Category Archives: Life around the Globe

Germany, mainly. Or where ever else the wind might blow me. Maybe writing about where I’ve been, too.

Make today with your child: Deliciously quick and easy home made chocolate eggs!

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So you have some time with the kids over this Easter weekend and would love to do some baking, but grandma already did the Easter egg cookies?

I have something fun for you. An edible dough to shape Easter eggs from and dip them in melted chocolate for a wonderful taste feast.
(Inspiration hit me when dipping my teaspoon in a bit of Nutella and some peanut butter and enjoying the taste together.)
If you love Reese’s peanutbutter cups, these special chocolate Easter eggs are perfect for you!
I made them yesterday with my preschool class, and everyone had a lot of fun.
The peanut butter – Nutella dough is easy to make:
To make that super elastic and delicious dough, put equal measures of peanut butter, Nutella and mini marshmallows into a plastic bowl. It renders a lot of dough, so work with 2 Tbs each in the beginning to see how far that gets you.
Microwave on high for no longer than 3 seconds. The marshmallows will crack if they are overcooked, which will give you lovely little, chewy candy pieces in the dough, but you will add and warm more marshmallows to get the softness into your dough. Take it out of the microwave, stir vigorously. Add the same amount of icing sugar as used per ingredient.
Microwave a few marshmallows for about 10 seconds if you like crispy-chewy candy pieces in your chocolate egg: immediately incorporate into the dough while still warm, they will break up and form delicious crispyness for your soft chocolate eggs.
Knead till all ingredients are incorporated beautifully and the dough is soft and supple. Add more icing sugar if needed. Process into any shape you like, coat with chocolate, yumm.
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Marshmallow candy inside the dough, yumm.
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Lovely soft peanut butter – Nutella dough. Not sticky at all, ideal dough to work with children.

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Visiting orphans in Uganda and equipping their carers

Yippeh, my husband just returned from a real intense trip to Uganda/South Sudan. He went to encourage Christian leaders, ministers and educators, conducted leadership seminars and visited a lot, a LOT of orphans ministering to the children as well.

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The best room in his hosts house – no electricity, just a gas stove. They shared their food with him, beans, a little rice, a bit of pineapple.
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So happy to have a guest from South Africa!
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Many people came for prayer
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Children from the orphanage presenting an item
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All the children are eating a day: one cup of liquid porridge and maybe a fruit for tea. Resources are scarce.
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Preparation of the porridge
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Traveling on the back of a pick up truck to the next destination.
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Sunday lunch. although Uganda has fertile soil, people lack the knowledge to generate wealth from farming. Much more training needs to happen for people to be able to look after themselves. Many rely on the bananas that grow everywhere for food!
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Leadership seminar
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Equipping pastors and educators who are the ones looking after the needy in their communities.

Here is what he saw: IMG-20140312-WA031 IMG-20140313-WA002 IMG-20140313-WA003 IMG-20140313-WA004 IMG-20140313-WA008  IMG-20140313-WA011  IMG-20140313-WA013 IMG-20140313-WA014 IMG-20140313-WA015 IMG-20140313-WA017 IMG-20140313-WA018 IMG-20140314-WA014 IMG-20140314-WA016 IMG-20140314-WA018 IMG-20140314-WA020 IMG-20140314-WA024 IMG-20140314-WA025 IMG-20140314-WA028 IMG-20140315-WA002 IMG-20140315-WA003 uganda (2) uganda (6) uganda (13)

Thanks a lot, fake interpreter! #MadibaMemorial making history.

As somebody who works in the education field in South Africa, I am tremendously impressed with what happened at the Madiba Memorial. A genius planned a fantastic stage act to expose some of our most pressing issues.

For those of you who do not know, millions across the globe were inspired and moved by speeches made at former President Nelson Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

You can read about this inspiring event everywhere in the web. Maybe you were also amused at Obama’s selfie shoot,

and Michelle’s angry expression resulting in her even switching seats with the Potus during intermission since he seemed to get a little too comfy with the blonde he was seated next to.Great photo-story here.

But what the international community was really outraged about was this sign language interpreter who was not signing in South African or any other known sign language, but seemed to have stepped right off a star ship :

Or was it true Anti-American activism at work here, really really subtly?

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Watch him “translate” President Obama in his historic address to honour old president Nelson Mandela for his life’s work here:

The man, who signed for a portion of the ceremony including Barack Obama’s speech, was simply making up his own signs, say the Deaf Federation of South Africa. David Buxton, the CEO of the British Deaf Association, said the unidentified man, who was supposed to be signing in South African, was “waving his hands around but there was no meaning.”

Mr Buxton said it was “childish hand gestures and clapping, it was as if he had never learned a word of sign language in his life.”

He said sign languages across the world share a similar structure and pattern, but his were just repetitive hand movements.

“It was hours of complete nonsense. He is clearly a fraud who wanted to stand on stage with big and important people. It’s quite audacious if you think about it.”

I beg to differ. I am saying:

Well done, Comrade!

You accomplished what many of us tried before but always failed: to raise awareness on an international stage of the outrageous South African habit to employ someone for any other reasons than qualification.

When it comes to former-cleaner-come-high-paid-municipal leader, nobody cares if a non-educated buddy of another functionary gets to decide that raw sewage can safely spill into drinking water supplies. And when thousands of Limpopo villagers have no access to running water because Julius Malema well received millions of Rand for a government tender but failed to complete the pipeline he had promised to build, this raises not even an eyebrow internationally.

Let us learn the lesson. Maybe talking about headmasters of special needs schools who receive outrageous pay but do not bother to learn about education should get an reaction?

Will the CIA hold the ANC responsible for allowing a mentally unstable, unqualified person such close access to the president of the United States? Are we ever going to be able to discuss qualifications in South Africa?

Blind children who sit in dark, empty rooms while the donated Braille typewriters stand unused in the shelves because the principal has no idea what to use them for (but he did bother to study the car marked before buying that high end SUV) can maybe draw attention to this problem.

tshilidszini 020Or a fully equipped computer room that does not get used because, as I am told in no uncertain terms: deaf children can not learn words. Just like that. When I am informing the teachers that you can download loads of visual vocabulary games for free online, they do not even look up from their whatsapp chats on their cell phones.

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These facilities built in the 1970s house 400 physically challenged, hearing or visually impaired and albino children who do not get sufficient stimulation or adequate education. And nobody seems to care.

Applaud this comrade who was bold enough to show how the cadre does not bother a bit about educating the special needs people of South Africa!

Now the national “ministry of explaining things away” claims this poor person is schizophrenic http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Fake-interpreter-says-he-is-Schizophrenic-20131212

Well, whatever episode you are suffering on the mental spectrum, you are normally much more likely to regress back to old habits rather than making up non-intelligible signs. For him to sign: mama makes great stew, or at least repeatedly use the SA sign for Mandela, would have been more likely. Which means this interpreter probably never knew how to sign in the first place.

Singing together with the parents of my preschool’s first ever Christmas Concert.

Living in South Africa can be frustrating, to say the least. I learned: involve some topic that matters internationally, like offending the international deaf community, and you might draw some bit of attention to major South African problems. Will things change? Not through international outrage.

At always, it will be the tedious works of love by dedicated individuals that will continue making a difference.

Here is a great blog summarizing the correct steps that should have been taken in appointing an interpreter for such an historic event:

“This whole thing makes me sad. So terribly sad. What has happened to Madiba’s dream? A country ruled in fairness to all it’s peoples? A just government, portraying the hopes and aspirations of a wonderful nation?

“Let us hope that clear minds and cool heads consider the questions raised. The interpreter is just a symptom, you guys. We need to address the disease, not blame that poor man for the real problem.”

PS. It gets even more bizarre. In a weird turn of events the South African Government now admits their interpreter who was entrusted with the task of translating Barack Obama, president of the USA, does not really understand English.
“For you to be able to interpret you must understand the language that’s being spoken at the podium.  He is Xhosa speaking as his first language, the English was a bit too much for him. So yes he could not translate from English to sign language,” says Bogopane-Zulu.

South Africa, please wake up. Now even the African American (black) president of the USA fell victim to BEE.

If you can do with a little chuckle, check out what the “fake interpreter” really said:

Imagine all the people

...the moment when Wolfgang realized he was wearing pantyhose in public
…the moment when Wolfgang realized he was wearing pantyhose in public

I love faces. Amazing stories. You can tell a lot from where they are from, what they believe in, what they try to be, by peoples faces. Believe it or not I can tell a catholic face from a protestant one.

The Daily Prompt by wordpress today is: Imagine All the People

Photographers, artists, poets: show us IMAGINE.

