Family Traditions Creates Unbreakable Bonds and Awesome Memories

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What do the Sunday night movie, playing Monopoly on holidays and eating dinner at the table have in common? They are the glue that bonds a family together.

According to https://www.childhelp.org/ family traditions are handed down from generation to generation and add to the rhythm and seasonality of life.

What are Family Traditions?

They are those things we tend to repeat doing when we are together, like the things mentioned above. Family traditions differ from family to family and are normally just simple things we do that we as a family love, like having rowdy conversations around the dinner table as the Italians and Greeks tend to have. Or it is taking that annual holiday to the same place every year. So many of my husband’s childhood memories derive from their seaside family holidays, so much so that we live in the town they had their holidays in! My family didn’t have seaside holidays, but we had a big mass of water nearby where we lived and we went camping there over the Christmas season when I was little. It was also my birthday this time of year and to me it felt as if I had my birthday every day during those holidays, as different family members arrived daily with gifts for me!

Family Traditions look Different and can Literally be Anything!

Times have changed and so have the activities we do. But we still participate in traditions – even though we don’t even think of them as ‘traditions’. Mom and the girls going to the mall on a Saturday morning, Dad playing cricket with the boys in the garden on Sunday afternoons, visiting the grandparents for Saturday braai or watching the rugby together, are all good examples of South African family traditions.

The Advantages of Family Traditions

Other than helping the family to bond, it also builds children’s confidence, because their parents are spending some real time with them. That makes them feel grounded and safe and help them to be more outgoing and courageous. You can read up more on the advantages of family traditions on your own.

Family Traditions in the Time of the Corona Virus

Yep, we are locked in and can’t even take our dogs for a walk in the streets, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still do things together. We are after all, cooped up together like never, ever before in our lifetimes! So, this makes it a perfect time to bring back some old family traditions or establish new ones.

If you have stopped or never eaten together at a table as a family, start doing that – even if it is for only one meal a day. Here are a few pointers for this:

  • Ban cell phones from the table and keep a few conversation starters handy to get your family talking to each other again.
  • Research a few good conversation topics which are fitting for your family’s age.
  • Allow difference of opinion, but make sure to establish rules so that it is still done respectfully and things don’t get ugly. If we teach our children to have an opinion and speak their minds at home, educators don’t have to teach them what they want to teach them.
  • Start debates about different topics. Divide everyone present into two groups and let them debate two sides of a topic. When things get heated, change it around. It is fun to see everyone suddenly out of their comfort zones when having to defend the other side! And it normally ends fights immediately.

Play together, whether it is board games or games in the garden. And don’t stop when the lockdown is over.

Create something together, such as cooking, baking and braaiing, making clothes, building puzzles, building lego or whatever your family is into.

Try to teach your children something regularly during the lockdown, but keep doing it hereafter. Teach them to pray and care for others, braai, plant veggies, snoei trees, play chess, build something out of wood, do DIY chores in the house etc. Doing this on a regular basis will not only teach them skills, but give them confidence and the ability to do things for by themselves and for themselves.

Read together. Read bedtime stories to your children from day one. (Yes, they need to hear stories in their dads’ and moms’ voices from an early age.) When they are older (and now during lockdown) you can lie around reading for a few hours a day.

Start a thanksgiving tradition, either at the breakfast or dinner table or whenever you are all gathered together and bored during the lockdown. Think about those less privileged during this time and start a ‘Thank You’ jar where you can all contribute with things you are thankful written on a piece of paper and put into the jar. Open in up in a year’s time or so and read it aloud around the table while eating.

These are just a few examples. There are lots more. You know what your family love doing. Dust off a few old ones or start new traditions. Search the Internet for more ideas if you need to.

Keeping it Up

Our young adult son is still with us at home. We continue doing things together as a family on a regular basis, such as eating together every meal, even though he lives outside in the cottage. We go for picnics at the beach and going on Sunday exploring rides etc. My sister-in-law’s two adult children are having dinner with them every Sunday evening. Some dads and their adult sons have weekly squash appointments. You get the point.

So, when this lockdown is over or when the children are all grown up, don’t stop with the traditions. Many South African families are split up and live all over the world, but with the technology available these days, we can still be ‘together’. Make a family group call on a week night/morning (depending on time differences) and kuier together on Skype or WhatsApp video calls.

Do whatever it takes to keep your family traditions going, because they create awesome and precious memories for your children which they will carry over to their children.

 

© 2020 Fielies De Kock 

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Foreverest dreamer. Living in a coastal village in the Overberg, South Africa, with a husband and two dogs in a small heritage house, and an adult, recently-graduated, job-seeking son in the garden cottage. His CV is available on request. 🙂🙂🙂

 

In the Beginning we were Created to be Creative

 

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God has created us to be creators therefore we are creative by nature. We reproduce, we plant and make food, build houses, create lifestyles. We create jobs or work at jobs that others have created. You should be getting the picture. None of us can claim that we “are not creative”. It is in our DNA. Being human is all about being creative.

