Tag Archives: bilingual

That time we got stuck in Botswana

“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you’” (1 Kings 3:5 NIV).

Living in South Africa has at times been a paper war nightmare. As it is with a couple from two nationalities there is always more documentation, visas, and passports to constantly keep updated. This year I finally got my permanent residency permit. It took 6 years to get there. The home affairs offices changed procedure so many times, losing our applications when they moved office, sent it to the wrong place. At one occasion we had to type everything ourselves into the home affairs computer because the lady didn’t know how to operate a PC, then photograph the screenshot and email it to the Pretoria office!

In the process we became so knowledgeable in this area that we have been able to help quite a number of binational couples with their paper work.

On one of these visa occasions, we submitted the application for my South African visa and were waiting for it to be issued. After a couple of visits to the local Home Affairs office, it was just a matter of waiting for the visa to arrive. We were told we westerners are just too impatient! Two weeks before the expiry of the current visa the officer assured us that there would be no problem—we should just remain patient, which we were. The week the visa expired, we went back to the department to find that all the staff was on a training course in a different city placing them out of office for at least three weeks! This posed to be quite a problem for us, because the immigration department in our region was very strict and we knew this would mean trouble or even deportation as in the case of many other people in similar situations.

The long and short of the matter was that the immigration department advised us to go through a border and come back, and they would give us an automatic three-month extension. This sounded like a plan. We decided to go through to Botswana, pass through the border, and come back and get the three-month extension. We packed and left the next morning. After traveling for about two and a half hours, we reached the border post. We had entered through it, but to our amazement, the immigration officer refused to allow me back into the country because of my expired visa! We were stuck in Botswana and had to make another plan. We prayed and felt we should go to another border post, which was very far. We had no Botswana currency and little to drink, and it was an extremely hot day. There was no shop at the border post and no town or settlement nearby.

We traveled very far to the other border post only to receive the same bad news when we arrived. This border post was literally in the middle of nowhere; apart from some chickens and a few men with machine guns there was nothing. It was so dry the ground was burned; there were a few dusty bushes and a shack, but nothing else.

Here are some pictures I took that day. They cant possibly capture the heat, the dust, the thirst and the feeling of totally depending on God to get out of that.

As we stood behind the counter and wondered what to do next, the immigration officer did a double take and called us over. He asked me who I was and explained that he had dreamt about me the previous night. In the dream, he continued, I spoke Afrikaans to him. So although I had been in South Africa for just 6 months, thinking on my feet, I quickly switched to speaking Afrikaans with him and it made him obviously very happy. (I had watched some Afrikaans TV shows just to help me learn the language). He was so happy about it that he gave me a one-year extension on the visa, which is quite an extraordinary thing on its own, and he helped us through. We just praised the Lord as we came through!

Overjoyed that we would be able to come home, we also experienced God’s provision in regards to fuel. The BMW we drove at the time gave us on average about 650 km per tank of fuel. Well, that day we drove 1,280km on one tank and unbelievably pulled into the gas station on the last fumes. Hallelujah! God is good!

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A majestic Baobab Tree we passed on our adventurous trip through Botswana.



“Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad” (Gen. 31:24 NIV).



This and many more testimonies of adventures with the Lord you find in our book

wpid-wpid-91im2p9hj5l-_sl720_.jpgThe Powerful Impact of a Spirit Led Life.

You can download it for kindle or order the paperback book.

Both would make us very happy!

The book is also available in German translation.




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 …


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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South Africa, land of the free … languages.

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When you want to go running with the lions … you gotta learn their languages.

Here is a small collection of idioms and unique expressions to enlighten you a bit about the Afrikaans language.

If you have never been to South Africa, you might not know that we’ve got 11 official languages here. Basically every ethnic group speaks their own tongue, although plenty of Africans wouldn’t know how to write in their native language, as English is, in most Provinces, the common denominator.

