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The Womanhood Studio

The Womanhood Studio in Delft is moving to a new location and will be filling a hole in Delft’s current offerings for families. Tami, the Womanhood Studio’s creator and owner, has been serving women in the Delft community as a doula. She opened the Womanhood Studio two years ago, expanding her services to offer massages and classes for pregnant women and new moms. Now Tami’s moving her studio to a new home at 28 Schoolstraat in Delft, bringing the studio closer to Delft’s public transportation connections.

The Womanhood Studio was a centerpoint for my pregnancy in Delft. I was able to enjoy several massages with Tami and discuss the best way to alleviate my aches and pains. Tami was there for me when I was overdue, worrying about an induction. Once my little one arrived, we returned to the Womanhood Studio for baby massage classes. The studio also offers baby sign language classes. At the previous small space on Vlamingstraat, the studio services often ended there – then came news that Tami had found a new, larger location and would be able to expand her offerings.

My experience is not unique. Jules, who used Tami as her doula had wonderful things to say about her experience. “The Womanhood Studio is a unique concept that celebrates women ,and I feel fortunate that I had the support and care of Tami during my pregnancy and labour. Tami was our doula – her calm spirit, cheerful personality, positive affirmations and can-do attitude gave us a lot of confidence as first-time parents. My birth was filled with laughter and Tami’s presence really empowered me to have the birthing experience that I had dreamed of. I am so excited to see that the Womanhood team under Tami’s guidance is going from strength to strength and moving to a bigger historic Delft location. Tami’s big smile and hospitality will welcome you. Make sure you check out the Womanhood Studio. You won’t regret it.”

If you have never been lucky enough to meet Tami, you should rectify that right away. Her mere presence puts you at ease. She has a particular soft spot for expat parents and classes at the studio are often taught in English. (I can promise you she will make sure you feel comfortable no matter what your language or home country.) She encourages everyone to stop in and say hello to see what the Womanhood Studio has to offer for you! I am lucky enough to be Tami’s neighbor. I invited her over for tea to chat all about the exciting changes and what it means for families in Delft.

The name Womanhood Studio came from her desire to serve women in the community at all stages. Although many classes focus on children or pregnancy, the studio is designed to be welcoming to all. The new studio space will even enable Tami to offer Pilates classes for men or mixed classes.

All the classes at the Womanhood Studio are small, usually under 10 participants, so that they can have an intimate feel. These gatherings are designed to provide community and connection. Tami encourages participants to come early and hang around afterwards to chat up with her and other participants.

Photo Credit: Womanhood Studio

The new space means an expanded range of options. I don’t want to spoil all the surprises she has planned, but Tami was off to be certified to teach Arial Yoga after our chat. She’s also ordered some lovely swings for a special class for children and plans to offer other classes that help older children with body, mind and emotional connections. I cannot wait to have my kids try out these classes. Previously you would have needed to head to Rotterdam or The Hague for offerings like these, but now they will be available in Delft center.

If you still think the Womanhood Studio has nothing to offer stop by, meet Tami and let her know what you would like to see. The Womanhood Studio is a service to the community and wants to be responsive to the community’s needs. Feedback on classes, be it times or format, is heard and adjustments are made. If you have a group that is looking for something specific, say Pilates for moms with young babies, stop by and she will see if she can make it work. Since classes are small, it’s often feasible to start a class with enough interest.

The studio will also be available for other gatherings. If your group is looking for a place to gather and meets the mission of the studio, get in touch with Tami. This lovely new space can be a gathering place for the community.

Make sure you follow the Womanhood Studio on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on all the exciting changes. I hope to see you there!

 

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School endings and new beginnings

My daughter is in “groep 8″of the “basisschool”. And since she has returned from her last break beginning of May, she is in a total mode of end-of-primary-school-career-celebrations. They still do learn something at school, but after the Cito-toets just before the last holidays, school is all about preparation for the school camp and the famous end-of-musical.

For many international parents the Dutch school system is sometimes at least a bit confusing. To start with the fun parts. in many other school systems going to school camps happens yearly as from year 1 or 2 (groep 3 and 4 here), while in most Dutch schools the groep 8 camp is a very big deal. My daughter was lucky enough to go abroad to an International British school, and back in the Netherlands first to an international orientated bilingual Dutch school, so this is not her first camp. And also not her first musical, as theater productions are an yearly happening in many other school systems. She sometimes giggles: I am a pro, I’ve already done so many camps and musicals. But even so, the fever of all these preparations,  the fun and the joy is there every day, but also the fear and anticipation of what comes after. Because after the school camp, and after the musical, and after the summer holidays, she will start at her new “middelbare school”. Quite a huge step. And it keeps her and her peers very busy.

