Happy 2021

I will start this year I have started some years… With our Christmas letter from the year which just closed behind us.


HIHI

What a year we have had! I’m sure you’re tired of hearing that expression. Yes, we have had an unprecedented year where the world was held captive by something which can only be seen under a microscope, and we found our lives dictated by the rise and fall of the number of people infected by this virus called Covid-19.

But that’s not all that happened, the year is not all about the pandemic. Under these strange and difficult circumstances, lives were still lived. We hope and pray that your year has been filled with more good moments than bad ones. At this Christmas time, let us think about the small precious gifts of a positive word, a smile shared, a heart warmed, a Saviour come to earth.

In 2020, we have carried on with life as best we could.

Sandra went, on her own, in January, to visit her family in Singapore because her father had been very unwell and in hospital for many months. Walter and Tobias, along with Lexi, managed quite well by themselves for 10 days. It was good for Sandra to have been able to spend this time with her family as she tried to help as best she could in that short time. The good news is that Sandra’s father was discharged shortly after she returned to Switzerland. While he did spend more time at the hospital in August, he is now better and at home. We would like to especially thank family and friends who have so helpful and supportive through this tough time.

At the end of February, our church welcomed our new pastor and his wife, but 2 weeks after that, lockdown happened. Everyone had to find new ways of doing things. It really makes you realise the things we take for granted, such as the ability to meet whoever we want whenever we want. It makes you miss simple things like walking into a store without worrying about the limit on the number of persons allowed inside.

Being shut-in gave us the opportunity to learn and polish skills such as mask-making and baking. Walter worked from home and Tobias attended classes online. For Sandra, home was always where she worked at, so being home is the norm for her. However, we did have to find a new rhythm of working and playing as there were now 3 persons in the house all the time; each with a need to have their own space and time to do what needed to be done. One family member did absolutely love having all at home – Lexi! She could run from person to person all day along to get the attention she wanted. She is a happy girl and fills our days with joy, barks, cuddles and laughs.

Tobias spent his 16th birthday at home as everything was closed but we made birthday cupcakes and delivered them to his friends. Then at the end of July, when restrictions were eased, we were able to celebrate with a paintball afternoon with some of his friends. A rather painful but fun experience.

Walter went from travelling a lot for work to working from home, to working short-time; where the office was officially closed for a couple of days a week, pay was pro-rated to save the company money. Then in September, he went back to the office 100%. But that was short-lived and now he is working from home a couple of days a week. It’s worth noting that this is the first time in all the years Sandra and Walter have been together where Walter is NOT constantly flying off for work.

We thank God that almost everyone we know has remained healthy, although a few did test positive in Tobias’ class and he had to quarantine for 14 days at the start of November.

Tobias is now in the second year of Gymnasium (junior college in Singapore) and seems to be enjoying his classes and time with his friends. Unfortunately, he has not been able to play squash for several months now. His squash teacher is in the at-risk group so he has stopped teaching. Tobias is thankful that his violin lessons have carried on as that’s done through his school.

Church went from being online in March to being in-person again from the beginning of summer but with limited numbers in the sanctuary and online streaming. The work to rewrite the church constitution, which Sandra was involved in, was paused during lockdown but restarted in June and we are glad that it has been successfully concluded with the church adopting the new constitution in November. Sunday School classes are also functioning again; Tobias attends the teen class. The Sunday School even managed a fundraiser for missions in the last couple of months. Walter continues his work with the worship team and eldership, as well as helping our new pastor to settle into his role in these unusual times.

Another church member and Sandra had arranged for a speaker to come and give a seminar about Revelations 2-3 but it had to be moved online due to Covid restrictions which prevented the speaker from flying in. It was slightly stressful and quite educational to have to make adjustments and coordinate such an event.

Speaking of flying, we could not go to Singapore for our annual visit in summer this year because while there were flights, we would have had to quarantine for 14 days on arrival and in a specific quarantine facility, which would then leave only a week to see family and friends. So we stayed here and did a couple of overnight trips to nearby cities in Germany.

So much upheaval in 2020 and maybe life will not go back to exactly what it was pre-pandemic, but the one constant in our lives is God; Jesus has been, is, and will be with us through all our ups and downs and we are so thankful for that. We pray that you have been able to and will continue to see His Love manifest in your life always.

Faith makes all things possible,
Hope makes all things work,
Love makes all things beautiful.
May you have all three this Christmas and always.

Do keep in touch and let us know what’s happening for you.

With love,

Walter, Sandra, Tobias and Lexi


Swiss Life in Partial Lockdown…

Today is Day 26 of partial lockdown in Switzerland. On 16th March 2020, the Swiss government decided that just asking people to social distance was not enough to stop the spread of Covid-19 so we went into partial lockdown. This flu pandemic which started at the end of December in Wuhan, China has, at lightning speed, spread across the globe and now most countries are in some form of lockdown.

But lockdown looks and functions differently in each country so what does it look like here in Switzerland?

Well, when i compare lockdown here and the stories of lockdown i hear from other countries, it would seem that here in Switzerland we have a rather relaxed lockdown, which is why i call it a partial lockdown.

