Uprooting your life and moving abroad is often an isolating and all-consuming experience, no matter how many times you may have done it before. The highs are high, but the lows are sometimes lower than you could have ever fathomed.
Change is the only constant, as the trite cliche goes, but when life throws changes at you left and right, there’s little comfort to be found in dusty old cliches. That’s where I found myself before my conversation with Eva Amaral – weary and a tad emotionally disheveled after yet another move. Albeit, this time it was within the Netherlands, but far enough from Delft to register as a move away from “home.”
Little did I know that an interview in which I was supposed to be finding out about Eva’s coaching business was just what I needed to go back to the core of what I want. Because that’s what Eva does, with warmth, honesty and a gentle nudge – she helps her clients make sense of their values in the midst of topsy-turvy lives.
Next in our Delftian entrepreneur series, Delft MaMa Natalia Moreno sat down with Gemma Rubio, the energetic entrepreneur behind Define The Fine. Join us as Gemma talks about her business and how she strives for a healthy work-family balance, especially as a single mother.
Join us for the second post in our Delftian Entrepreneurs series (read the first post here) as Delft MaMa Julia Candy introduces us to Jie Li, aka the Cake Researcher. Read about this phenom of a woman who balances an academic career, motherhood, and a bustling side hustle.
Delft Mama’s own “Legal Mom,” Marisa Monteiro Borsboom, will be leading the “Legal Mom” column for the Delft Mama Blog. In this column, she and her team will address questions submitted from the community about personal or business legal issues. As an extremely diverse multinational/cultural community, we should expect to see very interesting topics for everyone to consider.
Renny Wiegerink works with Dutch and expat women in her business,Auryn Acupunctuur en Advies voor vrouwen(Acupuncture and Advice for Women), which is based out of her home in Delft Noord. From the eastern part of the Netherlands, she moved to Delft 25 years ago. She knows how it feels to have to move around in a strange place/culture. A long-time collaborator with Delft MaMa, Renny values being able to share her experience and knowledge as a native Dutch person with expats. When planning the Delftian Entrepreneurs Series for the DMM blog, I knew I wanted to start with Renny. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and join us! Read more
In 2007, Lucie Cunningham set out with an idea to start Delft MaMa. She never imagined the impact it would have on the community and countless lives over the years. We sat down with Lucie, Delft Mama’s founder, to learn more about her personal story, how it all got started and how things have evolved. Read more
In See you at DULI, we met easy-going Carolina Nesi of DULI, a place where you can find international/multilingual books for children and adults, as well as workshops and courses aimed at both children and adults. Carolina has a passion for books and it shows in the book-filled interior of the small shop. The centerpiece of the shop, however, is a long table that can seat children and/or adults for courses and workshops. This piece focuses on one series of workshops for parents: the Parents’ Evenings at DULI.
Engaging topics made accessible
Sitting with Carolina over a cup of coffee, she described how she started to feel suffocated by the lack of adult stimulation in the daily grind of raising young children (sound familiar?). This was her biggest motivation in setting up Parents’ Evenings at DULI. Held in the shop after-hours, these evenings create a space for parents to participate in a discussion, usually of a philosophical nature, led by an expert in the field.
Carolina admits that English is not a strong language for her, and she was committed to ensuring the workshops would be accessible to a diverse group. To facilitate the accessibility, group sizes are limited, with an expert giving a presentation to no more than 10 people seated around the table. The presentation is interspersed with opportunities for questions and discussions. In fact, as a deaf person who normally struggles with lipreading and following conversations in a group environment, I found it easy to follow along with everyone in this format.
Starting last spring, the Parents’ Evenings covered topics ranging from happiness to internet safety and international childhood. When asked how she chose the topics, Carolina replied that she simply asked people what they were curious about. She then looked around for experts that best fit the topics. While the coordination of it all can be quite daunting at times, Carolina maintains a ‘learn-by-doing’ attitude as she plans more Parents’ Evenings in the coming months. [From the editor: there’s a sneak peek at the autumn Parents’ Evenings schedule at the end of this article!]
So, what are these Parents’ Evenings like? Last April I joined one; let’s take a look!
A first-hand look at Parents’ Evening at DULI
“Raising a Child of the World”—held at DULI last April—was led by Dr. Ute Limacher-Riebold of Ute’s International Lounge. Ute was perfectly suited to lead this talk both personally and professionally. Her research focuses on multilingualism and international families, and she herself grew up as an expat and is raising her expat family in the Netherlands.
The description of her talk referred to “third culture kids” – children who grow up in a country/culture different from that of their parents (first defined by Ruth Hill Useem). I’d read a bit of Pollock and van Reken’s Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, so I was curious to see what Ute would bring to the table (no pun intended).
There were six of us in attendance, all of us representing different nationalities and language backgrounds. After starting with introductions, we learned about collective experiences of international children growing up outside their parents’ home culture.
Ute likened our international kids to plants in pots—a plant in a pot is much more mobile than a plant in the ground. However, it needs special nurturing in order to thrive. Depending where that plant-in-a-pot is located, different kinds of nurturing is needed. When transitioning to a new place, our kids also need different kinds of special nurturing to ensure that they can adjust well and thrive in the new environment.
Throughout Ute’s talk, we had opportunities to ask questions and share our own observations. Ute’s personable approach made us feel that our input was valuable to the discussion. The setting of the talk created a feeling of information-sharing rather than being lectured at by an expert. I left feeling empowered with more tools in my mama toolkit to help my daughter thrive as a multilingual and multicultural child.
Parents’ Evenings at DULI in a nutshell
Parents’ Evenings give us the opportunity to explore engaging topics in an accessible format, and allows us to bring up burning questions with an expert in the field. On top of that, it is a chance to have stimulating and eye-opening conversations with a dynamic group of people. All in all, a fabulous night out.
I look forward to seeing the new talks Carolina arranges next. On my wish list is a talk about balancing personal goals with the responsibilities of parenthood. What kinds of topics are on your wish list?
DULI Delft (www.dulidelft.nl) is located at Nieuwe Langedijk, 13, just off Markt in Delft. Check their website for opening hours, and check out this blog post introducing us to DULI.
Ute’s International Lounge – The homepage of Dr. Ute Limacher-Riebold, showcasing her work and current offerings—including, consultancy, book club meetings, and courses.
Third Culture Kids: Growing up among worlds, written by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken (sends you to Amazon.de page)
From the editor:
Curious about upcoming Parents’ Evenings at DULI?
Thursday, 13 September | Elegance of Living – Introduction to Access Bars. Aimed at creating a world of consciousness and oneness, where everything exists and nothing is judged, Access Bars is a gentle hands-on technique that quiets the mind.
Thursday, 18 October | The Science of Happiness—led by Mrs. Anna Blasiak—introduces us to scientific facts about happiness; and we discuss the role of our actions and attitude on attaining happiness.
Ever since I started writing about the moms of the week for Delft MaMa blog, I’ve been asking those who I interview to nominate other mothers to be the next moms of the week. The list is ever-growing, but sometimes someone is nominated multiple times and it’s time to get to know them better. This is exactly the case with our mom of the week, Olga, who has been nominated by others who look up to her every now and again.
Although Olga lives in Rijswijk these days, she’s one of the Delft MaMa pioneers. She joined the playgroup that used to gather at St. Olofspark back in the day. Olga joined after she got someone call the police on her, so her journey so far has been not only long, but a noteworthy one as well. “I reached out and it was fantastic. It’s all the support you get. If you have a problem, you know someone who may know the answer, or at least they might know someone who knows the answer,” Olga says.
She’s sitting across the table from me in Bagels & Beans on the Markt, which she chose for us to meet. Olga orders macha latte, a very trendy drink indeed. “It’s Japanese green tea powder,” she clarifies while sipping her healthy looking drink.
Olga was born in Poland, but partly grew up in Germany. Her parents spoke several languages to her in her youth and when Olga did Erasmus exchange program in Hamburg, she met her German now husband, Nikolai. His studies took him to Winnipeg, Canada, where Olga followed, just to try her wings since given the chance. She loved her time in Canada, although she spent that time working in telemarketing and customer service, which is ironic because Olga has always found talking on the phone difficult. In the end she’s glad she did it, as it gave her a yet broader perspective of the world around her. After the year in Canada, the couple moved back to Germany, where their first-born, Klara (8), was born and soon enough the family settled in Delft. In the years to follow Klara got company from her little sister, Julia (6), and little brother, Markian (4).
By the time they settled down, Olga had lived on two continents, four countries and countless addresses. It’s no wonder when figuring out her national identity, Olga found it very natural to refer to herself as a European Mama for her blog.
Having studied German in the University, she wasn’t exactly sure what was in the future for her. Before she started blogging, she thought blogging was for people who mainly wrote about themselves. Little did she know there already was a whole community out there with similar feelings and experiences to her. Accidentally, she tumbled into blogging and over the years found her audience growing. “What I don’t understand about blogging is that everyone tells you to find your niche and stick to it. After a while I get bored about a subject,” Olga says.
Even with blogging, Olga has been following her own intuition and has been writing about what she gets inspired about. Currently she’s responsible for one major parenting newsletter and writing paid articles about various subjects, ranging from motherhood to tech. She’s also working on publishing her grandfather’s text about his experiences. “It’s his story in a holocaust. He lived in Ukraine, but moved to Warsaw when situation was getting tough there and they thought it would be safer in Poland. They got caught in Warsaw uprising and his first wife died. I was thinking what would have happened if she survived. I wouldn’t be here. I think I owe her my life in a way,” Olga says and struggles finding the words about what she means to her.
Personally, I’ve known Olga since 2011, and every time I meet her, she leaves me with more questions than what I had in mind before meeting up with her. Even though this time I came to her with a bunch of questions, when our time together is up, she still manages to intrigue my curiosity to the point that this expectation is yet again met.
I met Marie for first time last year when she started hosting the Delft MaMa playgroup. She is currently the playgroup coordinator and she’s taking part in several other DMM projects as well.
We sit down together on display on the window of Hummus in Delft and order hot beverages. It’s Saturday and she’s coming straight from mindfulness yoga. It fits the first impression I had of her: a calm mom oozing nothing but serenity, but Marie tells me laughing her yoga classes were a gift from her husband, who hopes she can find it easier to relax a bit. Marie has been called too serious all her life, because of her amazing drive and ambition, so she has made a conscious effort of finding ways to loosen up a bit. To her luck, becoming a mother has been one of the things that has helped her in her quest.
Marie has been calling the Netherlands home for a few years. She used to travel a lot first for her studies: a scholarship took her from her home in the US to Paris when she was only 16, and later during her undergraduate studies Marie spent a semester in Brazil, two summers in Russia and one summer in Paris, where she also completed her master’s degree. Later in life her project based work took her from Scotland to Singapore and everywhere in between. She loves Brazil and says Vietnam is one of her favorite countries. But the love of her life, a Chinese man Junzi, Marie met by coincidence in the Netherlands.
When Marie was expecting their son, now a 1-year-old William, the married couple decided to settle down in Delft. Earlier having spent her time visiting new countries and cities every two to three weeks, Marie was sure she’d go out of her mind in such a small place as Delft. She had good friends in The Hague and in Haarlem, but she was missing a closer safety net. “When I first had William, I wasn’t meeting others very much, but I knew about Delft MaMa. When he was 5-6 months old, I decided to come to the playgroup”, Marie says. Meeting other moms allowed her to create her own social circles in Delft and thanks to this simple plan followed by action she’s much more involved in the community and to her surprise has yet to feel bored in the beautiful medieval town.
Marie speaks several languages fluently (English, French, Portuguese, Russian) and is constantly pushing the envelope with useful things to learn. She is currently taking Dutch lessons and teaching herself Chinese and she’s soon traveling to China with William to stay with her in-laws for a month to get more immersed in the language. She has always been hard-working and extremely driven at school and at work. Before becoming a mother, she describes herself as having been “definitely workaholic”. As one might assume, it has been a big adjustment fitting in the stay-at-home-mom shoes.
Lately Marie has been increasingly thinking about returning to work. The original plan – to return to work when William was three months old – didn’t go through. She realized the plans she had made before the birth of her child weren’t what she wanted and she listened to her heart instead. “Outsiders often think I’m calm, but I feel it’s the opposite! The main struggle now is should I go back to work or should I stay with William,” Marie explains.
The struggle is familiar to if not all, to most mothers. Marie says she knows she shouldn’t compare her own situation to her friends who are working in very prestigious positions around the world, but she can’t help but think about the opportunities she had, the good schools she went to and the professional ambition she to this day has. Now that William is one year old, Marie started to apply to again. She has sent out tons of applications, but hasn’t gotten that much interesting feedback. “It’s always difficult when you’re used to having a job and now I have to think how much I want a certain job and how much I want to stay at home with William. He’ll never be young again, but maybe if I stay out of work too long, I might have more difficulties finding a good job”, Marie says.
She often thinks about why work is so important for people in general. In the more distant past people didn’t define themselves by their work, but now it seems to be one of the first questions people ask each other. Before Marie didn’t mind this question at all, but lately she noticed how defining this question sounds. “It makes you think why do we value work so much as the value of the individual, when it doesn’t represent much at all. Of course it can, but oftentimes it doesn’t,” Marie says and explains how these days a specific job isn’t always what someone chooses to do, as it depends a lot about circumstances one can’t control. “If I’m philosophical enough I’d say would it matter if I’m working or not? What I’m doing is probably more valuable than what a lot of work people do,” she rightfully says at the end of our talk.
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.