photo shoot

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I did a photo shoot for his sponsor Camel in their headquarters in Guangzhou.

I thought that it would be mainly my husband that they would take photos of, because after all, it is him that they sponsor, not me. But, as it turned out, I had to be in the pictures as well and it was all more professional than I thought. I thought we would just dress in some of their clothes, they would take a few photos and that was it.
Not according to them…

It took a whole day: from 9.30am till 6pm. They had a stylist who was doing our makeup and hair, we had to change into different clothes a lot and we had to put on some gear (e.g. climbing gear, backpack,…). I felt uncomfortable a couple of times. Like the time when the guy was doing my makeup and he said that I really didn’t put a lot of makeup on myself. He was surprised to see how little makeup I applied myself. I applied mascara and eye-shadow, which was already more than I did before and no, I don’t apply any foundation or BB cream now as the temperatures are still over 30 degrees and it would run down my face in 5min anyway.

While he was doing my makeup, some real models showed up: they would do the normal clothes line. I felt very conscious of myself. They were tall, slim and beautiful!! And most of all: they knew what they were doing. They did their thing and after just 1 hour they finished. As with us, they had to tell us over and over again where to look, what pose, do it more natural, not too natural, smile, don’t smile, look up, look down. It was exhausting! I know now that I am not a model and don’t even want to be one.

Another embarrassing moment was when 1 of the trousers were a bit too tight. The girl who dressed me (yes, I had my personal assistant who took me to the dressing room and helped me dress), said that they might be a bit too tight. Me, not wanting to admit that I do have big thighs, said it was fine. But, I had to wear them a couple of times and yes, I was very conscious on how tight they were. Time to go on a diet, I guess (although till this moment, I still haven’t started on this diet just yet, I will soon)!

All in all it was a nice experience and it might have been the only photo shoot I will ever do, so it was good to see that a model’s life can be quite hard and that it’s not so good for your self-confidence at times!

Rock climbing and life

The past couple of weeks I am really into rock climbing. I have been living in Yangshuo for more than 6 years, but never really did it. I just didn’t hang out with the climbers and I was focussing too much on Tai Chi.

But, since I came back, I have a student who is a climber and I was teaching during Chinese Newyear. On the first day of Chinese Newyear, we had a barbecue on the countryside near a good climbing area. He had his climbing gear with him and some of his friends came to climb as well. It was a perfect day!! And, even though my arms felt pumped mid-way I finished the route, which I was so proud of.

From then on I loved it and went climbing every weekend. I went to places around Yangshuo I had never been before and I met some of the best people. The climbing community is something special! Everyone is very friendly, want to help you, encourage you on your climb and share everything. It is so laid back and being in nature, with birds singing around you, is just a magical feeling.

The other, more magnificent, feeling is the feeling of victory, of overcoming yourself. Rock climbing is a little about technique, but much more about overcoming fear, being confident in your strength and to overcome your mind.

I started with not so easy routes and went to more difficult ones too quickly. I always wanted to give up mid-way (a couple of times I really had to, because it was too difficult), but then my friends would encourage me to try one last time and all of a sudden I could finish the route. So, it’s not my lack of strength or my lack of technique (though if you look at my arms and knees, I do need to work on my technique: I have scratches and bruises everywhere). Mostly, it is in my head. My mind is telling me that I am not strong enough or I suddenly feel afraid of falling and that the rope won’t hold me and I will die.

This is why I want to do rock climbing more often, because it will not only make my body stronger, but most of all it makes my mind stronger. And a strong mind is good in everything you do. If I believe in my abilities, if I overcome whatever fear I might have, I will succeed more in life. I will succeed in other areas in my life as well: finance, relationship, career, health,… Because I take well-measured risks, because I learn to know how far my body and mind can go and I learn to be able to push my limits a little bit higher each time.