Unfortunately, our lives had become so busy that we all aren’t that creative anymore. Some of us had become so busy and distracted with either accumulating wealth or just surviving that we let others create on our part and we are/have to be pleased with ‘buying’ other people’s creativity. We do that by shopping for bread instead of baking it ourselves, buying clothes, furniture, home decorations etc. You get my drift. Of course it is impossible to make and build everything ourselves. It is also unnecessary, because if we don’t buy other people’s creations, neither they or we will accumulate wealth/survive.

The point is that we modern people had become so busy that most of us don’t create anything at all anymore. We don’t even fix things anymore in our consumer culture. We just replace by buying new stuff. We don’t all have to build our own houses, bake our own bread, brew our own coffee, build our own furniture, make our own clothes… but SOMETIMES we can and we must make or build our own things – because IT IS GOOD FOR US!

Why Creativity is Good for Us

When we are creative it makes us healthier by building our immune systems and our confidence, it lowers our blood pressure, it balances our mental state, it makes us happier, it makes us resourceful and then guess what? It makes us even more creative. You can read more on your own time about the advances of creativity from people who knows more than I do here:

https://lifelabs.psychologies.co.uk/users/8838-nicola-vanlint/posts/4292-the-positive-benefits-of-creativity

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2018/07/25/heres-how-creativity-actually-improves-your-health/

So, Now What?

For now my job is to help you to use the next weeks where you will definitely not be too busy because you can’t go anywhere, to be at least a bit creative every day. And who knows, maybe you enjoy it so much that you make time in your busy schedule to keep doing it when life returns back to ‘normal’ once again. So here goes.

First Things First

  • Thank your Creator for another healthy day and pray for the people who have to work to keep us healthy and safe. If you have friends working, send them a short thank you message.
  • Pray and do Bible study. And think about your life. Now is a good time for introspection. (You can also read this blog entry: https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-thinking-about-life/
  • It is important to keep a bit of routine to maintain a good mental state. So, open the curtains and windows to make sure your living quarters have enough air for all the people cooped up in the small space together.
  • Make your bed immediately when you wake up. This will give you your first sense of accomplishment and gives you a mental kick. (My poor family even need to make their own beds in a hotel – even though the hotel staff does it again!)
  • Make sure everyone in the household has chores. This will not only make living together easier, but it will give everyone responsibilities which will help in making everyone feel useful. Remember, everyone can contribute, even if it is in the smallest way!
  • Don’t try to do everything you decide to do at once. Choose one or two activities a day. Make a manageable list if you want to. Remember that this free time is given to you. Don’t see it as a punishment. It is a gift. We have never been handed time on a plate like this. Let’s make the best of it and enjoy it!
  • Stay up to date on what you need to ensure the safety of your family, but don’t overload yourself with too much information, because it will have a negative influence on your mental state.
  • Make time every morning to sit together for coffee and a talk. Check everyone’s health and mental state and take action if needed.
  • Play the radio or music in the house, so that there is a lively feeling in the house.

 Ideas for the Rest of your Day

  • Write something
    • You won’t be able to write that book you are dreaming of in three weeks, but whether it is a memoir or a novel, spend half an hour every day doing research on how to go about the process and write the outline.
    • You can also follow my Instagram account @thewritingclub.dieskryfklub and do a writing prompt every day for the duration of the lockdown.
    • If you are a writer consider a specific writing schedule for the duration of staying home, such as writing a short story a week, a chapter a week, a 100-wod story per day, a poem a day etc.
    • If you have a hobby or have something that you are good at, consider starting a blog.
    • Teach your children to write a story. I will post a blog entry to help you with this shortly.
    • Start journaling. Read my blog entry about journaling here: https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-journal-writing/
  • Playing games with the family
    • If you live in a house play games in the garden. Teach your children games you have played on the school playgrounds when you were young.
    • Play board and card games in the house.
    • Remember to also play make-belief games with your little ones!
  • Watch movies. Make sure to take turns to watch a favourite from each family member – big and small.
  • Work in the garden together.
  • Catch up with family and old friends on WhatsApp, Skype etc., but don’t just forward messages, pictures and videos. Write nice conversational news messages from your family or make fun videos where all family members get a turn to talk or give a message.
  • Spend some time on neglected hobbies or start a new one. Maybe examine the possibility of making money from your talent. Watch ‘how to’ videos on your interest and learn how to become better at what you love to do.
  • Read! And get your family to read. And read stories to your little ones! Read my blog entry here: https://fieliesdekock.com/2013/08/27/teach-your-child-to-read/
  • Finish unfinished projects and things that broke and is mendable. Make it an opportunity to teach your child/ren to fix things.
  • Get exercise.

