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caught by surprise

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Brasov, Romania

We were starting to think Jack Frost was listening to our plans and deliberately foiling us. We went to Mongolia in search of snow – it started one hour *after* we left. We had already been to south China, where we had been told we’d be sure to encounter it, but all we had found was condensation on our tiled floors. We saw plenty right across Russia – but we were stuck on a train that would stop for no more than twenty minutes at a time and only a couple of times a day.
We gave up on the snow idea, suffered through English rain and headed to Greece in search of sun, resigning ourselves to the fact that we had carried a bag of thermals and another of woollens right around the world….to be worn only a handful of times. Then our friends in Romania assured us it always snows in November, so we decided to spend a month here, finally making good use of the long johns.
Hmmmm. It’s halfway through December and the snow has fallen no closer than the weather forecasts, which the kids check religiously every day. Of course, we are informed it will snow ALL NEXT WEEK….we leave on Monday. See what we mean about Jack Frost ganging up on us?
But today we woke to a light dusting. Snow at last!
It might not be make-snowman-quantities, it may not even be enough for snowballs, but you should have felt the excitement when the children looked out the window this morning. Big kids helped little kids wriggle out of their sleeping bag liners and held them up at the windows to see. The air was electric. Buzzing.

yes, it’s still dark at 8am

Mind you, perhaps there was still residue excitement from yesterday hanging around.
We’d decided that in the absence of snow, we really should at least go ice skating.
Kboy12, a pro (having skated once before), glided out into the middle of the rink.
Lboy9, a novice (having never been before), saw how easy it was and followed his brother. Only he ended up straight on his bot, and with a split lip. Not one to be easily deterred, he got back up, periodically wiped the blood away, staggered around looking like a puppet and then found himself gliding smoothly.
The smaller-than-him siblings did not fare quite so well initially. None of them had realised it would be hard! ERgirl3, the most excited of the lot, had no idea her feet would slide out from underneath her, leaving her feeling very very very insecure. But with love and a strong embrace from people-bigger-than-her, she was soon happily sliding around.
Tgirl5 and Mboy7, clawing the barrier, slowly slipped their way around the outside of the rink, frequently finding their feet well in front of their bodies and then up in the air! Within half an hour both were disillusioned, and the male was particularly melancholic. After a short sit *off* the ice, they rose to the challenge issued: Let’s try going slowly and holding on and see if we can get the whole way around the rink without falling over.
They did it once.
They did it twice.
Tgirl5 started letting go, and after an hour was staggering in the middle on her own.
”If T can do it, I’d better try,” Mboy7 declared aloud to himself.
And he joined her.
Their victory wobble was full of falls, and they really needed another session to become comfortable, but they came off the ice delighted. Judging by the homeward conversation, their success grew in their minds with every step!
The big kids alternated between flying around the rink and helping the little ones. The one, who fell the most often and certainly most spectacularly, donned his falls as a badge of honour, insisting – quite correctly – that it was because he was taking the biggest risks. (He’d be the one, who got so hot he had to take his jacket off!)

Lboy managed to pull Mama off a horse in Mongolia,
and expert-skater Dadda to the ground in Romania!!


SO CAN I!!!!!

PS. We’ve decided to take a week-long trip to the mountains this winter!
       When there’s snow. Powdery snow.
       Our long johns will be ready-and-wating.

three days ago the third…and four days ago too

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Brasov, Romania

Throughout much of Western and Central Europe the sixth day in December is set aside for celebrating St Nicholas’ feast day. Known for being kind to children and as a generous gift-giver, the saint has been remembered now for centuries through the tradition of leaving gifts in shoes on this day…..while we were aware of the story in a vague sense, we did not connect it with a particular date, and so discovering this information only the night before, all we managed was a lollipop in each shoe…..and then because we didn’t go out in the morning, no-one even found their lollipops until we manufactured an excuse: “OK kids, shoes on, there’s time for us to take a walk before we head out later.”
We were pleased to see that such a small treat still gives joy…and we’ll have a new Christmas tradition to take home to New Zealand. December 6th from now on, there will be a little something in the children’s shoes….their idea!