I want everyone to know that you can do more and handle more than you think! Whenever you have a difficulty, you can bounce back easier or have more courage to face it and go through! Never let difficulties put you down or give up on something! Know that life gives you some difficult paths to walk on, but that makes it more interesting sometimes and it will make you a stronger person who will have a lot of life experience and will know how to handle a lot of things. You won’t be afraid to live life to the fullest anymore…

But also bear in mind, that you have to take measured risks. To think that you can handle just anything, is foolish. You have to know your limits and if it’s just too difficult, than it means that you have to give up, it’s not the right path for you to walk on. Try a different direction.

Everyone has a different path to follow and everyone will know in the end what it was they had to learn and overcome in their life. But the way towards the end, the learning process, is far more interesting and far more challenging.

This is what I have discovered while rock climbing. I gave up too easily all the time, I pitied myself sometimes for not having a good career, no money, not having a longlasting relationship. It is amazing that a kind of exercise made me realize so much about my life. Even though, rock climbing is laid back, you are also always aware of the feeling that, if something goes wrong, you lose your life. I think, this is what makes this sport so philosophical as well!

Exclusive Tai Ji retreat in Bali!!!

I will organize a Chen Tai Ji retreat in Bali from 18 May 2015 till 25 May 2015. This is mainly for beginners to give them some immersion in the world of Tai Ji and Qi Gong in a beautiful setting. So, they will be able to concentrate on Tai Ji during these 7 days, ask questions and practice by themselves. Places are limited! Please help me spread the word. If it’s popular, I will do this more often and invite more teachers – guest speakers to contribute.

This is the program:
18 May: welcome dinner

19 May: morning: 1 hour Qi Gong; breakfast; 2 hours Tai Ji – lunch
afternoon: 2 hours Tai Ji
evening: 15 minutes meditation + question round and share experiences

20 May: morning: 1 hour Qi Gong; breakfast; 2 hours Tai Ji – lunch
afternoon: 2 hours Tai Ji
evening: 15 minutes meditation + question round and share experiences

21 May: morning: 1 hour Qi Gong; breakfast; 2 hours Tai Ji – lunch
afternoon: guest speaker (someone who has been living many years in China, learned
Tai Ji, Qi Gong, acupuncture, Chinese medicine will give a lecture
evening: Balinese evening with dance and buffet

22 May: morning: 1 hour Qi Gong; breakfast; 2 hours Tai Ji – lunch
afternoon: 2 hours Tai Ji
evening: 15 minutes meditation + question round and share experiences

23 May: morning: 1 hour Qi Gong; breakfast; 2 hours Tai Ji – lunch
afternoon: free afternoon to do your own training or go into town and explore Ubud
evening: 15 minutes meditation + question round and share experiences

24 May: morning: 1 hour Qi Gong; breakfast; 2 hours Tai Ji – lunch
afternoon: 2 hours Tai Ji
evening: 15 minutes meditation + question round and share experiences

25 May: morning: 1 hour Qi Gong; breakfast; 2 hours Tai Ji – lunch
afternoon: last 2 hours of training
evening: free

The total cost is 1000 EUR, included a room in a very nice resort in Ubud, Bali, breakfast and lunch included, 1 welcome dinner, 1 Balinese evening, 1 spa treatment, guest speaker and all lessons + video of the form you learned.

If you or any people you know are interested, send me an email at:

Does religion still have a purpose? – personal reflections

I was raised a catholic, my parents, and especially my mother’s side of the family, are really religious. I had to go to church every Sunday, I went to a catholic school and I hated it. When I was 14 years old, after a few years already having doubts I turned an atheist. I didn’t want to believe that there is a God in the sky that watches over us and that punishes or rewards us according to our behavior. I want to believe in myself and I want to take responsibility for my own actions. So, I thought religious people as being weak, not standing up for themselves and not taking responsibility at all, just blaming everything on God or turning to God whenever something went wrong (a disease, any setback,…).