Even if you live in the smallest of flats, you have to get some exercise. Search the Internet for exercise ideas in small spaces. Rolene Strauss, former Miss SA, promised on the radio this morning that she will post exercise videos for the duration of the lockdown period. Follow her on https://www.facebook.com/OfficialRoleneStrauss/

  • If you have one tucked away somewhere, dust off and switch on that forgotten treadmill!
  • Learn a new skill
    • Get out a cookbook from your shelve and learn to cook or bake something. Start sommer with a lekke bread or beskuit. If you don’t have cookbooks, Google a recipe.
    • Watch YouTube videos to learn something new.
    • Or use a good language app to finally start learning a new language. We use Duolingo. (https://www.duolingo.com/) You can download the app on your phone.
  • Since we live in the Southern Hemisphere, do some Autumn cleaning. 😊
    • Clean those neglected places you know about but never get to cleaning.
    • Sort out your pantry and fridge and freezer if you haven’t done it before stocking up.
    • Sort out not-used clothing and keep it in bags to take to charity shops after the lockdown.
    • Clean out, sort out and declutter cupboards, drawers and all other spaces one at a time.
    • Sort out your photos and back it up on a hard drive if you can too. Use an app or software and make movie clips for family viewing during the lockdown.
  • Spice normal things up!
    • Make mealtimes fun! If you live in a house, set a table outside or on the stoep. You can also let the children ‘play’ restaurant-restaurant and have them serve the dishes. In between meals they can sell you coffee (or something stronger if you are in stock).
    • If you live in a flat or when it rains, a table in the sitting room will do too. Just a change of scenery is sometimes needed to lift the spirits.
    • Think outside the box to change the way you do things to spice it up a bit.

 Remember!

A lot of what we are going to do during the next few weeks, we will do while sitting or lying down. Apart from making sure you get enough exercise, also make sure that you don’t sit too much! Sitting for long periods of time can cause other problems that you really don’t need right now. As I’m saying this, I’m going to stop writing now, because I was following my own advice and wrote this whole article standing up behind the bar counter, a la Ernest Hemmingway, and I need to sit down now!

Stay healthy! Stay safe!

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© 2020 Fielies De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Foreverest dreamer. Living in a coastal village in the Overberg, South Africa, with a husband and two dogs in a small heritage house, and an adult, recently-graduated, job-seeking son in the garden cottage. His CV is available on request. 🙂🙂🙂

 

The Lost Treasure of Storytelling

My Musings #13/2017

I am from the lucky generation who still grew up without a TV. Well almost. TV arrived in our town in South Africa in 1976, when I was in Grade 2. Or it might even had been a year earlier. I can’t remember. My dad didn’t buy one immediately, “because they didn’t show the rugby”. Actually that was his way of saying that he didn’t have the money to buy one. Not that I held it against him. We never had money, but we always had food, shelter and clothes. And love. We, television-less children in our street had to gather at a house that had a TV every Tuesday at six to watch Haas Das se Nuuskas and Heidi. I had to wait until my oupa sold his TV second-hand to my dad years later to have the pleasure of staying at home to watch it alone – which wasn’t as much fun as wandering down the street to Theunis’ house every Tuesday evening.

I only realised much later in life that not having a television set in the house was much more of a privilege than having one. We ate together at the kitchen table, where we talked about our days and then we listened to the aandgodsdiens (a Bible message) and the ten minute story over the radio. And then we washed the dishes and we all retreated to our rooms, where I would read Bible and a story book before falling asleep.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love technology to a point where I have to admit today that I am addicted. I struggle with it and hope that when our living arrangements change in a year or so, that I will be able to be less dependent on social media and will thus use my phone in a more constructive and balanced way. But for now, I have to live with the addiction, because when you live abroad, that piece of electronics is your life-line to family and friends back home.

One thing that technology killed in our day, is the treasure of storytelling. It’s no shock anymore that when you go to restaurants, you find big or small groups of people sitting together, conversing inwardly via their phones with other people than the ones they are physically with. The same thing happens when children visit each other. They ‘play’ with each other through phones and gaming equipment. Parents prop iPads and tablets into two year olds’ hands to keep them busy, instead of teaching them to play and use their imagination. We had become a strange lot indeed.

When we grew up we still knew boredom. We had no entertainment to speak of at home and very little at school. If we wanted to be entertained, we had to do it ourselves. I arrived late in our family, so I didn’t really had siblings to play with. My dolls became my friends and all the trees in our garden had names. I could sit for hours in my tree and watch people in the neighbourhood go by – without them spotting me. I loved it. I even packed rations to spend whole afternoons in my tree. I also made a ‘saddle’ for my tree trunk ‘horse’, because otherwise my bum would go numb. And I always had a kettie (slingshot) with me, because the Sering tree (I don’t believe the word I found in English for this tree’s name is the correct one) provided me with round, hard, green seeds as ammo. (As the only girl living in the street I learned to be prepared at all times.)

In that tree I dreamed up stories by the hundreds. My mother was the busy sort, so I don’t remember her ever telling or reading me a story. But there was a lot of storytelling around me – not as much as I wanted it to be, but nevertheless. I went to my single oom Mieg’s farm on some Tuesday nights with my grandparents, where my grandfather, grandmother and uncle played cards. Nothing fancy – just boring Rummy. But they played while drinking very, very strong coffee, which ou Betta, his house keeper prepared before she left for the evening. I always drank with and was always sorry afterwards when my stomach cramped so much that my mother had to give me medicine and promised me that I will never go with Oupa and Ouma to oom Mieg’s again. Until the next time. But I loved it, because I loved sitting there, listening to the old people talking.

My brother, Willa, was the first one to read me stories. He read stories to me and he read from the Bible for me and he preached to me and my dolls after school in the sitting room. I loved listening to him and the stories he told me. I think I became a Believer because of him. He practiced so well on me, he became a pastor in real life.