Here all shops and businesses, other than supermarkets, doctors, pharmacies, post offices, and other essential services are closed, even restaurants. Anyone who can work from home should do so. Students have home-school. Quite similar to the lockdown in Singapore (or circuit breaker mode, as it is called over there) which started only a few days ago. But unlike in Singapore, i still see construction work going on; a house on the neighbouring street is getting re-roofed and another near the edge of the forest is being built. i also see gardeners doing their jobs. But maybe they are allowed to carry on because they can social distance while at work? i am not sure.

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“hamsterkaufe”

People still do their shopping as usual, maybe with more hand sanitising and less often but it seems to be all normal. There was a tiny bit of panic-buying, or “hamsterkaufe” as it is called here, at the beginning, but only for that short time. Yes, of course, now and again over the last weeks i have seen a few things go out of stock but the stocks are usually there again when i go the next time.

Overall, people here seem very calm about it all. They do try to keep to the rules as much as possible but i have seen a few instances of people gathering together and you know they don’t stay in same house because it’s 5 adults and 7 kids in the forest, having a BBQ. The Swiss government has banned gatherings of more than 5. But i guess there will always be a few rule-breakers.

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plexiglass protection

There is only a small amount of fearful talk. People seem to be either quite stoic about it all or the seriousness of the situation has not hit home. i am not sure which is which, maybe it’s a mixture of both. But numbers here are quite scary, as of today, 24,051 cases and 948 deaths; for a population of just 8 million, that’s a high ratio.

The places which are open are doing their best to enable social distancing and to protect themselves and their customers. There is a limit on the number of people in a single shop (depending on their floor area), they all have plexiglass dividers at the payment counters, markings on the floor to allow for social distancing, and they advise all to pay by card so it’s more hygienic.

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floor markings reminding you to keep your distance

Going to the post office is like a little dance. The post staff stands away from the counter, behind the plexiglass, i step forwards, stating what service i require and leave all the appropriate documents on the counter. i step back and the post staff steps forwards and does whatever is required. He/she then steps back and i step forwards to key something into the keypad. And so we go back and forth till the whole transaction is complete. It’s quite funny.

What about wearing masks? Very few wear masks in public here. i have only seen a couple at the supermarkets. However, quite a few do wear gloves. The counter staff at the supermarkets near us, all have gloves on but no masks. The ladies at the pharmacy have both masks and gloves on, same at the doctor’s clinic. They even have patients wear single-layer masks while waiting to see the doctor.

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Even an accompanying parent had to wear these masks provided at the doctors.

i know because my son fell ill just a few days before the start of the lockdown. He had high fever and cough so we rang the doctor and were told come collect medication but to keep him at home, isolated and ride it out. Even when we did finally see the doctor on the 6th day of him being ill, he was not tested for Covid-19 because he was not in the at-risk category. We did the responsible thing and isolated ourselves as much as possible, although the doctor said my son was the one who had to isolate. We don’t think he had Covid-19 but it would have been good to know either way. He is now all recovered, after 2 weeks, and was able to catch up on his schoolwork.

How are the kids managing for schoolwork? i think most kids here do ok. It’s the parents of primary school children who probably have the most to do with homeschooling. i have a teenager in pre-uni so he gets his assignments from his teachers and he does them, with a reminder here and there. The primary kids have crafts and worksheets to do and most of the time the parents have to watch them, making sure it’s done right. i heard from a friend in Hong Kong, whose kids have not been in school since the end of January and will likely not go back to school till after the summer, they are expected to log onto the online platform and be “at school” for the normal school hours. Wow! That’s expecting a lot. My heart goes out to her; she has 3 boys!

How is working from home? Well, i already work from home before so it’s kinda the same for me. BUT it has changed for me in other ways for me. Because before i would have the whole apartment to myself and can blast whatever music i want to motivate myself to work, now i can’t because there are 2 other persons trying to work also and i need to be respectful and not disturb them. It took some getting used to. We are getting there and finding a rhythm around each other.

IMG_20200407_134919It was announced the day before that these current measures, which were supposed to end on 19 April, will be extended for another week till 26 April. But even then, it will not be a complete return to business as usual. The government will advise us of their plans for a slow, gradual relaxing of restrictions on 16 April. So we will see what happens then.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy, keep washing those hands and stay at home.

Oh, i want to leave you with this heartwarming story about how teenagers are volunteering to help the elderly shop as they don’t have to attend school for now. And this cute picture which i took on one of our dog walks; it says “Happy Easter AT HOME 2020”.

Happy Easter!

syc

Looking for Winter…

It has been a non-winter this season (reason? in my opinion, it’s climate change – it can not be denied) so, during the winter-sport holidays, we went looking for some snow. And we did find some, but high up in the mountains. The road leading up is usually paved in snow but not this time (actually, it wasn’t last year either). Still we managed to enjoy a snow day out.

Here’s a few photos for you to enjoy:

All is not lost – winter has made an appearance in the last 2 days – late but at least it felt a little more like winter. But it was really just for all of 2 days, we are back to sort of spring type weather now.

What does this mean for spring and summer? i am not sure. i do hope we will have a decent summer because i am a sunshine person. Are you a sun-seeker or does the cold suit you better?

syc