Simple. I’ve just come back from Landshut, Bavary, Germany, where once every 4 years all the citizens imagine they are in 1475 on some big wedding.

When you are chosen to be one of the 2700 actors, you must not trim your hair for at least 2 years, yes they let you go to work in your bank like that.

So here it comes: People who imagine they are someone else. All of them.

Photos are my own.

The local dentist
The local dentist

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medieval mercenaries singing some sinister chorus
medieval mercenaries singing some sinister chorus
I think I found Heidis grandfather.
I think I found Heidis grandfather.
These are all real people with real day jobs. instead of playing Hobbiton, they recreate painstakingly a royal wedding that took place in 1475. The whole city comes together and makes a lot of money out of this!
These are all real people with real day jobs. instead of playing Hobbiton, they recreate painstakingly a royal wedding that took place in 1475. The whole city comes together and makes a lot of money out of this!
Faces, faces ... amazing how real they come across.
Faces, faces … amazing how real they come across.
Children displaying different medieval attractions, child games and playgrounds of the historical period
Children displaying different medieval attractions, child games and playgrounds of the historical period
Imagine you are a princess...
Imagine you are a princess…
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Medieval Cat lady … rooster aunty??? Okay …
You gotta love that face. just imagine he's your algebra teacher.
You gotta love that face. just imagine he’s your algebra teacher.

Airtravel with children

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Can’t wait to board our flight. Some bright coloured, comfy clothes makes it easy to quickly spot my busy boys when they find a play corner and are surrounded by other friends.

Because my husband and I are from two different continents, my family does a whole lot of traveling. In fact, before we were married, right after we got engaged in Durban, South Africa, I found myself standing in the Berlin airport watching people kiss loved ones good bye, realizing: That will be my life from now on. There will always be somebody left behind. A sharp sting burned my heart when I thought that this will be the life I will be dragging my yet-unborn children into. Always having to say good bye for a real long time to either set of cousins and grandparents, and having to stretch to accommodate two different continents …

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Our life in South Africa is drastically different to the times we spend overseas, and somehow the kids find it very easy to adjust to both settings.

Right there and then I decided I will give my everything to make this a bonus in my kids life rather than a burden. No matter how much it hurts me to leave everything that I love behind, I will get my kids excited about all the different wonderful things in their lives.

Sure, my kids miss out on the amazing playgrounds and parks, culture and education Germany has to offer, while they grow up in Africa. (Click the links to see what I mean)

But once a year we are trying to make up for that and have them dive into their German heritage, full package. Musicals, History, Arts, friends, family, food, the full Monty. And while in Africa, we focus on doing and enjoying all things south African: The vast landscapes, the game, the wild, the roughness of freedom, hospitality, food, family …

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crossing the country by train is one of the favorite ways of traveling for my family. We usually send our suitcases with the luggage service of the Deutsche Bahn (German train company) and travel easy with just the hand luggage. Fun!

I am telling you, to recycle ALL your waste into 5 different bins and to take EVERY SINGLe bottle you ever buy back into the store for refund can be tideous.

Anyway, before you get to expose your little ones to the wonders of exotic destinations such as Landshut, Bavaria, you got to face often long and exhausting journeys.

Here’s my little cents of advise from the experience of so far 18 take offs  (this includes in land flights and connection flights of course) with toddlers …

First things first.

Before you fly, check in online to reserve your seats in the “baby isle” (where nobody sits in front of you) on the airplane and book child meals.

You need to really talk this through with daddy BEFORE the big day. Because we can not afford business class or direct flights, but have to stop over in Dubai, the flight day is even harder and longer. So really, make a plan beforehand and stick to it.

We usually agree Mama is sitting in the isle seat, and is responsible for all the potty breaks, nappy changes etc on flight, simply because I am smaller than daddy and manage to fit WITH a child into the tiny airplane bathrooms. I will also take the kids for little walks inside of the plane. Dad will enjoy a movie or two and help me with the feeding of the lot. Your under 2year old will most likely not have her own seat – this means, worst case, 14 hours with a toddler on your lap… but not necessarily so. More about that later. But this is why you need to have a night or 2 of sound sleep before and after the flight day.

When your baby is still tiny, a baby carrier is a real good idea. Hands free.

Because I know I will be on major duty during the flight, I don’t even plan on reading or watching anything. But I do get to sleep through the night before, as daddy is taking both kids for that night. Fair deal, in my eyes as daddy also handles the passports and luggage and I can focus on keeping the kids happy.

Whatever you prefer, it’s really good to have an agreement beforehand. During the whole travel, it is not a good idea to be discussing who should hold on to the boarding passes or why is dad nodding off to sleep while you have to handle a sudden running tummy and find yourself in the “lavatories” every 30 minutes with a screaming baby. Nope, agree, and then switch on the “autopilot” and do your thing. Rest once you arrived! I am so much more relaxed when I don’t have to discuss who does what while we’re at it.

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Less is more. I know this is on the train. But really, don’t feel tempted to pack pens, favorite toys and too much snacks.

I was asked recently by a first-time flyer what kind of things one should pack for the flight to keep the kids happy. Please trust me, less is more. Pack in a way that enables you to check in as much luggage as possible. We normally check in all our hand-luggage trolleys as well, so that my husband and I each have only one reasonable sized backpack to carry and our hands are free for the children. As much as you’d like your kids to bring their own little pack, remember – you’ll have to look after every item of luggage. It’s easier if they have just themselves to carry. Mine are 4 and 1 year old and I believe once they’re a little older it will be neat for them to carry some backpack, but right now I prefer traveling “clutter-free”.

Remember, from the security check to the gate and even from the gate to your plane are often long ways. You might have to carry tired kids. There might be stairs. You do not want to have nappy bags, hand bags, shopping bags etc dangling from your wrists while you try to catch the kids. 2 backpacks. Nothing more. Feel the freedom.

In my hubbys backpack are his man-things, a book, tablet, chargers, camera, tickets etc etc. In my backpack are extra clothes for each child, plus basic toiletries and nappies (diapers). no, I will not have a diaperbag at my feet during flight. Remember, you have to stow ever loose item overhead during take off, landing and turbulences. I do not feel like doing in-flight gymnastics. Rather, I have a slim zipper pouch holding 6 nappies, a tube of bum cream, a travel size pack of wet wipes (two others are in the backpack), moisturizer and hand sanitizer. This pouch fits neatly in the magazine pouch in front of my seat. Two bottles, one with milk and one with tea, also fit into the pouch in front of my husband’s seat. the pouch in front of my son holds his drinking bottle. That’s it. Sorted. Stays there even during turbulences. I don’t have to rummage through the overhead compartment for anything except if baby’s tummy really gets runny and I need to refill on diapers. Okay, if baby is under 12 month and doesn’t drink cows milk yet (which you get from the stewardess once your initial supply of formula is used up) you little formula container will also fit in front of you. I prefer to not have to look for a lot of things when we get off the plane.

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I am sure your kids have their collection of favorite “guys” too. But beware. Little things tend to get lost on airports or in planes, other kids come and want to play with them and break them etc etc. So I generally advise to get a little keepsake at the airport or be surprised what the air hostesses have for your kids, but do not risk tantrums because someone special like Spidey or Buzz got lost …

Such a zip pouch you can easily get when you buy a gift pack of toiletries etc. Perfect for baby things. Small enough for a baby change tango in the tiny cabin loo.

Refill in water you get anytime on board, so don’t worry about that.

Remember, if you bring pens and a coloring book, the pens WILL roll off the table and you’ll have to go crawling in a search mission. the same goes for superman, and other favorite small toys the kids might want to bring. Loose them in-flight and you are in for terror! Mama, practice your finger games, funny songs, rhymes and stories beforehand. You are the main source of entertainment now.

Also, make sure you greet the flight attendants very friendly right from the start and point them out to your children. My boys will get all excited saying: Hey mom, look at the beautiful princess! (Emirates Airways – great outfits) Of course the “princess” will stop by later with some extra goodies for the kids.

Also, having the flight attendants on your side right from the start will help you with the extra seat for baby you bargained for when booking “baby isle”. Most likely at check-in you discussed it with the lady at the counter, too – a free seat next to you. Often, flights are overbooked and there will still be somebody sitting next to you when you board the plane, no matter how you tried to sweet talk the person at the airline counter. Do not panic.

A person in single free seat next to you in the baby isle is most likely traveling alone and wont mind moving to another open seat elsewhere in the plane after the plane took off. Especially after you and your husband had a lively discussion on how you hope the kids wont throw up again after the airplane meal … you get the picture. Having a flight attendant on your side helps, as she will kindly ask the single traveler if he minds moving to another open seat and she’ll even help him with his luggage. Done, free seat secure. Mind you, I had to travel twice for 8 hours with Sam on my lap. It is manageable, if your relax about it.

