The year twenty-ugh


2020 has been an absolutely chaotic year. It’s been a continuous rollercoaster with no end in sight. Or maybe that’s just life. It feels like 2020 is the life lesson. We are such vulnerable creates in the face of nature. Yes, people bring destruction, horror and pain to each other and to the world we all have to share. But nature bitch slapped us all into a global halt. And even then, some people still want to prove they’re stronger. I don’t blame them. It’s not exactly human nature to be submissive to anything. That’s most likely what got us here in the first place, anyway. But what does seem crazy to me, is this apparently incessant need to be better and to escape a perfectly chaotic world as it already is, and continuously causing more destruction.


I am rather annoyed. This year has been perfectly chaotic for me, too. It’s thrown my whole life upside down, and I also felt a continuous need to prove myself and that I am capable to adapt, too. I up and left Shanghai on January 27th, escaping the virus in China. By that time it had partly shut down the country. Especially Wuhan of course, but also Shanghai started measuring our temperatures before entering clubs, flights started cancelling, and I lost my job. Well, I still had the job, but I had no working hours anymore, and no income. I did, of course, have rent to pay. And so it seemed like a good solution to come back to The Netherlands where I hadn’t been for nearly 3 years. Setting off with just my one suitcase, I left the rest of my stuff in our shared apartment in Shanghai, feeling rather excited for a holiday to Europe. Turns out that China did a much better job at handling the virus than the rest of the world did. About a month later, the country announced foreigners weren’t allowed to enter the country anymore. And so, here I am. To stay.


All the rest of my belongings arrived just two weeks ago, after having waited for 5 months since they got packed up by a terrible company that did zilch for reassuring me my stuff would actually arrive one day. My awesome friend did try and comfort me by saying that I could just buy clothes again. Which is obviously true. They don’t hold too much value to me, other than some sentimental pieces. But my diploma, diaries, notebooks, presents from my adorable students, those are irreplaceable. But I am skipping ahead slightly. What happened in the meantime was actually rather exciting. I applied for a MA degree in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, and cried happy tears when I read the email notifying my admission had been accepted! What a day. I still had to show them proof of my diploma, though, which I couldn’t do because that, along with my other stuff, was still somewhere boating on an ocean.

Now we live in October, 2020. The degree is proving itself to be very difficult and I’m wondering if I can cope and make it to the end, I live in a most amazing apartment in a gorgeous spot in Amsterdam, and my parents are only a 20- minute drive away! We haven’t lived this close, hell, even on the same continent since the last 7 years. They’re coming for dinner tonight, and if we wanted to, we could see each other again tomorrow, next week Wednesday, or next next week Friday. That’s been fantastic!


All in all, chaos. The good and the bad. A lifetime fit into one year. Madness and happiness. And quite frankly, I’m rather exhausted. I still count myself lucky: I haven’t lost anyone to COVID-19, and although The Netherlands is seeing virus-related ignorance and a huge rise in COVID affected people, we are still free to roam and bars and restaurants only close at 22:00. Plenty of time for a meal, a good chat, and at least two glasses of liquid courage (liquid motivation at this point).


Can we all just try to be a little better, a little kinder and a little more gentle towards others and the world around us? Can we wake up just a little bit more and take care of the planet and our friends and family? I am exhausted, and I find myself leaning more and more towards these things that I find make my day just a little bit better. It’s just nicer to feel better than to act and feel like shit.

A Moment of Appreciation

Oh, How I wish
I knew.

Oh, How I wish I knew
that those moments with you
would be imprinted on my heart
But nowhere else.

Oh, how I wish I knew
that your secret call for attention
was an act of love nothing more.
No, nothing less.

It is through this pain,
that what I wish I knew
becomes what I know now.

And what I know now
gives me everything
that I wish I knew before.

What is change? It is our only constant.

I learned at a very young age that life doesn’t go according to plan. At least not your own plan. (I don’t know if I believe in fate, though.)
At the age of 11 my biggest goal was attending the high school my brother went to. It was the ‘coolest’ high school in our area, and I always thought my big brother was cool. Right to this day, of course. I had achieved my goal, and my new life at high school was waiting for me. I enjoyed it for about six weeks, and then my family and I moved to South Africa.
That is a massive change for a 12 year old. I am not all too familiar with children, since I do not have any. I have also never really been surrounded by children outside of school life and what a person comes across on a  daily basis. But I remember that life at the age of 12 still ended and started again every minute. Maybe every hour by that time. But all of that changed rapidly when the entire world I knew was replaced by a different reality. One that those around me were familiar with but I was not. It was a confusing time; it was many things.

