“I speak four languages!” is the first thing I hear when I step into the living room. It is the seven-year-old Miku, Mayumi's daughter, who is playing with her two younger sisters, while they sit on the floor. “English, Dutch, Japanese and French.” The Japanese mother smiles at her child and looks at her husband, who is from Quebec.
“They are very international,” she says, pouring me some tea. “The first was born in the US, the second in Germany and the third here, in Leiden. That's because we both worked for Cirque du Soleil, through which we travelled the world for many years. I was the athletic trainer for the artists and Pierre-Luc was on the technical staff. He worked there for 20 years and I worked there for 12 years.”
“My first time in the Netherlands was when our tour brought us to Amstelveen in 2016. I was pleasantly surprised that people in the Netherlands were so open. And that even the cashier in the supermarket spoke English when she helped me with a debit card that didn't work. We were immediately sold. When we looked for a place to settle down shortly afterwards, the choice was quickly made. Also, with regard to Leiden by the way. After spending a week in different cities to orientate ourselves, we immediately fell in love when we arrived here. After a year of living here, we bought our own house.”
“I now work as a health coach for mothers. We women have to endure a lot physically during pregnancy. I've had three, that's a total of 120 weeks! It is not easy for our bodies, but we just take it for granted – like it's part of it. Postpartum we experience a lot of physical stress and aches and pains that are surprisingly easy to remedy. But women often don't know how. I teach them how to do this in everyday life.”
“Leiden suits us well. It's so international. There is much to do, but it is still nice and quiet in our neighbourhood. You can go everywhere by bike. But the main reason is our children. They should be able to enjoy their lives and feel free. That would be more difficult in Japan, because expectations of their behaviour are stricter. I want them to be able to just be kids without any prejudice. And of course, I want them to continue practicing their four languages with all the new international friends they already have,” she adds with a smile.