The little kiddies bag Steven is wearing was a complimentary gift from Lufthansa filled with little surprises. No need to bring too much stuff on board.

Today’s airplanes provide each passenger with his own screen. Perfect. For your toddlers – relax if you’ve been limiting their screen time. This is not the time to get all educational conscious. this is the time to focus on peace. Do not choose a Disney movie for your little ones, as they wont hold a 2 year olds attention for long. Go to the “TV-Series” options and check whether CTV (stands for Children’s TV) is available. My best bet is CeeBeebies, the BBC’s children’s channel. They have a nice compilation of favorite 10 min episodes. My baby’s hooked. Disney Junior will do as well. Stay clear of Cartoon network and the likes. Makes them all edgy.

You know about the bottle during take off and landing. Get ready for the need to pee soon after, of course. But again, I am entering the plane knowing I will be walking to the loo with one of the two kids more than sitting down and relaxing. So it’s no biggie. I also take the child that’s bored the most on little exploration tours through the economy part of the plane. Next to the emergency exit are little windows through which we can see “the whole world”. How amazing, every time.

When it’s real hot in South Africa, we have winter in Germany. So you gotta pack a set of warm clothes to change into at the airport. Lots of fun.

The flight attendants will usually bring the child meal before your meal, so you have enough time to assist your kids with their eating. The plate Steven gets is more than enough for him and his brother. They will also bring toys for the kids, and even some coloring books and pencils. You see, there was no need for you to bring your chest of wonders from home. If you’re the cranky passenger, there will be the one set of complimentary toys for your older child and you will hear: Sorry, it’s only for the paying child. When you’ve made the flight attendants your ally from the start, there will be, miraculously, another set of toys and gifts for your baby as well, and a back pack, and extra chocolate … you get the picture. It’s worth a try. If your baby has a bad day, it is hard on your flight attendant as well, because she needs to make sure ALL passengers are comfortable. So try to show appreciation.

The complimentary on board magazines have a lot of “strange”  photos in them to keep baby entertained for a bit as well.

O yes, and, very important, have one nice and thick empty plastic bag handy, folded away neatly in the seat in front of you. I tell you why:

Mealtimes often last an excruciating long time on board. It literally takes over an hour before the tray with lots of flimsy little containers on a flimsy little table in front of you is removed by the hard working crew. Not good with rambunctious toddlers who need to jump on their seats and definitely will want to go pipi twice while you both are stuck with that tray. Enter the plastic bag. You drink that tiny sip of a juice you were provided with, finish any open container or put a lid on, unfold your bag into which you elegantly slide one tray on top of the other, place it on your seat, get out with the kids to attend their needs (no waiting time at the lavatories because everybody else is “stuck”), go back, sit down and slide the tray out again and continue your meal as if nothing happened. Easy peasy. Helps every time.

Later you can use the bag to scoop up all the little favours you received, and put your nappy pouch back into the backpack, slide the bottles into the backpacks sides and you’re good to leave the plane, no mess, no clutter, no panic.

Especially if you have to stop over somewhere it is a big advantage to not have too much luggage to look after. There is always another security check, passport control etc. Yes, it is good to prepare, but unless you are going somewhere 3rd world (with little kids? Not a good idea) remember that you can purchase almost everything in an airport.

Dubai airport has little strollers available which is excellent, because both kids can sit down and rest while we find our way to the connecting flight. We had to stay from 8pm to 4 am at the airport.

Tapas Restaurant has cosy little quiet corners to sit and wait for your connecting flight.

We found ourself the quietest of all restaurants, Tapas Authentic Tapas Bar located near Gate B26 offering  delicious Spanish tapas in a very comfy setting.  We put the kids on the soft couches and enjoyed the little portions of Spanish starters and just had a good time. If we had waited at our gate or in the overcrowded main restaurants, it would have been really exhausting.

IMG-20130718-01389I hope it helped a little.

Enjoy your flight.


Stereotypes

Today is the kick off of the biggest Royal Wedding medieval spectacle you will ever watch.

Every four years the Bavarian city of Landshut, Germany, transforms itself into a medieval scene of a big Royal wedding with over 2000 actors in historic costumes performing the wedding as it took place in 1474 including knightly games.

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My German town of birth …

So maybe you can still get some tickets on Ebay and enjoy some knight tournaments or games at the fire – the festival lasts for a whole month.

A good opportunity to chat about stereotypes tonight!

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I come from a cosy small town that’s over a 1000 years old and hosts a lot of historical festivities. Around the lovely town of Nordhausen are picturesque countrysides, fruitful plains and mountains with amazing hiking trails. I practically grew up on a mountain bike!

Traveling a LOT I painfully realized that Germans are mostly stereotyped by Hitler, Kraut and Wurst.

“Propaganda” (what else can we call the never ending BBC history version) is doing their best to keep Germans in the black-and-white WW2 documentary zone. The 60th cultural revolution? Never heard of. Arts? Music? Beautiful nature? Inventions? The miracle of the reunification? What’s that. English people actually believe Georg Friedrich Handel was British. The miracle of the reunification? Do not teach it!

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Many totally quiet spots at the Baltic sea invite you to ponder about life and creation …

Time and time again I get incredulous looks when showing pictures from my German home town: What, you have colours there? Trees? We thought it was always snowing.

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At every corner you can buy amazing delicacies … scrumptious pastries and freshly pressed juices … sauerkraut and sausage is more reserved for the Bavarians who are a distinct, loveable tribe of their own in Southern Germany. To reduce all Germans to Oktoberfest and Wurst would be a shame. Germans are also quite adventurous in their taste and love trying international cuisine. Every town has their favorite “Italian”, “Chinese”, “Greek”, and a turkish “Doner kebap” is probably more popular than a “burger” which originated from the “Fischbroetchen” (fish bun) sold in Hamburg …

And yes, it hurts a lot when “the boy in the striped pyjamas” is discussed over every dinner you are having with new acquaintances.

Never mind the fact that Germans are generally much more supportive of Jewish culture and appreciate modern Jewish literature. German kids have student exchanges with Israel – I myself have been send to live in a kibbutz my my German High school!

The horrible war is over for 70 years now and all German kids still have to go on educational trips to the concentration camps and are taught how horrible their ancestors were. aStuttgart 018I haven’t heard of an English primary school sending their kids to commemorate the South African camps the Afrikaans people were interred in. Oh, wait, there were no museums build to keep that guilt alive, right?

German is still paying big amounts to all victims and is the country whose war criminals have been painstakingly taken to court and punished which we can not say for the atrocities others have done in many nations …

aStuttgart 030Ah well I am just trying to say, please do not break out your great-uncles svastika flag when I come to visit.

Rather, let’s talk science and education, free state-of-the-art healthcare for everybody and playgrounds everywhere…

It is hard having to fight stereotypes every time. If  the only German you know is the evil European in any given Hollywood Thriller actor, it might be time to widen your horizon. Just saying. Stereotypes are so 1933.

That’s why I act a bit over the top when people talk like all Russians are thieves (been there, met amazing musicians and poets), all Chinese know martial arts (been to Asia and learned a thing or two) or all Americans are shallow (traveled almost all of the states and was surprised by the variety of culture – and if you want something DONE, an American will tell you that you can do it …) the list goes on and on.

We all need stereotypes to quickly have a frame of reference at hand to know what to expect. But don’t expect a grey, stiff, work robot when you hear German. That’s not what we’re all about. Please.

Waterfalls on the South African Panorama Route

Hi my cherished followers. I usually publish travel related posts in my Traveler’s Log, so that people who are just looking for a review on a certain area in the world can do so without being bothered by my personal essays and such. We recently had so much fun on the Panorama Route where we were ministering in a lovely little congregation. I thought to share some waterfall pictures with you. For posts about accommodation and what to do with children, just browse through the other posts! Have fun, hope you enjoy the images!

Traveler's Log

If you just joined the blog, look at the previous posts to find out more about the location of these amazing waterfalls.

Here are a few photos for you to enjoy the scenery without much further talking!

If you love right-clicking and saving: For a real small fee I will email you the non-watermarked original – isn’t that better than working with pictures not knowing if its legal?

