From Different Hairstyles a Year to The Turban: The Challenge of Covering my Hair

It is different, it is hot, it takes practice, it is a challenge and it is my choice.

Born a Muslima, and first growing up in a multi-diverse Muslim environment, where most young Muslim women were not concerned with wearing the hijab, and almost only elderly- and or middle-aged woman who had gone to Mecca wore it, I never would have imagined that at age 21, I would make the definitive choice of wearing the headscarf. Especially not since at a very young age I moved to the Netherlands, a country where only a handful of Muslim women wear the headscarf.

Me choosing to wear the headscarf, hijab, turban or whatever you name it, might surprise many people in my environment. Because I am that girl, that used to have more than 10 different hairstyles a year. My hair was my everything, I loved to experience with new styles. One day it is braids and the next day it is an afro, and before you know it is straightened, then it is curled, then long, short, different. It was always different, for every occasion I had a different hairstyle. Though it always took a lot of time to do my hair, I enjoyed every moment of the process. And the outcome even more.

So, you might wonder, why? Why in world would I decide to cover my hair? The answer to that question to me is very simple. I have always felt a strong admiration towards young Muslim girls who wear the hijab. And I truly love the way it looks on some people, also I always knew that at some stage of my life I would love to wear the hijab. As a Muslima, I feel like it is kind of my duty to be wearing the headscarf, and really, I love the idea behind it, to me, it is all about modesty.

The first time wearing the headscarf crossed my mind a few years ago. When I started learning more about my religion, and because of one of my best friends, who used to cover her hair.  At the time, I was really motivated and wanted to wear the hijab, outside the mosque or praying room. So that is what I did. Unfortunately, that idea was not really appreciated by my family and close friends. All told me, that I was too young to be wearing a headscarf, that it made me look older, and that wearing it would impact my future negatively. Honestly, I was devasted by people’s opinions on whether I should wear the hijab or not. At school and work, my classmates and colleagues were surprised to see me with a hijab. Many told me that they didn’t know that I was Muslim and that they thought that I was Christian. Honestly, that hurt. Some did like my new look but most preferred the looks I had before the hijab. Once I was asked if I was being forced to wear it, and obviously, that was not the case, it was more the opposite. I could have handled strangers thinking the hijab was not fit for me, but my family not supporting me in my choice was too much for me, at the time. So, after two weeks of critiques, I took off the hijab and did what I always used to do with my hair. People loved it, but in the beginning, I was disappointed. But, since this was what I used to do, I eventually loved it. So, I wore the hijab only during Ramadan, I was okay with that because in my heart I knew that one day I would be strong enough to wear the hijab.

For two months now, I have been wearing the turban hijab, that is the one that only covers the hair. I love it, and I have learned so many styles and keep learning. I have bought many scarfs and the people in my environment, in The Hague are supportive. I live alone, so I do not have to cope with my family’s critiques and even so, I have told them that I will be wearing the turban and that it is my choice. It’s my life and I am old enough to decide how I want to live it. And if it’s by covering my hair, then so be it.

Right now, my only concern is whether I will be able to continue wearing the turban. Because sometimes it is really tempting to fall back into old habits. And besides that, I also feel that I have to change, and or adapt my clothing style. Because to me, it is controversial to wear a turban and a short dress, just to name an example. I love my dresses, I love the way I dress, and honestly, it’s going to be hard giving up on that. However, I need to think on how I can make my dress code fit with this new path I have chosen. It will not be easy, I will not be the most modest Muslima, I will struggle, I might fall, but no matter what, I will stand up again and work hard to achieve what I want. Little by little I will make it work. The first step is already made, consistency is now all I need.

I truly believe that every single woman, Muslim or not, should have the right and the freedom to decide for themselves whether to cover their hair or not without being afraid of other’s opinions. All should do what they feel comfortable with. Looking back, a few years ago I might not have been read for hijab or turban, now I can feel the difference, I am ready to take on this challenge of covering my hair, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it will bring me.

*please do not hesitate on sharing your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to read it!

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My secret on Language learning

language, also defined as the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.

If it was not for language, life on earth would be so boring. I mean can you imagine life without any spoken or written words? Because I can’t. If there is one thing in life I’m truly passionate about, then it is language learning, and well helping others out, but that is beside the point. I mean have you ever experienced that feeling when you are for instance abroad, and you need to communicate with the people of the country, but you can’t because you guys don’t understand each other?