Our family traditions involve focussing primarily on the Real Meaning of Christmas. Every day we read Scriptures from the prophets foretelling events that would happen hundreds of years later through to the accounts of men, who lived with Jesus…back to the psalms and forward to letters written well after the death and resurrection of God-as-Man.
We burn advent candles as part of our preparation.
We sing carols together and listen to Christmas music, the favourite being the philharmonic concert attended every year with friends.
We play with a little nativity set I made as a young child a Very Long Time Ago.
We display a wooden puzzle nativity set given to us by friends a couple of decades ago (the baby Jesus does not appear until Christmas morning).
We pore over books with moving paintings.
We decorate a tree…actually, we decorate the whole house.
We make gifts to share with friends.

That is to say, we do all these things when we are at home. 
And we do what we can manage when we’re away.
Last year we were in Laos at this time and possessions-wise all we had for our special Christmas remembrances were long narrow yellow candles.…this year we have a Christmassy red one, and even an evergreen wreath as well.

With the aroma of pine and burning wax filling the air, we have been singing and singing…..lots of carols every morning, as well as, perhaps poignantly, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”. Athough we will be in Turkey by the time Christmas Day dawns, we are still currently in Romania and we are eagerly awaiting the snow, which is forecast to start any day now.
We wouldn’t have had a nativity set, except that we discovered one locally and bought it to gift to our friends – we created a stable out of branches we collected on our Poiana trip together, and now they have a concrete (or plastic) reminder of how we all shared the love of Christmas in 2009 (and we enjoyed it for a week before we passed it one to them!)

For the past few years at home we had been involved with the “shoebox project” run  by Samaritan’s Purse – filling a shoebox with bits and pieces for kids affected by poverty, war, disease or famine and who would otherwise not receive Christmas gifts or hear the Christmas message. Our few shoeboxes looked insignificant on their own, but grouped together with others from the church, represented a bigger contribution, although still not anything grand. This year some of the family were able to be involved at the other end of the project….a truck arrived in Brasov from England and there were a thousand boxes needing to be unloaded. To see the sheer number, and to realise that it was all a result of little individual efforts, was encouraging. It confirmed again to us that the little things matter. So with a bunch of guys from local churches, carton after carton of shoeboxes came off the truck….they will be distributed to the needy over the next couple of weeks. And the same will happen in villages, towns and cities all over the world. Christmas will come to many.

three days ago (magical moments)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
Brasov, Romania Some days you wake up and you have no idea that the day is going to be filled with surprises and magical moments. Saturday was one of them. Because we were invited to a local church on Sunday, the ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
Brasov, Romania December first always signifies the beginning of our Christmas preparations. A year ago we were in Laos, the most non-Christian country we have visited. This year, it’s Romania, and we have six months of frequent church-visiting behind us. One of the ... [Continue reading this entry]

back to town

Sunday, November 29th, 2009
Brasov, Romania It was so easy to get out of the habit of going to church on a Sunday. Here it has been easy to slip back into the habit. But it’s a habit with a difference. The church “family” ... [Continue reading this entry]

“Don’t go to Romania,” they said. “Especially not for a whole month,” they urged.

Saturday, November 28th, 2009
Pitesti, Romania Before arriving in Romania, we spoke to countless Romanians, all of whom were most disparaging about their capital city, Bucharest, and most of whom were unimpressed with the rest of the country as well. Once we arrived here, ... [Continue reading this entry]

We’re going on a bear hunt…

Saturday, November 21st, 2009
Brasov, Romania “Imitation is the highest form of praise.” Is that sufficient comment to release us from copyright laws regarding one of our favourite books? Hope so….here goes….

We’re going on a bear hunt We’re going ... [Continue reading this entry]

no snow – it’s raining!

Sunday, November 15th, 2009
Brasov, Romania Yesterday there were twelve children from two families, all shy-ish, the older ones managing to extend polite civilities. The adults enjoyed the peace, expecting it not to last. Two of our boys stayed the night with the other ... [Continue reading this entry]

moving again

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
Budapest, Hungary Our final day in Krakow is Independence Day. Undoubtedly there will be a big parade. Patriotism runs rife here. There will be red and white flags flapping, national costumes, brass bands, pomp and circumstance. But it’s pouring with rain, ... [Continue reading this entry]


Sunday, November 8th, 2009
Krakow, Poland

Our ... [Continue reading this entry]