Thursday, July 30, 2009

Don't Hog the Warthog!

A friend of ours gave us some kudu droëwors and warthog kabernossi. Droëwors is dried sausage and a South African delicacy (well, it's dried sausage and fat, to be more precise, but the point is, it's GOOD).

I know my husband. I know that he will sneak pieces of droëwors when I'm not looking. You might be thinking, "And? What's wrong with that?" What is wrong is that I want there to be a few pieces left for me.

Tonight I got after him for eating some droëwors "for dessert." "Don't hog it all!", I admonished him. He looked at me with an amused expression that, after 14 years of marriage, I have recognised to mean: You've lost the argument because you inadvertently said something funny.

He then went skipping around the house singing, "Don't hog the warthog!" "Don't hog the warthog!"

That's it. I'm hiding the rest of the droëwors.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Necessity is the Mother of...

... invention, I think the saying goes, but I am here to tell you that necessity is also the mother of fashion faux pas. It's winter here in South Africa, you see, and while it doesn't snow here or get much colder than 0 degrees (32 F), there are no heating systems for homes here, or fireplaces, so the inside of my house hovers between 9 and 10 degrees (48 - 50 F).

I don't mean to complain - I really love South Africa -but it's COLD! Getting dressed in the morning is truly an assault to the senses after spending several hours under a warm duvet (and I won't even tell you what sitting on the toilet is like, except to say that my bum feels like an ice lolly!). Sitting at a computer becomes a teeth-chattering, finger-numbing event. So...

Back to the fashion faux pas. I don't care what I look like anymore. I wear my coat indoors, as well as my scarf, my hat and two pairs of socks. I don't care about fashion, I don't care if my friends think I'm being a sissy... as long as my nose can warm up!

I am thinking about cutting armholes in my duvet and wearing that each day, but I think the feathers might leak out... On the other hand, there is a fine line between fashion faux pas and cutting edge...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thoughts on Praise, Sacrifices, and Getting Warm

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess His name." - Hebrews 13:15

Sometimes I don't feel like praising God. I guess that's where this verse comes in... God is worthy to be praised no matter what, and how I feel is irrelevant. It might very well be a sacrifice on my part to praise Him, but I would be a fool not to give honour where honour is due.

I have this picture in my head of people from every tribe and tongue and nation worshiping around the Throne, but it isn't the normal picture of people standing victoriously. It's a picture of wounded people from every tribe and tongue and nation - crawling, limping, bloodied and bruised, having just come in from a fierce battle to offer God their praise. Some can barely muster the strength to speak, but what strength they have left they give in worship to their King.

Jesus walks around, touching each one, lifting a chin here, helping another to their feet, and as they worship they begin to stand in a strength that is not theirs. Their voices become healthy and clear as their wounds begin to heal. Joy and peace replace the worry and cares. Oh, they still bear the scars of battle, but they have been restored, redeemed, refreshed.

Tonight as I prepare to go to bed, it is winter here in the Highveld - the house is about 48 degrees (9 Celcius) inside, and my nose is perpetually cold. But I will fall asleep thinking about my Jesus and find warmth in the following verse:

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." - Psalm 91:4

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Getting Used to Anomalies

When we first moved to South Africa, I compared everything to the U.S. If something didn't make sense to me or seemed "wrong", I would comment on how they should do it like they did "back home." And while this is probably normal for those who move cross-culturally, I am slightly embarrassed to admit to such thoughts.

Today, however, I realised that I am doing this far less often. Hopefully that's a sign which means I'm adjusting to life here. Case in point: we pulled into a petrol station to fill up our car, and two guys were smoking. I said, "Isn't that rather dangerous?" Dan replied, "That's nothing. Sometimes even the employees smoke." We both looked at each other, shrugged, and giggled.

(but if we blow up, Dan, I just want to tell you that I love you!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Never say Never

Somehow, a vuvuzela made its way into our house. A vuvuzela, for those of you who aren't involved in the world of South African soccer (football), is a plastic trumpet-y horn thing that sounds rather like an elephant giving birth.

