Monday, December 29, 2008

Time with Family

In reverse order, photos from the past week in Davis and surrounding area

Took a little road trip today. Drove to Muir Beach and Muir Woods. Unfortunately, it was late and looking like rain by the time we got to the woods, so we didn't walk around there. We had fun exploring en route, though.

Stefan, Clara, Liesl and Anja, on Muir Beach

En route to the beach, this is reportedly the longest line of post boxes in North America

San Francisco - you can see the Golden Gate Bridge as well as Alcatraz. And a blimp over the city

The family. This photo is taken from Sausalito. We spent some time in this little town, having coffee (and hot chocolate for the kids)

Liesl and Stefan just got this fun bug the day I arrived. Obviously the top was just put down for this photo, since it's too chilly to drive it like that this time of year... Not that it's THAT cold in this area - it's been mid 40s to 50s many days, which is nice and balmy compared to Cedar Rapids, where I'm returning tomorrow!

Anja, playing in the snow on Christmas day. (Oh, and Rocky in the background. He belongs to one of the other families who were at South Lake Tahoe for the week. We just went out for the day.)

Clara, with Ianthe, one of Liesl's colleagues. It was Clara and Anja's first time to see snow, so they LOVED playing in it!

Clara and friends, enjoying the snow. BTW, we never saw the lake due to the weather. We're told this town is on the lake, but we'll have to see it another time... :)

Liesl and Stefan in the bay window of the house the others were renting for the week

This is not a picture on the wall of the house. It's a large picture window. Nice. Very nice

Scenes en route to Lake Tahoe

Chains were required for much of the drive. The 100-or-so-mile journey took us close to 4 hours since we had to crawl at 25mph across the summit. But it was beautiful, and thankfully, Stefan was driving

Fun times with the girls. This is Anja, when I took them to Border's and read them some stories

Clara, at the same store

And that's it, my week in a nutshell. No photos of the times in the kitchen, baking cookies, or watching Stefan bake incredible rusks, or listening to the girls crack up as they're playing in the bath tub, or them learning how to rollerskate.

It was GREAT to have this week with family. Tomorrow, I'm heading back to Iowa for a while.

Happy New Year, by the way. It's hard to believe 2008 is almost over... It's definitely been an unusual year. Lots to remember this year by. Political unrests. Studies. Floods. A career change.

I'm looking forward to seeing what 2009 holds.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Adjusting to life in the US . . .

I remember learning to read in English when I was in Grade 2. I could speak English by then, but, for some or other reason, I specifically remember having to get used to reading the th-sound.

Tonight, I was sitting on the couch reviewing multiplication tables with my 3rd-grade niece, Clara. She was saying her 7-time-table in Afrikaans, and it suddenly hit me that she should probably be saying it in English, since it would be better for her to be thinking in English when it comes to math and such. So I had her switch to her second language.

She's only been in the US for a little over a month, so it's been a huge adjustment to her, suddenly having to do everything in English. She's doing great, though. At times, however, you could tell how confused the poor child is getting with her numbers.

In Afrikaans, for example, forty two is "two and forty." Which could get terribly confusing when you're switching to times tables in another language. Poor kid! But at the same time, you can hear how her English is starting to affect her Afrikaans. In English, you say, "more than..." while in Afrikaans, than is translated as as (sort-of rhyming with us.) So she's starting to say things like "meer dan..." rather than "meer as..." It's got to be tough!

Three-year-old Anja, on the other hand, seems to be very quietly acquiring her second language. She's not speaking much in class, but this afternoon, I asked her a question in English, which led to an entire conversation in English. A month ago, she understood English, but hardly ever spoke it! I guess she's realized that people around her simply no longer understand when she tries to express herself in Afrikaans, so for survival, she's picking up English.

What's funny to me, though, is that whenever she doesn't know how to respond to a question, her standard answer is "nothing."

She'll catch on really quickly. No doubt. And she'll probably have the most American accent of all four people in their house.

Speaking of which: You know your accent is somehow different when no automated phone system understands what you're saying. For the most part, I'm able to adjust my accent enough that such systems understand me. My sister, on the other hand, has declared that she despises automated phone systems, since they simply don't understand her.

And we've been speaking English for much of our lives...

There are so many other things for them to get used to in the USA. They tried flavored coffee creamer tonight. Found it "very rich," while I, on the other hand, love the stuff in my coffee. French Vanilla's my favorite. I don't care for the fancy-flavored ones.

Plus I got them some cream cheese for their bagels, and my sister spread it thin like butter, asking first if you're supposed to put butter on first, or not. I guess if you're going to spread it so thin, you might as well put butter on first! But fear not, she didn't. And it's much better for your waist in any case not to put a quarter inch or more cream cheese on stuff...

Clara and I baked chocolate chunk cookies from scratch today and she declared that it's much nicer than the ready-in-the-tube kind. They tried those just for fun the other day. Since it's such a novelty. They really bake EVERYTHING from scratch in this house. Believe me. My brother-in-law is an incredible cook, as is my sister. But Stefan does stuff like bake bread (from scratch, yes, even making his own yeast from potatoes.) What really amazes me is that they're currently still mixing everything by hand since when you have to put up a house from scratch in another country, KitchenAids and hand mixers aren't on the top of the list...

Needless to say, while I was creaming the butter and sugar for the choc-chunk cookies today, I appreciated the fact that I don't usually have to do things like this by hand.

And later in the evening, I appreciated the fact that I never had to learn my times tables in more than one language...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I've been having a wonderful time hanging out with my nieces. This is Anja. She's three, and thrilled that I'm here. As am I. Eight-year-old Clara's just as happy that I'm here. :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I've been learning about waiting. It's not an easy lesson to learn. It's not popular in our day and age to wait. We I want instant answers. But this is not a time of quick answers.

I was listening recently morning to a devotion about Advent and was reminded yet again of the sacrament of waiting.

"Waiting seems negative. Passive. Unexciting..." the speaker reminded me. "It is a time of reflection..."

This definitely has been a time of slowing down, of adjusting to life aK (after Kenya). I still think of the kids and staff in Kenya every day, about what they're probably doing, about adjustment even they are making.

I do have a job offer for a position that truly is perfect for me. But I cannot say anything more about it yet since I don't yet have the offer in writing. Can't tell you where it is, or when I'll start. I know, it's killing me. Not really, but it's really frustrating, to say the least. But at least I know that it really looks like I do have a job. Maybe. OK, more than maybe.

So, where am I?

I'm at the Eastern Iowa Airport, waiting to board a plane to Sacramento. I was able to come to the US since my job search did not include positions in Kenya, so it made no sense to stay there while waiting. And I am now heading to California to spend Christmas with my sister Liesl and her family. They recently moved to Davis, California, for Liesl's job.

So my little nieces are starting to talk with American accents. It's hilarious. At least, it is funny to me! I'll post photos when I'm at their place.

Speaking of things that are funny to me: I found this link on a blog I occasionally read. It's to singer/songwriter Dave Barnes' Christmas extravaganza. You really should check out Dave's regular site first so you'd hear what he really sounds like... This is his Christmas thing. It makes me laugh out loud, every time I watch it.

So, on this goofy note, I wish you a very merry Christmas. But I should post photos from California.

My plane's boarding. It was delayed by more than an hour due to the fuel freezing! It is bitterly cold in Iowa right now. I'm happy to go to balmy California, but happiest yet to spend time with family.