My Grade One teacher, Juffrou Ieta (Mrs Boshoff), was another first of the great story tellers in my life. She had the most soothing voice and some out-of-this-world stories. She would let us lie down on the carpet in the classroom and tell us a story. And if some of us fell asleep, she let us. But I never fell asleep. Stories awed me too much to let my brain go to rest. Instead, it triggered my imagination and I would later play out the stories in my room or in the garden with my dolls or my trees and with the growing number of characters who eventually took permanent residence in my head.

In Standard 2 (Grade 4 nowadays), we had a teacher, Miss Paul, who told us a story once a week. We nagged the whole week long, but she never gave in. We had to wait for Fridays. Her stories sometimes scared us, but they were never dull.

Both one of my primary school teachers – who later became my sister-in-law, Hessie (De Clerq) Breytenbach, and my high school teacher, Attie Saunders, were good enough storytellers to get me interested in history and to this day I still love the subject and it had quite an impact in several of my life choices.

I started writing my own stories and in high school a few of my friends and I even had our own little ‘library box’ with self-written stories, which could be borrowed by others. I’m not verbally good at storytelling, so I am in awe by people who are natural oral storytellers. But they had become very few. And if they still exist, there is no real place for them to practice their art in everyday life anymore, because story time is now watching-TV time or binge-watching-series time or being-glued-to-our-phones time.

Today, we live in an instant world, where entertainment is literally at the tip of our fingers wherever and whenever we want it. We don’t have to go somewhere to a social gathering or wait until it is dark. We push a button wherever we are and literally have endless choices. We actually have so many choices, that we can’t always make up our minds – and not just about entertainment, but about other things in life too.

I’m not against this way of doing. I do it too and I enjoy it, but I think that we have lost something very important with the way we are entertained in our day. We don’t need our imagination so much anymore, because all the imagining is being done for us now. That book that we should have read and the world in it we should have imagined, is now a movie and we don’t have to go through the trouble of imagining characters and worlds, because someone else have decided for us what it looks like. We just have to sit back and watch without any effort on our behalf. And then forget it again. Because tomorrow we will have some more choices and we will be bombarded with some more special effects and we’re getting so overly stimulated, that our brains doesn’t have any time to enjoy and process and remember the last thing we’ve watched before watching the next.

Our friend, Abri, is a good storyteller. He can entertain one in such a way by telling you about something happening to him that it feels as if you have experienced it with him. He also tells his sons stories. One of the ‘series’ he tells them is about Buks, a farm dog. Buks is an awesome dog. He makes grand plans and fight scary lions and nothing ever gets the better of him. The stories are entertaining and get made up as Abri goes, which sometimes are very, very funny. When he goes away, he records a few stories, so that his sons can listen to them. They love it! And not only does it stimulate the boys’ imaginations, but it tightens the relationship between father and sons.

We still have a few storytellers around. They are mostly humorous and are limited to a few TV shows and yearly cultural festivals and people have to pay to hear them, but at least they still exist. Are there still people telling ghost stories for fun and for free around a camp fire like we did when we were children?

God is a great storyteller. He created billions of characters throughout history and has ‘scripted’ their stories for them. I wonder how many of us live out our stories as He has originally plotted it out, or how much we deviated from His script for our lives to instead live our own, ‘better’ versions through the choices we make? Or how much living we are missing out on because we spend our days on our phones. He also made sure that a lot of His stories got written down for us, so that we can learn from the lives of Adam and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Esther and ultimately, Jesus, and that we can have a ‘compass’ to navigate our own stories by. Luckily even those are electronically available today…

I sometimes ponder on how much we miss out on because of the entertainment we choose thanks to our technologically advancing lives. I wonder how many unsaid words there are between people because we choose to live virtually with our eyes glued to a little electronic screen in our hands, instead of looking around in awe at the world and playing out the ‘scripts’ we have with our loved ones.

Unless we switch off that little device every now and then, I guess we will probably never know.

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Ek bepeins dié week in Afrikaans

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Foto’s: OFM News

My Weeklikse Bepeinsing #12/2017

So, gister was die groot ‘It’s Time’ gebedsbyeenkoms in Bloemfontein en daar was ‘n mag der menigte Suid-Afrikaners wat gaan bid het vir verandering in Suid-Afrika. Hier is net drie Skrifte (van die baie) waaruit Vader ons uit die Bybel leer oor gebed.

…en (as) my volk, oor wie my Naam uitgeroep is, hulle verootmoedig en bid en my aangesig soek en hulle bekeer van hul verkeerde weë, dan sal Ék uit die hemel hoor en hulle sonde vergewe en hulle land genees. (2 Kronieke 7:14)

Waak dan en bid altyddeur, sodat julle waardig geag mag word om al hierdie dinge wat kom, te ontvlug en voor die Seun van die mens te staan. (Lukas 21:36)

…terwyl julle met alle gebed en smeking by elke geleentheid bid in die Gees, en juis daartoe waak met alle volharding en smeking vir al die heiliges… (Efesiërs 6:18)

***

So is ons land al vir baie lank al op die afdraende pad en toe hoor ‘n gewone, onvolmaakte  man (soos wat die Mosesse en Dawidde en Elias van die Bybel ook maar was) dat hy ‘n gebedsbyeenkoms moet hou waar mense van Suid-Afrika hulleself kan verootmoedig, Vader se wil vra en bid vir die omstandighede in die land. As ‘n mens die boonste Skrifte lees, sou jy dink dis heel  eenvoudig. Bid vir almal en oor alles en te alle tye is die basiese boodskap. Maar o, wee! Ons is mos (Suid-)Afrikaners en oornag was die land in rep en roer!