FIFA wants to ban it, South African fans adore it, and me? I've taken to blowing it to call my children to the dinner table. Whether they're upstairs, outside, or hiding in the storage closet under the stairs, they can hear the vuvuzela and come running to the table. It's great, and it saves me the trouble of having to yell or play "wegkruipertjie" when it's time to eat.

I never thought I'd have any affection for the vuvuzela, having once thought it to be an assault on my ears, but then, it's generally not a good idea to use words like "never" and "always."

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Haunting Piece of Scripture

"O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children's peace." - Isaiah 54:11-13

I don't know what it is about this passage, but it has haunted me for weeks. Maybe it's because I feel like the afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted. Maybe it's the hope of being made beautiful once again. Maybe it's the longing for peace. Maybe it's the promise of healing and restoration.

I don't know what it is about this passage, but I am clinging to it like a toddler that clings to his parents in a large crowd. He can't see where he's going, but as long as he's holding on to the legs of his parents' trousers, it's okay.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How Things Escalate in our Family

It all started when the girls and I were waiting for Dan and Ben to come up for the nightly bedtime story. We were tired of waiting, so we started playing catch with a toilet paper roll. Lucy accidentally (so she says) ripped the first square off, thereby turning the roll into a contrail-spewing rocket. When there was nothing left but a pile of paper and an empty roll, Dan and Ben walked in and were greeted with a 2-ply weapon of mass destruction.

I don't know how it is that in our family a game of catch can turn into a game of "Intercontinental Ballistic Missile" to a game of "Lazarus, Come Forth!", but it made me laugh, and I haven't laughed in a long time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'd Like to Buy a Vowel

I love learning languages. I really do. There's something beautiful about each language. Sometimes when you learn a word in another language, the translation adds insight that enhances your understanding of that word. Case in point: the word for "hope" in Spanish is "esperanza." It comes from the same root as "esperar", to wait. So then, hope is a sort of expectant waiting, a waiting with happy anticipation. I love that.

There's also something frustrating about each language. In German it's the verbs. In English it's that there are no rules for pronunciation (not really). In Spanish it's the possessives (it just takes so long), and in Afrikaans, it's the vowels.

I don't know of any other language that uses twice as many vowels as consonants, which is a rather impressive feat if you think about it. Or a language that can use so many dipthongs - eeu, ooi, oei, oeie, aie, uu, etc. So... without further ado, here are my favourite words in Afrikaans (thus far):

grondboontjiebotter - peanut butter
voëlverskrikker - scarecrow
grillerig - creepy (this is one of those onomatopoeic words that sounds like what it is; seeing it written just doesn't do it justice)
geëet - ate (three e's in a row!)
naar - unpleasant or nausiating (and "naartjie" is NOT the diminutive of "naar")
uie - onions (no consonants!)
seerower - pirate (a good word to know if you have a seven-year-old son!)
seekoeie - plural of hippopotamus (note: two consonants, six vowels. Afrikaans at its best.)

The Only Thing Missing is Some Really Strong Coffee

I'm the sort of person who doesn't like to mix the food on my plate. I eat one thing at a time - meat, vegetables, starch, or something like that. And when it comes to dessert, I also don't mix things, but that's not usually a problem because in the U.S., typically only one dessert is served. But here...

South Africans can take dessert (called "pudding") to dizzy new heights that I never knew existed. Here's how it works:

Start off with about three desserts - malva pudding, some other type of cake, maybe some koeksisters (twisted donut-y-things soaked in sugar syrup), and place a bit of each in a bowl. Then take some custard - any flavour - and pour it over the top, drenching everything in your bowl. Add a scoop of ice cream, and maybe even some golden syrup. Then eat!

The first time I saw this I almost died! How could someone defile my chocolate chip cookies with.... golden syrup? Or custard?? And malva pudding, which is already drenched in a butter/cream/sugar sauce, needs nothing more (except maybe an insulin shot).

