christavandenberg.nl TU Delft cleaning, Morocco dreaming

Delta nr 12, April 2005

They're TU Delft's 'other' foreigners, the workers who clean, cook and do other menial jobs at the TU. This week the English Page meets Mostafa Kabach, a 53-year old cleaner originally from Casablanca, Morocco.

When it comes to media-attention, there's no group of foreigners more talked about in Holland recently than Moroccans. And it's been mainly bad press. Mostafa Kabach, who is known all around the Faculty of Technology Policy and Management simply as Kabach, is not happy with the negative reputation of his people.

"There are just as much bad Dutch people as there are bad Moroccans. People are not all the same," he says. He holds up his right hand and says: "Iíve got five fingers and each one of them is different, you see?" His grown-up kids to him are the perfect example of good Moroccan people. They're doing well in school and are well behaved and he can't stress enough how happy he is to have them.

The story of how Kabach came to reside in the Netherlands is a typical one among immigrants. When he was 19-years-old and still in school in Morroco, his uncle who was working in the Netherlands came back to Morocco on holiday. "I asked him if he could take me with him," the cleaner says. "I don't really know why, but I think it was just because going abroad sounded exciting." Luckily for him, his uncle had contacts in France, and eventually, after undergoing some tests and filling out forms, he was sent the train and boat tickets he needed to get to France.

Kabach worked in France for about two years and then traveled to Holland, where he lived illegally 18 months. In July 1974 the Dutch government decided to grant legal status to all illegal immigrants who had come to Holland before 1974. After proving he'd been here since 1972, Kabach received a residence permit.

At the time he was living happily with a Dutch woman. She spoke a little French and they communicated mainly in French, as he didnít speak much Dutch. Eventually his girlfriendís father, who, Kabach says, "didn't like black hair", caused them to split up. "I was sick for several months because of that," he says. The Moroccan immigrant then returned to his homeland for a holiday. There he caught sight of a girl he liked and on his next holiday, a year later, in 1977, they were married. Once he was back in Holland, he asked the authorities for permission to have his wife come over. She arrived in the Netherlands in September 1979. "I didn't feel so alone anymore," Kabach says.

Professor

Back then, immigrating was quite easy compared to all the compulsory paperwork and Dutch language courses of today. "The first two years my wife was here, someone would come to our house twice a week to give her Dutch lessons," Kabach recalls, smiling. He himself never took lesson, instead learning the language on the street.

Kabach's wife started working as a cleaner at the TU's Faculty of Architecture, while he worked different jobs in restaurants and at tennis clubs. Nineteen years ago, Kabach also started work as a TU cleaner, a job he still enjoys and intends to keep. "I've worked in almost all TU buildings," he says. Apart from this 38-hour cleaning job, he also works as a cleaner at a car dealership, which totals up to just over 50 hours of work each week. A tough life, but he grins and bears it. Sometimes he dreams of other jobs: "I would've preferred to go to university; then perhaps I would have become a professor. Or I would have liked to have an office job, but I needed money when I got here, so I had to start working."

Another thing Kabach sometimes regrets is that he's now unable to return to Morocco for good. "My kids were born here and I can't just leave them," he says. He misses his native land, and although he's been in the Netherlands for over 30 years now, he still feels like a foreigner. Luckily for him, the amount of Moroccan bakeries, hairdressers, butchers and other shops has increased massively over the past decades, so he can still get a taste of Moroccan culture.

Nevertheless, he must live with being away from his family and relatives in Morocco, and from Moroccan parties: "Whenever there's a party in Morocco, everyone is happy, a lot of special food is prepared and children get to wear new clothes."

When he first came to Holland, Kabach thought it would be for a year, or maybe two or three at most, so he never made plans, always sort of expecting to eventually return home to stay. "Maybe when I've retired I can live both here and in Morocco," he says. "Two months here, three months there, that would be nice."

 

 
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