When Hendrik Willem got the job offer for UWC Changshu last November (which seems like ages ago!) we soon realized that Changshu is not a big international city like Shanghai. So the question I got asked the most in the previous months was: “What will you be doing in China, Mirjam?” After spending more than 20 years in Human Resources in various corporate settings, I decided this was a great opportunity to change gear and do something different: develop my coaching skills and start coaching in China. Knowing that these things take time, I had no expectations at all to land any kind of job soon. Developing myself and build a network would be my focus for the next 2 years. And I was very fine with the outlook of that sabbatical….

I was just 4 days in quarantine when a job landed in my lap. Out of the blue. The nearby University, Changshu Institute for Technology, has a need for a foreign teacher to teach “Interpersonal Communication skills” for a group of students who will go on an exchange to the US in 2021. And on top of that they asked me to add some teaching hours “English as a Second Language”.  I happily accepted as this is a great opportunity to become active in the local community and to learn more about the Chinese culture. And with that I am suddenly brought back to my roots, when I graduated as a teacher about 20 years ago! I never had the experience to teach, but with Hendrik Willem as an expert beside me, and a whole campus with similar experts surrounding me, I am positive I will manage.

“I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”

Astrid Lindgren , Pippi Longstocking


But of course this does not mean my other plan comes to a stop. The teaching job is only a few hours per week, so the rest of my days I am busy networking, finding interesting development programs and getting to understand the way of doing business in China. And enjoying my sabbatical 🙂

Hendrik Willem also went back to his roots, but in a different way. His passion for playing football has never faded. Since he was a little boy he played football and ever since it has been a big part of his social life. And even though with age the game becomes somewhat slower and more painful at times (especially the next day…) he always found a way to play. In Dubai, where he played sometimes with temperatures above 40 degrees, he found a football team before we even moved there! And the last few months he played with his old team in the Netherlands. One could say that football is like coming home, his happy place, it’s where he can release tension and build long lasting friendships.
With the upcoming move to China, and being 45, he had expected that he had played his last game in the Netherlands last september. Surely he would not find a team in Changshu where he could play. He was getting “too old for this shit” and perhaps it was time to say goodbye to a long lasting passion and start something new….

Being 2 days out of home isolation, Hendrik Willem was back on the field again, playing his much loved footie with the students. And not long after that he was asked to join the schools Faculty team. So there you go: 45 and up and running, – ok well maybe a little bit less of the running, but what’s in age anyway?

So yes, we are both finding our way in jobs, friendships, hobbies. Settling in our new life here in Changshu.

See y'all!

Discovering the neighborhood street-food market with our neighbors Rich & Jodie!