Liz, China



“People here call me Liz, but my real name is Xiaoyi. I was born in Jinan in Shandong Province. When I was 23 years old, I was selected by the government to be posted to Cardiff in Wales to teach Chinese language and culture. But when I wanted to go home a few years later, all my plans suddenly got into another direction…”


“I had not intended to come and live in the Netherlands. I flew from Cardiff to Paris and wanted to stay there for another two months. Then I would fly on from Amsterdam. I already had the plane ticket and even the booking for a PCR test. In the meantime, my government adjusted the corona rules and I couldn't go home before my visa expired. I was stuck between shore and ship.”


“In Leiden I could stay for a while with a compatriot. I immediately called the Immigration and Naturalization Service to arrange a new visa and that actually worked. Then I had to think about my next steps. It was an uncertain and difficult time but I think it was my destiny. I'm destined to stay here. I try not to resist what is to come because that will only make my life more difficult. I am learning Dutch now and looking for a job. In the meantime, I often call my parents, who were worried at first, but not anymore. I am, of course, an only child, like everyone else my age.”


“I think I am an exception in the Chinese community in Leiden. Most of them are scientific researchers at the university. It's one of the largest groups of all Dutch cities, I think, but I don't have much contact with them. In the meantime, I did find the Hong Ying Chinese Martial Arts Center in Leiden. There I give guest lessons in a modern form of Tai Chi. Every two weeks we bring 10-15 students together and learn the next part of a regular routine. I have found my community here. Giving these classes is a passion of mine, even if I can't make a living from them.”


“Leiden exudes tranquillity and peace. It is both modern and historic. I feel welcome here. Kung fu has taught me to stay resilient and positive about my life and the future. The future will tell. If you believe in it, any miracle can happen.”