Because there was a moment in my life that I did experience that feeling, it was when I moved to the Netherlands and honestly it was a terrible feeling. I remember that I could not express myself when I wanted to, which made it sometimes difficult for me to play with other children, because there was this clash, in language, culture and well everything. It was then at age 10 that I decided that I did not want to experience that feeling ever again. So, when I went to the international school to learn Dutch, I was so motivated and curious, that within six months’ time I was able to fluently speak Dutch and could go to a regular Dutch school.

The fact that after six months I could speak so well Dutch, motivated me to want to learn other languages and to try to preserve the ones I already spoke. So, when I went to high school I was so excited I could learn new languages, I had French, English, German, Dutch and Spanish and it was great. Or so I thought.  I have to say that after some time I was getting bored, because the classes were not so challenging. It was mostly grammar focused, and though that is very important, it was not what I imagined when I started the courses. Some teachers however tried to make the classes as challenging for me as they could, including more difficult exams. and I was thankful for that and loved it. However, I still had the feeling that I could do more, so that’s what I did with for example Spanish, because I loved that language. I wanted to be fluent in it, so I went for it.  Many times, teachers, students and even native Spanish speakers have thought that I had a Spanish speaking background. But the truth is, until two weeks ago, I had never been to a Spanish speaking country. And I promise you that it was so great, when I got to Spain and I could communicate and do anything I wanted in Spanish. That feeling of success was just amazing.

But I see you wonder, what is it that you have done to be so fluent in that language and well, all the other languages you speak? Well dear people, I will share my secret with, not only for the sake of sharing it, but because I want you to experience that great feeling that I often experience when I have conversations with different people in their own language, the sense of belonging and joy those people experience at that moment, it is just amazing. Also, many scientific research has been done on the benefits of language learning, being bilingual or multilingual.  The tips I am going to share with you, are based on my own experience of language learning. I have applied them many times and it has always worked

So here are my six tips on language learning

  1. Choose a language you are passionate about. Don’t start to just learn any language, but learn one you actually love, or feel connected to. This will enable you to stay motivated and to continue learning when it gets though, because you know why you are doing what your are doing.

  2. Make mistakes. To me the key to language learning really is making as many mistakes as possible. I believe that if you learn a language without making mistakes, you are actually not learning a thing. Mistakes help you improve your language skills. So don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

  3. Make a wordlist. In order for you to make mistakes you actually need to start learning the language. The best way to start especially if you are not taking language classes is to make a wordlist. This list should consist of all the words you deem to be important. I recommend you make a list consisting of words that you use in day to day conversations. Don’t make it too difficult for yourself, you can always add new words to your list. However, you don’t make the wordlist just for the sake of making it. No, I recommend that you memorize the words on that list. Take at least 30 minutes of your time every day to look at those words. What works for me, is splitting the 30 minutes. So, I take 10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the afternoon and 10 in the evening. Because you are repeating the words often, they will actually stay in your head and you will be able to use them for the rest of your life. Repetition is very important when it comes to language learning.

  4. Guess the meaning. Language learning is not the easiest thing to do, however I have realised that people often time make it more difficult than it actually is. Many people that I have helped in the last few years, tend to want to know every word of for instance a text. But that is not only time consuming but also unrealistic. I don’t know all the words of the languages I’m fluent in and I for sure don’t know all the words of the languages I’m learning. But that the truth is, not knowing every single word, is not a problem. It is about the bigger picture, understanding the context of what you are reading. What I do when I’m reading a text and I come across a word that I don’t know, I just continue reading and then try to guess the meaning of that word. But I actually only to that if I think that, that word is important for my understanding of the text, or if I think it is an interesting or beautiful word. Otherwise, I just skip it. You don’t need to know every single word. And if you really want to know the meaning of words, I recommend you write them down and ask someone who is fluent in the language, because the will not only give you the meaning of the word, but they will also explain to you when to use it and when not. You will get more out it then if you were just to look it up in the dictionary.

