Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas

We did it! So many people told us to "have a merry Christmas" or to have a "Frohe Weihnachten", and we succeeded in doing that.


This last week has been a fun one with a Christmas party at the Internationale Kreis, where we sang in German, English, Spanish and Portuguese - the sugar from the chocolate fondue really helped us to be extra enthusiastic. We also had planned to go to Malcolm's research group's Christmas party, but the bus was late and, long story short, after trying for 2.5 hours, we were back at home and eating the pudding we meant to take with as our supper.

Of course, there was the annual wait-in-line-for-hours tradition as we went to do our last things we forgot shopping, but the shop handed out sweets to placate us and placated we were.

On Christmas eve we went to church, which was really lively. The venue wasn't big enough so they'd prepared two rooms with the same program running concurrently in each, and the band playing for both... lots of media and stuff reminded us a lot of NCF and we felt quite at home, though I did miss the usual singing Silent Night by candle light at the end of the service in eShowe.

Afterwards we got a lift to Nicole and Hans-Markus, where we celebrated Christmas eve. We were relieved that Kalte Schweinszunge were not on the menue, and thankful for really yummy food. Afterwards we sat in the lounge and read the Christmas story in German, English and Arabic... we tried learning some Arabic words but were're not too good at it. Then it was present-opening-time... Malcolm and I decided to leave our presents for Christmas morning and hadn't taken ours along, but were super surprised when we received a whole lot from Nicole and Hans-Markus. We really were so spoiled, and I'm especially excited by our pretty star we got... apparently our blog here acted as a Christmas wish-list!



After the present-opening we threw a dice to open two last presents, and Malcolm and I were lucky enough to roll enough 6's to open one... we shall be warm and cosy when out and about with our couple's gloves.

We spent the rest of the evening eating dessert and playing a game... sort of like 30 seconds but with famous people's names that we'd written on slips of paper. It got more complicated when in the second round was only actions and the third round was only one word. Try miming Martin Luther or Bart Simpson. It was so much fun and now we're all really familiar with Quirinius now.



On Christmas morning we woke up and started the day with crumpets and sugar and caffiene. Then we decided we could open our presents... it was really strange not having an adult there to tell us we may, and so we feel like real grownups now who are allowed to take presents from the tree on Christmas morning and open them without asking permission. We were so excited by our presents and THANK YOU Gran and Grampa Bartlett and Mom and Dad Bartlett for the presents! Mum and Daddy, we shall do our research and get our present from you soon - and we hope the parcel arrives soon! :)



After presents we started cooking lunch... a long and involved process of making a roast duck. We clearly need to do more research on how to do it properly, but we were pretty happy with our Christmas lunch! In between cooking we also skyped with our families, and it was so great to see grandparents and parents (and a sibling), and chat with them on Christmas.

In the late afternoon Sally and Nebras came to us and we spent the rest of Christmas playing Elfer raus and getting tips from Nebras on how to actually be good at it. From scores as high as 88 in the beginning, we ended the evening with scores quite similar to each other and had clearly improved!



So, all in all a really nice Christmas.

We're so so happy that Jesus came, that he humbles himself so that we can have life - what a miracle! Certainly a birthday worth celebrating!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Cosy-ing up for Christmas

Christmas is only 6 sleeps away! That was a shock to me when I wanted to go grocery shopping and was drawing up a meal plan when I suddenly realised that my shopping needed to include Christmas lunch. I've been looking forward to it so long that the thought that it's nearly here also makes me sad that it's nearly over. (I'm an optimist like that). 

So no family will be visiting us, and some of you may be thinking "aww, poor Mally and Erica, alone and cold in Germany for Christmas". Not so! We will be going somewhere on Christmas eve for dinner and will celebrate with others, AND our heating has just been fixed (two days of no hot water... brain freeze was taken to a new level when I washed my hair). 
Plus, our apartment is looking a lot happier than when we first moved in. But, seeing as the decorations will soon need to come down, I thought I'd eternalise them here on our blog. So, without further a-do, I present to you, our cosy-Christmas decor.

DIY star garland crochet
Our white walls look a lot happier with red stars strung up.
(the strings even look like a smiley face!)

DIY star garland crochet
The stars look more like flowers, but by the time I realised how I could possibly improve the pattern, I'd already made 19. 

advents candles DIY pine cone wood
So we don't have an advent's kranz, but we found some small planks, and somebody gave me pine cones from her garden, we bought some wood glue and some candles and tada!
(and yes, I move some pine cones away from the flame when it's lit!) 

snowflakes crochet
It's now permanently snowing (at least in the lounge...) 


DIY crochet snowflakes


 DIY wreath ribbon pine cone leaves
And, of course, the wreath that Malcolm made with branches and leaves we found. 
Tomorrow will hopefully launch my cookie-baking and then it'll be cosy AND taste like Christmas. 
So, who's flying over? :D

Monday, 16 December 2013

Oh, Africa!

