By Alexandra Paucescu
Get a vision and get strong!
That’s one life motto by which Elaine Engelbrecht lives her life these days. When you are in the diplomatic world, you certainly need to get strong. Frequent relocations, new environment, uncomfortable situations… they’re all part of a not very well known picture. And the stress… let’s not mention the stress of any international move… Elaine tells me: ‘as a nomad by heart, I’m always excited about the next adventure at the horizon, as this kind of life offers many opportunities to travel and to be exposed to new cultures, but the other side of it is packing up and saying goodbye to nice people you’ve met in different places. It’s always hard to start all over again’.
She’s South African by birth and Dutch by marriage; she has lived and worked in Taiwan, Libya, The Netherlands, China and Pakistan, so you could say she is a true citizen of the world and an expert in relocation and reinvention. ‘My educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in music, a TEFL certification to teach English as a foreign language, a Postgraduate in Education, and I’m currently studying towards a second bachelor’s degree in English education and becoming a certified copywriter’, she says.
But this life takes its toll on everyone, while also opening up new windows of opportunity for those sharp enough to notice them. After moving back to the Netherlands, from a diplomatic mission to Pakistan, with her husband, Arjen and their two dogs, Lara and Sparky, she suddenly started getting unexplained bad lower back pain which often woke her up in the middle of the night.
She recalls: ‘I’d have to take pills just to get back to sleep. So, I turned to ‘Google doctor’ and found all kinds of scary diagnoses, from kidney stones to cancer. Thankfully, I also found an article about the connection between my symptoms and root chakra imbalance and I decided to give the suggested healing advice a try. To rebalance the root chakra, one must reconnect with nature and listen to singing bowl music, tone C. After only 4 days of doing so, the pain was gone!’
She had healed herself and then thought: ‘why not apply this concept to piano learning?’ And so, she created the Chakra Piano books, a holistic program for young beginners (available on Amazon*). She confesses that ‘writing has always been a creative and therapeutic outlet. In 2015 I wrote a fantasy adventure chapter book, which received a publishing offer from Oxford University Press in early 2020. Unfortunately, due to COVID-related budget cuts, things did not work out after all but I’ll be self-publishing the series before the end of the year instead.
I feel the happiest when I’m creating something.’ … So, she created also a Facebook group called ‘Creative Diplomatic Spouses’. ‘I thought a group like this could be a nice platform for us, creatives, to promote our work, since so many of us are doing such things like beautiful cakes, cards, table decorations, books or paintings. Secondly, I thought the group would be a great place where creatives could connect. For example, if a writer is looking for an illustrator, why not ask in the group? ‘
She is full of nice ideas and diligently puts them all into practice. She is a teacher, a writer, holds a blog and she is also a student again. She advises other spouses to be unafraid to speak up about their prior training and future career goals. She thinks that, especially after Covid days, many have become more aware of the possibilities to work remotely or to start up mobile careers. Preparing for a portable career or studying something during a posting, joining a local activity group or NGO, volunteering for a cause one cares about… these are all options that we can take to help us stay active, career relevant, satisfied and fulfilled.
She says that ‘life in a new country can be a bit unstable in the first 6 months’. Her advice? ‘Keep it simple—eat, sleep and exercise. Learn to cook a great three course meal’. I would add: ‘Don’t lose your faith and optimism’.
But, as you live year after year of a diplomatic life, you gradually learn to increase your confidence, expand your knowledge, expertise and adaptation tools.
One last piece of advice from her in the end… ‘Stop shrinking to fit places you’ve outgrown’.
Indeed, the sky is our limit.
* If anyone is interested in Elaine’s books, find them here: https://www.amazon.de/Chakra-Piano-Course-Beginners-Band/dp/B0B92R1M41/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1RHY9YWVEPOUU&keywords=chakra+piano&qid=1668019954&sprefix=chakra+piano+%2Caps%2C112&sr=8-1
And if you want to start writing or blogging, she recommends courses offered by the College of media and publishing (https://collegeofmediaandpublishing.co.uk/).
Oxford University also offers a great selection of adult education courses. (https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/continuing-education)
About the author:
She speaks Romanian, English, French, German and Italian, gives lectures on intercultural communication and is an active NGO volunteer.