Since the Dutch education system does not have middle school, the step between the 8 year long primary school, (where all the kids learn together at the same level, have almost no homework and go to have lunch at home everyday) and the high school is really a big one. Everything changes. And it starts all with the Cito toets. The Cito is actually not only one exam (in some schools they use different examination tools, Cito is the biggest and most common one at the moment). Cito is a standardized testing system used for the very first groep 1 till groep 8, where the pupils are being ranked by their cognitive and academic achievements. In groep 8, the teachers look at the Cito results from previous years, and they look at the social-emotional development of the child, and they advice which type of school suits your child the best. Dutch high school educational system is characterized by division, according to the level of abilities of the pupils.  And then you as parents, and the child, start looking for schools, and their different educational curriculum, and choose one.

Middelbare school…how is that?!

Sounds simple? Well, it is not that simple. Because each high school has its own way of teaching, each school offers different kinds of support, extra curricular activities, foreign languages or practical skills. My daughter and we have visited quite a few school till we decided upon the one we think fits her. And it is hard, because it happens at such a precious age (hello puberty), and the differences will be felt. Because after the summer break my daughter, like all her peers, will have to deal with a new teacher for each subject, moving from one classroom to another, work in projects, and foremost make tons of homework and presentations. The transition is not soft. She and all of them, will be growing lots next school year. They will all need to make new friends, get used to new class dynamics, they will learn to plan, and again make lots of homework… they will learn a lot.

But, there are still some time till then. I remember the first time she went to “basisschool” when she just turned 4, and now she is ending her primary school years, getting ready for the unknown yet “middelbare school” ones. Packing her backpack for school camp, rehearsing her lines and songs for the musical, planning her summer, getting almost ready to take the next plunge.  No it’s not about reading and writing anymore, it’s about the big things. As for us, the parents, there is a Dutch saying “small kids, small problems, big kids, big problems”. Oh wel…

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Delft mama of the week: Xiaolin

Raising children in a foreign culture is always a challenge, and this week’s DelftMaMa Xiaolin is actively working to help Chinese children in the Netherlands have a strong and positive relationship with their cultural background.

I first met Xiaolin at the library last year, as she was showing some Chinese moms around, and I felt from the start that she was an astute leader and organizer. The more I have had the chance to speak with her and see her in action, the more this impression rings true. In the past two years alone, she has created a vibrant social media chat group for Chinese mothers in the Netherlands, organized many activities including a Lantern Festival celebration for over twenty families, coordinated a monthly children event on different topics (art / story / technology) and also coordinated weekly yoga class for mamas. Now, she and other like-minded moms is on the way to creat Chinese Mama’s in Nederland (CMN) association.

Xiaolin, originally from the city of Datong in Northern China, first came to Delft ten years ago as a student of chemical engineering at TU Delft. On her first day in Delft, she was paired in a group with Junju. He is now her husband, and they are parents to Yojan (2.5 years) and Minghe (11 months). Xiaolin has experiences in bringing together the best of different cultures not only as a Chinese native living in the West but also in her own marriage as Junju is from Taiwan, which is culturally similar to mainland China but does have many unique traditions.

The couple have lived all over the Netherlands, but are now happy to call Delft home once again. “After I graduated, I moved to many places including Leiden, Apedldoorn, Arnhem, and Rotterdam. But when we decided to settle down, we chose Delft, as it is an attractive city that contains both youth and old, modern and traditional. Therefore we made Delft our new hometown.”

She manages to feel very comfortable living in the Netherlands, although it is bittersweet to be separated from the rich cultural tradition of her homeland and the caring hands of her folks. She finds, “the Netherlands is a country that is not only attractive, it is also a country with values that resonate such as openness, honesty, and a balance between work of life that make us want to stay. ”

Friends describe Xiaolin as smart, dedicated, helpful, and cooperative. I would add that she is highly curious person, while she describes herself as a decisive person, “I am quite strict thinking-wise. If I think something is right, I will do it immediately. I do not think very deeply into the pros and cons of an issue. Once I have decided something, I go for it.” All of these traits surely helped Xiaolin in bringing together Chinese moms in the Netherlands.