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Starbucks for Kids

And that’s one thing my son really misses here in South Africa. “Mummy when can we go to Germany again” he asks me every single day …

4KidsWillTravel

We’ve now been on the ground in Berlin for 3 days, and life has been full speed ahead.  Lillian and Audrey had to take an entrance exam and interview on the morning after arrival for the Nelson Mandela School, we’ve toured a few schools for Emilia and Josephine, and we’ve explored the areas in and around the Schöneberg neighborhood mostly on foot.  On top of keeping everyone fed, engaged, and happy, Vivian and I continue to research Grundschulen (elementary schools) along with housing options that will strategically allow us to send our kids to these schools while maintaining the balance between good schools for the younger two, affordable housing, walkability, and an easy commute for the two older girls to and from their school.  It reminds me a little of our World trip and trying to find good places to stay for our little army of 6, but the stakes…

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Active Citizenship – Is our right of speech zensored by modern-day pillory?

This post is about a volunteer who tried to find an emergency foster home for a child in need and got negative reports in national newspapers instead.

This morning, before taking our kids a bit out into nature, we sat in Wimpy (a south African franchise serving excellent coffee and breakfasts) reading a newspaper this morning, or at least trying to, while keeping the kids relatively behaved.

I was shocked, to say the least,  to read an article in the Saturday Star how one persons facebook post about requesting a save place for a child in need makes (negative) front page news.

It’s definitely safer to only post about your lunch and share photos of kittens on facebook. This world is spinning out of control and if you call a spade a spade you get publicly displayed as evil? It scares me. Who is with me that we need to make sure the right of freedom of speech stays protected as long as we are not calling ourselves a dictatorship?

Here’s the low down:

The Children’s Act states that if a child needs to be placed in a save place outside their own home the court must consider a report by a
designated social worker about—
(a)
the cultural, religious and linguistic background of the child; and
(b)
the availability of a suitable person with a similar background to that
of the child who is willing and able to provide foster care to the child.
(2) A child may be placed in the foster care of a person from a different
cultural, religious and linguistic background to that of the child, but only
if—
(a)
there is an existing bond between that person and the child; or
(b)
a suitable and willing person with a similar background is not readily
available to provide foster care to the child
also the Children’s Act states that if the child needs to be cared for by non-relatives, the caregiver must preferably be of similar ethnic and cultural background.

This is a HUMAN RIGHT in South Africa.

Diversity is important. Exposing children to a multicultural environment is an important part of education. In time of trauma, however, what a child needs most is stability, not a new challenge.

If an Hindu child needs a safe place, it would be kind not to place her in an environment where there’s nobody speaking her language and on top of being taken away from a familiar environment she would have to deal with a different culture.

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Should have rather posted a puppy picture instead of asking for a safe place for a child in need …


So if a volunteer linked to a Helping Hand Organisation (but not even the organization themselves) posts the request by a mother in need for an Afrikaans child to be placed in an Afrikaans safe place, is that according to our laws? Definately. You can find the Child’s act at http://www.dsd.gov.za/index2.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=++%0D9&Ite

Now tell me, why do I read in the Saturday Star there is a “National Outcry” because this volunteer has exercised her right of speech and did just that, asked for a save place where there would be people who speak the language of a six year old girl in need?

Do we deserve to have our facebook requests posted in the news to scare the public to not speak their mind lest the same happens to them? Just asking?

Only if we do not take the time to study our nations laws and exercise our rights will we feel victimized and helpless. Passivity leads to depression. I’d rather go down fighting for what’s right then to sit and mope about what’s all not the way it should be.

When a whole nation came together for peace-prayers and started to courageously call out “We ARE the people”, the communist dictatorship in East Germany quietly packed their bags. What an exciting time that was in my life!

I have seen a communist nation regain it’s freedom because almost every single citizen chose to lift their voices, peacefully, and in the end prayer meetings in every town and village were attended by virtually everyone.

The communist system in East Germany was brought down by the millions of feet of the little people.

East Germans told their government: Hey, We ARE the people, not the enemy!

I am every Sunday amazed at how the City Press is publishing tweets of whoever does not obey the rules of political correctness.It sure feels like modern day pillory. Do not speak your mind too loudly, they might publish your name, picture and email address in the Sunday Paper!

I used to think the press was there to keep the government accountable, not to make sure the people all speak newspeak.

Zama Khumalo, 24, told his 493 friends on the social website he would send out an invitation to a “Big Black Braai” to celebrate the deaths of 42 white children when their school bus plunged into Westdene dam, Johannesburg, on 27 March 1985.

This is a country of Human Rights. There must be an outcry when a journalist uses facebook to invite people to a BBQ to celebrate the death of a busload of school children, yes.

But for someone to look for an appropriate foster home in an emergency situation to be nailed as “having the nerve” to ask for an ethnic and linguistic appropriate care giver in accordance to the South African Children’s act, that needs a public outcry of a different sort: Protect our rights of speech.

I do not know if facebook was actually designed to make it easier for the clandestine services of governments to keep an eye on what people are saying or doing. Maybe it is better to use it to publish pictures of our pets. There is no guideline saying: Please do not post anything emotionally charged, the press might judge you about it. Nationally.

All I am trying to say, the scale seems to be tipping dangerously creating a society in which we all speak hushedly and common sense diminishes. Please friends, do not let that happen.

All South Africans fare better when people, in a friendly way, keep reminding the government that they answer to the people and not the other way around.

La Le Lu or the importance of Lullabys!

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In their young lives, our kids have traveled a lot. Steven, 4, has done over 300.000 km (flights included) and slept in many many different beds!

Any child needs the comforts of love and a safe place.

Expat and third Culture Kids are no exception – they even need more assurance that their life is alright. Recently I have been discussing the topic of Third Culture Kids with several fellow bloggers.

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Third Culture Kids have a lot of first hand adventures early in life!

To create a home that is both open to the exciting things the host culture has to offer and also provides the stability of a culture a child can call his very own, is a task of love. I find that having certain non-discussable routines in place helps a lot so that a child can settle everywhere just fine, no matter the circumstances.

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Being a ministry family means getting a lot of invitations to many different places. Our routines help the kids to feel welcome and confident almost every where.

Bed time routines are sacred! In South Africa a lot of kids bathe before dinner and fall asleep in the living room to be carried into their beds late.

We personally have a much more “German” routine although millions of parents world wide probably do the same. My husband works almost every night as his job includes lecturing and house visits. He tries to make sure to be home for dinner and bedtime.

After supper, whether out and about traveling to far away places or snug at home, we would bathe the kids. In their cuddly pajamas they get to choose a book or two or three that we read with the,

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Home is where we as a family do what we do.

Then its lights out, and we light a candle and sing together. After a good night prayer the kids will settle for the night. This works everywhere so nice as it creates such a loving atmosphere. Then dad is off again on his assignments. Several nights a week I am doing the bathing alone since dad is out, but almost every night he manages to sneak in at around 8pm just to kiss them good night. How sweet is that!

 

 

 

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Unwinding the same way every night gives sooo much closeness and peace.
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Steven and Sam are so cool at making new friends wherever they are, easy as pie. English, German or Afrikaans – the appropriate language gets figured out in seconds.

Here is a scene from a much-loved German classic featuring a loving bed time scene between a dad and his son, including a cute little Lullaby.

When did Mob justice become normal? Do tribal customs triumph over legislation?

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On the road from Vivo to Louis Trichardt.

So today after work I went with my 4 year old to town to quickly get some gifts for a baby shower tomorrow morning. I love to teach my son the value of giving generously.

Normally going into town would be a happy event. Today, as soon as we reached downtown, one block away from the main street drama unfolded right before our eyes. A man was being pushed to the ground by an angry person. Soon several men where kicking him everywhere. Ribs, legs, head. Before I knew what was happening, a mob started forming, screaming angrily. The men started to kick the guy in his head, he was bleeding and I saw him loosing his consciousness.

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In this street, an angry mob of about 100 people formed within seconds right in front of me.

Suddenly more than a hundred of angry people shouted all around us. It all had happened so quickly, my heart felt like melting wax. All I could think about was how to get my son out of there as quick as possible.

A few moments later I was trying to calm down at the store I went to in order to buy baby garments for my friend.

My son luckily hadn’t really noticed too much of the scene. He just asked why the people where behaving badly. I promised him to find out what was going on.  If you think action movies are fast paced, try real life. It happened so quickly there was nothing one could have done. The same morning an African student who is in our church’s youth had posted a video on facebook where people in some village where apparently burned to dead alive. I didn’t watch it, I was just horrified of the kids posting this, the thought of somebody recording it with the cellphone, the barbaric terror of it all.

“Last week my village necklaced a thief”

Now there I stand, still shaking, at the queue to pay. I do what any woman probably does, I talk about it. I am the only white person in the store that afternoon. The guy behind me laughs at my report and says with a calm, assuring voice: “He probably stole something”. The till lady nods. “Yes he must have stolen something. Last week in my village they necklaced someone.