Many months later, I must admit, I am still shocked by this culinary phenomenon. But I have a rather awed respect for the sweet tooth of my Afrikaner friends, and I am learning to sneak my bowl away before the custard is dumped on (Starbucks, where are you? PLEASE come to South Africa!).

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Know Her Name

This is just a face to most of you, but I know her name - Joyce. Joyce lives in a two-room house with her mother, two sisters and her baby daughter.

Last week Joyce died. She can't have been more than 20 years old.

I feel sad, and I think what bothers me most is that too many of us debate the world's problems, philosophizing and offering solutions without actually getting to know the people for whom we're busy "changing the world."

Everyone has a story to tell. Maybe we should do more listening and less talking.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Feel So Official!

My family and I got library cards yesterday. When you move to a new country, there are so many urgent things that need attention: housing, transportation, schooling, jobs, etc. But a library card....

A library card is one of those things at the bottom of the list - a small luxury - that made me realise the "big" things are taken care of now. I know how to shop, drive on the left side of the road, and I even sorted out the property tax fiasco when the City of Tshwane thought we were the Nel family!

A library card is not for visitors. A library card means I'm here to stay, that I haven't given up yet, that South Africa hasn't gotten the better of me, that I've survived the past two years. A library card is a small victory in navigating foreign bureaucracy, a paper badge of courage, a certificate commemorating perseverance.

You can laugh all you want, but I don't care; yesterday was a good day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thoughts on Rocks

I once watched a documentary about I.M. Pei, the famous architect who designed the new entrance to the Louvre, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Bank of China building in Hong Kong (among other things).

He was talking about his father, who "farmed" rocks in the ocean to "harvest" for rock gardens. His father would place huge rocks in the ocean and remove them ten to twenty years later. When he did so, the rocks would each have smooth edges and be in unique formations that no man could have chiseled. The rocks would be used as centerpieces in gardens - one-of-a-kind works of art.

I couldn't sleep last night, and as I lay in bed I said to God, "Okay, is there something You want to say to me, because I could really use some direction right now." I received no direct response, but my mind suddenly remembered these rocks.

It is only after years of being buffeted by ocean waves and storms that these rocks gain value and become beautiful. Without the buffeting, they would still be... plain old rocks. I couldn't help but relate this to my own life and the challenges I face - we ALL face. If I stay focused on God, on the bigger picture, on learning whatever it is God wants to teach me, if I remain patient and persevere instead of running away toward something "easier", then maybe I can come through these challenges with smoother edges, more beautiful.

I think there is potential in each one of us to become one-of-a-kind masterpieces. The question is, will I - will you - trust God through the storms and waves?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Signs, Signs

You can't live in South Africa without coming across a funny sign sooner or later. Here are some from our recent road trip:

Sorry, but they've closed all the loopholes!

I am not afraid of lifts, but after one ride in this one... suffice it to say that even the hotel maids use the staircase!

In case you needed a visual aid to describe that desperate feeling!

Durban city officials got this great idea to change all the street names at once, so the map we bought six months ago is utterly useless! ("Pine Street? There's no Pine Street. This cross street is called Monty Naicker." "Smith Street? Do you think there's a remote possibility that it's the same thing as Anton Lembede Street?" "At this point, anything's possible.")

If there's a reason the sushi is 50% off, I don't want to eat it. Sushi is one of those things you don't want to go on sale. Ever.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

And Before You Know It....

Culture has a way of sneaking up on you. I think I'm slowly turning into a South African because:
  1. I got really, REALLY excited about the new boerewors-flavoured potato chips!
  2. I watched half of the Confederations Cup final before I realised the commentators weren't speaking English.
  3. Pap and wors always sound good to me.
  4. I say "Ag, shame" way more than I should.
  5. It's 13 degrees Celcius inside my house and I'm only wearing a t-shirt.
  6. I actually felt bad when Bafana Bafana lost.
  7. I recognised that the pan flute guy at the shopping mall was playing Laurika Rauch songs.
  8. I survived a dust storm in the Free State.
  9. I think blood substitutions in rugby are almost as exciting as ice hockey.
  10. I know what's actually in Monkey Gland sauce!