Once Xiaolin became pregnant she decided that she needed to find a new group of friends who were either already moms or moms to be “I managed to meet many Chinese moms and decided to create the Chinese mamas moms in the Netherlands WeChat group. At that moment, I never imagined there were so many Chinese moms locally.” After only two years of existence, the Chinese Moms WeChat Group is already a large and active community with over 160 members. For those unfamiliar with the technology, WeChat is a social media application that is extremely popular and widely used in China and by Chinese speaking communities.

The moms wanted to go further, though, than simply chatting online and started to meet and discuss how they could channel their talents, interests, and shared goals into something larger.

As Xiaolin explains, “First-generation immigrants generally have a clear identity; we know who we are, we know our hometown, and we know why we came to the Netherlands. Culture-wise, though, our children are second generation immigrants, and very often the second generation of immigrants country feel lost. From their appearance, our children are from China, but from their education and experience growing up abroad they are completely different from their parents. We Chinese moms thus want to help educate our children to be a bridge between Chinese and Western culture. We want to help our children to be confident, aware of their Chinese heritage, and be proud of this identity.”

In the coming days, CMN will start its institutionalization process by publishing its mission and vision statement on a WeChat-related blog. The mission is to: 1) provide events and activities for Chinese families in the Netherlands; 2) create a shared platform for Chinese families in the Netherlands; 3) create development opportunities for Chinese families in the Netherlands and encourage and help them in the immigration process; 4) welcome foreigners and share the Chinese culture with the broader community.

The group is already actively organizing events to help transmit the beauty and richness of the Chinese culture and equip children to successfully integrate their double identity. “We worry very much that our children may forget the Chinese language and culture. We have thus decided to give the children courses and opportunities to play together. This way one day when they have started to think about their own identity and philosophy, they have not only parents to consult with but also their own friends who have similar background. These children will grow up together and share the same experiences. Hopefully, they will then not feel as lonely in their experience as second-generation immigrants often do.”

In March, CMN hosted their first art class with approximately thirty participants and are now lining up more art, storytelling, and technology classes. The challenge is not so much finding volunteers but catching up with the demand from all all interested families. According to Xiaolin, “we have some very professional and talented moms. These amazing women are willing to share their talents and help create activities for the children, but every time we announce a new class on WeChat, it is full within a half hour.”

The organization is focused on growing step by step and following through with its mission, but “there are a lot of things we don’t know yet. It is the first time we are moms, and this organization is something we can grow up together with our children.”

Xiaolin, who is active on the DelftMaMa Facebook group and has attended DelftMaMa playgroups, sees opportunities for mutual learning and sharing. “I have learned a lot so far from DelftMaMa, even just on the Facebook Group. It is a mature organization, and there is a lot we can learn from DelftMaMa. There are a lot of professional moms involved in DelftMaMa, and I would hope that one day we can sit down together and share experiences and lessons learned. I would be very enthusiastic about that.”

Juggling her career, raising two children, and being very active in associational life is a challenge, but Xiaolin shared one very effective insight that has have helped her maintain time for herself and be so effective even with such a busy schedule. “A useful hack is to find what you want to do instead of letting life push you. In this way, you find yourself more a master of your life.”

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23rd of April, World book day. Let’s celebrate!

Books, roses, writers and lovers will literally take the streets of Barcelona and every city big or small in Catalonia tomorrow Sunday the 23rd of April, to honour our patron, Sant Jordi (Saint George).
Well, not just quite only to honour the patron, as we are not that devoted to patrons or saints anymore.
It is Catalans lovers’ day, and we are certainly devoted to love. Love for culture, love for history, love for flowers and love for love’s sake.

So, we will take the streets in the name of love, books and roses.

Why roses?

We give blood-red roses to our loved ones following Saint George’s legend, who fought and killed a dragon to save the Princess. From the blood that sprouted from the dragon’s neck, a rose bloomed. Saint George, a real knight, cut the flower with the same sword with which he had killed the beast and, gentleman as he was, offered the rose to the Princess, who hopelessly fell in love with him. They lived happily ever after and blood-red roses became an international symbol of love.

This legend that belongs to the universal literature was turned into a Catalan tradition on the year 1436 (15th century), marking the first roses-for-love exchange. It went uninterrupted until today, 600 years after.

