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  1. VIP Member
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    #1

    Freedom, part seven

    Would you please correct the mistakes in the seventh part of my text?

    I enjoyed swimming and sunbathing for some days before we had been told to board the buses, which took us northwards across the country. After a long journey, we arrived in a refugee centre in the suburb of the town in Stockholm County. It was large and could accommodate hundreds of refugees. It had its own kitchen, laundry, ambulance, football pitch and other facilities. I got off the bus and saw people of all races and colours hanging around, talking in groups, sitting on the benches smoking and chatting, and playing with their kids.

    I was assigned a room with six bunk beds in a single-storey building. The room was clean and had a large window with the view of an old oak. A young man with red hair jumped from the upper bunk and shook hands with me. His name was Kemal, and he was from my hometown. He was a year or two younger than I was and highly ingenious and curious. He had been in Sweden about two months, and seemed to know so much about the country, its laws and customs. He went to Stockholm frequently and he promised me to take me with him there one Saturday to show me how Swedes enjoy themselves at weekends.
    As Kemal guided me through the centre, I wished I were like him. He seemed to have no inhibitions and was not afraid of anything. He shook hands with dozens of refugees who all knew him by name. Even guards waved at him as we passed by them.
    “If you need cheep cigarettes, booze or any other things, just tell me,” he said. “I have my contacts who sell me these things at the lowest price.”
    Later, Kemal told me that his father disappeared from his life when he was just five years old, leaving his mother and him to fend for themselves. He had to mature fast and find his own way in the world.

    The first night, while my roommates were sleeping peacefully in their bunks, I could not find peace in my mind. I thought of my bed in my home, the white linen, the soft pillow, and the wall opposite full of books. I thought of my orchard, garden brimming with flowers, and the scent of jasmine which grew just outside my window. I imagined my father sitting in the kitchen, dimly lit by a candle, bent over his radio, listening to the latest reports from front lines, and hoping to hear positive news. Tomorrow he was going to town as he had done countless times to inquire if there was any food aid delivery planned and where. Tomorrow more people were going to be murdered, more women raped and more homes destroyed.
    I felt as if someone tore my heart out. What was I doing in this damn country? How many months was I going to wait in this centre before they sent me to another place? Would I ever find peace of mind?
    In the morning, I waited in a long queue for breakfast and felt degraded. There were dozens of people in front of me, many with small children who screamed and scampered around, and made me nervous. Someone jumped the queue, and it almost came to blows. The cafeteria was spacious and bright. The stuff was mostly young people, probably students. They were kind and gave out food with smile on their faces. You could eat as much as you wanted, and you could choose from among coffee, milk and juices. Pragmatic Swedes seemed to have thought of everything and left nothing to chance.

    Just as in previous centres, boredom seemed to be prevalent here also. Refugees did not know what they were going to do with so much spare time on their hands. They sat and discussed for hours and hours. They chain-smoked, drank litres of coffee and countless cans of beer. Somalis, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Bosnians, Kosovo Albanians, Bangladeshis, Palestinians and many others had the same thought on their minds – a Swedish residence permit. People told me that when you got a Swedish personal code number you would be entitled to all kinds of benefits and help from the state. You could stay at home, never work until the end of your life, and still receive the money every month. I knew nothing about the Swedish welfare state or political system, but some refugees were savvy about those things as if they studied them in a course. They told me they were planning to have as much children as possible because they were going to make them rich. I took their stories with a pinch of salt, and I pondered about what would be the benefit of all that money when you live in the boring country where people are afraid of their own feelings.