They put a tire around his neck and set it on fire for him to die. He had taken R 2000 (about 170 Dollars) ” She smiles kindly.

Imagine my feelings standing there. Hello. If you don’t know South Africa – it is a beautiful, intelligent, civilized (I thought so) nation with all the 1st world comforts and 3rd world challenged mixed into one big potjie (hot pot).

First world country.

I am not standing in the bush. I am at a till with make up displays and advertisements for elegant dresses and funeral policies.

Oh that’s why. The guy behind me is amused by my questioning looks. “Listen that’s how WE do this. It’s the law of blood. You steal, you pay with blood.”

I turn to my son: “Steven put that lipstick back. Don’t steal stuff darling.”

I am stopping at our school on my way back. Our handy men are still working on some gates. I mention the incident in town. They aren’t worried. “He probably stole something” is their answer.

My Zimbabwean coworker is preparing next weeks class. When I ask her if its normal, she smiles patiently. “He must have stolen something”.

Okay. I get it. After almost 8 years here in the country of freedom and reconciliation I still didn’t know that this is how we deal with thieves.

The legal system – too western?

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At the odds and ends store around the corner you can buy this little rich feller who wills squeak when you squeeze him.

Today #guptagate trended on twitter. A super-uber rich Indian family had a ridiculously fancy wedding party and since they have close links with the ruling party, the ANC, they got some special treatment…

Twenty flying squad members, 10 high-powered flying squad cars, as many as 40 members of the police counter-assault team and VIP protection unit and several armoured and specialised surveillance vehicles.

This is what taxpayers coughed up to protect more than 200 guests of a very rich Indian families wedding party.

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We are connecting local farmers who are willing to help with needy people and fetch the food and prepare it on site, like here for hungry Zimbabean refugees in Musina.

There is also controversy about the arrival at Waterkloof Air Force base of a passenger jet carrying wedding guests.

The civilian guests, who arrived at the air force base without being screened by customs officials, were whisked away in a convoy of white Range Rovers, protected by the large police detail, who clocked in at 5am.

A police officer who was involved in the operation and its planning said yesterday the security detail had been finalised last week already.

As many as 40 policemen from the counter-assault team and the VIP protection unit were ordered to escort five trucks from OR Tambo Airport to Sun City. Two of these apparently contained gifts for the wedding couple and dignitaries.

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In the end South Africa can not go on being wobbly about values anymore if we all want to live a fulfilled and happy life. Cooking the mielie pap (maize porridge)

“The CAT members used their armoured Humvees and specialised surveillance vehicles for the operation,” said the officer.

So our president is once more stealing from the taxpayers. After building a mansion the German politicians can only dream of (in my home country you get fired when you allow your aunt Anna to go on holiday in a government jet, in south Africa it’s commonplace) while it’s May and many kids still have NO schoolbooks (government has no money ?), what’s next … ?

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My husband Andries assessing the individual needs.

In our municipality, according to Afri-forum in the Soutpansberger newspaper, new, job-providing businesses can not be allowed to register because we do not have the infrastructure for it. Power cuts, no clean water, etc. No money for that. But boy oh boy, you should see the villas sprouting like mushrooms on top of the mountains.

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Choose the wise path, South Africa.

When confronted about this, the answer was: This is Africa. We do not do things the western way anymore.

I am sure there comes a day when president Zuma must decide: Does he want Western justice with a legal court, commission, hearing, investigations where all the tax money went, or should we rather deal with it the African way?

Youth killed in mob justice in limpopo

“Witch” set alight in Limpopo

Bruno had a Birthday – the power of the trivial – throwing a bone.

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Meet Bruno!
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Yip, he used to even come with us to the office …
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About 2 weeks before the birth of my first child
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Bruno never tires.
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He can climb any obstacle with his little legs.
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Puppy ate too much.
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Bruno as a puppy.

P1010858 P1010882 Photo-0004  bruno 046 Bruno is our dog. My first dog ever!

My husband, who worked as a cattle and ostrich farmer before, helped deliver this little puppy 5 years ago when he was stuck. Shy little thing. We decided to keep him and named him Bruno.

His mother was a very elegant Weimeraner and his dad a sneaky Dachshund/sidewalk-special who somehow made it into the mom’s yard …

So Bruno has got this elegant and sophisticated face, a beautiful brown coat and ridiculously short legs.

Me being German seems to have provided me with a hidden talent in dog-training. Bruno, my very first dog, house-trained quickly, had fun learning all the basic commands like shake, stay, down, roll-over, fetch etc etc and quite a number of party tricks as well. In my South African neighborhood that’s uncommon, dogs mainly serve to guard property.

Bruno enjoys walks with us, heels perfectly and even waits patiently without the need of a leash outside the neighborhoods grocer. He has become popular and well loved and would do so well at dog sports which we do not have here – he loves obstacles and takes them all in his stride.

Recently it was his 5th birthday. Our kids are very impressed that Bruno was here before them. I dare say, caring for Bruno as a little puppy maybe had a similar effect as adopting a child has for some couples who struggled to have kids – after 4 years trying to conceive, we fell pregnant and before Bruno’s 1st birthday, our first son arrived. A miracle baby, thanks to a lot of prayer and faith. But that’s a different story.

So we sang, like every year, happy birthday for him, presented him with an extra big chewing toy and a huge meat-cake and it was all great fun.

I hope you liked this post.

Really sweet posts like this one http://allaboutmanners.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/always-remember/ seem to get a lot, I mean a LOT of likes. Although it’s just one picture with a fluffy thought. So I thought, writing about little Bruno might delight my readers.

The title talks about throwing a bone too. I throw one for Bruno and he fetches it and has a lot of fun.

Last week the owners of a vine estate in Franschhoek refused to host a wedding for a gay couple.

It is against their religion.

There are many other beautiful wine farms offering venues for weddings. This couple, on their private estate, said their beliefs prohibit them from supporting the gay lifestyle. So they got taken to the Human Rights Court and criticized by the newspapers. Question: If I go to a professing Indian Hindu’s estate and demand of him to slaughter a cow for my festivity, is he allowed to deny it on account of his faith?  Would we do the same to a Muslim’s farm? Why doesn’t that Christian couple have the rights to quote their beliefs? Why must people be so aggressive about their sexual preferences, instead of granting people of a different conviction the so much cited tolerance as well?

Throwing you a bone – since I am not blogging anonymously it is probably better to stick to posts about puppies? All comments welcome!

One week closer to achieving your dream – Thursday: A ride on a steam train

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Steven at two.

Hello again to One Week closer to Achieving your Dreams! Today I want to think about how to keep our lives beautiful.

My little boy Steven was 2 years old when somebody gave him a kiddies plate. Now my son is growing up in a loving home and has a big, loving, sensitive heart. We hadn’t exposed him to any violent entertainment yet as we do not deem it age appropriate.

After receiving this plate he got very sad, and then asked me: Mom, why would they give me a plate with a devil on it? Don’t then know that I do not like the devil? …

The plate he got was a Ben 10 plate like they are common in all stores, that little boy with all the dragons and monsters. Well my baby boy did not enjoy it and he simply did not want to use that plate. If you think about it – why would anybody make anything violent for a child? A small child’s soul is pure and lovely, may we not soil it with evil things and even pay money for it.

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Taking Steven on a steam train ride on one of the oldest steam trains in the world – the Harzquerbahn in Germany.

Little children have such a good understanding of what is right and wrong, and they want nothing more than to be loved and protected, and love you back. Can we try to keep that child-like innocence?

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The train goes up the Harz mountains to the highest peak north before the North Pole, the Brocken…
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Every little boy should be shown how a steam engine works … well I enjoyed the explanations myself as a little child. My dad was a great technology enthusiast who had a knack for making facts come to life!
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On top of the Brocken
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Click on this picture to find cool info about the Brocken, it’s history during the cold war and its heavy role in German literature…
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Exhausted on the way back…
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Back home …

Harzbahn (50) Harzbahn (91) Somebody once said it is never too late to have a happy childhood.

It’s never too late to clean up our ambitions and lives for a lighter, clearer way of doing things!

It is time to say to Satan: don’t cramp my style. Go to hell. –

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This train I took many times as a child, either to go visit my grandmother or to go skiing in the mountains…

Today is a good opportunity to allow God to show you which nasty things you are unnecessarily toting around on the journey of your life. Achieving our dreams is possible if we travel light.

Joh 10:11  I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

Never forget, that Jesus is the one who loved you so much that He would trade His royal rights for your shame, so that you can walk upright again.

There is no plan B with God, no matter what happened in your life, His plan A is still valid and there for you to go for.

Sometimes we are so shrouded in shame and guilt, and negativity, that we give up on our passions.