When I moved to China, I found it great, finally a country (and one of the few countries in the world) with no major religion! Even though, they have buddhists, muslims, christians, most people don’t believe in anything. The rituals they have is towards their ancestors, not towards a God. They don’t believe in a God in heaven or a God that will punish or reward you. So, it was great to hear people talk about their lives without the knowledge of all these religious fantasies and without any religious rules. Although, Chinese have also their own rules, which are based on mere superstition, on the fact that it will be unlucky or bring a disaster to your family, not because a God punishes you, but life itself will punish you for not doing something. Which the young generations also don’t believe and don’t do anymore as they acknowledge that it’s old folks superstition.

I just traveled to Bali and was in Ubud for 2 weeks and now I am in Thailand, in Chiang Mai. Bali is a Hindu country and Thailand a Buddhist (I will consider Buddhism a religion here, as I know it is not considerate that, but that’s a totally different discussion) country. I had a minor culture shock when I first arrived in Bali. It was marvelous! Everywhere you had the beautifulIMG_6519architecture with 2 statues in front of every entrance, I guess to protect the house. And every morning and afternoon you had a piece of a banana leaf or some sort with flowers on it, a bit of rice an incense stick burning on it, to respect their Gods. It was, again, interesting to see, but too religious to me, too many rituals and believing in external personified forces.

After a couple of days I started to notice other things. Balinese people are very friendly, they smile and say hello in a genuine way, they are very considerate on the road. For instance, they would stop to let you pass, or I was there when it was rainy season and they would slow down, when I was walking alongside the road as to not splash a lot of water on me. Balinese would also be very interested in you personally, they would ask things about you, but nothing too personal, they would respect you in a certain way.

Being in Thailand now, I see the same thing. Thai people are very nice, smile all the time, are very polite in a shops. They giveIMG_6847 you a good service in bars and shops (same in Bali). Of course, traffic all over South-East Asia is a bit crazy, but never as crazy, as I experienced in China.

Back to China: Chinese people are not that considerate, they are selfish in a certain way. They don’t consider other people on the road, they would run over you, if you would be in their way. They also invade too much of your personal space. Even if they don’t know you, their first questions are: How old are you? How much do you earn? Are you married? If you are not, they ask, why not? Too personal to me, even my best friends at home don’t know how much I earn or why I am not married, I don’t even know how to answer that. Also, the service in restaurants and bars is not that good. The waiters, waitresses, don’t know much about hospitality.

I don’t want to make China look bad, because it still has a big attraction on me, even though, I don’t understand much of that culture yet and how people think. So, it’s not a reflection of good and bad. It’s just the difference in attitude and whether this is linked to religion or not.

In any religion, you learn certain values: you learn to respect the others, to always be nice and considerate,…
A friend of mine who lives in Chiang Mai, told me that his motorbike never gets stolen here, as in China he got his bike stolen a couple of times. He also thought it is the buddhist attitude here and no religion in China.
I wonder, if it is religion or it is the mentality of the culture. It is hard to say, because culture is a big part of who you are and who can say how much that religion shaped your culture, because a lot of religions did and do bad things in name of that religion.

Cultural differences

I started chatting with a Chinese man from Guangzhou and decided to stay in Guangzhou for a couple of days before travelling to Bali and Thailand.

I met him and we had a good time… sometimes, but sometimes I was really frustrated by him. I don’t know what it is with Chinese men, but sometimes they give you a great time and give you too much attention and a minute later they completely ignore you. Although, I know now that I think it must have been hard for him as well, because he must have been at a total loss with me too. It must have been so strange for him and doesn’t know how Westerners think and what they want or expect.

Let me start from us having a good time. He took me to a couple of nice dinners and asked me all the time what I wanted to do, which I really appreciated. He wanted to speak English, although my Chinese was much better than his English. So, I kept speaking Chinese, but there were a lot of silences between us, which was kind of ok.

