My name is Esther Rietberg, I have 7 children, 5 biological and 2 who are under guardianship of my husband and I, expat with over 20 years of experience from Berlin to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh to Budapest, Suzhou China, back to the Netherlands for a short period and after more than 15 years we moved back to Thailand!
After I completed my secondary education, I was determined to go into education. However, at around 16 I started professional singing lessons with the well–known Dutch vocal singing teacher Jo Bollekamp. It was during my time there that I learnt I had a good voice. This led me to make a very difficult decision, but in 1986 I finally decided that instead of studying education I would start to study voice, first with Jo Bollekamp and later at the Conservatory in Rotterdam.
After my first year at the Rotterdam Conservatory, my husband and I received an incredible offer to move to East Germany in 1993, where I continued my education at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden, Germany. During my studies, I followed courses such as Methodology and Didactics and of course Psychology.
I was fascinated by these subjects from the very beginning. In 1995, my husband and I became the proud parents of our eldest daughter followed by our eldest son in 1996. Because of this, I can personally understand how difficult it can be as an expat to find time for yourself. Or how hard it can be to find the necessary help or someone to talk to, someone who walks with you and can give you new courage with fresh insights so that you can handle life again and enjoy it!
In 1997, we moved back to the Netherlands where we had another son and daughter. During this period back, I noticed many people around us had to deal with serious problems within the marital sphere, in the up brining of children, identity problems, the need was high. Because of this I started a Wednesday afternoon club at our home with a group of children and their mothers. This allowed mothers to talk open up and I was able to help many women, children and families to get their life ‘back on track’!
In August 2000, I left pregnant with my husband and four children to Bangkok, Thailand and in 2005 with five children to Vietnam. During this fantastic time in Asia, I was active as a wife and mother, as President of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and vocal Coach at the British International School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as Event Organizer Pur Sang, facilitator of study groups in child education, drama and singing and as a personal coach for deeper life problems. Not only in Thailand and Vietnam, but also in Budapest, Hungary and Suzhou, China. In Thailand I was also a compassionate volunteer in the field of AIDS and HIV at Siam Care, Bangkok and would visit inmates in the ‘Detention Centre’ while organizing and collecting the necessary goods and funding for the organizations mentioned above.
In 2008, we returned to Europe, Budapest, Hungary. During our time here I was also Chair of the PTA at our children’s school, organized kid’s clubs, and study groups for adults. In addition, volunteering at a woman’s shelter program and providing help ‘upcountry’ with Love is the Answer, an organization that takes care of the poorest of the poorest in the Northeast of Hungary. In Budapest, we were also blessed with our two youngest girls from a deeply distressed mother.
In 2013, my husband and I moved with 6 of our children, leaving our eldest daughter in Budapest to finish her last year of study, to Berlin, Germany. Here I focused mainly on the upbringing of our two youngest, Isabella and Zsanett. This is because Isabella was very traumatized and Zsanett was severely malnourished and delayed in her physical development. The skills I acquired during this period in the field of trauma, counselling, physical and mental development, child upbringing and the intensive supervision and guidance of the girl’s problematic biological mother, make me an expert in these areas through my personal experiences. In Potsdam, Germany, we were able to go to court and obtain legal custody of Isabella and Zsanett. In 2015, we moved with our 5 youngest children to Suzhou, China while our two eldest returned to the Netherlands to attend university.
During our 4 years in China, I was also active as President of the PTA and as vocal coach at Suzhou’s International School (SSIS). I look back with great satisfaction at the many students, ranging from 6 to 18 years, who I often had the opportunity to guide and supervise. Not only in the field of singing but also as their confidant, life coach. A parent of one of my students once said: “Mrs. Esther didn’t only teach singing… it is so much more that my son gained during his lessons’. I couldn’t ask for a nicer compliment. As PTA president, I organized events at school, both small and large. Our last International Family Day, 3500 individuals came and we were able to raise 45,000 Euros for charity. We also organized Welcome Back Coffee mornings and more intimate information meetings for new parents. Here too I experienced the different problems that so many of us individuals face and carry. From my deep passion to help people gain new insights and to (re) find genuine joy in life, I also started get–togethers at home to help women, young and old, support and coach them towards new life patterns. Partly for this reason I travelled to the Philippines in June 2017 to follow a ten–day course at Living Waters, an organization that trains leaders to help those experiencing difficulties in the field of sexuality and relationships with compassion and integrity. In January 2019 I followed a five–day course in the field of Trauma healing at the internationally recognized International Trauma Healing Institute in Suzhou China, which I successfully completed.
In the summer of 2019, we moved again, now with Isabella and Zsanett back to the Netherlands where three of our children currently live. Our eldest is completing her Master’s in Education after receiving her Bachelor’s in English Literature and Language. Our eldest son works in the agricultural sector in Germany, while our middle son lives in Hong Kong and has just graduated from the Polytechnic University in Tourism and Business. Our youngest daughter has also just graduated from The Hague University of Applied Sciences and received her Bachelors in International Communication Marketing. And lastly, our youngest son is studying International Law and Business at Leiden University.
Shortly after we arrived in the Netherlands the corona virus spread and my husband’s business was impacted greatly. So, when our Thai friend and business partner asked Johan for the third time whether he would want to work together the decision was made to move back to Thailand, the country where we have so many beautiful memories. This meant however, that we would have to leave our older children behind. At the end of April 2021,
we arrived in Bangkok with our two youngest and we immediately felt very ‘at home’!
Then it all came back to me. Even during this short period several women and families have involved me in problems they encounter in everyday life. I have already experienced so many positive reactions and actions. That is why I decided in November to register for a Total Balance Pastoral Coaching course of 16 weeks to improve my skills in the field of Life– Coaching and to familiarize myself with even more tools so that I can improve my skills even further. I can respond to my clients’ requests for help and ultimately realize my dream: to set up my own Life Coaching Practice in Hua Hin, where there are so few opportunities to seek and find help when things are not going well.