Maybe you know somebody who has no food tonight, but rejection has damaged you so much that you don’t dare cooking for the poor person. You are afraid they might not like your food! Well, give that rejection to God, and go buy some buns and butter … do not ever let the past steal the joy of the future.

Stop eating from satans plate of shame, rejection, hate and bitterness – refuse them like my child did. Give this day to Jesus, He loves you so very much!

I included pictures of a day trip to the Brocken mountain with my dad. I hope you enjoy the journey. I have always loved train rides.

 

 

 

 

Create in me a heart so

full of love that it reaches

each person I meet and

brings out their goodness

Create in me a heart full of joy

so I can lift up those who feel

they have no hope

Create in me a heart full of forgiveness

so I can be free to give peace and understanding

Create in me a heart that grows

in love for you each day

Most of all Jesus

Create in me a heart

which desires only you

and to do your will

 

by Cindy Tuttle

One week closer to your dreams – Wednesday

Hi everybody, how was your night?

My little one is teething and apparently needs a mommy hug every 30 min at nights …

My old friend was sure happy over the meal last night. You don’t realize how much it means to a lonely person to feel somebody thought about you. I should make it a habit.

I hope you all used your time well.

Remember the verse from Proverbs I was sharing this yesterday?

Pro 2:10  Wisdom will control your mind, and you will be pleased with knowledge.

Pro 2:11  Sound judgment and good sense will watch over you.

Pro 2:12  Wisdom will protect you from evil schemes and from those liars

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One thing I absolutely MISS big time living in South Africa is a stroll through a pedestrian zone. I lived and worked in Stuttgart before, and it’s parks and Kings street (Koenigsstrasse) always provided for inspiration. I would love walking for hours, watching people, writing down thoughts … in South Africa there is nothing like that.
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Beach on a rooftop in downtown Stuttgart.
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Stuttgart has over 8 km of parks inside the city! Central Park NY go home!

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God really is honoured when his children are smart. There are enough evil schemes out there to get us. Have wisdom and you will be protected. If we do not lock our doors at night and we get robbed, can we blame God the next morning? No, it was our own foolishness and some other person’s evildoing, that teamed up in harming us.

Let me put it this way: there is no club of good people out there. If you receive a phone call informing you that you’ve won the British National Lottery, you put down that phone. I’ve got news for you, you most certainly did not even know of that lottery before, you never bought a ticket, and you did not win. And you do not give out your ID number nor bank account details to anybody, also not on email. That is wisdom, and that is protecting you, according to God’s precious word, from evil schemes and liars.

God is pleased when we make a wise plan, check it with God’s word, and see it through. God is not pleased with people who constantly start something and always lack the drive to see it through to completion. That is why I hope that this week you make a decision to make planning a habit and to stick to the plans you are making.

 

I have been in South Africa for almost 8 years now. Children that I saw after their birth in hospital are going to school now, kids I taught at church are finished with High School!

I realize what an unkind privilege youth is. To believe you have all the time in the world ahead of you, that resources are endless and life is good… only to realize a decade later that time is running out, mercilessly, that resources are hard to come by and life simply is not fair.

My life in Africa has added to this stark realization of the insignificance of a human life. Recently a friend died after a minor medical procedure that went slightly wrong, and the doctors just didn’t care. He died on the way home from hospital. A short life – over before it amounted to anything that would even just justify an article in the daily paper.

How do we slow down this life? How can we leave footprints that last? Is there something you can create, and leave behind, that will be a positive reminder of you?

Without God, it is impossible to make sense of being a timeless being in a time constricted universe.

The hope of a life that lasts an eternity helps to act unselfish here and now.

I could never understand how someone could deal with weapons, making a fortune of the cruel death of others, and then go home and swim in the pools with their children?

Only when you take God out of the equation can you be that selfish, consumed by the here and now, not touched by the consequences of your own actions.

But how then can you parent to leave a legacy if consequences are removed?

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After sharing in a church in Germany I am presented with some handmade puppets for my work with children in South Africa

This tiny spec of life that I have must be used for something positive. A decade has passed too quickly. Believing that God sees and appreciates the effort is a comfort.

Ask Jesus to help you, today, with His spirit, to make right decisions, to build your house properly, and to leave a blessing behind wherever you go.

Thank you for your time,

Christiane

The challenges of Third Culture People

Did you grow up in one culture, your parents came from another, and you are now living in a totally different country? Then you are a third-culture kid! Yet being a third-culture kid is not always easy; in fact many hardships may arise from this culture-hopping phenomenon.

A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.

The country my parents grew up in simply does not exist anymore. When I was thirteen we witnessed a chunk of East Germany’s population simply running away from a country that had been created by the Allied Forces in an attempt to keep Germany from ever trying to play a major role in world politics by dividing it into four parts. One part was given to the Russians without the population having any say in it. My hometown was originally part of West Germany, the part controlled by USA, France and Britain. Then, as if in an aftertought, it was decided to give this little region to the Russians in an exchange for a part of Berlin, later known as West Berlin, to make sure the Allied Forces have a foothold in Eastern Germany too, so that this devided nation could serve as a “buffer nation” in the cold war.

East Germans suffered a lot of injustice and worked their butts of for Russia, while West Germany experienced the economic miracle and showed the world what intelligence and hard work could accomplish 🙂

Fourty years later, mentalities had become very different and then, out of a sudden (exciting story for another blog one day maybe) the country became one.

From one day to the other our schooling system changed and we found ourselves in a world totally different than the one our parents knew. I remember the week all our beloved products disappeared from the shops, and the shelves were empty and we got worried. Then a week later the shelves were full of things we had never seen before. This bankrupted our local industries and gave West Germany an immediate marked expansion.

When we started to visit churches across the former border 20 km away from us, what a culture shock. Although we spoke the same language, you could tell by our clothes we are from a different country. The children thought us strange because we didn’t know the same TV programs and hadn’t watched the same movies. We tried to catch up on our education by dutifully watching Mac Gyver and the A Team every day after school.

But a general sense of lostness set in nevertheless. I quickly learned to speak immaculate high German so that nobody could tell my East German Origins by my accent.

Interactions obviously vary from culture to culture. The way we interacted in East Germany was totally different from what was important to West Germans back then. What used to shock me most were the totally old fashioned concepts people seemed to live by compared to the mindset we grew up in.

Now, many years later, having lived in different nations, I regret that the country of my childhood simply does not exist anymore. People had to adapt or get lost, adapt to new laws, new job descriptions, new ins and outs, new entertainment and foods for goodness sakes.

Coming to South Africa was like being put on a bus to school 5 days after school started-

Imagine that! Arriving at your new school, nobody telling you even where your classroom or what your schedule is. All the other kids know each other and have their seats. There you stand, everyone staring. You open your mouth and your strange accents immediately makes all the other kids put up a huge barrier. You are strange. And then you don’t know the next classroom to go to after break, are late, and get reprimanded for it. At the end of the day you do not even know which bus to take home.

That’s, in truth, how I felt when coming to SA. As a pastors wife in along established church where my husband had been the pastor for 8 years before me, there was not much I could do right. Nobody ever explained to me the ins and outs of the ministry, nor the local etiquette as in what was expected. I asked my in laws who all live in the same small town, toexplain me what they expect, since they let me know how much I did not do right.

Speak our language, cook our food, I was told!

8 years down the line it has become simpler, but not easier at all.

The hardest part, to raise my two little boys as confident as possible.

I am trying to make that extra effort to be as sparkly as I can, for every time their mom introduces herself, people emphasise on her differentness. Different accent, different name, etc. Afrikaaners aren’t exactly known to be the most open minded people there are.

I do not want my boys to ever feel they are the odd ones out.

My sons are very fast learners. Steven, 3, speaks German with the vocabulary and understanding of an adult, plus Afrikaans fluently and English all necessary basics.

Samuel, 15months, knows more than 30words in 3 languages already.

I myself was reading big novels by the age of 8 and try to carry over mylove of languages to my boys. But where do we belong?

I am,overtime, losing a lot of my old friends from overseas. It’s hard to keep in touch when you are so far away and your life differs so drastically.

Culture Shock in my native country

While I am always regarded as a stranger, a foreigner when in South Africa or elsewhere, people back in Germany expected me to behave the same way and know the same things as they do. Fact is, our value systems are very different in South Africa and Germany. When back in Germany, I so want to just fit in whats going on and happening, but I do not know anything about current TV shows, fashion trends or the latest German pop hits nor the current political affairs or insider jokes.

When I am asking my siblings and parents to update me on this, they think I am shallow. How can you want to watch a TV Show when we want to talk about our personal problems, they ask. Simply because I need to catch up with the country as a whole, before I can truly place what you are telling me into proper context!

