“I was nine years old when my mother brought me to Amsterdam. Djibouti was no longer safe, what with the war, and in Amsterdam I could live with my aunt. My mother had to return, as she had had to go into debt when purchasing the flight tickets and these debts had to be paid off. Of course, the transition was hard without my mother, but also in coming from one of the hottest countries in the world to the cold weather here. I saw snow for the first time and was amazed to see people walking or skating on the canals. In Djibouti you become independent at a very early age and help with the housework. So I went alone to school, via tram, and did the shopping. The city was very large and busy, but I quickly found my way around.
After two years I was placed with a foster family in Andijk. Suddenly I was the only coloured boy. At the time of my puberty this was especially hard. I wanted to be just like the blonde kids in my class and brushed my hair back with gel, just like them. I constantly felt different, and thought that everyone was looking at me. I missed Amsterdam, where no-one stands out and you can just be yourself.
In Djibouti the mentality is totally different. The man is always head of the household. In a house full of women, even a ten year old boy is boss, as he’s male. This mentality made my stay in the foster home difficult. They knew nothing about my upbringing and couldn’t understand why I behaved the way I did. Eventually they did, and then they explained to me how things worked over here.
I have become extremely Dutch. I have never returned to Djibouti. I would love to. I always promised myself I would return with someone that I really loved. That’s my wife. She is pregnant, so now is not the right time, but I would love to show here where I came from and show her all my childhood memories.”
1 person in Amsterdam has the Djiboutian nationality