My sons are growing up with the best of a lot of worlds. I hope they will have a bigger heart for it.

gnu2Afrikaaner is what the descendants of the Dutch settlers are calling themselves, meaning “Africans”. Since Afrikaaner is pronounced exactly the same as the German Afrikaner (meaning a black Afrikan), I always end up having to clear some confusions with my German friends about my Afrikaaner husband and extended family. Yes, a well meaning friend set down with me on the steps of my home church in Germany after the last youth service I attended before getting married. “I admire you, Christiane,” he said. “How are you going to cope, cooking in these big round pots over and open fire, living in a hut made of clay” … I indulged in allowing him to ramble on for a short while before I couldn’t hold my laughter in any more. “I am not going to be the next White Massai, my friend” I giggled. They do have roads and computers there, you know … and my husband is a brave descendant of Dutch adventurers looking for a life of freedom and opportunity…

The funny thing with languages is that you can not merely “speak” them. You feel them, because before you can speak them you have got to think them, right. Using different sounding expressions for the same thing gives that very same thing a totally different connotation. You simply can not speak Italian without using your hands, you can not speak Chinese without trying to be polite, when you speak German you have to think very hard because there is a precise word for nearly every single thing, and, well, when you speak Afrikaans you have got to be naughty.

P1070806Afrikaans is, in essence, a language for rebels, people who do not want to be pressed into a mold, people who where beaten and went off the hook and refused to stay down and keep pressing on no matter what. Afrikaaners, and this is totally subjective and can be disputed, although I doubt any Afrikaaner would fight this, are extremely stubborn in their views. And when it comes to their moms, or saying thank you in public, they get teary eyed. But put them out into the open veld (type of prairie),the berg (mountain), bos (the bush), you will see their true, loveable, romantic soul.

A fishing rod, utility knife, a tent, a 4×4 and a hat – in short, give them some freedom and they blossom like the Namaqua desert when it received a little rain.

I know it sounds all terribly stereotype …  but I hope in a good way.

Having to think it before I speak it, Afrikaans has changed me, added a lot of new outlooks on the worlds and given me some bold colours to understand the picture of life better.

Here’s some cool Afrikaans vocab that just goes with the mentality and is very endearing and unique. You know, like that rough log of a fallen tree you want to remove off a newly bought property by the sea. You don’t get around to clearing it up. Later you find it quite pretty, it’s rugged bark a dark contrast to the glowing sunset. And after a while, that log becomes kind of a landmark to your property and your kids will make it into a feature sculpture. This is what Afrikaans has become for me. In the beginning I thought:How simple. How flat. How unrefined. Well, now I wouldn’t know how to express a certain way of thinking any other way anymore. I started to “get” the soul of the whole thing. I am telling you, speaking Afrikaans has added a lot of smiles to my daily life.

Explaining life to my kids in 3 languages …

How do you explain the word “sommer” to anyone. It’s not just a word, it is a concept. “Somehow”, “winging it”, “just because” could be used to translate it. A German would probably never do something “just sommer”. This lovely expression enables me to do something without having to explain myself at all. It might explain though, why some Afrikaans ladies I met, loved to paint every single wall in their house a different colour. “Just sommer”.

A bakkie …

A “Bakkie” can be anything from a little pick-up truck to all sizes and shapes of containers and dishes around the house. In my native German every single kitchen item has a different name attached to it. “Steven, could u bring Mama a Schüssel, or wait, I thinkI need just Schälchen,  just bring me a bakkie will you please?”

And I don’t even know what to call a bakkie-car in German. Seriously. Maybe an SUV. But with an open back, hence: bowl, or dish, right?
Then there is “voetstoots” of course. It’s been officially adopted into
South African English. There’s no concise, one-word equivalent in English. Buy the car “As is” just doesn’t hack it. “Buy it in the current condition even if you need to push it home by foot” can be expressed so short and to the point in Afrikaans.  And it’s such a humorous word, conjuring up images of pushing that brand new car home…

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I think “gogga” is the most delightful word for insect I’ve ever heard. Click the word to hear its correct pronunciation. Children all over the world should use it. “Insect” just doesn’t stand a chance. Gogga was one of the first words my baby used to say, jumping with excitement!

And the exclamation of disgust “sis” – doesn’t that just obliterate the English “phew”. “Sis man, dis gagga, los dit” equals:”leave this disgusting thing alone”. You see when you speak the Queen’s English, you can not help sounding somewhat high browed and above it all. That is no way to talk to a child. Afrikaans always makes my kids smile. Really. That is how a different mentality creeps into your heart when you start speaking it.

“Donder” is a strange word, meaning thunder but used as an all-purpose swear word,
which again has no good English translation.
Used as a verb, it can express any degree of roughing up.
As a noun, it is a pejorative, as they politely say in dictionaries, to
mean whatever you want it to mean.

I am not, ever, ever, allowed to use that word while I still haven’t understood the concept of lightning and thunder being offensive. So when it comes to the weather, I am talking to my kids strictly in German. Afrikaaners are very very sensitive about using curse words although I always wonder when we are out barbecuing in the bush, some other people really can talk bad. But it apparently depends on the occasion. Still need to figure that one out.

Granted, tigers aren’t native to Africa. But when you speak Afrikaans, you bother less about the small print and just get to the point. My son is “glad nie bang nie”!

It says something about the English that they have no word for “jol”.
Probably the dictionary compilers regard it as slang, but it’s widely
used for “Going out on the town, kicking up your heels, enjoying
yourself…” (See, there’s no English translation)

I’ve yet to meet a South African over the age of two who doesn’t use the
word “muti”. Translation is impossible – “witches potion” is about the nearest I
can get. It needs a long cultural historical explanation. Between “muti” and
the pedantic “medication” , there’s simply no contest.

Biltong – dried meat like beef jerkey but better, is a welcome gift anytime. Looks and sounds strange, tastes lekker!

How do you explain the passion of “LEKKER!”? Wow last night was a
“lekker jol” – The German “lecker” would translate as “delicious” whereas the Afrikaans word can mean that everything from grannies cooking to a new dress, a car, a movie, a visit, was thoroughly enjoyable or nice. But nice is boring. Lekker is – lekker.

Dudu or doeks. Telling your infant to go to bed is just not the same as:
“Go dudu now my baby!”

How about ‘bliksem” – I’m going to bliksem you or ek gaan jou donder!

Both wonderful Afrikaans expressions with nothing to compare in the
English language, at least nothing that gives the same satisfaction.


Mielie pap – there is no word like pap to describe this food. In English, they have porridge, and when they say porridge, they mean oats. In German, a poridge would be a Brei, sounding exactly like Braai, the Afrikaans way of saying BBQ. And with your steak you have to have pap and sous, maize meal porridge and home made tomato relish.

But pap is also used for any breakfast cereal – even ordinary cornflakes are called pap.

Speaking of food. Gewoene, meaning ordinary, literally “what I am used to”, tea, is used to describe what we would call black tea, or Darjeeling or Ceylon etc. Do not order black tea. You might get locked up for racism. In English, you order “five roses” although that brand also produces herbal Rooibos tea, and in Afrikaans you MUST say “gewoene” tea.

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My very own little skelm.

Which brings us to skelm – here you just get ‘baddies’, but that doesn’t
have the same sneaky connotation of a proper skelm, does it?!
A Schelm in German is a prankster. You would say to a cute 2year old who just got you to surrender a sweet to him:You little Schelm. Do not say that in South Africa. Although to my German ear the world skelm sounds happy and cute, it actually describes a criminal here.

Loskop is another favourite. The English just don’t understand when I
say ‘Sorry, I forgot – I’m such a loskop!’ It kinda means my head is loose.

And “now now”. No one else in the world uses this English version of the Afrikaans concept “nou nou”. It means anything from in 2hours or 2 years. Do not expect anybody to help you right now, when they use the word nou. And when they say nou twice, it does not mean they will help you even faster. Nou nou means: Get over yourself, I have more important stuff to do right now.

I hope you had fun bridging some linguistic worlds with me tonight.

Don’t forget that a traffic light is a robot in South Africa.

There are countless more unique words in Afrikaans, but this blog is, by wordpress standards, un-postable long already.

Thanks for staying tuned,



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


They are the most awesome people you might ever meet!

Why this is not a Mommy Blog nor a Foodie Blog

moviestevensam   steven3Don’t get me wrong. I love being a mom. And my kids are ultra special. Whose aren’t. I could really blog exclusively just about them, about how they both started talking before their first birthday, how Steven struggled for survival when he was born prematurely and how he is fluent in 3 languages (English, German and Afrikaans) at only three years old. They both do and say the funniest things every day. That deserves being blogged. So maybe from time to time I dedicate a post to them.

But I am not a “I-know-which-potion-takes-out-that-stain” kinda mom, at least I do not feel I need to shout it out into all the world. There are super duper moms who do that and have real helpful “how to make the perfect birthday cake” blogs. Stunning images inclusive. I love producing something stunning, once in a blue moon, and leave it at that 🙂

sam6I guess I am rather average, really, at being a mom. Or a chef.  I survive the daily rut of cooking (used to love it before it became a married life duty…) , nappy changes, dressing kids (my favorite part, my boys are so cute I love dressing them up) but I am sure I do not deserve a “brilliant housewife” trophy. To be honest, I wing it a lot. With much laughter and some tears along the way, mind you.

I feel, if I am just “average” at something I do not need to shower the whole world with my enlightenment. I leave the mommy and foodie blogging the the pro’s. In return I hope when I tune in to their blogs to find something that totally wow’s me. (Whenever I feel I am just gonna be mediocre at stuff, I love dropping it totally. Like tennis. Or piano playing. But secretly, I still love trying it out. To say in a public blog “Don’t tell anyone” would be a total oxymoron, right)

What well might be above average in my house is the exposure of my kids to totally contrasting cultures from a very young age. Even before we had them, I discussed the language in which we’d raise them with my husband. Initially a lot of Afrikaans folks were worried I would raise them estranged to their Afrikaans heritage. Now seeing my boys blossom, being fluent in 3 language, everybody I meet agrees they are actually quite privileged. A trilingual childhood does need some extra consideration by mom and dad. Having a background in speech therapy I felt confident enough to tackle the challenging task of giving my kids not one, but three mother tongues!

Since that’s quite an adventure I feel that today I will open a new category called Steven and Sam. If anything remarkable happens (does every day, but I guess it’s not that mind-blowing to YOU! 🙂 I will post it there.

mamasamFood wise – before kids I produced lovely cakes, chocolates, desserts etc. As a pastor’s wife I have endless baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, birthdays etc to organize. But with two little kids I must say that’s a joy I gladly sacrifice. As I said: wing it. Panacotta cream with red berry mousse looks amazing and is easy to make. Enough said. Leave the 5 hour preparation dishes to the pro’s. My kitchen heroes are Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay, of course. Although I wouldn’t want to be married to any of them. Nigella: I would probably gain a pound a day. Gordon: constantly under productive steam, who can keep up with the guy! Love to watch him say on TV what I can not say in real life, love to watch him turn around kitchen nightmares and hotel hells. But I wonder how you survive with a guy like that. Probably need to totally ban him from the kitchen at home.

French Strawberry Frasier, one of my favorite cakes to make, on a church buffet

In the meantime, there is so much that needs to be done, addressed, talked about, changed. If anywhere in the world people are brutally murdered for their faith, little girls are being raped and forced into marriage, people die from hunger while others spend thousands on diets, I wonder how we can sit around idly doing nothing. But even talking about trivial things as recipes and favorite children’s books might be a way of preserving humanity in the midst of all this raging chaos around us.

So this is all about bridges, from one world to the other. If fusion food and trilingual kitchen fit in, be it so. But no, it’s not a mommy blog. Love you all, see ya around.