Happy MBA students

Buren is a small historic village situated in the Betuwe region of the Netherlands. The earliest known settlement of the region occurred as early as 772. The castle in Buren was owned by the House of Orange, the royal family of the Netherlands. The Dutch royal family has been known to use the name van Buren as an alias to give themselves some degree of anonymity.

The Cape of Hope Castle situated in Cape Town is built in the shape of a star, and one of its bastions is named Buren. Being married to a Kingma and with a ‘nooiens van’ of Vos and having worked for Juta Publishers for 13 years, I have deep Dutch roots.

My Dutch luck extended to obtaining a half bursary to complete my MBA through the Business School of the Netherlands (BSN) way back in 2002. After completing my doctoral degree in human resources, I was invited to tutor on their MBA program at their school situated in Buren. The MBA program is designed as blended learning, combining two sessions of two weeks contact time in Buren, and online study programs. The Dutch government sponsors students who meet specific criteria to complete their MBA’s on this international program (https://www.bsn.eu)

During the last 10 years, mostly bi-annually, I have thrived on the travel treats of spending a few days in quirky Amsterdam, before the start of my lectures. This means I am also relaxed after the long flight to Europe and energised for my students’ benefit. This month the Netherlands experienced their wettest winter in 60 years. It was also bitingly cold with temperatures hovering at 0 degrees. Wrapped up in a warm coat, hoody and gloves still leaves one popping into the warmth of shops with great winter sales, when the strolls along the canals become too icy. A canal boat trip is always mandatory to my Amsterdam experience in providing stunning vistas of the old Dutch architecture, houseboats, bicycles galore and happy fellow sailors.

I was fortunate to catch the last day of the ‘We Have a Dream’ exhibition at De Nieuwe Kerk which featured Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela which presented the narratives of their personal quests against social injustice. It was a somewhat bitter/ sweet experience to honour both Gandhi and Mandela as having such enormous South African and international historic, political and social influence.

Visiting the Van Gogh museum is always a joy – reflecting on his brushstrokes, use of colour and artistic vision. And reliving the emotions of his tragic life experiences. The contemporary Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi created a series of paintings based on Van Gogh’s iconic works. These versions added a personal twist to his works and I was again fortunate to enjoy this once off exhibition.

The previous BSN host, Theo Kersten, invited me to stay over with him and his wife, Gabri, in the charming village of Doven, near Arnhem. We visited the magnificent old castle of Ruurlo to view the art works of Carel Willink. Again, there was a Chinese twist as Willink’s muse, the eccentric Mathilde, wore the famous Chinese designer, Fong-Leng’s outlandish yet exquisite outfits – not only to pose for Willink, but also when buying bread at the corner shop! The Kerstens and I then popped over to Germany to Emmerich on Rhein for grocery shopping and petrol. Prices are more favourable over the border. The river Rhein was majestic in its gushing waters and made me wish I could transport some its liquid treasure to our dry Cape….

The next morning Theo invited me to cycle with him along the picturesque dykes. It was a freezing -4 degrees in the icy winds and I was very grateful for the loan of Gabri’s ski jacket.

My lectures started in Buren later that day and I was delighted to meet with students from SA, the Netherlands, Zambia, Kenia, Nigeria and Aruba. This diversity provided fertile ground for cross cultural conversations and innovative solutions to leadership challenges in the workplace. My boutique hotel in Buren had recently been renovated and I luxuriated in guilt free baths and delicious Dutch cuisine.

The last treat before flying back home was meeting up with my high school Bestie, Bryna and her husband in Amsterdam for dinner. There is something very special in meeting up with friends in a foreign place. A renewing of friendship and conversations in an exotic and different culture.

And then home again Jiggety-Jig. Travel opens our minds to new perspectives and grows our resilience in responding to everyday challenges – for me it was the Zuma dilemma and the drought…..But being home again makes us grateful for the many blessings of our dearly beloved sunny SA! And as I am writing this the heavens have opened with heavy rain showers.