  5. Watch TV shows and listen to music. This tip is very important because it will allow you to better understand the language, to improve your pronunciation and to know when and how to use certain words. Also, it will make it easier for you to remember certain words, because you have seen certain gestures that people make when saying the word, or the emotional state they are in, this is just very important. Also, by watching TV shows and listening to music, your vocabulary list grows, sometimes even without you noticing. If you are the early stages of learning a language I recommend you watch TV shows with subtitles in your native language, this will allow both your understanding and your vocabulary to grow even further. After you have been used to this, it is better to change the subtitles to the language you are learning and later on even watch shows without any subtitles. In the beginning this will be hard, but since you are already used to hearing people speak the language, you will eventually get used to it. When it comes to music not all songs are appropriate for language learning, what I mean by that is that you need to find songs where the singers clearly articulate/pronounce words. For Spanish for instance I used to listen to prince Royce and after a little while, Nicky jam and Enrique Iglesias and now to all kinds singers. One last thing, watch TV shows you like.

  6. This is the last but also one of the most important tips. Practise, practise and practise. When you practise you will make many mistakes, but that is good, no, that is actually great. No matter how many TV shows you have seen in the language you are learning, or how many words you have memorized if you don’t practise you will never be fluent in a language. I know that many people are scared to talk in a foreign language, because they just don’t feel comfortable doing it. But the truth is, there is nothing to be afraid of. People won’t judge you if you are doing some effort, in fact they will support you. What I always do when it comes to this one tip is I have my so-called mirror talks. This means that I stand in front of my mirror and I start having conversations with myself or with imaginary people. I for instance explain what I have learned, what I Have done, and very often I am creative. What these talks have done for me, is that the enabled me to speak freely, and to work on my articulation/pronunciation. Also, they helped me in being more comfortable speaking a language, so it would be easier to have a conversation with other people. Now, you don’t need to have mirror talks, you can have different kinds of talks, something you feel comfortable with. The best way however to practise a language is by speaking to native speakers or people who are fluent in the language. These people will help you when you make mistakes and can guide you. Of course, if you can’t find them you can just do it with the mediums you have, but do practise, always.

Of course, there are many other things you could do to improve your language skills, but to me these are the most important rules. If you follow these tips, you will definitely be able to speak any language.

I hope these tips will help you all with learning and or improving your language skills.

A safe child for a better world

Too many children are victims of war and violence, I remember that there was a day, long time ago, that I too was a victim of the horrors of war. Thank god I had the opportunity to overcome all the difficulties that crossed my path, and thanks to everything that happened to me, I had the opportunity to become the person I am today.

In the last few years, I have seen how war has destroyed the lives of millions of people and especially children. Very often leaving them alone without any love or shelter in a world that is cruel.  I have witnessed young people fleeing war, seeking refuge in countries that sometimes don’t want them, in the hope of better life and the hope of one day being able to forget all the horrors they had witnessed. Many people take war and the effects it has on children for granted, because they have not witnessed the losses these children had. Almost two years ago, I was blessed with the opportunity of being able to work with amazing young people who had fled war. I had the opportunity, to help them integrate into Dutch society, do activities with them en and help them forget a little bit what had happened to them. I lend them a listening ear, and when I look back at the time, I realize that one of the best things I have ever done in my life, was to start a committee to help these people, who became my friends.

The day before I turned 21, I was doing some research on organizations that help children in need. I have always been interested in helping others. I looked into UNICEF, Save the Children and War Child, I realized that there are too many children in need of safety, and also that those organizations alone could not help all those children in Need. They need our help, the children need us. I could not help but instantly start an action for War Child. I made an action page on warchild.nl and this year I will try my best to raise as much money as possible for war children. I will do this with a team of good-hearted people by organizing and hosting events. Because in the end I firmly believe that No child should ever be tormented by the horrors of war. And because I believe that every child deserves the change of being a child.

I need your support, no matter where you are in the world you can donate for this cause, and if that is not possible then you can share it with your friends and family because they might be able to donate or to do something for war children. Don’t ever underestimate the power of good will, no donation is too little and remember: ‘Service to others is the rent we pay for our room here on earth’ -Mohammed Ali-  You can donate on:  https://www.warchild.nl/actie/safe-child-better-world

Let us together take the war out of a child!

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Why foreign aid is not beneficial to Africa

‘My purpose in life’ is the blog post I posted 3 months ago and in this post, I remember briefly having mentioned development aid. I remember that I thought that it had nothing to do with helping African countries, but instead making sure that they stayed poor. And of course, I was and still am not okay with that idea. So I decided to do some research on the subject to find out if it is really true that development or foreign aid does not benefit Africa. in the essay I wrote, I will share with you my findings. Unfortunately, I have to say that I was not far from the truth, but I also realized that despite everything Africa still needs the West.  Have a blessed day reading for yourselves! Continue reading