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“I wanted to keep the good things of the Dutch culture and keep the good things of my country of origin.”

I am Cristina Muriel, a Colombian-Dutch woman. I was born in Medellin, known as the "city of eternal spring" because all year round you can enjoy the mild climate and the beautiful variety of flowers. It was there that I completed my elementary and high school education. 

When I finished my studies and with my parent’s permission, I decided to go to live in Curaçao, an island belonging to the Dutch colony. I started my studies at the University of Curaçao, but I could not finish because the Dutch language was too difficult for me. Also at that time, Curacao did not have many study options for foreigners and I could not concentrate on studying because I had to work to survive. 

Working in different occupations on the island helped me to mature and to appreciate the effort we all make in life to earn our daily bread honestly. I started working when I was only 17 years old as a house cleaner, as a nanny, as a waitress in restaurants, as a cashier in a remittance company, and finally as an internet sales representative for heavy machinery and power plants company. Unlike the Netherlands, Curaçao allowed me to explore different fields without having any work experience or educational qualifications. I lived on the island for 12 years, for which I was allowed the right to apply for Dutch nationality.

On the island, I got to know the tradition of the celebration of St. Nicholas, which I keep and which I find very nice to open the most beloved month for me, December. Curaçao was a school of life, I have a lot to thank the island and I definitely carry it in my heart. 

Once we obtained the nationality, together with my husband we decided to settle in the Netherlands, thinking of opening new horizons and providing better opportunities for our eldest daughter, who at that time was 7 years old. Among the opportunities we saw were the possibility that our daughter could get involved with the Dutch culture from an early age and live together with us this exchange of cultures. We also saw better job opportunities for my husband who had just graduated as a nurse and I saw the great opportunity to study what I am really passionate about, social work and medicine, branches of education that at that time could not be found in Curacao. 

We first arrived in Bijlmer Arena where we only stayed for a week, and then we moved to Almere, where 5 years later our family grew with the arrival of our little daughter. 
Being in the Netherlands I felt the enormous earthly distance between my parents, siblings, and myself; I often wondered when I would see them again? And even the time change made it difficult for me to communicate with them because while they were at work it was time for me to sleep and rest and vice versa; communication with them was then limited to Sundays only. 

Communicating in the Dutch language was not easy for me at the beginning, I even felt illiterate, not being able to read and understand, not being able to write Dutch, it seemed terrible to me, and depending on a person to communicate what I felt made me feel frustrated. Happily, with the passage of time and with study, all this was left in the past and anecdotes like going to the doctor at home with a written paper with the symptoms I had or going to the market and buying food such as eggs by signs.

Living in Almere has been a great blessing for me because it has allowed me to meet people from different cultures, different religions, and ways of thinking, and seeing life and most importantly all from the love and respect for others. It is also a new city, quiet and pleasant. An orderly city without much noise, unlike the main cities in the Netherlands as in my hometown, Medellin which is full of congestion of cars, people, and commerce.

Currently, I am a full-time housewife and I do it with all the love in the world because for me it is very important to be in the education and formation of my daughters. Teaching my daughters the love for the faith we profess, the simplicity of being able to have benefits and share them with those who do not have them as working for what we want with honesty is very rewarding for me.

Among my thoughts and feelings that I have always kept since I was a child are faith, simplicity, and human feelings. For me to trust in God and the Blessed Virgin Mary is the basis of everything. Without them, I will never be able to achieve anything. Simplicity allows me to be aware that others deserve respect and good treatment regardless of social prestige. The human feeling helps me not to be indifferent to the situation or pain of others and to be open to the needs of others.

I feel that I carry with respect the culture of the two nationalities that I have, and I like the things that for me are good of both and as a family, we live, learn and enjoy them. I have wanted to keep the good things of the culture of the Netherlands and keep the good things of my country of origin. 

The thought of returning to live in my country is not in my thoughts for now and I have never contemplated that idea. So far I feel happy, I like it and I don't regret living in Almere.

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Photos, Interview and Text: Lyla Carrillo Quan - van der Kaaden
Text Revision: Babette Rondón
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