Getting to Know — Brenda van Kessel-Pérez Bernabé

Where were you born?

I was born in Lima, Peru.

Where have you lived?

When I came to live in The Netherlands it was the first time ever I travelled abroad (the longest flight hours of my life). Here I have lived in Marum (near Groningen), Almere, Ermelo (near Amersfoort) and now in Hilversum.

Where can we find you online (Website/blog/Twitter coordinates)?

I used to have a nail blog, but I stopped due to lack of time (maybe one day?) but on Facebook I am always reachable.

What brought you to Almere?

I came to this country as an Au Pair, but not to take care of children but animals (5 cats, 2 dogs and 2 birds) Yes, I know, not the regular nanny job :D, my host family moved from the north to Almere; which for me was a blessing, specially coming from a city of 8 million people and moving alone to another continent and ending up living in a tiny farming village. At that time I stayed because of love, after that long relationship ended, I decided to stay in Holland and build a life here on my own. Later on I met Stijn and the rest is history.

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.

When I lived in Almere (and the main reason I keep coming to visit) is the people. Yes, you all! The international environment, modern architecture and central location make it a great city to live in.

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?

I feel at home now. I have gone through many stages while adapting to my new life here. At the beginning I found everything new and different, when the tourist stage faded away I started missing home and my family badly. I had a really hard time adapting to a complete different culture and language. It takes time, patience and since I have no family around, a good support system (there is where the Expat Community comes in the picture). Now after almost 7 years I find myself having the life I wanted. So yeah! I feel at home now.

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?

I am a sushi addict, so Kimono it’s a great place to eat, Yamas is a great option for Greek food and Wild West Steakhouse for the meat lovers (yummy spare ribs :P). For a night out so IA’s FND at Apollo is my first choice.

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?

I am an expat, I have adapted to the Dutch life and society (I think/ guess/ hope) but I am and will always be a Peruvian girl. I am proud and love deeply my culture and customs and I will pass them on to my children no matter where I live.

How long do you plan on living here for?

I am planning to stay here for good…but you never know what life has in store for you…

Tell us how you found International Almere?

I saw the site once but I just didn’t dare to come by myself. I am a shy person at first (afterwards you wish I stayed shy). I came to a Friday night drinks in May about 4 years ago and since then I try to come to as many activities I can.

Have you been to any International Almere events? Which was your favourite?

Many! I come to Friday Night Drinks (as often as possible), summer picnic, Ladies Movie Night, International Almere birthdays, Summer BBQ at the Kemphaan, Elf Fantasy Fair, Aussie BBQ, Halloween parties and all Christmas events. Halloween and Christmas are my all-time favorites the atmosphere is just awesome!

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?

Just do it! We are looking into moving back to Almere next year, hopefully sooner…

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?

The language, after so long I still struggle with communicating, but most people speak good English (and are very eager to practice it!) so there’s
always a way to get things done. And of course the “lovely weather” (I am a tropical creature, so don’t get me started on that one!)

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?

The reflection of Almere at night over the Weerwater, seen from the A6…it’s just gorgeous. Reminds me a lot of my city at night

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate? Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

My favourite it has always been Queen’s day (now King’s Day), all the crazy orange dressed people, free concerts, great flea markets. From Peru I do celebrate Independence Day on July 28th I cook some of my grandma’s recipes, make our national cocktail: Pisco Sour and sing national music (and of course, after cocktails always comes the dance :P).