Tag Archives: Germany

Pray for Germany

Yesterday I took some time to make a Lebkuchenhaus with my little boys.

We have summer holidays here in South Africa. Nevertheless I want them to grow up with some of the German Christmas traditions I so cherish.

While the English do have something they call gingerbread it is not even close to true Lebkuchen. And we don’t really enjoy that burning ginger taste. Lebkuchen dough is made with honey and many spices and has to rest a few days before baking.

So yesterday we took the dough I prepared earlier from the fridge and started baking, decorating and assembling this little house.

While I go through length to preserve some true German Christmas tradition, Germany this year shocked me with throwing out these reminders of Christ in order to not offend Muslim migrants. Schools and Kindergartens were asked to refrain from singing Christmas carols and some Christmas markets were renamed into Winter market.

Last night there was an attack on a German Christmas market. 12 people were killed and 48 injured.

Why is Christmas, the story of a little baby boy being born as Gods promise for the salvation of mankind, so offensive to some? Why are Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere persecuted and killed for their faith?

Why do a nations leaders opt to repurpose Christmas instead of sharing this story of Gods humble decision to dwell amongst us as a child?

christmasThe forces of darkness can’t tolerate the messengers of light. Christmas always came at a price. We can ignore the persecution of Christians in the middle east until persecution is at our own doorstep or chose to help answer protest.

While Muslim nations forbid Christmas celebrations, German officials have congratulated Muslim immigrants to their religious holidays and then proceeded to repurpose Christmas markets as oriental bazaars and winter markets. Instead of teaching immigrants about Christianity and the values that made the European countries so attractive to migrants in the first place, German kids had to endure compulsory visits to mosques this year. There was very little resistance from churches, in fact leaders of state financed churches rose up to claim Allah and the God of the bible are the same. Christian refugees who often flee serious persecution in Muslim nations are being assaulted in Germany, the country they came to for safety. By Muslims, who are treated with utter cultural sensibility.

But there are many strong believers in Germany. Intercede for them to rise up, unashamed. There are pastors who are warning against Islamisation and face severe disciplinary actions against them.

Read more on how you can intercede for Germany here>

Pray for Germany: Intercession

Jesus came as a baby in the middle of persecution. Romans where pressing His people hard for taxes, the religious clergy had no answers, the Edomite king Herod slaughtered thousands of babies trying to kill Jesus and only angelic visitations provided Joseph with the necessary insight to bring his family into safety.

Since then, Christians have always been on the receiving end of persecution for what they believe. Although the message is one of love.

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His kingdom is not one of Earthly power and manipulation. Those who seek earthly fame will always hate those who proclaim eternal life.

God is just. I pray that Germany will reach out and preach the gospel to all those seeking shelter and refuge from the pain they tried to escape. I also pray that the country will not throw its pearls down the drain but conserve their Christian heritage and not tolerate persecution of Christianity within their borders.

‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?” Acts 7:49

Prepare your heart as a dwelling place for the Lord.

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Our Lebkuchenhaus.

 

 

 

 

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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.

Intermezzo

Hi there, dearest readers… it’s sure been a while… I  am freshly back from a lekker long holiday in Europa, and wow, what a blast it has been.

Give me a few days to come back to you with some stunning images from a real underestimated holiday destination.

 

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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.

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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One week closer to achieving your dream: Friday, Hooray

Yeah Friday!

One week of achieving your dreams has come to an almost end. Thanks for staying with me. Today I am sharing some pictures I took in Bavaria on an amazing stay in Fuessen and a visit to the Neuschwanstein castle. Enjoy!

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When you plan your trip right, this is the exact view you enjoy from your room! Thanks mom!
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Neuschwanstein castle from across the lake where we stayed.
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The farmer’s house where we stayed on a working dairy farm. Germany is beautiful!
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Downtown Fuessen
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Taking the cable car up the mountain is fun!
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So beautiful atop the Tegelberg!

FUSSEN (20) FUSSEN (52)   FUSSEN (180) It definitely makes a difference to write down your priorities for the week and hold yourself accountable. Consciously creating your plan how to get to the next level of ones destiny takes effort on all levels.

Physical fitness and healthy eating, a happy attitude, good social skills, an exceptional work ethic are absolutely necessary to get where you need to be in life!

Whatever is your dream, shift your thinking to do everything necessary to get there. Live your dreams by doing something about achieving them.

Chances are, 5 steps a week are more than you did until now! If you keep developing yourself, they’ll no longer be dreams, and every step you take is a step closer to your destination.

Remember to have fun with every leap, enjoy the sweat pouring off your face and enjoy waking up early. These are not punishments, but are merely the way to fulfillment. With each step comes greater courage. Success feeds success. Don’t lose sight of your dreams, your destination, but also don’t forget to live in the moment!

There is one more thing: Help other’s to achieve their dreams. This brings you so much closer to living a fulfilled life yourself. And if you are not greedy about sharing your resources and expertise, others will feel at ease sharing their tricks of the trade with you, too.

By the way, for the people that work with or for you, you might be the possible source only encouraging word they receive all day. Don’t forget to be generous with your praise, even if it is for a small things. If you honestly praise those around you, they will be so much more motivated helping you completing your tasks, even go the extra mile for you. Easy truth, I know, but very powerful still.

Do not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to guide you. Keep tuning in to that still small voice. Hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice is part of a bigger relationship. It takes time to listen, and it takes time to build the patterns of walking with Him.

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”.—Galatians 5:16

The other day my husband stood in a well known pizza place in town, waiting for his order of 7 or8 pizzas for the youth of the church. He was in a hurry, hungry teens needed to be fed! But over the years he learned to never tune out the voice of the spirit, even when busy with mundane tasks. And he clearly felt that he should give the man waiting in front of the queue a word of encouragement. He felt a deep grief surrounding the guy. In a story it sounds logical: Go and talk to the man, of course. In a pizza queue it might not feel that natural to do so! You might look like a religious looney, right? But my husband experiences the nudging of the spirit every day and learned to be obedient. As he started talking to the guy about God’s care for him, the man broke down crying right there. He had experienced a huge family tragedy and was on his way to the funeral of his own wife. He was quickly buying pizza for his children who where waiting in the car. He had felt God had left him and saw no more hope. He needed to hear that God sees him, cares about him and is grieving with him. And that there will be people helping him on the difficult road ahead. Do not stay silent when you sense somebodys despair. You might save a life.

Last thoughts on one week of achieving your dreams:

Do not get discouraged, and do not be afraid to grasp unexpected opportunities.

One thing is for sure: we plan, and life happens differently. That does not mean that we will fail on our journey.

And as always – at least in my little life – whenever I decide on driving this or that and follow up some good resolutions, a lot of unexpected things go wrong.

FUSSEN (91)This week monday I have received 3! detrimental news that have the potential to knock me into perpetual depression. If you think I am trying to talk a fluffy little one week devotional for spoilt upper class western moms, you are mistaken. I live in Africa, work for an NGO (so definitely no upper class) and I am dealing with more daily trauma than most of my comfortable friends back in Europe. Add to this the daily potential for rejection as “stranger”, the high expectations we face as pastors, the daily violence in Africa and the ever-increasing gap with my overseas friends and family who do hardly understand the daily challenges of life in Africa, and you end up with a cocktail of emotions!

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Life is like a ship, setting sail, using a compass to reach new horizons. We sail with the wind. When adverse winds come, what do we do? We criss cross the sea, going a path that is left and right from where we actually need o go, but in the overall perspective, still gets us forward. And when there is no wind – we use oars.

Do not give up!

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

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.

Travelling in December – Recreating Christmas Memories

December in South Africa  bridge3

It’s summertime, and the living is easy …

The country almost shuts down as many South Africans use the big summer school break to visit relatives and “kuier by die see” – make holiday stevensamsepiaat the sea. As pastors, we usually stay behind to make sure that those less fortunate have somebody looking after them – right as I write my husband is out solving some serious conflicts. The heavily emotion-laden christmas season causes some people to snap, we see it every year.

Staying home for the summer does by no means mean staying put at home. In our region there are many lovely day destinations and I am going to be blogging about them here: Traveller’s Log. So make sure you pop in to read up on what to do in Limpopo, South Africa. I also wrote about the romantic beauty of spending New Year’s in Capetown, so make sure you don’t miss out on that, not to mention beautiful Franschhoek and all the other lovely South African dream destinations.

My blog is called “Bridging Worlds” for a reason. I have been living between worlds all my life. As a child, I was one of three Christian kids in a Communist school in a Communist nation, carefully watched by the secret service.

Later, I started savoring the freedom end of the cold war brought to my side of the world and started traveling many nations. Living in London, I found out with a shock that the British actually really despise Germans, while I grew up in a country that always spoke fondly of the well-mannered Brits and their disability to cook. I used to, in my youthful naivety, assume that Germans would be loved dearly all over the world, since their deepest meaning and purpose in life is to make things more efficient, reliable and successful. I was startled to find that people in the English-speaking world would not appreciate serious punctuality as much as someone being late, but that with a charming smile. Took me a while to let up on the efficiency for the sake of charm. In the meantime I also had to learn that Germans are about as popular in the world as dark chocolate with red chili pieces – an acquired taste for a select elite, but once you love them, you adore them. The average Joe loves Americans, passionate people love Brazilians, business people fly to Japan and the Intellectual gourmet will get absolutely teary eyed reciting German poetry. So there we have it, everybody strives to drive a fast German car (what a waste on South African highways with a speed limit of 120km/h), loves well-thought-through technology but people wise, the Germans are a very misunderstood little nation.

christmas 157I have come to terms with it and learned to adapt. Ditch the punctuality, make small talk, (waste time at the counter by telling jokes and asking unimportant questions), stop caring so much about the matter and more about the soul. All part and parcel of Bridging Worlds.  As is burying Christmas sentimentality.

If you dare to marry into a different culture, you will always find that similar events are emphasised totally different. I am realistic when it comes to snow, sleigh and choral music – when everyone is at the sea, there wont be any spectacular nativity plays in imposing cathedrals.

christmas 011When raising kids, however, you want to somehow reproduce your own treasured childhood memories. Christmas Markets with countless little stalls roasting almonds, selling home-made crafts, Gluehwein andchristmas 010 gingerbread, children’s choirs singing sweet Hallelujah, giant nativity scenes and the snow glistening. The christmas tree being ceremoniously decorated on the 23rd, the night of the 24th the whole family goes to church, comes back with noses red from the frosty cold, eats a light meal and then a little bell rings and the christmas room opens to the wondrous delight of young and old …

That was Christmas for me in Germany, growing up with three younger siblings and parents who insisted we all gather first to sing christmas carols accompanied by my sister on the piano and myself on the violin.

Now how on Gods good earth do you create that in the humidity of the tropics?

I have not found the answer to this. We decided to create our very own magic. Instead of Christmas markets we have some dear neighbours who cared enough to decorate their houses and yards with elaborate christmas lights, reindeer and Santas. christmas 172So every other night we take our bathed boys in their pyjamas on a drive around town to admire the lights. Sam, our 1-year-old, points excitedly at everything including the traffic light and shouts: da, da da!!! Steven will ask why they hang Santa upside down into a fake chimney. All in all, it’s a happy, crazy outing, our own Christmas tradition.

We decorate our trees the first of December. Since you don’t buy real pine trees in Africa, we have a couple of plastic ones around the house which the kids decorated themselves. Germans truly hate all things plastic. I just go with the flow.

Singing “jingle bells” replaces the deeply moving choruses we knew as children – I haven’t given up on that yet, but let’s have fun with it.

christmas 051    christmas 167 About giving gifts – maybe you know the movie “Valentine’s day” The radio guys says that it is those christmas 09224 hours we have to prove our love for each other. I disagree. Birthdays, Christmasses and the like must not be put under that pressure of having to prove one’s affection. I have waited till this special day to present my boys with some items they really want to have, because we celebrate Jesus’s birthday by giving each other gifts. But please do not try to prove anything by giving me something. Have a conversation over a passionfruit and lemonade with me, listen and tell me your true heart. That means so much more than any item you could buy. Relatives and friends do not need to rush and try to find that life-changing gift basket of soaps and showercaps. I do not think men exactly feel the love when given the annual soap-on-a-pope or the “man-kit” from Game store consisting of  a beer bottle christmas 126opener, soap and a face-cloth. What does that mean anyway???

Every year I wish I can take everyone’s stress away: Please can we not buy each other stuff, can we rather do an excursion to somewhere we haven’t been yet?

So we did buy a few things for a few people, but we focus on rather doing nice things with those we love. Yes I got my husband something and after Christmas I tell you what it is.

December in South Africa is the month of summer break. I think every December we spend here, we will create special memories fitting this awesome,vast nation, by traveling with our boys to new places.

The photos show some German Christmas moments my children have never seen. The last time I was with my parents for Christmas is 7 years ago. It might be time … hopefully if we are lucky, we might even travel to Germany next year, Christmas markets and snow and all …