as a whole family, which wasn’t always easy for us, because of my father being paralyzed. We always had to call a taxi, because we couldn’t use public transport. We preferred a van or a car with space for a wheelchair. But sometimes my father just had to go in a normal car. It was a struggle sometimes, but we did it.
Us having our resident permits meant that we finally had more rights. Our apartment was now in my mother’s name instead of the government’s name. We were paying our own bills, and we could spend our money how we wanted to. My mom was receiving social assistance benefits since she wasn’t working. We were receiving more money than we did before. We could also finally travel, but we didn’t do that, because of my father’s illness.
My mom finally started going to school to learn the Dutch language.
During this period of our lives, we were still not wealthy. The kids at my new school seemed wealthier than us. My little brother and I didn’t look poor or anything, don’t get me wrong. We had nice clothes and nice school supplies. We just didn’t have a lot of money for “wants”. After school, my classmates and I would go to a little corner store to buy candy. Some kids would almost go every single day because the candy was pretty cheap. My little brother and I only bought candy once a week, because that is what we could afford. We only bought a little bit of candy, but we were still happy. We didn’t have the money to go eat out or spend money on snacks like the other kids.
Nobody ever made a comment about us being less wealthy. My classmates were so nice. Sometimes they would randomly buy me and my little brother candy. I guess they felt guilty that they asked me and my brother to go with them to the store while we didn’t have money to buy anything. I have to say that my brother and I were not the only “poor” people at the school. My mother could provide us with everything that we needed. She was good at managing money. For example, I had a classmate who couldn’t afford glasses, while she really needed them. So the school one day bought 2 pairs of glasses for her. We had never been in that type of situation. I guess my mom prioritized things we needed over what we wanted.
I don’t know if I actually mentioned it, but my mom was actually saving money. Yes, on a low income. That money was basically our emergency fund. I just realized right now that we had an emergency fund.
From 2006 things were actually starting to get better for my family.
That’s what my elementary school period looked like for me. It was a period of 8 years, divided over 3 schools. In September 2008 I started high school.
I went to high school from 2009 to 2014. This period was really exciting to me. The main reason was that I finally got to travel. My school organized a lot of school trips abroad, and I went to all of them. I didn’t skip one. We went to Germany (twice), Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, and England. These trips were so amazing. Spain and Italy were my favorite trips.
You are probably wondering how I could afford trips while coming from a low incoming family. Well, my family and I received a pass for people who are coming from low-income families. The name of the pass doesn’t make any sense, because it’s named after a type of bird. So I will just call it “The Pass”. The government had a budget for every person with The Pass. So when we went to Barcelona for example, the students who had The Pass only had to pay half of the price, maybe even less. We also were allowed to pay in installments, which helped a lot. At my school a lot of students came from low-income families, so my older brother and I were not the only ones. I was so happy that my brothers and I, and all the other students from low-income families had the chance to partake in these types of activities. The government did a good job making sure that we were not being left out.
(At this moment I don’t own The Pass anymore. When I went to college I didn’t have the right to own The Pass anymore, which I had to find out while trying to use my pass).
During this period I also started working part-time. I started my first job when I was only 13 years old. I was not making much money at all, but I still could cover some of my costs myself. I remember buying my own laptop at the age of 14. After work, I went to the store and just bought it. That was something I was really proud of. I was just done with sharing a laptop with the whole family and having to take turns, so I got my own.
When I was 13 I also started playing basketball. I didn’t have to pay anything, because I had “The Pass”.Even the jersey was free for me. Playing basketball was one of the best life decisions that I made. I played for 9 years. The basketball community we had was so amazing, we were one big family. Playing basketball really changed my life in a lot of different aspects. My love for this game will always be big.
From this point, my family was financially doing okay. I am not saying that we had a lot of money coming in. That was definitely not the case. What I am trying to say is that our lives weren’t that limited anymore due to our financial situation. A big part of that is the aid from the government. Because of the government, my family and I didn’t miss out on activities.
I also learned that we were not the only low-income family. A lot of people around me actually had The Pass. Nobody at school felt ashamed of having this pass, which was really nice. I think it helped that we were all in the same boat.
My brother and I also started earning our own money, which also helped a lot even though we didn’t make that much.
There is still one more thing. As I mentioned, my family and I received our residence permits, but we did not have a Dutch nationality…
In part 3 you will find out how not having a Dutch nationality had an influence on my life, later on.
This is all I have for today. Thank you for your time and until next time!
Color and Coins