Thursday, 31 March 2016

March

Since I'm in blogging-mode, and my schedule is free-er due to the school and university holidays, here it is! A March update on the last day of March!

Firstly, I completely forgot, but the beginning of February marked 1 year living in ONE place! It's been such a good year, and seeing the seasons change from our window (or balcony...) was amazing and held us spell-bound. I'm so thankful for our little home here!


March started off slowly... I wasn't too sure what to make of it. On one hand, it's the month of our anniversary and Easter, but my head was a little all over the place and both seemed to come up awfully fast.

At work, I've been working on the project to adapt Think Home, which I've really enjoyed. I think it'll be a really good resource, and it's made me think a lot about what it'll be like to go home one day... whenever that may be. A definite high-light of the month was getting to pray with and for a little boy who gave his life to the Lord in KinderClub. What a privilege!

Another highlight was helping to plan and host a baby-shower for a friend. I've only ever been to one before, so it was a bit of a learning curve but sooo much fun. The theme was pink (since it's a girl) and it was fun playing some silly games and having some girly time while Malcolm hung out with the dad-to-be.



Malcolm worked hard, and tried to get things moving since the end of the month would get busier. Sometimes that meant working really late hours, or going in on a weekend. It's not ideal, but then at least I get to go visit him, and marvel at the impressive building. I can't help but feel proud of him when I see him working at what he does so well. This final year has him a little nervous to get things done, and me a little nervous about what we'll do next. But we're praying for God's guidance in every aspect since the future is so uncertain, but also full of opportunity.



Then came our trip to Amsterdam, which I think is documented enough. It was such a treat and a great way to celebrate 3 years married. We also crossed the mark of longer married than dating/engaged :)


We got back home on Good Friday, and then on the Saturday we enjoyed the good weather (finally!) celebrating a friend's birthday grilling at the river. It was so good to feel sunshine again, even if only for a day!


The sun was shining on Easter Sunday and we hopped on our bikes to go to the Easter gathering in a park. It was our first bike ride since last year, but I'd promised myself that as soon as Spring Forward took place and we were living in Summer time, I'd ride my bike again and I was determined to stick with that. Poor Malcolm was kind enough to stick to it with me ;) 


Halfway through the service, it started to drizzle a little. That ruined our plans to pic-nic for breakfast, so we rode back home and had our breakfast where it was warm and cosy. We had some Kinder surprise eggs so that we could be at least a little bit surprised, and to make up for the lack of hot cross buns, we made some welsch cakes with spices. (and then found chocolate bunnies in our post-box, but only on Tuesday because we weren't expecting post! Thank you, mystery bunny!)




It was only that afternoon that we heard about the explosions in Pakistan. What a tragedy. It's just crazy and senseless and unfathomable. That morning we'd met as Christians in a park, while our brothers and sisters in Pakistan had done the same and paid a terrible price. A friend on Facebook said something that really resonated with me though: 

"Dear Taliban, Jesus warned his followers this would happen, so we're saddened, but not surprised. You can kill us, but Jesus will raise us from the dead, so we're not afraid of you. When religious people kill Jesus and his followers, it has, historically, lead to Christianity spreading like wildfire. You can't beat us, so why don't you join us? : )" 

Amen. Let's pray for the Taliban, that some of them will be celebrating Easter and the ressurection of their Lord next year.

Oh what transformations God is capable of! 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Amsterdam {Day 4}

Our last day in Amsterdam rolled around and the weather app informed us that it was mostly going to drizzle, which wasn't much of a surprise. We checked out but left our luggage at the hotel and went to see the tallest windmill in the Netherlands. It was a long walk, but we were glad that the rain was only light. 








As is quite normal, we approached the area where the windmill should be, and weren't sure where this enormous thing was because the land is so flat and the buildings in the area fairly high. But, suddenly, there it was! 
It really is quite a monstrosity, and very impressive. So, we seized the opportunity for a selfie with the landmark and then headed on our merry way to Haarlemerstraat on the other side of the city.  






Haarlemerstr. was full of coffee shops to smoke weed in, cheese shops, quirky little random shops, and all sorts of things to look at. Towards Haarlemmerplein we came across a shop full of board and card games so we peeked in there, but board games in Dutch weren't ideal. We did find a basin of random chess pieces though, and since Malcolm's chess set is missing a pawn, he bought a replacement. The jokes that one can make about Malcolm's pawn that he bought in Amsterdam are numerous... especially since it's our only souvenir from the city!



At Haarlemmerplein we convinced ourselves that it was marvelous weather for a picnic and constructed some sandwiches on a bench in the drizzle. We must have looked quite pathetic but I couldn't help but laugh at how miserable Malcolm looked and what a sight we must have been.


From there, there wasn't much left on our to-do list, other than to wander through the shops in the 9 Straatjies and then huddle under our umbrella and enjoy some Nutella smothered Churros.



We picked up our bags at the hotel and then walked to the train station. Malcolm is my absolute hero for carrying the bag all the way, especially since in total we'd walked about 12km that day already!





We hung out in the station for a tiny bit and then caught our train perfectly on time. The trip should have taken 4 hours to Frankfurt but suddenly, close to Limburg, our train stood still. The driver informed us that another train had called in an emergency and we had to wait for more info... not long afterwards we were allowed to proceed, but at a snails-pace. It was somewhat eerie, moving slowly not really knowing why and not being able to see anything outside except distant towns every now and again. At the slow pace, the train would tilt to the side as the tracks are designed for high speed, and the automatic doors between carriages had to be pushed open manually because of the angle.

