The aroma of aubergines fried in olive oil, the mumbled commentary of his brother engrossed in the Bayern Munich game on TV and the paternal glance at his children when one of them nearly knocks something over – moments, which until recently were just a distant memory for Alan Haso.
The 30-year-old arrived in the Ruhr region some 4 years ago to work as a junior doctor in the surgical unit of a hospital in Herne. "When I've learned enough I'll return home to help my compatriots,” he said at the time.
But things turned out very differently:
His family has now joined him here in Germany.
In 2011 demonstrations erupted in Syria, the police fired into the crowds, detaining and torturing protesters.
Then the first bombs fell, and the civil war broke out.
Alan's family suddenly found itself in mortal danger.
Alan on the war in his homeland
"I couldn't stop worrying"
Two years ago, in 2013, the German government allowed the dependants of the several thousand Syrians living here to join them in Germany.
The one condition: they must bear the costs of flights, accommodation and food themselves.
Despite completing the many application forms, Alan faced many obstacles. At one stage, his family was required to submit documents from the Syrian capital, Damascus – necessitating a car journey across a 700-kilometre-long war zone. Then a further deadline expired though no fault of Alan. A foretaste of the bureaucratic nightmare he would have to negotiate in the coming months.
Finally, however, his claim was approved:
For which Alan is eternally grateful, and against which all else pales into insignificance.
Alan on his feelings of relief
"Finally they are all here"
Sein Bruder Rinas
Rinas, Alan's eldest brother, arrived in Germany together with his wife, two daughters and mother and father. They had a house in a town called Kamischli, in northern Syria. Despite the precarious situation, leaving their homeland was not an easy decision.
Rinas on having to start again
"We had to leave. For the sake of the children's future".
Neustart mit Hürden
Now in Germany many things are new, whilst others are more familiar. Alan had told them much of what to expect and now they hope to be able to start rebuilding their lives.
But they hadn't reckoned with bureaucratic obstacles which first had to be overcome.
Alan's first step is to find an affordable flat in which the family can all live together.
The actual move itself is quickly completed. But Alan is working too many hours to find the time to properly furnish his new home. His only household item: a set of bed linen sporting the FC Barcelona logo.
And all his relatives brought with them from Syria were a few bags full of clothes.
Alan works additional 24-hour shifts at the hospital in order to be able to afford the flat, which is located on a social housing estate.
But it's not the pressure of working such long hours, which Alan finds so exhausting, but something else:
Langes Warten, Stress
Alan on the strain of dealing with the bureaucratic hurdles
"Everything takes so long. Too long"
Entangled in Red Tape
Shortly before his escape, the brother's father underwent an eye operation. The stitches must be now removed otherwise he is in danger of going blind. But each separate treatment must be applied for and approved.
The social services issue him with a so-called treatment voucher which he then takes to his GP. There he will receive a referral to an ophthalmologist. He then takes this back to the social services which submits an application to the health department - this time for treatment by an eye specialist.
The applications take weeks to process.
Rinas' eldest daughter suffers from scoliosis, a deformity of the spine, for which she was receiving physiotherapy in Syria. Many weeks ago the family has applied for similar treatment here in Dortmund. But has yet no response.
So on top of his long working hours, Alan is required in both cases to submit the applications in person. Often at 7 o'clock in the morning, straight after finishing another 24-hour shift.
His superiors at the hospital are supporting him, but the long hours spent waiting in the drab corridors of officialdom are taking it's physical and mental toil.
Tochter wird abgewiesen
Alan on the arduous application procedures
"Rinas' daughter was refused treatment"
Rinas and his wife have also been waiting for months for a place on a German course.
Unable to speak the language, they are completely reliant on Alan. And even worse: the world outside remains closed to them.
So they have to take the first steps themselves.
Sprache und Arbeit
First learn the language then find a job
"Now there is a better future"
Learning German in front of the TV
"Du bist, er ist, ..."
Last chance Asylum?
For a long time Alan thought that he could manage without claiming asylum for his family. That he would be able to finance and organise everything himself - a matter of pride for him. He did not want to sponge off the German state.
Gründe für Asylantrag
But with each long queue, and with each complicated application form, Alan was rapidly approaching the limits of his endurance.
Eventually he capitulated, and the family applied for asylum.
Seemingly their only chance of ever being able to lead a normal life again
Integration auf eigene Faust
Less dependency and greater security are what Rinas hopes to gain from his refugee status.
Eventually this will enable him to earn his own livelihood and, together with his wife and children, start planning for the future.
But until then Rinas has found his own way to integrate into the local community.
The simplest language in the world
Back in his native Syria, Rinas worked as a sports teacher and played soccer for a local men's team.
Now he can often be seen riding his bicycle around Dortmund - usually en route to the local football club BV Westfalia Wickede.
Rinas at training
Since the summer Rinas has been co-training a youth team twice a week on a voluntary basis.
An arrangement which benefits everyone.
Trainer Björn Budde on his new colleague
"A lucky find"
Die Sprache lernen
Rinas has also started to make friends at the soccer club. Even if few words are needed on the pitch, his focus is now on learning German. And whilst doing so he is delighted to be able to give something back: he teaches the kids how to play football, and in return he learns a few new words from Safira, Kevin and Murat every day.
A few weeks ago Rinas finally secured a place on a German course – and now he is able to make himself understood on the pitch as well.
The glow in Rinas' eyes reveals just how much the club means to him. Without soccer, his progress during his first year here would have been far slower.
And yet Rinas' biggest joy is the progress made by his daughter
Since the summer Namah has been regularly attending a beginners' German course. And thanks to regular treatment, her back problems are now almost forgotten and she is starting to make friends.
Namah with her "best friends"
"... and for ever friends"
Teacher Nadine Wortmann on Namah
"The children are so keen to help"
In der Schulklasse
In the meantime Namah has cast aside any inhibitions and is eager to speak with her "very best friends", in fact with anyone willing to listen to her.
For Alan, watching her rapid progress helps to compensate for everything the family has gone through.
Alan's upbeat assessment
"Namah is no longer afraid"
Gathered together sipping tea, the Haso family has no regrets over their decision to flee Syria.
They have been in Germany for one year now. One year in their new home, a year full of struggles - with setbacks and successes.
But a year which gives them the courage to face the future.