I make the train just in time. This one is nearly empty which makes it just as hard for me to find a place to sit. Slowly the scenery starts to shift and as the urban setting dissolves into a set of perfectly aligned trees, for a moment it feels like the train is about to be swallowed by all the red and yellow. I unbutton my jacket and take a deep breathe, it’s been an interesting day.
I have spent my morning running from platforms to bus stations so that I can make it on time to a class at a University with a masters program that I’m interested in. I’ve been planning this for weeks now and have only received the confirmation the day before. By the time I show up at the reception however I realise that I’m in the wrong city, at the wrong university and asking for the wrong people. The receptionist gives me a sympathetic look. “ I’m so sorry” I tell her. “ It’s me who is sorry dear,” says she, “I wish there was something I could do to help”. I am constantly amazed by the politeness and friendliness of the Dutch men and women. Who was it again that said Arabs are the friendly ones? I’d like to have a word with that person, maybe invite him to stay with me for a couple of days, that ought to change his mind.
I look at my phone, there’s no way I could make it to the right University now. I’m overwhelmed with defeat and disappointment. I send an email and decide to be honest about it, even if it makes sound completely mental. In return, I get a very warm reply and an open invitation as long as I set the day and hour. For a moment I’m relieved, but then again, what will I do for the rest of my day? Was my journey in vein?
I ask the receptionist about their design faculty. “Oh that’s all the way downtown, and besides, do you have an appointment?” No, I don’t, but hey it’s sunny and early so why the hell not. I whip out Google maps and it tells me that I’m about 25 min away by foot. “I guess I’ll have to try my luck” I tell her, and head out.
Google maps has me running in circles for about an hour now, I ask a pedestrian about the street name and he blinks at me and tells me I’m on the other side of the train station and I start thinking about giving up and going home. Eventually I manage to arrive to my destination only to discover that it’s a parking space. I look around and there’s nothing, no signage, no freaking faculty, just a man walking back from his car and who tells in very bad English that he’s just moved to the neighborhood but is willing to walk with me and ask someone else for directions. Soon enough, someone else starts walking towards us. “Yes”, he says, he knows where the faculty is; in fact he is going there right now if I’d like to join him.
We walk across the parking space and towards an old building. He removes a key from his pocket and for a moment my heart sinks as I imagine a headline announcing the disappearance of a 24 year old of Lebanese origin. But before I can dwell on the idea any further I find myself surrounded by two middle aged chatty women, one of them is holding a stack of files and the other, the more amused one, seems to be heading somewhere. “Who’s your friend?” she interrogates the guy, “ I don’t know, but she’s looking for you”. “Oh really, do you have an appointment?” she looks me straight in the eye and my heart sinks. “Hmmm not really, but I’ve sent you a lot of emails in the past”. “Good!” she exclaims, we don’t do that stuff around here. We have an open door policy you see. So what is it dear? You want to have a look around? Learn more about the program?” I nod and she turns to the gentleman, “show her around, would you? And then if you have any questions, I’ll be here at the office.” We shake hands and she turns out to be the coordinator.
The following hour and a half is filled with genuine and interesting discussions, a detailed tour of the faculty and an amazing overview on the program. The coordinator takes the time to answer all my questions afterwards and encourages me to ask more whenever I feel like it or to simply pass by and say hello if I’m ever around. Before I go, she hands me a book, “ I like to give this book to our visitors, it was written by one of our students. I hope you enjoy it.” I look at the cover: “Everyday is like Sunday” is written across the cover in modest and clean letters. I smile; I think I most certainly will.