***

En so analiseer en kritiseer en oordeel dit te lekker vir ‘n klompie weke lank.  En dit gebeur toe gister:

Een groep gryp die geleentheid aan, ondersteun dit en gaan bid. Die wat nie Bloem toe kon of wou gaan nie, het op hulle eie gebid of byeenkomste gereël waar hulle saam met ander kon bid – selfs in die buiteland.

Sommiges het gewonder of hulle kerke darem vandag ook vol sou wees en ander het die inisiatief uitgekryt as “nie van Christus nie”, as ‘n “die mekka van satan” vanweë “die oorvloed vals profesieë” wat daar uitgespreek is en so meer. En die onvolmaakte man wat dit gereël het, was volgens baie onder andere “geldgierig”, “net agter getalle aan” en “die anti-chris”.

Dan was daar die natuurlike reaksie van die ateïs dat mense net gaan om goed te voel oor hulleself en dat niks gaan verander nie.

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Ek reken in ons quick-fix wêreld sal baie die hele gebed-ding as ‘n flop sien as daar teen môre niks verander het nie. Ek wens ons kon almal saam met dieselfde energie saamstaan wat deur sommiges gebruik is om te kritiseer en verdeling te veroorsaak. Dink net! Maar ons is nog hierdie kant van perfektheid. En dis hoe dit is. As ons dit tog net kan onthou.

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Gister se gebeure het my beide hoop gegee en hartseer gemaak, maar dis maar net nog ‘n teken dat ons in onvolmaaktheid leef. Deur Vader se genade is ek nie deur al dié dinge verwar nie, maar ek dink die optrede van baie Christene die afgelope tyd kon tot redelike verwarring by jong/nuwe gelowiges lei, wat ‘n jammerte is.

***

Die Skrif uit Openbaring het weer gister telkens by my opgekom. Leef ons reeds in dié tyd?

Wie onreg doen, laat hom nog meer onreg doen; en wie vuil is, laat hom nog vuiler word; en laat die regverdige nog regverdiger word, en laat die heilige nog heiliger word. (Openbaring  22:11)

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As jy ‘n gelowige is, besluit maar self volgens die Skrif oor gister se gebeure. Te veel ‘geloof’ word in ons dae op opinie gebou.

 

 

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Uprooting

table-mountain-sunset-cape-town-night-lighting

My Weekly Musings # 9/2017

Recently, we have been visiting our friends who now live in New Zealand. They might or might not stay there forever. Or they might. I don’t know. They don’t know either. They live in an area to where a lot of Asians had emigrated to. And a lot of South Africans too. (I think for the South Africans, the choice has to do with the weather, because the north island’s weather is much warmer than the south island’s.) They live in the Auckland area which looks a lot like a mix between the Western Cape and Mpumalanga. That might have something to do with it too. In recent decades a lot of South Africans have immigrated to especially countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada. Very few had returned to their ancestral countries of origin, which were mostly The Netherlands, France and Germany.

The reasons for South Africans emigrating is mostly the unacceptable crime wave which are causing people to look for safer places to calm their nerves and also because of work opportunities, due to many people being laid off after becoming BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) victims. It is not only white people who emigrate though. The world is full of young black South Africans making their mark elsewhere in the world too.

We South Africans had become used to ‘losing’ friends to emigration. It is a touch phenomenon to get used to, because parents have to let their children go, adult siblings get separated and, with young children and new-borns growing up in a foreign country, young South Africans become estranged with their families back home. It is indeed a challenging situation. But, thinking about it, I also realise that migrating is sort of a ‘natural’ thing throughout history. It was after all how we got to South Africa. Our ancestors from The Netherlands sought new trade opportunities and the Christian French Huguenots fled from religious persecution, just as some South Africans now leave the country’s shores in fear of their lives and/or looking for jobs.

And of course the uprooting of families is not unique to South Africa. South Africans are at least still doing it by choice (although I blame no one who emigrates due to the fact that they had been high jacked in their own drive-way three times, or whose parents were brutally murdered on a farm or in a city house or whose daughter were raped and murdered when she went for a jog.) Our TV screens are filled daily with displaced people who flee for their lives from places where the blood hungry murderous make it impossible for them to live. One of the drivers we use when we go to Jordan told us that he is Libyan. He spent a few years working in South Africa (nogal!) and then ended up in Jordan. His brother lived in a few other places and currently stays in Israel. Across from our house in Cairo is a small Catholic church. The congregation is made up of expats working here, Egyptians – I presume and Sudanese and various other refugees. The international working force of Egypt is from all over the world. We lived in a displaced world full of displaced people.