13 years later, I am so grateful for that change and the lesson I learned from this experience. When it was announced we were moving to a new country, it became so clear to me that the only constant thing in life is change. I starting taking note of all the things that did not go according to plan, and the things that did not follow my desires. And I only observed. It didn’t make me feel upset or afraid. I became so comfortable with change, and change became my normal. Sure I was upset if I didn’t get something I wanted for my birthday, or if other desires weren’t fulfilled in some way. But the unknown made me excited and I realised that when a plan changes, my previous expectations suddenly wouldn’t play a role in the new experience. This only fuelled my excitement every time. I learned that if I go into an experience with little to no expectations, I am so much more present in the moment. I take note of the little things I would have otherwise missed looking forward; only looking forward. The way I made choices started to change, leaving room for unexpected but at times necessary side roads. I wasn’t consciously building that into my plan, but I generally felt less attached to what I wanted and had in mind.
That doesn’t mean I always weigh out my options in the best way, though. Perhaps at times I have been too lax when it comes to decision making. But something I am trying to work on is being present all the time. That includes being present when planning for something that will take place in the future. I think setting goals is still important. But I think that it is through being present in every moment of your life that the idea of what you truly want and need will be more clearer than ever.

I am at these cross roads now. Last month I graduated from a master’s degree in Chinese Philosophy. I had no idea what I wanted or where I wanted to be the most. As I’m writing this I still cannot answer these questions clearly. As I’m writing this, I am reminding myself that that is okay. Like all the unknown situations before, I now find myself there again. Only on a slightly bigger and more intimidating scale. Wanting to make my own money but doing what job, choosing a place to settle for a while, all these choices…
Four months ago I had three criteria: 1) Not staying in China, 2) If I would stay in China (because that decision would give me many options) I would not stay in Shanghai, 3) If I would look for a job in China, I would definitely not become another one of those English teachers.
Here I am. In China, in Shanghai, teaching English (and maths). Did I fail? I felt like I did for a while. I still feel like I have failed sometimes. But what I didn’t know and didn’t include in my criteria is that I actually enjoy the work I do. I am tutoring, not teaching a whole class and I enjoy working with kids. I have discovered they are really funny, and their questions inspire a sense of creativity within me. I am earning my rent and extra money for other ideas I have, which are obviously subject to change. I am in the country where Chinese philosophy is likely to be most present. And I am seeing new opportunities for in my future that I could have missed out on had I not stayed here. Things that make me excited and feel happy, things that challenge me and help me grow. I now see being in China as the biggest part of my process of self-cultivation, living in and with a culture that is so different from my own. But it is through this idea of accepting and going along with change, (and the poster I have in my room reminding me to ‘make life interesting, not perfect’), that I am making the most of everything I am going through every day and doing the best that I can with the resources I have. And I think that is pretty cool.

A quick Thank You to my friend Augi, who inspired me to write. What came out was definitely helpful for myself. Maybe even helpful for you.

Totally unrelated, yet very true t-shirt wisdom of the day: “I have no drinking problem. I drink, I get drunk. I fall down. No problem. Bermuda.”


In this section people from across the globe will share a bit of them with you. They talk about one of their 
native idioms or sayings, and tell you how it relates to a part of their life. Respect, love, joy and humanity are at the centre of this chapter.

Thailand (Thai)


(Pronounce as: Kra-Tai-Mhaii-Chan)

“This Thai expression means Cry for the Moon. It is my favourite because it involves the moon. Every time I hear it, I picture a chilly night and a big, bright and yellow moon in the sky. When I was young, and as many others were young, I believe we had a similar experience looking for a sheer rabbit stamped on the moon as we listen to various tales and bed night stories.

The meaning of this Thai expression is longing for something impossible. In this case specifically, a man fell in love with an out of reach woman. I am not a man, nor am I in love. But I do love the romance that comes with this expression. For me, the rabbit has every right to fall in love with anything he wants. It doesn’t matter if people see him as a fool and even if he was a fool, it is still very romantic to me.

Personally, this saying has nothing to do with being pessimistic. It rather represents freedom of a heart that has a clear, loud voice. And I hope that whoever looks at the moon in the night sky can also feel that freeing energy from it. Feeling in your little right to love, to feel that towards anything or anyone out there. I hope the moon is kind and generous enough for every rabbit out there.”



In this section people from across the globe 
will share a bit of them with you. 
They talk about one of their native idioms or sayings, 
and tell you how it relates to a part of their life. 
Respect, love, joy and humanity 
are at the centre of this chapter.

Vietnam (Vietnamese)

Anh đi anh nhớ quê nhà,
Nhớ canh rau muống, nhớ cà dầm tương.
Nhớ ai dãi nắng dầm sương,
Nhớ ai tát nước bên đường hôm nao
“This saying is about a man who travels away from home, but his heart always remains there. He misses the simple dishes the poor in Vietnam usually eat, such as morning glory soup. He misses the girl he loves, who worked hard under the sun.
It’s about the love Vietnamese people feel for their home when they are away from it. Because home is such a special place for us all, and there is no place like it. But sometimes it is only the feeling that we have. It’s a pretty memory. But when you go back, the people, the scenery, the town itself may not be the same. Just like the man from this saying, he misses the hometown from his memory.
I have also experienced this. I have beautiful memories of my hometown from when I was a child.  Now whenever I go back home, it’s bittersweet because I realise how much things have changed. I think this idiom conveys the feelings one has for their hometown that is no longer there, the memories that have gone too, and the people one once loved, who have since moved on.”