Let me preface this by saying that I generally dislike it when people exclaim "I'm going to Africa!" because it just sounds quite shallow to me, as in, I want to know more. It's like me planning a trip to Bolivia and saying "I'm going to America!" Africa is a continent and there are many countries in it. Go to www.youdontknowafrica.com if you want to see just how many countries there are. (p.s. it's addictive)

Yet, I titled this post "Oh, Africa" because I so often hear South Africans exclaim it. Or sigh it. We also have the acronym "TIA" (This is Africa) which is often said when something goes wrong, but is not unsurprising because it's sort of expected.

My grandmother lives in a cottage on my parents property and this last week her house was broken into for the second time in 4 months. Her house has burglar bars, a security gate, an alarm, sensors on the windows. But, they got in. They pulled everything out of her drawers, and while last time they didn't find much jewelry, this time they took all that she had left. She doesn't have a lot, and what she does have is special to her, and somebody took it from her. When my mum told me it had happened, my heart just sank. I'm tired of thinking "well, at least she wasn't at home at the time". I think most South Africans will agree that we're tired of it. Feeling defeated and sighing "well, this is Africa."
No.
South Africa has the potential to be so much more.

At Mandela's funeral on Sunday Jacob Zuma said some interesting and hopeful things in his speech
"We pledge today to continue promoting non-racialism and tolerance in our country and to build a South Africa that truly belongs to all.
"Your abiding revolutionary spirit will prevail on us to not rest, until the poor and the working class have truly benefited from the material fruits of freedom and democracy which you fought for."
"We pledge to take your vision forward for good schools and hospitals, quality housing and utilities, decent jobs and working conditions as well as efficient and accountable public services."
"Therefore, in your memory, South African children must grow up in a country that is not only politically free, but which is also free and safe from violence; free and safe from crime, free and safe from poverty, ignorance and disease, free and safe from indignity. That is the type of country we are building."

Really? Is that really the country he's building? Some have called for Zuma's resignation. I think many see Zuma's speech as preparation for next year's elections, trying to get support again. But will that solve anything? Who are we looking to to fix it? 

Of course, the governance of a country will influence it immensely, the leaders will shape it significantly. But is a new leader our saviour? Is a new party the answer? I'm being careful not to paint Helen Zille or anybody else as my hope for the country. I firmly believe that South Africa has a bright future, and God is in control of it. That said, we are called to pray for our governments, and we have the ability to vote. So let's do it. 

Today is a South African public holiday, the Day of Reconciliation. I'm praying that people put their hope in the only Saviour, Jesus, who has already done it all for us, and are reconciled to their loving Father. 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thoughts on Madiba.

It's been a week since Nelson Mandela died.

I heard the news while lying in bed reading my facebook newsfeed. I told Malcolm and we sort of looked at each other and then moved on. It's harsh but really, what were we meant to do? There was nothing to say, and we didn't go straight online to read about it, and quite frankly it didn't feel real or like it reached us here.

But the rest of the day, I got thinking about it, about what the death of Mandela meant to me. While his death didn't directly affect me, his life did. I think of my experience at school and at university, and how so many of my friendships wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the political change. Furthermore, I am SO grateful that he chose to forgive when he could have been vengeful.

Then I got online and started reading peoples' reactions to it all. It seemed to range between making him out to be a God and that the country would fall apart without him and trying to highlight his imperfections.
I feel sad when people feel the need to drag people down, and I don't see why they do it. Of course he wasn't perfect - none of us are.

Source
Unfortunately, the focus seems to have drifted with the Mandela Memorial. Due to the bus strike, Malcolm stayed at home and, once we found a German site streaming it, we could watch it together. Until they started translating over it and we listened to Radio 2000's broadcast instead.

Initially, it seemed all ok... but slowly we started cringing.

1. The crowd behind the speakers were going nuts, and presidents were being interrupted so that the MC could reprimand the crowd. Surely somebody could have anticipated this being a problem? (Although apparently a sound system problem contributed to this.) Then there's Tutu's school master reprimand... I think he'll always be remembered for this... "I will not give you a blessing until all of you stand!" Even Ban Ki Moon looks amused.

2. I cringed for the guy running after Kirk Franklin with the umbrella, while Franklin seemed to want to run away from him.

3. When there was such a big deal made about Obama. Whose memorial is this? Yes, he's a great speaker, yes he took a selfie, yes, he shook Castro's hand. And at the bottom of each article it might just mention who Mandela was.

4. When people boo'd Zuma. Again, who is the memorial about? Also, remember who elected Zuma? We're celebrating the life of the man who contributed to bringing democracy to our country and yet the man who is being boo'd is the man democratically chosen by South Africans. Time and place for everything.

source
5. When poor organisation was just so evident. Why so many long speeches when we all know that 1000s of people are not going to sit quietly for 4 hours? People were there to celebrate Mandela's life and it didn't seem like a celebration when they needed to sit silently and had little chance to participate.