My children have to relate very different to their two sets of grandparents. South African grandparents want to be greeted with a kiss on the mouth which would be seen as a degree of child abuse in Germany, especially if its forced. South African grandparents can not be adressed directly as in”you” but must always be addressed as “Oupa” or “Ouma” – “does Ouma want to see this picture I made” you have to ask. Generelly, in South Africa families meet to eat and share unrelated anecdotes over generous amounts of meat.

In Germany, relationships are much more on equal footing, and Grandparents want to see you sing a song or perform on an instrument, and do some activities like hiking,board games  or going to concert together. Food does not play a main role.

My parents feel offended if my husband tries to feed them too much, his parents do not know what I want if I arrive with a board game and think it would be real fun if we play together.

While a third-culture kid must let go of their identity as foreigner when he/she returns, the home country can prove to be more foreign than anything encountered before. The peer group a third-culture kid faces does not match the idealized image children have of “home”. This often makes it hard for a third-culture kid to form their own identity.

Airports. Traveling. I wished we as a family could go to a completely different nation where none of us gets to say how this is done, but we do as we feel is right.

The experiences our kids get are awesome. My children have played with lion cubs, swam in 3 oceans, crossed the world 4 times before the age of 4, played soccer with African children in the dirt, watched musicals in Germany and danced in Botswana, are really happy to meet new people and smile at every stranger introducing themselves with “Hi my name is Steven” or a friendly hug. I remember how confused Steven was in Germany when strangers did not talk back to him (you do not small talk with people you never met) while in South Africa you can not even buy bread without talking and joking with the cashier.

My kids are unafraid. I want it to stay that way. So I am really trying not to be odd in my forever strangeness. The world is not my home, heaven is. So I am exercising my ability to make myself at home anywhere I am at the moment. Sorry for those who don’t get it.

If I make mistakes, it is not because I want to offend you, it is because I didn’t get a handbook on your way of life. I really do try to find the jokes funny … But please, let my kids feel accepted!

I also am not quick to give answers to problems, simply because my global experience shows me that there are no quick answers.

Sometimes it discourages me that intelligent people are so insecure while the ignorant walk around basking in confidence.

Here is a great video on third Culture children

http://vimeo.com/41264088

They are the most awesome people you might ever meet!

Confessions of an almost geeky girl2: Why Zumba is important

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In Germany, Arts and Creativity are actually sponsored by the government like this playground in my hometown Nordhausen.
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Painting a School in Africa
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Early Morning Ride in South Africa

 

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Famous brandy producing town I was born in …
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Europe

birthday 019 birthday 046 birthday 050 brombeere03   gartenhaus 004 hisi 001 johnny 006kleinWe change, and our middle age could be defined as the time our age begins to show around our middle …

So the pictures in this post show my pre-Africa self and world … just to remind myself of the spirited girl I still am trying to preserve on the inside.

Finding myself all my life between worlds, the Christian and the Communist, the Socialist and the Materialist, the European and the African, the Intellectual and the Practical, the Adventurer and the Mom (the list could go on forever) I had to learn that we can not expect to be accepted.

Learning people’s different languages is one thing. Learning the different body languages totally another!

Really, gestures can be so different and you can be in so much trouble if you don’t appreciate that fact. Let’s just look at the way we count. In Germany we start with the thumb, 1, thumb and index finger being 2, thumb, index and middle finger indicating 3, until the whole hand shows 5.

In South Africa it’s way more complicated. One would be shown with your index finger – a very intimidating gesture in Germany used only to scold or show a very strong point. Two would be index and middle finger (bunny ears or “peace” in Germany), three index, middle and ring finger (I just can not do that), 4 the four fingers like a hand of cards, and five would eventually use the thumb.

There are many funny hand signs in South Africa that I found confusing at first. Somebody disappearing, making a run for it etc would be indicated with two thumbs chasing each other, really funny. When people try to make a point, they might snip their thumbs really nervous, which distracts and irritates me a lot! Since I am the minority, I had to swallow all my natural reactions and just get used to it.

Or young ladies talking about loving the fat of the meat – as if it’s something that makes them somehow more sexy? Gee, never seen that overseas. Eating too much meat is seen as unhealthy, and the fat is not seen as lady’s food. My Southafrican sisters in law on the other hand brag about chicken being a vegetable to say they are big time meat lovers. No if that sounds confusing to me out of a girl’s mouth, I have to be very careful in my reaction here whereas overseas everyone else would be just as amused about that!

What I might never get used to are the walls going up when people do not know how to deal with a new situation. Picture this: Ordering eggs “over easy” in a B&B and the lady has no idea what you are talking about. A German would either pretend to understand and secretly think really hard what it could be, or totally straight out ask: I haven’t heard that before, what is that”. Here, you find a lot of people will somehow let you feel that YOU are strange and be cross with you for being different. I get that every time I open my mouth, many Afrikaans people from the country do not know where to place my accent and get cross with me for it. I have learned to stay calm, have some jokes ready, expect them to react upset because I have a name they have never heard before in their life. Christiane. How difficult can that be, seeing that Afrikaans people invent a new name every day which are usually mom and dad’s named combined: Elzandre, Sanet, Telandre, the strangest bible names like Hephzibah, or mere initials without a name behind them etc etc … I do not have the luxury to not “get” it. African names were just as strange to me, having not grown up with Tshilidzis and Mphos around me. But from africans I never got any strange reactions about my name the way Afrikaans or English people react. Deal with it, Christiane with an e at the end.

With that much difference on a daily basis and no fellow expat German on your side, you might after a while start doubting yourself. Get a little bit insecure because you are not being understood, or misinterpreted. Feel like you have Aspergers big time (being really okay, smart and all but not getting all the social stuff going on, or getting so much other impression that you are at loss how to react within an acceptable frame). So eventually I find myself in this uncomfortable insecure space, and need to tell myself: That is not you! There are others who believe the dog goes “Wau Wau” in German, whilst in English it goes Woof, and in Chines Bao bao” and the rooster goes “Kikeriki” whilst his english friend answers “cock-a-doodle-doo” and the spanish rooster would agree with the German going “kikiriki”.

So when you feel all alone with your convictions in how to count with your fingers and you feel people look at you as if you’re a shoe short of a pair, it’s time to put on your dancing shoes. Yeeha. I love Zumba. Salsa and Cha cha, modern pop songs and a cool lady showing us how to properly swing our hips, and voila. Immersed in a group of ladies line-dancing the same steps to the same drummer I feel connected with the world around me and magically part of a whole again.

Besides, dancing restores confidence in one’s own soul, and the mind flows freely while the legs are trying to copy the fast succession of steps happening in the front.

I learned so much about life in a Zumba class. German correctness is out – do not try to mentally understand the extra difficult moves and turns. Do not be embarrassed, forget perfection. During those turns the rest of the class is just as busy with themselves as you are, so you can wing it, they wont even notice. Just arrive at the right foot. Keep your poise, display a confident attitude. Done. Smiles.

Nice self therapy for my insecure heart.

Whatever life’s role is demanding of us, exercise gives a beautiful little tunnel to the depth of your soul that lays buried under your day job. In the end, our inside world is a foreign land to most of the people around us anyways.

the older we get the more we usually adapt to what the people around us need most from us. My children need a confident, think on her feet mom who’s accepted in their community. So no luxury of being “too different”, learning to fit in because of them. Many women have to do that, on different levels. But do not give up on your inner girl, do not hide her under layers of sad fat or stress wrinkles. Dance, for goodness sake. For a man who would chain that inner tiger to fit into his responsible role, it’s a blessing if he manages to channel it’s forces into jogging up that mountain top with the teenage boy looking for a role model. The woman who used to dream of being a movie star one day, at least while exercising she can convince herself that she’s keeping in step with whoever is hot and happening out there and that she’s ready for life’s adventures no matter what hour her life is in.

I think we all should exercise more, and try Zumba, it really does something for your heart.

Confessions of an Almost Geeky Girl1: Communism and Salvation

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German High School is nothing like an American Highschool movie, neither is college about dating and parties. Me and my friends where actually CONVINCED university is about studying, connecting, being creative and changing the world. Seriously!
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My mom made this lion for my third birthday. Those days East Germans were not allowed to travel anywhere and I would read books about lions and adventures and ask God: Please let me have an adventurous life!
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On my first trip to South Africa I worked for 6 month as a volunteer teacher.

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Grew up in a place that takes it’s history serious. As a German you learn from very early that you have to try your best to right the wrongs of the past, that you can never forget your own faults and have to always strive to be better. We also grow up believing that every new generation will be, must be, better than the previous one and that all of our decisions today influence our tomorrow. Seriously, a German will have a bad conscience about throwing a metal can in the rubbish together with plastic bottles. Being environmentally conscious is second nature. Until you move to Africa. Shock.
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My bro, a computer wizz. Traveling the world is a must for every German kid. My parents aren’t rich and we never asked them to finance our choices. We have no qualms about working hard so we can afford stuff. My opinion: Instead of watching re-runs and talk shows on your telly, move your butt and work some, and then go and live some.
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I have the most stunning little sisters in the world. Love them miles and miles around the moon and back.
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Totally geeky girl. But not scared to try. And fail. And try again. that must count for something? Not scared of the rhinos.

First things first: I really think best while I am walking, cycling, exercising. During the Salsa rhythms of my last Zumba work out I had this whole blog post figured out and now I am sitting in front of the laptop I am not so convinced I should let you in on my secret.

Unless you peaked at High School and it was all downhill from there, we all wish we could get a do-over of grade our passageway into adulthood aka high school, don’t we? If only we had known then what we know now!

I actually used to be this real sincere, high performing, hard working and slightly geeky girl that everyone would come to with their problems and nobody would take out on a date. (They were probably all too scared of my pastor dad. Oh yes there were all these church guys who’d come and ask MY DAD if they could take ME out – and because of that, I would always say no. Felt too much like a deal if you know what I am saying).

I just didn’t think that dating was important, at least not when you are 17 and about to start your life. I was convinced it’s all about learning, developing skills, finding your own path.

My siblings and I grew up in Eastern Germany. A lot of christians had to live “double lives” as the Stasi (secret service) was constantly after them. My mom and dad were leading a house church type of congregation besides their day jobs, and after the wall came down we were handed our very own KGB file revealing 24 people were signed up as spies collecting information about our family. The file is over 300 pages strong, so you can imagine we went through a couple of fun encounters.

As a christian in East Germany you grow up very non-conformist. The whole country being into a kind of forced communism – believing in the good of socialism but not the government-imposed kind, you find yourself on the left hand side of the western world, politically speaking. The school system being completely atheist (a christian didn’t wear the communist youth organisation’s school uniform, didn’t get to participate in some things, could only finish grade ten as was denied access to grade 11 and 11 and, subsequently, university) made for a challenging childhood. We had a lot of christian friends as there were such strong bonds amongst believers throughout the country. Already as a 9 year old I had about 60 international pen pals. Most christian children I knew were the top performers of their schools. People were Christians out of conviction, not out of tradition. Christian kids would populate the excellent government music schools and do very well academically. Our school’s principal often called me into her office as a 12, 13 year old asking me to make my own personal decision to become a member of the communist youth organization “Pioniere” so that doors would open and a brilliant mind like mine could get a shot at university education. Too bad, the communist membership required reciting a code of honour pledging one’s soul to the great cause of communism. And as a christian child living between the world we had heard stories contradicting the propaganda taught at school. Christians being murdered in China, put into the gulag in Russia, tortured in North Korea. Not a cause one could pledge one’s heart to, no thank you. You learn to grow up very strong.

Like that history exam grade 6. To pass we had to proof that the Roman Empire eventually assimilated the Christian faith because it would even strengthen their ability to control the people, since the bible teaches the emperor is right, slavery is right, submission is required, the poor need to give their money, women are suppressed etc etc. Whereas of course nowadays, we can be free from the yoke of religion, democracy reigns.

What;s a 12 year old christian girl to do that loves her savior dearly. Exactly, write to write a very dualistic argumentation, yes, religion oppresses, no, Christianity was not meant to do that, yes, the state church helped the high and mighty along, no, true Christianity always stood for freeing the slaves and women’s equal rights. mouthful at that age.

I handed in my papers with fear and trembling. The day the exams came back, my history did not give me my papers in front of everybody (story of my life). Instead he called me to his desk after everybody had left, my papers marked 100%. He told me to not tell anybody, but that he really agrees with my view and that the government can try as they may, they will not take that away from the people. At home this little girl went on her knees praising God for this smooth rescue. Two years later this teacher was one of the hundreds of thousands of East Germans who had left everything behind and crossed Hungary’s “green border” to Austria to become a political refugee in West Germany. I remember the roll call one chilly morning after the summer 1989, the principal reading us the names of those who wouldn’t come back to teach since they had betrayed their fatherland. A few month later the principal and the communist youth leaders themselves were history, the Berlin Wall had fallen and members of the old guard were fired mercilessly.

Bottom line though: Our childhood was always that of outsiders, brilliant, creative, fun loving, but never mainstream. Like a Hippie amongst Yuppies, kind of.

So yes, me and my siblings do play well with others, but we do not enjoy commercialized, paint by numbers, well-adjusted living. My younger sisters are real stunners, super bright and amazingly beautiful and self-employed as artists, authors and musicians. My just as brilliant  dark-humored little brother also prefers to work for himself.

I guess my parents managed to encourage us to do our own thing, develop our creativity, withstand the need to fit in and understand that we can ruse above. Thank You, mom and dad. Now why in the world I ended up as a pastor’s wife – the job that needs you to fit neatly into a very conservative role God only knows. Let me tell you, it’s not easy.

And while in Germany all Christians generally find their role more or less left of the government, keeping them in check, adding some creativity and street art to their causes, in the western world beyond Europe Christians are generally right winged conservatives…

I am learning to tread carefully but I am not giving up me. That’s for sure. I guess one reason God has placed me here is that South Africa is right now experiencing a window of opportunity like few other countries in the world ever had.

After Apardheid was dealt with we all know, without one another we can not do this. Everybody wants to see South Africa advance, and there is a wonderful vibe towards quality, performance, social reform and a bunch of issues like corruption and abuse are being addressed this moment.

Journalists are at the moment the driving force mobilizing the public, Active citicenship is a big buzzword.

Yeeha, and as a pastor I can be right there at the hub of people’s daily concerns and since I have made my peace that I will anyway never be mainstream acceptable, I do not mind throwing in my opinionated heart hoping to influence some good.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
Albert Einstein

I can not, absolutely can not, do formal. Tested several times for an exceptionally high IQ (nothing to brag about when it comes with some serious other insecurities due to too much thinking) I do not see the point in making simple things complicated.

In Africa I see a lot of people communicating in a very formal, flamboyant way, especially in the African community. I believe, to mobilize the general public we have to put these difficult social, ethical, environmental etc issues down in very simple, common terms. (Unless you are desperate to proof how smart you are do that).

At university the professors would often turn to me to explain a complicated law or construct in a way that everybody would “get it”. Had fun using a ruler, a pen and an eraser to explain social reform. Never mind, that’s me, the almost geeky girl, in a nutshell.

A New Year’s Blessing from Germany

This is a beautiful song by the well-known German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I included a singable English translation. May the God of peace also be with you as you transition into a new year.

By loving forces…

By loving forces silently surrounded,
I feel quite soothed, secure, and filled with grace.
So I would like to live these days together,
and go with you into another year.

Still matters of the past are pressing our hearts
and evil days are weighing down on us.
Oh Lord, to our souls, so scared and sore,
give rescue, as it’s that you made us for.

And when you pass to us the bitter chalice
of suffering, filled to the brim and more,
we take it, full of thanks and trembling not,
from this, your caring and beloved hand.

But if you want to please us, yet, and again
with our shining sun and wondrous world,
let us muse on what is past, and then we shall,
with our lives, in all belong to you.

Warm and bright be our candles’ flame today,
since into gloom you brought a gleaming light,
and lead again us, if you will, together!
We know it: you are beaming in the night.

When silence now will snow around us ev’rywhere,
so let us hear the all-embracing sound
of what is not for eyes, but there, endless, wide,
your world, and all your children’s soaring hail.

By loving forces wonderfully sheltered,
we are awaiting fearlessly what comes.
God is with us at dusk and in the morning
and most assuredly on ev’ry day.

Lyrics and Music by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, evangelical theologian, member of the anti-nazi resistance movement.
Written shortly before the turn of the year 1944/45.
Bonhoeffer was killed by the Nazis on April 9, 1945.

New Year’s in Germany

New Year's in Germany

During my last German New Year’s Eve it was freezing cold, -20 C. Together with my parents and sibling we went for a traditional hike in the beautiful iced over mountains, to end the day with friends in a mountain cabin with a fireplace, Glühwein, games and laughter.
Today I am spending my 9th New Years in total in South Africa, in tropic heat!
Not waking up to a crispness in the air indicating that the season has changed (as significantly it always does the 1. of January overseas) makes it hard for me to feel “New Yearish” … But cheers, the calendar has spoken!