The frustration began during the first day: he took me to a car exhibition and there I got really frustrated, because he was just walking 1 or 2 meters before me and never looked back to see if I followed. We lost each other a few times, because I wanted to take some pictures and I was too annoyed to call him each time, partly because there were a lot of people and I didn’t want to draw attention, partly because I felt he was not paying attention to me at all. At least, walk beside me sometimes, or look back from time to time.

After that day, I thought he was inconsiderate and that we had a language barrier and a big cultural gap. I was dreading the next day, because I still had a whole day there and I didn’t want to spend the whole day with him, but I didn’t know how to tell him without hurting his feelings. So, I didn’t know what to do, until, in the morning, my friend from Huizhou (the Chinese girl I stayed with when I was there) called me that she was unexpectedly in Guangzhou.

I called the guy that I would spend the afternoon with my friend and we had a great afternoon!! I told her my frustrations, but she told me that this can be quite normal in China. Even she walks behind a guy and never next to him (and she has studied in America, so I consider her quite open-minded). I already felt much better, but also realized that that man and I come from 2 different worlds.

When I called him in the late afternoon, he was a bit frustrated, because he had been waiting for my call all afternoon. He didn’t think I would stay out that long. Oops, now it was his turn to be annoyed with me. But, I also felt that I am not obliged to anything. I don’t need to hang out with him those 2 days. That’s also something very Chinese: they don’t let you free, even for 1 second. Because there was 1 situation that last evening. He took me to the Guangzhou tower and before going up, he needed to go to the bathroom. I didn’t have to go, so I told him I would wait, but less than 1 minute he was out of the bathroom again. The thought of me being alone out there, scared him and he didn’t want to go. Give me a break!! I am living alone in China, I travel all by myself to different countries and then, I couldn’t be alone in the Guangzhou tower for a couple of minutes? That goes beyond my comprehension!

This has been quite an experience. I understand that I couldn’t be angry at him, because for him it has to be difficult too. He wanted to give me a good time, but didn’t know what to do and he didn’t want to ask me (typically Chinese to stay quiet and not talk about feelings or something personal). I wonder now, if it’s really a good idea to still date a Chinese man. I understand the differences more and more, but I can’t live with them, I need a man who is at the same line of thought as me. My friends tell me that I will have to look for a Chinese man who studied abroad for a while, but even then, I think that most Chinese men come back to China and want to live by their own traditional values again.

I don’t know. Guess I am at a difficult path, because I want to stay in China, but all foreigners here fall in love with a Chinese girl and all the Chinese men are too different from me and my culture. 有点麻烦, as they say in Chinese 😛

Anyway, the Guangzhou guy can still be a friend. I know that for dating, we are not compatible, but I want to have more friends in China to understand more about the culture, if he can accept this of course…

Are there any other people who have an experience with a Chinese man. Please let me know, we can know from each other’s experience 😉

Getting ready for the competition

24 October is the World Championship Competition of Tai Chi here in China. And, I am selected in the Belgian team to compete with the Chen Tai Chi form. I am very happy and feel privileged to be able to join such a big competition!!

But, with it comes hard training… I am in Huizhou now, to learn from a different Tai Chi master. I am here 1 week now and have progressed a lot. My first training, she told me that I can’t possibly join the competition, that my Tai Chi is really bad (thanks for the heads up :P). Anyway, that didn’t put me down, because she really has a high level in Tai Chi and I already consider myself a winner just by being able to learn from her and this all in the Chinese language (which sometimes gives a lot of miscommunication as well).

1 week with practicing for more than 4 hours every day and she has given me a lot of exercises to work on, my body is getting stronger, but I am also getting tired, all my joints hurt like hell and I think I pulled a tendon in my hip. But, I am not giving up. I am counting on Chinese medicine to do a little bit of magic. Only 1 more week to get ready and my master is happy about my progress. She told me that I learn fast, which makes me want to try my best more and not to let her down.