6. When it turns out that the interpreter was a fake. Seriously?!? While I fully understand the seriousness of the situation, and I cannot understand how it happened. I'm quite impressed by the Mail and Guardian's collection of what jokes. If we can't laugh, we might cry.

So yes... let's say that the attention has not been where it should have been.



It makes me sad that the memorial has been in the news for so many reasons other than what it was about.

But, you know what? I don't think it makes even teeny tiny difference to the legacy that Mandela left behind. This was the nation's chance to honour him in the presence of international guests, and it kind of fell apart.

But, both Malcolm and I are still proud to wear our SA shirts any way.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Recapping: where have I been?

Actually, everything has been quite normal, but somehow I just haven't got round to posting for a little while. you see, even though I am not working right now, and volunteer for just a few hours per week, my time just disappears. I'm going to blame the buses. Seriously, today I needed to pick something up from a place about 5km away. It took a little over an hour and a half to get there and back with the bus. Faster than walking, but I do miss my car ever so much.

Anyway, Highlights... On Friday was St Nicholas' day. It was also the day that Nelson Mandela died, but that's another post, I guess.
For us, Friday was pretty magical. We woke up to snow covering everything - beautiful! I really do think it was the prettiest thing I've seen! Malcolm said he could go in to varsity half an hour later, which gave us the chance to go out and enjoy the snow a bit before it melted. When we opened the front door, St Nik had been and we found chocolate and stuff left for us :D

marburg richtsberg South African in Germany

That evening we went to a friends house for a St Nik's party which was festive and fun and we met lots of people, and got even more sweets in our shoes.

Saturday morning, still feeling rather festive, we went off in search of a Christmas tree. We found one for sale from a really friendly man, and after going to look at another place and then coming back, he gave us a 5euro discount which made our day. Our first Christmas tree! Malcolm had the exciting job of shuffling it around on the bus until he got a seat with a spot next to him for the tree. The tree gave us a taste of what having a small disobedient child on a bus must be like, dirty looks from strangers included.


That evening we went to our friends, Sally and Nebras, and had supper with them. Their apartment is pretty Christmassy too! 


Sunday we went to a different church to visit, and met a South African who has been here a few years already, which was a really nice surprise! That afternoon we went to a Christmas party and I helped look after some kids, which was fun, though sometimes a little overwhelming!! 

All in all, it's feeling pretty Christmassy here! 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Weekend of... Jingle Bells!

It was such a good weekend that I ended up having a super-busy day yesterday, which is why I'm only writing today :) Good sign, right?

On Friday night was "Marburg b(u)y night", where the Christmas market kicked off with shops open til midnight and the town all beautifully lit up.

It was rainy and cold (of course), but that didn't damped the mood... although getting poked by umbrellas did every now and then. Everything smelled so good and warm pancakes and roasted nuts help keep warm!

We walked around the Obenstadt and then down to Elizabeth Kirche and down another main road all lit up.

The Christmassy stalls were fun to look through and I loved the paper star lights! 


We walked up to the castle to see the view and the castle lit up. I found the colours a bit garish and casino-y, but it was pretty anyway, and walking around at the castle was romantic enough :)
We then went into the St Marien Luthera Pfarrkirche which was lit up inside too. We were just in time for a choir to begin and were surprised when their first song was "Zulu Mama" and they then carried on with songs from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Brazil, Ireland and Germany. It was nearly 11pm when they finished and I loved "thula mama" (here's a version). 

We then did our late night shopping of buying oats and milk (because we could!) and headed home. 


On Saturday we went out to the market again to look for a pretty wreath, but were disappointed by how expensive they are. That evening we went to the theatre to watch "momo" which was a really sweet and funny kids play with a message for everybody about time and how precious it is and how to spend it well with those you love. At least that's what I got from it! Afterwards we went to somebody's flat to hang out and drink warm punch and try all sorts of Christmassy tasting things. It was so much fun and cosy! 

Sunday was the first of Advent and I could finally use the calendar I made! Hooray! 


DIY
yep, we have a glove instead of a boot or stocking, and it goes til the 25th. Rebels we are.

We went to the earlier church service, and then ended up going for a really looooong walk home all because there's a hill on our usual way that I really hate and I hoped to catch a bus. It was an invigorating walk though, and along the way we found some branches that had already been cut, so we collected some twigs and leaves to decorate. Malcolm did such a great job at making the wreath! 


DIY

That afternoon we went to the Church service with loads of cake up here in Richtsberg and had such a good time being with friends and worshipping together, and then after supper went to friends in the building for a chocolate and fruit fondu. So delicious!

It was a busy weekend and I'm grateful for all the time we could spend together and all the things going on to keep us busy! :)