Nowadays, and thanks to the Dutch flower market, roses are in as many colours as you can imagine, including black and rainbow. But the blood-red or rouge passion remain the most popular.

 

Why books?

This is a “new” tradition that started in the beginning of the 20th century (1929). It was nothing but a marketing campaign from a Valencian book publisher who thought people were not reading, hence buying, enough books.
My apologies for killing the romantic mood…

As Saint George Day was a very well-established tradition in Catalonia, and men were getting nothing in return from giving away a red rose, he took it to his advantage asking women to buy men a book to show their love and keep them culturized. It was well embraced by the Catalan society and happily celebrated by authors and publishers, who helped to keep the new tradition alive. Soon the ladies got book treats from their significant others too. This “new” tradition was never cancelled, not even during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) and the Franco’s dictatorship era (1939 – 1975), when the Catalan language and its traditions were forbidden.

In 1995, Unesco declared the 23rd of April to be the World Book Day to celebrate the deceased anniversary of universal literature writers Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote de la Mancha and William Shakespeare author of Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, … They both died exactly 401 years ago.

So, if you happen to be in Catalonia tomorrow, expect crowded streets smelling like books and roses and a festive like working day

Saint George it like a local

If you would like to embrace this lovely Catalan tradition, you only need to do the following:

  • Ladies, Inform your loved one that you, your daughter(s), mother in law, and … are expecting to get a blood-red rose.
  • Go on a family trip to the bookstore and get each of you a book.
  • Stroll around town with your flowers, books and a broad smile on your face.
    Expect to be smiled back by other fellow citizens who are celebrating Saint George too.

They are easy to spot as, like you, they will walk with a rose, a book and a smile on their faces.

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What’s your time worth?

Yesterday I worked fifteen hours without a break. No, I’m not a life-saving surgeon or the Prime Minister – I’m a working mother who is underpaid and undervalued. Who am I undervalued by? Myself.

In 2012 I began to work as a freelance Marketing Consultant while living in Spain. My girls were aged nearly three and five at the time and in full time nursery. I had survived the sleep-deprived baby years, my energy and health was improving and my kids could finally (more or less) feed themselves and wipe their own butts. It was time to forego the part time work, take the plunge and finally use my years of experience to become self employed.

‘My days are my own!’ I silently rejoiced. ‘I will finally be paid for everything I do outside of my mummy duties.’

Oh how wrong I was.


The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have time to work – nursery was 9-5. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have clients – I had plenty of work coming my way. The problem was that I underestimated how bad I was at valuing my own self worth, and what a pushover I would be at volunteering my time now that I didn’t have a boss managing it.

Time and time again I would find myself looking at my watch thinking ‘how can it be 3pm? I haven’t done any paid work yet!’

Then things got trickier. I received a three book publishing contract for my fantasy romance series ‘The Path Keeper’ and I temporarily moved to The Netherlands with my family. I continued working and getting new marketing clients, but now on top of work and mummying and writing my books I was now also promoting them. I was up until midnight every night trying to squeeze it all in…but my bank account didn’t reflect the amount of hours I was working

After a long hard think I had to admit where I was going wrong. Tell me if I’m alone here, but I think it’s fair to say that the self-employed, especially women, and ESPECIALLY mums are really really really crap at saying no.

I’ve often wondered why us mums are the worst when it come to recognising our own self worth. Is it because for years we’ve happily worked for free changing nappies and feeding babies and forgotten that our time is actually worth something? Or is it because once we finally escape the baby years and re-enter the workforce everything (yes, everything) seems easier and more fun than dealing with screaming newborns and tantruming toddlers, so we don’t see it as hard work but actually an escape? And who wants to charge people for work that doesn’t feel all that difficult?

Once I began working for myself I was so eager to please and prove my worth, show that my time out of the workplace hadn’t affected my ability, that I was putting in more hours than I needed to and earning a fraction of what I did pre-baby.

So at what point do we drop the guilt, the sense of obligation and our embarrassment and say to clients/people in need of our time – ‘no, I can’t do that’ or ‘yes, I can….but not for free’?

Work is one thing and one thing only – an exchange of our time for money. That’s it. What we choose to spend time on outside of our allocated working hours is up to us, it’s our right to say no if we think volunteering on three school trips in one month on our only day off is too much. It’s ok to sit and watch TV on a Saturday night instead of answering emails or helping our neighbour with their CV. It’s perfectly ok to say ‘I’m sorry, I can’t’ and be kind to ourselves.

Our kids get enough of our time without having to thank us…so why should anyone else?

What happens if we let things go and say no? Nothing. No one is judging us, if anything they are realising that our time is precious and only we have the right to decide how it’s spent. Hey, they may even pay us what we deserve!

So I have made a vow to myself – from this day forth I shall no longer do things for free. Unless it directly benefits my family, business or my books I can’t (literally) afford to do anything more for nothing. I can’t.

But of course there’s always an exception…such as this article. Of course Delft Mama haven’t paid me for it, and it’s 9pm and I’m still working after having been awake since 6am. Dammit! There’s only one thing for it then, I’ll have to use this as a big advertising tool to shout about my next author event in The Hague on 1st June.

There, that’s better, I don’t feel like I’ve given away my time any longer. And now for the tricky part – how do I say no to  the PTA?

Natali writes as N J Simmonds and the first book of her YA fantasy romance series, The Path Keeper, is now available at all good English language bookshops and online (the second book ‘Son of Secrets’ is out February 2018). She will also be presenting a FREE talk about writing at the American Book Centre in The Hague 1 June at 6pm and signing copies of her book. For more information on her work, and up and coming events, visit njsimmonds.com. And to find out more about her Marketing Consultancy services visit natalidrake.com

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Book review: Dutched up! Rocking the clogs expat style

There is a certain expat wisdom in almost every page of the book “Dutched up! Rocking the clogs expat style”. It’s a collection of stories by beloved women bloggers who have all had their share of living in the Netherlands. The book is brought together by two mothers, the European Mama Olga Mecking and Lynn Morrison of the Nomad Mom Diary.

What happens when you throw together the stories of 27 different writers from all over the world? A colorful soup of stories from a vast variety of perspectives, is what happens.

This is both the book’s strength and its weakness. If you have any experience of being a foreigner in the Netherlands, you’ll easily come across several stories that will give you a good chuckle. There’s something for everyone and almost definitely you will find yourself at the same wavelength with certain writers more than others. At the same time the book suffers from a slight repetition, as many of the expressions used are stereotypical. Doe maar gewoon (be normal/less is more) is one of the most famous Dutch sentences and it also hasn’t gone unnoticed by the bloggers as it repeats itself throughout the book. This echo leaves a reader hoping for a bit more effort in the editing process.

This said, the book is wonderfully segmented in well-thought categories. It all starts with the culture shock, goes through topics from learning the language, working and raising a family in the Netherlands to farewell stories among many other subjects which are known to every expat. All in all, the book can be viewed as a bundle of wisdom: “How to deal with leeches” (guests that just won’t stop sucking your hospitality), how to deal with Dutch spouses, kraamzorg or Dutch doctors, to name a few.

Personally, having lived in the Netherlands for over a decade I could easily relate to many of the stories. I do, too, get funny looks in the land of giants, because my bicycle is so darn small and cute and I have, too, accidentally combined the words “dag” and “hoi”, thus telling someone “die” at the end of a conversation. Some stories are surprising and unexpected, such as Kerry Dankers‘ “How to steal back your bike” or Molly Quell‘s awkward conversation with her doctor on “That’s a helluva exam”. You cannot but help reading them out loud to anyone who happens to be around, all the while trying to hold yourself together from folding in double with laughter.

In the end it hit me: now this book is quality entertainment, because I’ve been through similar experiences, but if I got this book in my hands when I first moved to this country, it might’ve saved me from many painful experiences. Depending on your perspective, the book can play either part, the entertainer or the savior – possibly even both. Can’t wait to see if the writers will cook up a part two eventually…

The book is available on Amazon, through The European Mama shop and soon also available at The American Book Center in The Hague.

Dutched up! was first published in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Delft MaMa takes The Hague

Delft MaMa, represented by a group of kind-hearted volunteers, was one of the 140 institutions present at the largest expat fair in the Netherlands.
This annual event organized by The Hague Online in partnership with ACCES  celebrated its 10th edition.

“… have you heard about the most thriving parenting community in the South of Holland? … ” “Delft MaMa is…?” “New in town..?”

and so the day went by at the Feel at Home International Family Fair past Sunday the 5th of February.

From 11 am until 5 pm the City Hall of the Hague, hosted over four thousand people coming from every corner of the world.

Many were the visitors that stopped by to meet and greet a small representation of the people that build our community. Amongst crayons, boxes of raisins, bubble blowing bottles and face painting, our Delft MaMas got engaged with families coming from Canada, Italy, India, China, Japan, England, Hungary and The Netherlands, to name a few.

Complicity smiles and tips about parenting in a third culture environment where joyfully shared.

We hope we will see new faces in the upcoming events real soon!

A big thanks to everyone involved in making this fair a success, before, during and after.     

 

 images of the video by Ildikó Wooning and Eva Sabina Amaral, editing by Ildikó Wooning. Pictures Shadi Parsa, Eva Sabina Amaral and Agnès Batllori

 

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Delft Mama of the week: Feliciana

The first time I met her was just before Christmas. She made me and a bunch of other Delft mamas dance zumba and encouraged all of us in every turn. She was nominated to be the Mom of the week by another mom, and after witnessing her contagious joy, I had to make an appointment for the interview with this Tanzanian wonder.

A former model, a former bank employee and a current zumba teacher, Feliciana, is the mother of Lisa (7) and Max (5) and the wife of Belgian Jonathan. The couple met in Tanzania where some years later Lisa was born. “I always had my family around me when she was born. When [few years later] I had Max in Brussels, I had to do everything by myself from day one, and it was quite the challenge. In Tanzania there’s always someone and you can’t resist the help”, Feliciana tells me over her hot cup of fresh mint tea. She continues explaining how life is easy in her native country, despite poverty, because people live day to day, not taking things too seriously, just enjoying the present moment, because tomorrow is always a mystery.

After living in Brussels the family moved to a small town close to Washington D.C. for a few years before arriving to Delft just two years ago. As much as Feliciana enjoyed her time in the US, she tells me the moment she arrived in Delft, she felt there was something special about this city. “It’s easy to move around, communicating is easy, although I’m learning Dutch now. The Dutch people aren’t very open, but they are very friendly. I enjoy family life here, the environment, the culture, the friendships and the community around me. At the moment I’m very happy here, despite the weather. I used to shave my head, but after moving to Brussels I used to have a runny nose all the time. Having hair makes a big difference, just like dressing in layers”, Feliciana says. Turns out, years of living in colder climates don’t make you cold resistant, but you do learn to deal with it differently.

Feliciana started zumba after Max was born. She was trying to find a hobby that was not too demanding. She loves jogging, but after having some issues with her knees, her doctor told her it wasn’t a good idea to run. She tried yoga, but found it rather uncomfortable. Patiently Feliciana kept on looking and eventually heard about zumba and decided to give it a try. It must’ve been love at first dance, because only a few years later Feliciana was the one giving the lessons to other zumba enthusiasts. She tells me one of her favorite places in the world to do zumba is the powder-white beaches of Zanzibar – the island along the coast of Tanzania – while the sea breeze cools you down. The turquoise water and and white sand sounds like a dream. I ask her to describe zumba to me. Feliciana answers without hesitation: “Zumba is a lot of fun! Afterwards you’ll feel relaxed and it’s not hard. You don’t need to squat or something, just move and enjoy the music. Zumba makes you enjoy life and be happy.” In Delft Feliciana has her Zumba Maisha, which accordingly is Swahili for “Life”. She gives lessons at the Lijm & Cultuur, Womanhood studio and soon also evening lessons at the VAK in the center.

From the looks of it, her plate is full with balancing family life in a new country, teaching zumba and learning Dutch, but this is only half of Feliciana’s story. Apart from trying to do what’s best for her family, she also sees herself in a position of being able to help others. She’s currently setting up a project in Tanzania with the help of her sister, who is a primary school teacher, and some friends. Feliciana has a name in mind for the project and it’s “Love” in her mother tongue. “Love” is aiming to help especially the most vulnerable people; the mothers and single caretakers of children, such as grandmothers. “Now I have to write a business plan. Pigs are a good business at the moment in my country”, Feliciana says excitedly and continues explaining that they will first have a try-out with five women. These women will be educated to care for piglets and turn them into pigs that they can then use as their income by raising and selling. All the ham is currently imported to Tanzania, so Feliciana is already gazing into the future. She hopes her women will eventually be providing ham to local hotels, and sees no problem of expanding the pilot to other animals in the future, as long as the results are promising. If all goes well, Feliciana and her team will have their own industry, a market and can expand while helping the locals on grass-root level.

You’d think with this Feliciana’s plate would surely be full, but she’ll leave you gasping once again (and not because of zumba this time). She’s also looking to start another project in Tanzania that includes building greenhouses to small villages to provide work, food and water regulation to people themselves, instead of being depended on the rain. In the long run employment and independence will improve the conditions in the village and give the villagers more chance to concentrate on giving better education to their children. Feliciana tells me a lot of children are simply left behind, especially girls. She once had a chance to send a girl to a tailoring course. The girl improved, earned an internship and was later employed. “All her friends at the same age already have five children and are stuck in villages in terrible conditions”, Feliciana tells me. By adding education and tangible chances, dependence becomes less.

It’s not a surprise people back in Tanzania have encouraged her to go into politics and run for president, but Feliciana simply laughs at this. “I don’t want to work in politics”, she says and brushes it off with a smile and carries on by saying: “I just want to see these things come alive and work. That’s how I spend my life and hopefully make a difference in people’s lives. You don’t need to make big difference all the time. Sometimes small things are enough.”

Feliciana says fear of failure, or even failure itself don’t discourage her anymore. “Maybe I’m growing up or something”, she happily notes. She used to doubt her own ideas more, but lately just feels like “Bring it on!” I smile at this sentence, because that kind of attitude is exactly what fascinated me about Feliciana when we first met and kept me listening to her inspiring story and uplifting ideas for a good hour. Bring it on.

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International Blogs in the Netherlands

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that the Delft Mama community has a fabulous blog!  With a team of talented writers (even if I do say so myself – I’ve learned to be less modest and more direct in the Netherlands), we aim to provide regular interesting and informative articles.

However there are many other international blogs in the Netherlands that you may enjoy as well.  Some of our members have their own personal blogs and there are many other international blogs in the Netherlands, which I’ve followed for some time.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting most of the the authors in person, but even if you haven’t, what I love about blogs is that the style of writing often feels like you are sitting down with a friend over a cup of tea.  Here are a few of my favourites….and please add yours in a comment below!

Exploring Delft

Alice lives in my neighbourhood in Ypenburg.  Like me, we’re technically just “over the border” from Delft, but as you’ll see by visiting her blog, Delft has captured our heart.  Actually, I must do some research, I believe our part of Ypenburg used to be within the Delft city limits, and we still have 015- phone numbers.  Anyway….Alice is Dutch but writes in English and shares a lot of great information about shops, restaurants and special places in Delft.

European Mama

Olga is The European Mama and writes about parenting, travelling, cooking and living the European life.  She also guest posts on many other sites, including big names like Huffington Post.

Dutch Dutch Goose

Elizabeth is also an Ypenburg resident, originally from the US but living here while her husband pursues his PhD at TU Delft.  Their family has travelled widely and she shares it all with her readers.

Kristen in Clogland

Like me, Kristen is an Australian who married a Dutchie, and has now settled long-term in the Netherlands.  She lives in beautiful Maassluis, but is a regular visitor to Delft.  She’s quite new to blogging but has already shared lots of great stories and tips.

On Raising Bilingual Children

Originally from Canada, Eowyn is now based in The Hague and shares lots of very useful information and tips about raising children bilingually.

Finding Dutchland

Rina Mae has a talent for combining words and glorious images to give us a new perspective of this country which she’s adopted as her home, after moving here from the US.  She’s also co-author of a brand new book launching this month called The Happiest Kids in The World: Bringing up children the Dutch Way.

Invading Holland

Ex-Brit Stu has a delightful sense of humour and illustrates his insights.  And he has t-shirts to match!  The “Dutch Circle Party Survivor” has to be my favourite!

Dutched Up!

Ok, technically a book and not a blog, but brings together 36 women expat bloggers in the Netherlands to share experiences of their life here.  Each has their own blog you can visit, but this book is a great way to enjoy a variety of writing styles all in one place – and you’re bound to identify with at least one, if not many more of the stories!

Dutchified

Again a little different, this is a vlog (video log) rather than a blog… I love these beautifully produced short videos focussing on travel and food.

Stuff Dutch People Like

This blog has become wildly successful, with a Facebook page and corresponding books.  Created by Canadian Colleen Genske, it’s easy to see why – it’s an intelligent but also hilarious insight into life in the Netherlands.