So back to my pondering this week after a very long start. While we were in New Zealand, we saw lots of Afrikaans speaking South Africans in the streets, malls and on the beaches. Within ten minutes’ drive there are three shops selling South African products. We had wonderful boerewors (sausages) and biltong (dried meat – like jerky, but better)! The South African numbers are so many there that Browns Bay is referred to as ‘De Bruynsbaai’. And all the time we were there, I tried imagining how it feels to uproot yourself – knowing that it is going to be forever – and go and live in a strange place, building a new life so totally different than the one you had, away from your family and your friends.

We are only temporary living abroad. We are now here in Egypt for three out of a four year period. It had been wonderful and crazy and difficult and frustrating and emotional and a lot of other things too. I really miss our pets, our country, our food, our language, our culture, our ways and especially our people. Whenever we go through passport control at OR Tambo, I want just want to hug and kiss the person behind the counter, but I know I would probably be arrested for it, so I refrain from doing it.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone deciding to emigrate to New Zealand – just because it was the country many South Africans choose and we were visiting it. It is a wonderful, first-world, effective, beautiful place with nice, warm, down-to-earth people. It is also a very, very, very expensive country where some of the products are just plainly over-priced. I think it must be difficult in the beginning especially. I wondered if you ever stop missing the rugby fights, the fact that there is a joke minutes after any bad thing happening, the Nando ads, the excellent and the poor Afrikaans songs, the biltong, the South coast beaches, the clean, unique smell of Cape sea air in your nostrils, the shenanigans of politicians (okay, not really that, because now the rest of the world had caught up with us too) or the smell of fresh beskuit and bread of your aunt’s house. I wondered.

We met a young South African girl our son’s age who worked at the supermarket we went to. She heard us speaking Afrikaans with each other and immediately started a conversation. While ringing up our things, she told us that she was living  there with her parents for twelve years now. I commented that she must be full blown Kiwi by now, seeing that she was so young when the moved and probably didn’t remember ‘home’.  Her smile vanished and in a soft voice she said:

“I dream of Cape Town all the time.”

We met with quite a few emigrants from different countries. They told us that the divorce rate under uprooters is quite high. Listening to them a few things came out for people to consider before they make the decision to emigrate. These are:

  • Don’t emigrate to run away from your personal problems. If your husband has a wandering eye, it will be going with him. If he is an alcoholic, he will still be one on the other side. If your wife has a money spending problem in South Africa, you’ll have bigger problems living in a country where the currency is ten times (yep!) stronger.
  • Sort all medical stuff out before you leave. A lot of medical issues can get your visa delayed or even cancelled.
  • Don’t lie about anything on applications.
  • Plan. Plan. For everything.
  • You need a lot of initial capital to move to and settle in another country. (Hundreds-of-thousands-a lot.)
  • Moving countries causes immense stress – for every member or the family. Don’t underestimate that factor. Prepare for it. Change is never easy. Uprooting is up-there on the stress list. This counts even for ‘short’ stays abroad like ours.

My hope is that we will always have the choice to live in South Africa. I love my country. I miss my beautiful country with all its ups and downs. I hate the violence and the corruption. I hate it to be scared at night. (I sleep like a baby in Egypt – and everywhere else we go.) So, I know I will have to face my fears again. I will worry about Michael driving alone at night. I also realise that he might be forced to seek greener international pastures and leave us behind.  I’m not blind for all the challenges. But I miss the good of South Africa. The good things as well as the good people. And for that I hope to stay.

We will just cling to our Protector and remember that ‘Elohim has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and of love and of self-control’. I hope our faith and love and self-control will be enough in the end.

 

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship

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My Weekly Musings #7/2017

There is something as precious and beautiful as gold and very often as rare. It is free and yet it costs much. It starts with the utterance of a single word and yet is not to be found in every easily spoken one. And like gold, the real thing only becomes better when tested. Other than family, it might just be the most important thing us humans are being blessed with while we live our earthly lives.
Friendship doesn’t always come easy. Not all friendships last. Not everyone calling themselves ‘friend’ is one. Sometimes friendship comes from strangers or people we don’t consider friends. Some friends betray, let down, lie, don’t keep their word, walk away, fade, can’t stand the heat or just don’t care enough. They hurt you, but when the hurt subsides, one realises that it happened for the better.
There are friendships though, that last. They are formed between people who never stop caring and never will – no matter what happens or how difficult circumstances become. Because real friends never quit on each other. They always make time. They walk the extra mile. Sometimes friendship takes hard work, perseverance, forgiveness and being forgiven. It takes unconditional love, keeping secrets and speaking harsh words if it means helping and not contributing to a path that leads to destruction.
This week we are visiting friends who we haven’t seen in a few years and who (literally) live on the other side of the world. We have made many wonderful memories together in the past and we have shared quite a bit of heartbreak too. And it is when the conversation just continue as if we saw each other the previous day, and you still laugh at each others’ silly jokes and have made a new worth-to-remember memory within the first few days together, that one realises how blessed and fortunate and lucky you are to have real friends. And to be called someone’s friend. And that’s how they say you get real friends – by becoming one.

Thank You, for giving us friends.