We finally arrived at Frankfurt station 2 hours late, and as soon as the doors open we tore off towards platform 13 because a train to Marburg was scheduled to leave in the same minute. Again, Malcolm was a champion as he had the heavy bag! We were about to board the train when the conductor asked if we were headed to Fulda. Realising it was the wrong one, he informed us that the opposite train was Marburg-bound. We rushed across the platform to the next train, and because the train splits up at some point, had to run to the very last carriage. We were so relieved to finally flop into a seat and the train started moving a minute later!
We couldn't figure out, though, what train we were on. I realised that the train we had actually wanted to take and had sprinted for was only scheduled for an hour later. And the train that we were on should have left 40 minutes earlier and was simply delayed. There shouldn't have been a train there waiting for us at all, so I was extra thankful that there was!

Our trip was a fun one. Sometimes, it's good simply to get out of town. With Marburg surrounded by hills, I still feel somewhat enclosed sometimes, since the horizon is always so close. And getting to see and experience something new together, seeing places which, growing up in South Africa, have always seemed so far away and so unreachable, really is a privilege.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Amsterdam {Day 3}

Initially, our plan for day 3 involved going to the Keukenhof gardens to see the flowers. In fact, it was the reason we wanted to visit in Spring and the gardens were opening on the 24th and we could go on their opening day. Fields of flowers just sound perfect to me! But, the weather wasn't looking that great and wandering around cold fields looking at flowers all morning didn't actually sound so appealing anymore, after all. So, we decided to take a bus to Volendam and Edam instead, since to wander around a town in the rain sounded a tiny bit more pleasant. 

We bought a ticket that allowed us to take buses along certain stretches all day long, and hopped on a bus. We had read that Volendam was really touristy and were anticipating quite a bustling little seaside village, with raw herring and onion to feed the seagulls (that's a reference to our fish-eating experience at the Baltic sea). 


We had a short trip through some beautiful countryside, where we were constantly surprised by the canals running through land higher than the road. The land is vast and flat, and really much like a rainy and green version of the Freestate.
When we arrived in Volendam and realised we had no idea where to go, we decided to head towards the church steeple and hope to find the harbour and town centre. We made our way through an extremely picturesque neighbourhood and soon arrived at the church, went up a tiny bank and found ourselves at the coast, entirely alone. That was a surprise! We walked towards the souvenir shops and poked our noses into a few, enjoying the quietness and lack of cyclists.



The cheese shop gave tasty little samples out, and we could peer downstairs to see some cheese-manufacturing machines. Along the promenade were stalls selling with poffertjies and waffles. But, after avoiding Amsterdam's coffee shops for fear of getting high on second hand marijuana smoke, we were rather pleased to find a comfy coffee shop with apple cake and cappuccino. We felt a little bit like retired folk, sitting in this empty coffee shop with a view of the foggy harbour and a mostly deserted street since a tour group had just left. We tried to look friendly as we sat in the window, so as to make the place look appealing to passersby, but that didn't seem too successful and a couple only came in as we were thinking of leaving. Apple cake and cappuccino in the hotel Cafe Van Den Hogen - A taste of retirement in Volendam!


To wake ourselves up from our cosiness-induced-trance, we walked out along the promenade and to the other side of the harbour to look at the boats docked there and hang out a little in the fresh sea air. 









The brochure mentioned that we could have a photo-shoot in traditional costume, and while it would surely have been fun, we decided to skip it and go to Edam - home of Edam cheese! We were immediately breath-taken by the beauty of the tiny little town. The quaint houses and the beautiful canals made it such a pleasure to stroll through! 





After taking a cheesy photo, where we actually did say cheese, we hung out in the square for a little while watching the few people passed. It's really cool because one can sit on a bench on the rail of the bridge over the main canal and watch life in slow-motion in a little Dutch village (population 7300-ish).




Not really knowing what to do next, having seen some Edam cheese in Edam, we did what we've come to realise we do best, and wandered. Really, I could sum up this entire trip to Amsterdam by saying "we wandered", but that's less interesting, isn't it?



We found our way to a windmill, to see one up close. I had no idea that they were thatched, so that was a surprise, and it's not everyday one gets to have a windmill-selfie (unless you're in the Netherlands, apparently...)



I suppose we did miss out on something by not going to Keukenhof - but we did experience something else so I don't regret our decision. We'll find fields of flowers another day, and it was nice having a quieter day, in fresh air and taking it slow with not much of a plan but lots to look at. 

Our trip back to Amsterdam was smooth, and passing by the houses along the way, we noticed how we've missed seeing houses made of brick. Despite our appreciation and admiration of Fachwerk houses, cute little brick houses were a nice change in scenery. The houses are really sweet with large windows, and the typical little house that one draws as a child seems largely based on these Dutch cottages we saw. 

When we got back to Amsterdam, we considered taking another bus to somewhere else, but decided that navigating and wandering through another village may mean the death of our feet. So, a detour through the harbour and then back to our hotel it was! 



Our hotel had free wifi, so we hung out for a while watching 7de Laan on YouTube until we got hungry and went to wander the streets once more. The flower market was really close and we decided to check out the flowers on our way to Rembrandt's square. One can buy trinkets and tulips bulbs, dried lavender and seeds to grow one's own weed. 





Our time in Amsterdam was coming to an end. We bought some Frites for supper and sat at the square in the drizzle for a little while before deciding to seize the night and keep wandering. We headed to the Jordan district and really just walked around trying to soak up our last night in the city.