Time to meed Zejna, our favourite photographer. In her short time on this earth Zejna has experienced a lot and has as diverse a family as one could possibly. Go ahead see yourself (see what I did there?).
I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina back in 1983. This was Yugoslavia back then.
Where have you lived?
I have lived in Sarajevo, het Gooi, Baarn and Almere.
Where can we find you online?
You can find me on Facebook (Zejna Kaunic) and I have a Facebook page for my Photography company (See Yourself Photography). I also have a Hyves page that i never use, and also a Linkedin profile. But I am by far most active on Facebook.
What brought you to Almere?
Well my mom and I came to Holland in 1992 due to the war in my home country as refugees. After living in a refugee camp here in Holland for almost 2 years, and the war in my country was not near its end so returning was not an option, my mom got an apartment assigned to her in Almere haven. This was back in 1994.
My mom met my step dad at the NT2 course when he opened the door for her during a lunch break. There is romance in integration. Don’t lose hope people! Afterwards we moved a few times to Almere Muziekwijk and Almere Buiten. When I moved out of the family house I decided to stay near everybody so I’ve lived in Waterwijk and Kruidenwijk too. I’m a super – Almerian!
Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.
I like the city centre that is near where there is a variety of shops to shop from but also the quite living among green gardens and nature parks. I like that everything is well connected via public transportation, I like the fact that Utrecht, Lelystad, Amsterdam and Schiphol are really near!
How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
I had to go to a Dutch school and learned the language there just from being in the class. I also met kids and they became my friends. I think that was that for the biggest part. Just being a part of everyday life doing what everybody does. So this is my advice to all newcomers, participate and go out and mingle and all will be all right. But it took me quite a few years to accept the fact that we would be staying here and not returning home to Bosnia. There is a crucial difference in moving to another country because you want to or because you have no other option. But now I’m pretty well adjusted, at least I hope so after 20 years spent here.
Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
I like bagels and beans in the new part of the city centre because they serve great fresh juices and bagels. I like the all you can eat concept of Atlantis. And I love the Mexican-hot pizza of New York pizza (haha).
Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
An international from an international and diverse new-found family! Because my mom and I are from Bosnia and speak this language with each other, my step dad is from Iraq as is my stepbrother, they speak Arabic with each other, we (mom, dad and I) speak English and my brother and I speak Dutch with each other. Just imagine our dinner table, 4 languages at all times. My fiancée is half Dutch half Caribbean he speaks Dutch and Papiamento. My best friend is a Korean girl. So International multicultural it is! And proud of it!
How long do you plan on living here for?
I think I will be living here for a while, maybe even forever. Although I have a secret wish to move to a sunny climate one day.
Tell us how you found International Almere?
Back in 2010 Connie (IA) and Katy from NELCA
came across me on Hyves and asked me to help them with a charity project. I took pictures that were made into a calendar and the money collected from the sales of this calendar was donated to cancer research. After that we stayed in touch. I also photographed Sonja and Julians’ wedding in 2012, met a few international Almere members there too and came across some old friends. I bought a bike from an IA member. And did some family shoots as well. So eventually I met quite a few members here and there.
Have you been to any International Almere events? Which was your favourite?
I went to magic mike ladies night! Wohooo. Got my ticket from Connie but she wasn’t able to get in because it was sold out. The silly thing is that I sat between everybody but was too shy to really speak with anyone. So this was a funny favourite moment… I sponsored the Christmas dinner but didn’t go. This is one that I would like to join in the future or the bbq in the summer.
What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
If you are an international, IA is a great place to meet people, ask your questions and feel a part of a community. There is no need at all to feel alone, everybody is welcome and all the members are super helpful!
What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
The weather. But this is Holland in general. I feel that Holland has fall for 9 months a year, and spring, summer and winter for the 3 months that are left. So the grey, rainy everlasting weather knows to get its toll on me from time to time. I need more sun! Also good job opportunities. Although most people know me as a photographer, I actually majored in pedagogy. I used to work for a quality kindergarten and did photography on the side along with a photography study. Loved to combine my 2 passions, photography and childcare. But the overall childcare system has changed a lot over the past year especially in Almere. I am now officially overqualified to work at a kindergarten and probably too expensive due to the economic crisis. So that’s a shame. Also the company that I used to work at has been sold and no longer exists. I am a firm believer that our government should not cut down and economize on (preschool) education
If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
My mom! Haha. Can’t go without mama! And my camera(s)… oops that’s more than one thing!
What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?
I love Queens day. Soon to be kings day. I love the overall celebration, the atmosphere and love love love the free market. Love to walk around and look at and buy old stuff.
Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
I do. We celebrate Bajram. This is also known as Aid well known to Turkish and Arabic people. We visit family and friends and eat a lot of sweets like baklava. Children are supposed to wear new clothes and congratulate adults and then they receive some pocket money.
I like to go to Bosnia on 1st of May. This is the day of labor (arbeid in Dutch). Everyone is free and people go to their weekend houses, barbecue and eat, drink and sing all day. (Not quite the same if you do it here). Food and friendship is something very important in Bosnia, one and another compliment each other.
More in the Getting to Know Us series:
Getting to Know Us: Caroline Mackie
Getting to Know Us: Juliette Kuijpers Ter Weijden
Getting to Know Us: Gerard Danks
Getting to Know Us: Stephanie Ernst-Milner
Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker
Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman
Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle
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