Ointment and perfume gladden the heart. So one’s counsel is sweet to his friend.
(Proverbs 27:9)

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock
Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Keeping One’s Word – a Trait Extinct

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My Weekly Musings #6/2017

This is not a post about the new American president or on how good or how bad he is, so you can keep on reading. In order to get to my point though, he has to be mentioned indirectly. As I was writing something else this morning, the TV news was on in the background. I must have had finger trouble, because it was another channel (it wasn’t FOX though) as the usual (BBC). There was a panel on video call discussing the subject that I won’t mention in this post only due to the fact that you might already suffer from fatigue on the topic.

I wasn’t focussing, so I wasn’t sure if the three men were supporting the above non-mentioned person, or if they were making tongue-in-the-cheek comments. All I knew was that my head bobbed up by the one man’s words.

“He is doing everything he promised.”

Now, I know about the jokes going around about that same sentence, but it wasn’t until this man said it on TV this morning that the penny dropped.

I suddenly realised that I was ‘participating’ in something that I really thought I wasn’t involved in. I was accepting lying as ‘normal’ behaviour. Oh, I realised it somehow, but I don’t think it had ever really sunk in, because I thought that I was above that.

We are so used to people making promises when they are running for office and when getting elected, they do the opposite. And we accept it without much resistance, because – well, we knew it would happen! I heard the above non-mentioned person also making promises, but thought by myself, “Meh, he won’t do it.” and “He can’t do that!” and “He won’t be allowed to do that!” Now he is starting to do everything he promised and the world (me very, very included) is shocked!

We got so used to people promising us the sun, the moon and the stars, but instead delivering garbage to our front doors that we have accepted it almost with thanksgiving! We have learned to pardon it. Even those under us who see ourselves as not ‘foolable’, have gotten so used to being fooled that we accept it as the norm. And in the world we live in these days, we are being fooled by almost everyone  we are suppose to trust – politicians, business people, religious leaders and of course every person working on the other side of  an enquiry who promises to call you back.

So, when suddenly someone comes along and keeps his promises – how far reaching the consequences might be – we are suddenly reminded that we are not used to living in a world where people keep their word anymore. And we are fooled when they do. (Like the media and the pole analysers were after the particular election that the non-mentioned person above won.)

Thankfully, we learn from the Word of God that ‘whoever guards His Word, truly the love of Elohim (God) has been perfected in him’ (1 John 2:5). And we also learn that there is One who will always keep His Word.

“I shall not profane My covenant, neither would I change what has gone out from My lips.”

(Psalm 89:34 from the Bible)

 

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

46 Is not an ‘Appropriate’ Age to Die

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My Weekly Musings #5

This was a difficult week to be away from home. Our friend died. She was only 46. She had health problems since long before the 14 years that we knew each other. She had more than 30 operations and had been in and out of hospital all the time. We knew that her body took strain that no human body can sustain on the long haul. But we never wanted to acknowledge it. We got used to her being in and out of hospital and life going on in between.

So last week she was in hospital again. On top of her ‘normal’ problems she was fighting a resistant bacterial infection for over a year. She was sent home after treatment with strong, long-term antibiotics. But on Monday morning when her husband woke up, she had left this world quietly next to him during the early hours of the morning.

We were of course, in shock. Still are.

We were still trying to come to terms with Adri’s death, when I got a message from home that my loving godfather went into a coma and not long after that, that he too went to heaven – on what would have been my father’s 90th birthday.

Although any death is always difficult, I’ve learned in life that loss feels different when people die at different ages. My dad died at age 73. That is an acceptable age to die in my books, although it doesn’t make it any easier that one’s father dies at an appropriate age when you stand next to his bed watching how the artificial life orchestrated by machines, leaves his body. Two years later I learned that 49 isn’t an acceptable age for someone to die, when my beloved ouboet (eldest brother) was taken from us in an instant.

We were expecting Oupa Koos’ death. Both he and Ouma Mienie, his wife, was/is very sick. And they were nearing 90. Still, when he died he didn’t only leave a person that would be missed dearly in my and his closer family’s lives. He left and took a whole part of my life with him. A whole part of my history was intertwined with his. Fortunately, as long as I stay mentally healthy, I will have those memories to cherish. He was one of the few left of their generation in our family. And now we are becoming that generation. That is life. What a sobering thought!

We didn’t expect Adri to die young. 46 is an inappropriate age to die. But then – life and death isn’t in our hands. It isn’t ours to give or to take. God gave Adri a wonderful life, in spite of her struggles and she leaves a testimony of His great glory behind through the many lives she touched. She sang like an angel on earth and I believe she is having a ball worshipping the Living God with the real angels now.

Until we see each other again, my friend. Sing your heart out.

And say hello so long to Baas Wynie and Ouboet Piet, Oupa Koos. Tell them they are in my thoughts. Every. Single. Day.

 

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I return there. יהוה (the LORD) has given, and יהוה has taken away. Blessed be the Name of יהוה.”

