So what kind of bird is crossing the pond over there, and to which family does the duck waddling in the distance belong? And how old is the estate, who used to live there, and how did it come into being? Bianca Jadoenath laughs and admits that she doesn’t have the foggiest. You see, Bianca does not come to the Clingendael estate to spot birds, learn more about the history of the place or study trees. “But obviously I do come here exactly because there are so many birds and such wonderful scenery.”


The estate is full of mature trees and has a Japanese garden, which is only open to the public a few weeks a year. And the main thing: it’s quieter here than at other green spots. Bianca takes a step, raises her index finger into the air and listens. Even though the park is situated at a mere three bus stops from The Hague Central Station, it’s silent. “This is what I mean.” She has lived near Hollands Spoor railway station in The Hague for quite some time now, and is used to the sounds of trams, cars and people going about their lives. She no longer hears the sounds they produce. It’s the other way around now: she hears the silence and feels the quiet.

And let’s face it, she could do with a little peace and quiet after everything that has happened in the last few hectic months. “I’ve worked non stop since 13 March. Yes, I remember the exact date.” As a policy adviser tasked with education reform and the person in charge of ISS students’ ‘student journey’, she had her work cut out for her. Moreover, all the changes had to be implemented quickly. “We were suddenly forced to do everything online. We didn’t have time to properly test anything, but in the end, we did a pretty decent job of it.”

'Too much information'

She has been so busy she hasn’t been able to go on holiday this year. “This summer we had to arrange things for the upcoming year.” She had to solve a complicated puzzle and develop new processes allowing new students, most of whom are still at home, to take their courses, which is proving quite the challenge. “ISS’s students hail from fifty countries, including countries in Asia, Africa and South America. It’s not easy to find solutions that will suit all of them.” And on top of that, the University Council will start convening again in two weeks. Bianca is a member of the Council, too.

So to make sure she got some rest and relaxation, she scheduled some park time at least once a week. She will bring a blanket, hammock, speaker and book, and that’s her sorted. On days on which she has video meetings scheduled, she will settle for a shorter walk through the forests or gardens. And on those days on which she has enough time to sit down in the park, she will make sure to stay within a 500-metre radius of the pavilion. “This may be a little too much information, but the pavilion has the only toilet in the entire park!” She may be in need of some R&R, but she has no intention of going without a lavatory.