I now have decided to look for a job here next year and learn more from her. She is amazing! And I am glad I found a Tai Chi master who wants to teach me thoroughly (for foreigners it’s difficult to find someone like that, because they don’t put a lot of effort in teaching foreigners properly. Most Tai Chi schools have become very commercialized, unfortunately).

IMG_6436 IMG_6431

The square where I practice Tai Chi every morning and evening.

Huizhou is a beautiful city as well, very clean, not so polluted as other Chinese cities and I am staying with a lovely couchsurfer, who gives me more local information.
From here, I can work on my new business idea as well: teach Tai Chi and give workshops. Huizhou is near Shenzhen and Hong Kong, which gives me a chance to go to companies and give workshops as a form of team-building, and work together with travel agencies to teach Western tourists as well. I want Tai Chi to become more popular in the world and want more people to know what it’s all about. A girl may dream, no?

How about you? What dream do you want to fulfill? Did you put your heart and soul in something you are passionate about?

Differences between Chinese and Westerners – according to me

I have been living for 6 years in China now and I am still amazed by some differences there are and that make me smile…

First difference: Chinese love their food and to talk about it.

Chinese just love to talk about food. The first question they ask you is not: How are you doing?, but: have you eaten?
They love to point out the differences in food in different areas in China. Every time I step into a new class I go in with Western expectations. One of my first questions is: What is typical in your hometown? Expecting answers about certain buildings, a famous temple, beautiful natural scenery,… But, no, the only thing they all talk about is the difference in food and what kind of dishes are famous in their area. I once made the mistake of asking about something else that marked their hometown: a famous building, something about the scenery maybe? They were dumbfounded, were silent for a while, the conversation came at a dead-end. And then, I said, ok, lets talk about your food again and the conversation started immediately and they were very enthusiastic again. Really funny that we in the West love to talk about typical buildings or maybe the occasional drink or dish, but not as elaborately as Chinese people.

Second difference: sleep wherever you can.

Something that keeps on amazing me is that Chinese can sleep anywhere, anytime in any position. Throughout the day, you see Chinese sleeping at tables, on the ground, on benches in positions that would feel very uncomfortable to me.

Third difference: Chinese love noise

Chinese supermarkets, shops are very noisy. They have big speakers blaring annoying music all day long. I felt sorry for the employees, but it seems that Chinese love noise. A Chinese friend told me that noise means busy, means that something is interesting enough to go to, otherwise it would feel dead. Westerners like quiet environments, which feel uncomfortable to Chinese.

Fourth difference: you need to be able to drink alcohol in China or you’re not in.

If you want to do business with Chinese, you’d better have a high alcohol tolerance. Chinese like to do business over dinner (where they hardly eat) and with good ricewine (白酒), which you have to drink bottoms up all the time. They toast during the whole dinner and if you don’t drink it bottoms up, you get angry remarks, which can be heated sometimes. The first few dinners I had like that, I was attacking the food, because I wanted to fill my stomach with food before having too many glasses. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, you get wasted anyway, because, of course everyone want to have a toast with the foreigner and you end up drinking more than everyone else. When you don’t refuse a drink or a toast, you ‘give face’ to your host.

Fifth difference: Chinese don’t require the same amount of privacy as we do

We, in the West, are very private people. We are very sensitive and need our personal space. Chinese have less need of this. Upon meeting you, Chinese will immediately ask you if you are married, have kids, how much you earn each month, your age,… All questions that we avoid, certainly at a first meeting. Chinese can also stand really close to you while they are talking to you and have no problem with it. I always take a step back because I need a lot of personal space around me, but then the Chinese will move closer to me again. Although, in the West we are touchier with friends: we will give them a kiss on the cheek or hug them. With our partner, we will walk hand in hand, or the man will put his arm around the girl. In China, I see less signs of affection. They don’t really touch each other while greeting.

Our culture has a big effect on our lives. Who we are is, for a big part, determined by our culture. Please share your ideas with me about this.
If you want to talk about this, you can book a free skype-session with me on: