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Moving across the world in the middle of a pandemic...

I realise that many people will find it both bizarre and fascinating, maybe even a little reckless, that we moved to Hong Kong slap bang in the middle of a world pandemic and a full lockdown within the UK.


The truth is, when COVID 19 came and turned the world upside down, it forced us all out of our normal routine and into a reset. And though it's hard to say without sounding grossly insensitive with all the loss that's been felt over the past two years, that reset changed my life for the better.


My partner, George, had moved here back in Summer 2019 and, though I thought about going with him and was even lucky enough to receive a job offer at a prestigious music school, the timing was just not right for me; many of my pupils were in a crucial place with their learning, being close to taking examinations, and I was enjoying my work with the choirs at my school.


We persisted with a long-distance relationship and I was able to work on a wonderful Christmas concert that kept me extremely busy. On that day, I remember directing the children and being so self-critical of all the harmonies that weren't quite spot on, or chastising myself for having not got them to sing that last verse of 'Hark! the Herald' even louder. In hindsight though, I feel emotional remembering the feeling of warmth and joy in that hall from the immense sense of love and pride that was beaming off the faces of all those mummies and daddies, grandparents and teachers... For them, a highlight of their whole year, and all they really cared about was seeing their child up there singing their heart out with a great big smile on their face. Unbeknownst to us at the time, it was the last time the school community would be together for a while.


The virus hit the UK soon after and we went into a full lockdown. I gradually lost most of my pupils due to the fact they were forced to be on Zoom for 6 hours a day and, with many of them being so young, they simply couldn't face any more of it beyond 4pm. It was hard for so many people, in all manner of ways, but I had my health, I had a roof over my head, my family around me, and I still had some work. I was one of the lucky ones.


After 7 months apart and 2 cancelled trips where we were due to meet, George came back to the UK in July 2020 for what was supposed to be just 5 weeks. Hong Kong had been battling its own third wave of the virus which meant that many offices over there were closed and this left his employment visa taking much longer to come through. He delayed his flight a first time... a second time... until we came to Christmas and still nothing. Despite the incredible frustration of it all, it was such a blessing for us to have all this unexpected time together, and after all the strain of being apart during such a difficult time, it's what we needed. We would regularly remind each other how fortunate we were.


Come February, the visa finally arrived and George was eager to get back to the new job that had been waiting for him over the past 8 months! With how unpredictable life had become, I hadn't considered the possibility of going with him before and we had been taking each day at a time. It was only on one of our daily walks that we joked how much more affordable the 6 weeks of quarantine would be if we went together - and then the lightbulb.


Back in lockdown and unsure at this stage whether I would be allowed to go back into school at any point, I had just seen most of my pupils through online exams, so the timing seemed as good as it would ever be, and it had become clearer than ever that life was short and we were happier together.


So then, throwing caution to the wind, I emailed my clients to tell them the news and we began the long planning of how to get back to Hong Kong. I am so grateful to have wonderful pupils and such kind families who were incredibly supportive and even encouraging about the whole thing - I continue to work with nearly all the students I had online in March 2020, and that in itself is such an honour for me. The move was still a hard decision as I'm really quite a careful person, but at the same time, I'm ambitious and passionate about my job, so to come here and face the challenge of setting up as a 1-to-1 singing teacher all over again, is absolutely one that I want to rise to.


If you want to read more about the process and travel of how we actually got here, you can read this fantastic article published by Expat Living HK -


https://expatliving.hk/singing-lessons-in-hong-kong-kirsten-van-terheyden-vocal-coach/



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