When you start reading this blog, there is somewhere in the world a family that takes the hardest decision of their lives: leaving their home and familiar environment in the hope of leading a better life somewhere else. Throughout the world, more than 65 million people are on the run, crossing borders, looking for happiness.
Tuesday it was World Refugee Day, where the situation of the refugees was emphasized. How? Under the name 'Bakkie Doen', which means ‘Having a coffee’ in Dutch. Cups of coffee were handed out by refugees, a nice ‘Dutch ritual’, to reduce the distance between refugees and the Dutch.
And I also drank such a ‘bakkie’ with a refugee and talked about his experiences. He told me about a long journey, where he had to cross borders, with the few things he had with him. One thing helped him to continue: he ran away from the misery in his country. He wanted to discover what was ahead of him: a new country with another, for him a strange, culture.
In the past, this was nothing more than normal: Whole families migrated through the mountains with all of their belongings, looking for fertile ground for their herds. They ran away from drought, but there is one big difference: they lived in a world without borders. The old nomadic tribes didn’t know land borders, which made it much easier to migrate, to mix with other cultures and ask others for help. Look at the Chukchi, they think it is punishable when you refuse a stranger on the cold plain. Or the hospitable Kyrgyz people, who have accepted me in their community, as a westerner, without problems.
With those nomadic tribes, there is only one rule: that you respect the culture, values, and standards of your host family/host country. Just like when I had to decompose a sheep head, pulled my shoes out 20 times a day and worked with the horses. I deepened in their traditions, and they did in mine. The Kyrgyz understood that I needed some help with that shovel head, and that help was promptly offered. We learned to know each other, showed understanding for each other's use, but we also adapted.
On World Refugee Day, I accompanied a refugee and emphasized his situation, while I enjoyed a delicious Dutch ‘bakkie’. Nowadays, we have more difficulty in understanding, providing help and deepening in cultures. Let’s start with sharing our uses, because having a ‘bakkie’ with a refugee gives a lot of insights: we go where the business is, we continue to travel, for any reason.