    The next day Kemal and I went to the town centre, which was even more sterile than the previous two towns I had visited. It was a typical dormitory town where nothing happened, and where passersby strolling in the streets were rather an oddity than normality. The planners of this place seemed to have had an affinity for the rectangle and square buildings, in which the town abounded. Ugly and featureless blocks of flats lined the streets, as if copied from DDR or some other socialist country. The architects who designed these buildings seemed to have played much with Lego as children, and when they grew up, they were unable to imagine any other form but a rectangle and a square. At that time, I did not know much about Sweden to understand the cause of this lack of imagination, but after years spent in the country, it became clear to me that the political system had also affected the minds of architects who had lost the ability to focus on beauty and instead subordinated it to functionality. For them, even the most beautiful buildings of Renaissance, Baroque or neo-Gothic were probably a waste of building material and time.
    Anxiety I felt before now rose in me again. If I had been alone, I would have immediately returned to the refugee centre. At least, it was surrounded with trees and shrubs and was close to the dense woods to where you could walk and be close to nature. This city centre and its lifeless architecture seemed to be one of the many failed experiments which Swedish politicians are prone to conduct on their own people. I imagined living here all my life. Every morning, I would walk by these concrete rectangles and squares, take the overcrowded commuter train to Stockholm, spend 9 hours in my office, avoiding talking about private problems and feelings, then take the overcrowded train again, and arrive home exhausted and drained. I would eagerly wait for Friday to come to hurry to the off-license to buy alcoholic drinks for exorbitant price, and then I would drink myself into oblivion. After years of such existence, I would turn into a conscientious citizen and would not want to hear about another way of life.

    We went into a corner shop and, the owner who was originally from Lebanon, brightened when we told him we were from Bosnia. He told me he understood well what the war meant because he had experienced it in his homeland. He felt sympathy for us for having been forced to leave our beautiful country. “Swedes will never understand us,” he said. “They think we are here only after their money.”
    We bought some fruit, and he gave us a generous discount. He told us to come again and talk more. I got an impression that he must be bored in his little shop with so rare people walking by. He probably reminded himself every day of the busy streets of Beirut and his former good life.

    We sat on a bench in a park to eat our fruit. To the right of us, a few meters away sat a bunch of alcoholics. They gesticulated, shouted, and spoke aloud in their cracked, slurred voices. If it had been another day, I probably would have left immediately because I would have felt disturbed, but this time their presence felt soothing. In all this sterility, they brought some humanity. As I was munching on my apple, I was thinking about that they were not drinking for pleasure but to relieve inner pain. Although from the outside the system looked perfect and humane, it did not tolerate any disobedience, not even in your mind. I felt that with my feelings and sensibility, I was going to have a hard time in this country. I understood that I had ended up in another war, although it was more subtle, and its victims were not bodies but minds. I promised myself to fight and never give up because I did not want to end up sitting on a bench clutching a can of beer, shouting profanities and slowly killing myself.
    TO BE CONTINUED

  2. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Freedom, part seven

    First sentence. Say:

    I enjoyed swimming and sunbathing for several days before we were told to board the buses....

  3. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Freedom, part seven

    Say:

    I got off the bus and saw people of all races and colours hanging around, talking in groups, sitting on benches smoking and chatting, and playing with their kids.

  4. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Freedom, part seven

    Second paragraph. Say:

    The room was clean and had a view of a large oak tree.

  5. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Freedom, part seven

    Perhaps:

    A young, red-headed man jumped from the upper bunk and shook hands with me.

    And:

    A year or two younger than me, he would prove to be clever and resourceful. Also, he likes to ask questions.

  6. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Freedom, part seven

    Say:

    He had been in Sweden about two months, and he seemed to know quite a bit about the country, its laws and customs.

  7. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Freedom, part seven

    Say:

    Even the guards waved at him as we passed by them. "If you need cheap cigarettes, booze or any other things, just tell me," he said."I have my contacts who sell me those things at the lowest prices."

  8. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Freedom, part seven

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarheel View Post
    Perhaps:

    A young, red-headed man jumped from the upper bunk and shook hands with me.

    And:

    A year or two younger than me, he would prove to be clever and resourceful. Also, he likes to ask questions.
    I am not sure I would use that last sentence. Anyhow, what you tell about his behaviour describes him better than any adjectives can.

  9. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Freedom, part seven

    Third paragraph. Perhaps:

    I thought of my orchard, a garden full of flowers, and the scent of jasmine from the shrub which grew just outside my window.

  10. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: Freedom, part seven

    Perhaps:

    I thought of my orchard and the garden brimming with flowers and the scent pf jasmine from the bush which grew just outside my window.

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