Turning Tables
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Chapter 1: My life before Turning Tables

Hi, my name is Rustam

Next time you’re visiting BMW-world and you want to take a fun break, you can come and watch me mix drinks and balance trays, as I recently started working at one of the restaurants of Feinkost Käfer, as their new restaurant specialist trainee.

Hi, I am Rustam

Originally, I’m from Afghanistan, but I have been living in Munich now for about three years.
Even though I left my home country with a completed apprenticeship and a good high school diploma, there was a long time when I wasn’t allowed to do anything here in Germany. A time, that lasted far too long.

Lacking German skills, missing papers and the working permit that seemed to be so far out of reach – there where many, many things that kept me away from doing work and feeling useful.

Motivation has never been the problem though. To only sit around all day and have nothing to do was unbearable for me. Being hindered from providing for myself and having to rely on the support of others is not a nice feeling for me. It was a feeling that I was wasting my potential. A feeling that made me ask myself:
Is this what I came here for?

No. I came to Germany to build a safe and steady future. That‘s what I’ve always wanted, from the beginning on.
Now, thanks to Turning Tables and my apprenticeship at Feinkost Käfer, I am finally walking towards this goal with big, firm steps. How, why and in which way, is what I am going to tell you over the next weeks in this blog.

Back in Afghanistan

I grew up in Tagab, a city in the east of Afghanistan.
For 12 years I went to high school, completed my A-level exams and graduated. Afterwards I started an apprenticeship to become an electrician, consisting of one and a half years of school and a six months long internship in an organisation. Both of these educational paths I finished with great success, and was incredibly proud to own not only one, but two important diplomas.

At the same time I supported my dad at work. He’s a doctor and owns his own medical practice, but also operates a pharmacy, located right beside the office. Medicine has always interested me, and so he taught me many things. That way, I was able to help him out in the pharmacy regularly. Being in touch with costumers was something I really enjoyed doing, and if I had never left Afghanistan, I guess I would have taken over the pharmacy at some point.

At home I was living the life of a young, respectable man; I even had a driver’s license and owned my own car!

My brothers and me back in my home country Afghanistan

If I think about it, I realize that my life seemed promising and hopeful. I enjoyed the financial resources, the education and the family support required to pursue a bright future.
There was only one problem: The war that has been going on in my country for the last 40 years.
Where I grew up, destruction and misery have become so normal and mundane that I couldn’t even imagine how life in a peaceful country could feel like. 

When I became older however, I also became aware of the dimensions to which this war kept me away from any normality in my life.
And that it was absolutely unrealistic to be hoping for this war to end any time soon.
That, if I ever wanted to live a safe life, I would have to leave Afghanistan.
I didn’t have a choice.

And so I left.
For 41 days I travelled, until I finally arrived in Germany in January 2016 alone as my family couldn’t follow. My dad was very much needed at home as a doctor and my mum neither wanted, nor felt like she actually could leave him. The same was true for my four brothers. All of them had already married and were living a structured life in Afghanistan, together with their wives and kids. They were too scared to leave their homes behind. Scared, to lose everything. Besides that, they couldn’t even afford to flee with that many people.

For me, there were fewer things holding me back. I was in a situation, where I could still choose where I was going to start my own life and set the groundwork for my future family.
The answer I knew as sure as one can be. I wanted to do all of this in a country where I didn’t have to fear for my life or the lives of my kids every minute of every day.
Nevertheless, when I left, it felt like I left two mothers behind. Because for me, my home country Afghanistan is like a second mother that formed me to be who I am today too.

My future with perspective

How would my future have looked like in Afghanistan?
I guess I would have continued my career as an electrician and aimed towards pursuing a master. Or I might have taken over my father’s pharmacy.
However, the chance that I would have gotten hit by a bomb on my way to work, the bakery or while having dinner with my family at home would have been just as likely. Just like it happened to my brother, who was incredibly lucky and survived with only a few injuries.
The truth is, I have no idea how my life in Afghanistan would have looked like these last years. But one thing is for sure: It would have never been up to me, and only me. That’s different here.

For the first time in my life I feel like I can shape my own future. It’s in my own hands.
No soldiers, bombs or missiles who hinder me from doing what I want to do and achieving what I want to achieve.

One of my first experiences as a restaurant specialist: At the summer festival at Bayernkaserne

An extended thank you to our sponsors, UNO-Flüchtlingshilfe, PIMCO foundation and Referat für Arbeit der Landeshauptstadt München: Münchner Beschäftigungs- und Qualifizierungsprogramm (MBQ), who made the Step-IN program possible.

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