Delft Mama Blogs

After writing the list above, I asked in the Delft MaMa Facebook group which of our members had a blog.  A couple double up with those above, but I’m still including them in this list to make clear they are part of the Delft MaMa community.  I’ve not yet had a chance to check them all out but it’s great to know there are so many bloggers in our midst and this list will be handy to come back to again and again.  Language in brackets if it’s not (only) in English.  I have also run out of time to add in descriptions but also thought it could be fun this way, you can click on one of these treasure trove and just see where you end up!

If you are also part of the Delft MaMa community and have a blog, or if you own one of these blogs and would like to share more about it, please comment below or in the Facebook group.

Other Parenting groups in The Netherlands 

There are several other blogs covering other locations in the Netherlands that are also well worth a look:

And probably other ones I’m missing, so if you know of one, add it in a comment below!

My own blogs 

I’m a blogging addict myself and actually have several, which I post to when I have time.  Over the years haves shared tips and experiences  you may find interesting.    On Dutch Australian, I write about my life between two countries.  Culture and Kids  is about – well – as the name says!  I particularly enjoy visiting museums with my daughters and then writing about the experience, and happy to have guest bloggers do the same!  Professional Parents began as part of my search for family work balance and Zestee is my own business blog, mostly about social media and elearning, but I’m also blogging about my Masters.   Kids English Club is one I started with my daughters – we haven’t had much time to work on this one yet but hope to in the future!

Your blog

Do you have your own blog?  If so, please share in a comment below so we can check it out!  And if not – why not start one today?!  You can sign up at www.wordpress.com in minutes, and there are also many other blogging platforms.  Or you may like to guest blog for Delft Mama or other blogs?

Any thoughts on blogging most welcome in a comment below.

Renee

 

 

 

 

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Sparkle

Lights heart Delft
December lights at the Blue Heart (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

“What time is it?”, she asks impatientely running through the front door. She glances at the clock and with a sigh she sits on the sofa. Just in time for Sinterklaasjournaal. The presents are still empty, the cake is still not baked properly. I could really get annoyed with these plots, they are every year the same (big spoiler ahead, yes, it all ends well, pakjesavond will be a succes). But I am not. I am nostalgically enjoying the last remains of a childhood mirage. Her eyes sparkle in front of the TV, her remarcs are fun.

Sinterklaas intocht Delft
Sinterklaas intocht in Delft (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

I am sure the term Sinterklaas is something most of you hear all the time these days. Even if you are new in The Netherlands you simply cannot miss the Sint Nicholaas celebrations. Even though Saint Nicholas is celebrated in quite a few other Europeans countries, the way it is done in the Nederlands is unique. Your kids might be glued to the TV ever since Sinterklaas arrived by steam boat to the Netherlands and follow the exciting Sinterklaasjournaal like my 12-year-old daughter still does. You probably went and waved the arrival of the Sint in Delft and saw the Piets on their jetskis. Your child might be begging you to put his or her shoe at the fireplace every night and hopes really hard it will be filled next morning.

Just a few more days and December will start. With first Sinterklaas pakjesavond of course. Let’s be honest, it can be overwhelming a bit, there are so many things happening. So many lights and meals and celebrations, Christmas, Santa Lucia, Hannukkah, New Year’s and even Three Kings in January. But besides all the fuss, presents, family outings and travelling, there are so many nice and cosy and fun things to do in Delft. These can bring some amazing sparkle to your December days and nights.

It all starts with the now famous Lichtjesavond, this year on the 13th of December. I remember the first time I went, my daughter was only two years old. I remember her big eyes, her excitement, the red nose and cheeks and the fun we had that freezing night. She looked amazed at the podium performaces and she was extatic when the big Christmas tree got its lights on. A sparkling evening treat.

Christmas tree Delft
The Christmas tree in the Markt, the city’s eye catcher (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

What I am most looking forward to is the ice skaing ring that is returnig to Delft this year. Other than the years before, it will be located at the TU Delft, so a bit further away form the old center. But I already know we will have loads of fun, skating, laughing and inhaling fresh, crispy air in our longs. And occasionally enjoying a glühwein or a hot chocolate.

ice skating ring Delft
The Ice skating ring at the Beestenmarkt in 2014 (picture by Oriana van der Sande)

Have a look at all the activities, you will be surprised. See a Christmas concert or a show, visit the new Christmas market, or shop till 23.00 and have some drinks afterwards, on your child free night. Add some sparkle in your December month. We all need that during these long, cold and dark days. Find this sparkle at De Donkere Dagen van Delft

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