(From the Bible – Job 1 verse 21)

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Living outside of One’s Comfort Zone

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Just before having to get out of the way

My Weekly Musings #4

Last week, our American friends invited us to visit the camel bazaar outside Cairo (on the Giza/Sakkara road). We’ve been living here now for just short of three years and I have never been outside of my comfort zone so much in my life. It is literally a daily thing. It is good for me – especially for spiritual me. Not only does it teach me plenty about the world around me, the people of this country, their strange culture and their fanatic religion, but it also teaches me a lot about myself. Living in a culture where you do not understand the language and isn’t even able to read their alphabet or have the same traditions and customs or worship the same God, things can get quite uncomfortable.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing being out of your comfort zone. It confronts one’s own beliefs, upbringing, culture, customs, world view and lifestyle when you are thrown into a world where nothing is familiar or make sense to you. Not only do you question the behaviour of the people around you, but you question your own. It is not a once off thing, but an ongoing everyday introspection. And not only do you learn to value what is ‘own’ to you, but you also learn to embrace and appreciate diversity. Very early on in our stay here, I have decided that I don’t understand much (not even a reasonable bit) of this culture, but that I am not even going to try to understand it. It makes life here a little bit easier and less complicated to observe rather than to label.

Back to the camel bazaar. I’m sure that this place wouldn’t even exist in a Western country. It’s a raw experience. Camels, by their hundreds, maybe even more, are brought together on a Friday morning to be sold I was told, mostly for meat. Men and (some very young) boys herd the animals – hopping along on three legs as one of the front legs is tied with rope to keep the animal from running away – towards the various ‘auction stations’ with long bamboo sticks. It isn’t a pretty picture to see. On the surface and in the viewpoint of a foreigner like me, it is a harsh place for a camel to be. And also for the people involved.

Upon arriving there, we were only four females in a sea of males – something that already pushes the discomfortometer into the red. The sticks hitting the camels’ bodies – be it on the humps, legs or head – is another difficulty to deal with. Furthermore, none of the camels looked like they had the potential for dinner I would want to see on my plate.

But I realised that it wasn’t my world. It wasn’t my place to judge. With that I don’t condone the behaviour of the people or the suffering of the animals. Sometimes in life things just are what they are – people making a living, surviving the only way they know how to the way they did for centuries – maybe even millennia. My disliking it, my discomfort and the fact that I might disapprove of their way of doing as a foreigner in their country, is not going to change that. I’m not going to alter a country’s culture, customs and actions which are way older than my own culture. What I should do is learn to appreciate it for what it is.

I realised that I would probably be out of my comfort zone many, many, many more times in the period we have left here in this interesting, phenomenal country. How I handle my discomfort is what is important. If I can’t change people’s behaviour or world view, I can at least work on my own. I can learn to value the diversity of this place and the other countries we are visiting, as well as that of my own country when we go back. Hopefully, when we are back in our own culture – which is just as diverse – I will be able to feel less uncomfortable in the mixture, while still staying true to my own upbringing and beliefs and being more tolerant towards people who are different from me.

In the end, when one sees the bigger picture from a forever-living-worldview, we are reminded that we who confess Him as our Saviour are one body in Messiah (Romans 12:5). One day we will be immersed into His culture and all the discomfort of worldly customs, poverty and illness will be something from the past.

PS: I spelled necessarily correct without using spell check or a dictionary.

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

The Hole-in-the-wallet, Laborious, Frustrating Process of Acquiring a Travel Visa

My Weekly  Musings #3/2017

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We are planning a visit to friends in New Zealand next month and with that, we are trying to obtain travel visas – something that wasn’t necessary for South African citizens only two or three months ago. But thanks to people abusing the system or hypocritical red tape or whatever, the New Zealand government now finds it necessary for us to get that little hated stamp in our passports. (And now the South African government reciprocated by implementing visas for Kiwis to visit SA! It makes no economic sense.) We are currently residing in Egypt and to get a visa, one’s passport has to travel to Dubai for this privilege! As if that is not uncomfortable enough, the costs are enormous! Not only is there the fee for the sought after stamp or little paper glued into your passport, but there are handling fees for the passports to get there and more separate handling fees for them to get back. And apart from the cost, the effort is just silly. After all the documents they’ve required were attached, they requested some more documents after receiving the passports.

There are many reasons governments give for requiring visas. Some might be legitimate, but I sometimes wonder if the visa process doesn’t just keep the good guys out. Because when there is an attack somewhere in the world and everybody is surprised by a person on a terrorist watch list carrying out the attack, l really question the system. Obviously, he loopholed the visa requirements. How can they get into a country so seemingly easy and us good guys have to carry out time consuming efforts and pay the financial penalties? As if travel tickets aren’t expensive enough.

We’ve received our passports back yesterday. There are no visa stamps or stickers in. Instead, they informed us that the visas are electronically issued against our passport numbers. We will get an email to confirm that.  An email! All that effort for an email! Where is my visa stamp?! I hope it works, because when we arrive in New Zealand after two flights of four and sixteen hours respectively, and they don’t allow us into their little country, I will leave a piece of my mind there!

Thankfully, after our patience being tested going through the process, I’m reminded of a place where we won’t need visas to go to one day. All we need is to confess the Truth. It is that simple. Or that Complicated. The choice is ours.

“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” (From the Bible – Luke 8 verse 10)

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.