It was the end of August 2007 when I first stepped on the streets of Utrecht. A year later I went back home without being able to close that chapter. In December 2008 I had to come back, even if for a week…
It was February that year when my friend Peter Angelov came to me and told me about some work opportunity at a groceries store…If you’ve ever been to the Netherlands you know which one I’m talking about. The Albert Heijn… Filiaal 1322, Burgemeester Reigerstraat, Utrecht to be more specific… A tall blond Dutch man greeted me, showed me around and introduced me to my new colleagues…He was Peter Krebaum as I found out. My manager…My job ended there in late June 2008. We shook hands, padded each other on the shoulders and promised that we will see each other. I went back home, finished my Bachelor as class first, got accepted to the Maastricht University. I was applying to all possible scholarships, internships or any means of financing possible…Let’s be frank about it. I had money to survive for a month in the Netherlands, not even talking about a whole year with tuition fees as well…You see, this is what people who later on asked me “What??? You come from Maastricht 2 hours by train just to work here? Jij bent gek jongen (you are crazy young man)” could not understand…I finished with top grades, had my hopes high just to receive the same answer over two months. “Sorry, but your application has been rejected”, “Sorry, but another candidate has been chosen”. Plan A, B, C, D….didn’t materialize…Plan J did. I wrote to Peter Krebaum:
Sorry to bug you. Do you know if there would be any chance for me to work at the AH this summer? And if I could work, how many hours could I work in the summer months as I start my masters in Maastricht in September and I basically have nothing to do until then from the 1st of July. Take care Peter and enjoy the Sun.
And this is what he answered:
How are you!!???
It would be great to see you this summer as an employee of AH!!!
In july and august i could schedule you approximately between 20 and 30 hours a week!
If that’s ok you are very welcome!!
I booked the first plane to the Netherlands, packed up and left…I didn’t yet have a room and already started work on the 1st of July 2009. I was living in a hostel for a week until I was able to find accommodation. Work had begun and Peter kept his word. He allowed me to work as much as it was humanly and legally possible because he understood the position I was in…So came the summer months, the constant hassle with the UWV (they are the ones handing out the work permits), the endless searches for new jobs and accommodation in Maastricht. They didn’t materialize. No jobs for me in Maastricht. It meant only one thing. Coming back to Utrecht each week…Peter prolonged my contract and work resumed…Probably only I know the hours I spent on that train going back and forth between Maastricht and Utrecht for the upcoming 9 months. Getting up at 6 in the morning to catch the train or coming back at 2 a.m. in the morning and biking home…Nights spent in Utrecht at friends’ places when I needed more money and more work.
Peter never once objected and he understood what I had to go through… I once again got used to work, to always losing or forgetting my name tag, to starting with zuivel, continuing with groenten and ending with clusters vier, vijv en zes. The vragtwagen would arrive so we had to unload it. Between 17 -19 p.m. hoards of people would roam in asking for pijnboompitten, halfvolle biologische melk, zuurkool, thaise specialiteiten and all that. Words only we know the meaning of. Till this day I cannot speak proper Dutch but ask me anything when it comes to supermarket products…
Put yourself in my situation, endless hours spent filling shelves with a law degree in your pocket and years sacrificed studying. Many times this thought haunted me and I have to thank the people I worked with who made me realize how fortunate I was to be part of that team. Korne, Rick, Joeri, Derya, Bass, Willhem, Vincent, Ellen, Rikkert, Iris, Abe, Leon and the list could go on…
Today this came to an end. No more shelf fillings, annoying grandmas, late night poker games with the guys, running after the last train to Maastricht. Listening to the names of stations: ‘s Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, Weert, Roermond, Sittard and de eindbestemming Maastricht.
Many people don’t realize what this place means to me. This is what made my staying in the Netherlands possible, this place provided friends and this place provided the resources to pay my rent, food and university. This place means more to me than any hotshot firm’s, professor’s or school’s name on my CV. Because no one helped me out when I needed it, but these people did…The best of my wishes to the AH team, Filiaal 1322, Burgemeester Reigerstraat.
– We’ll see each other. – said Peter Krebaum
– I’m not gonna get all sentimental Peter, because you Dutch people are not like that. But we’ll see each other. – said Gashi.
Another month to go in Maastricht and we’ll see if the Dutch chapter closes. The German one soon begins.
Maastricht 2010, 29th May…..2:43 in the morning