Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014…

Today is the last day of 2013! Thank you for reading and being with us in spirit through 2013.

So here’s our annual summary of the year for us (our Christmas letter)… click on the links to see specific posts about specific events!

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HiHi

How are you? We hope this finds you well and enjoying this Christmas season with family and friends, remembering that it is the Christ who has made celebrating Christmas possible.

 2013 has been a year of stepping up to changes.

 Sandra is into her second year of advocating and fundraising for special needs orphans. Many of you who are FB friends with her or read our blog would already have heard much about this ministry. Well, the Lord has given her a more focussed area to pray for and work with; Asia. She has been helping to highlight families who are adopting from Asia as well as Asian special needs orphans. This year also saw the first 2 orphans she prayed and advocated for home with forever families and it truly warms the heart and spurs her on to continue, even though there are times when it seems her efforts has made little difference but the Lord knows and the Lord works in His time and in His ways.

 She is no longer involved with Day Association for Women as a team member because the Bern team closed this Spring. But she stayed on as a web content update person for the association in general. The weekly BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) in Bern has also closed this June.

 Both of which has opened the door and freed up time to pursue yet another orphan related project. Sandra is setting up a social enterprise, selling handmade crafts where 50% of the sale price would go to special needs orphans. The hope is to have the online shop open in early 2014. So stay tune for that news!

 Tobias is in the 3rd grade this school year. He has more time in school now, 5 mornings and 3 afternoons. It also means that the work has become more challenging but he still enjoys school and looks forward to going each day.

 He continues going for Judo trainings on Mondays with his best friend. And recently took part in his 2nd internal competition. This year there were much tougher opponents, although fewer of them. He still managed a 3rd place and we are very proud of him.

 His passion for playing the violin has grown and this year he has been motivated to try songs he has heard, either on the radio or on YouTube. So Sandra spends a fair amount of time searching for scores to certain songs for him to play. They both played in a Christmas recital recently and their teacher has a few more concerts planned in the next few months.

 Walter has had to travel quite a lot this year and mostly to different parts in Africa. He came back in November and fell really sick. We thank God that he made a fairly quick recovery after a week of being ill. Just in time to make the trip back to Singapore in the first week of December to help his parents move into a smaller flat. And of course, when he is here, he continues to lead worship at church.

Travels for us this year consist of the usual; our trip to Singapore to see family and friends and enjoy food we miss so much, and our ski trips – this year we did 2 trips instead of 1 week-long one. Which was great as we got to see / experience a new place – Saanenmoser and enjoy an old favourite, Wengen.

We did not do a farmstay this year but did a number of day trips instead during the Autumn school holidays (Week01, Week02, Week03), this enabled Walter to join us on at least one occasion which is great!

 Last year we related the sad news that we lost one of our Gerbils, Nox and this year Puddles passed away (likely of old age issues) early November. We were much sadden and had considered for a while whether or not we would have more pets.

 We very recently decided, after much persuasion by Tobias, that we would but because of some strict rules here, we found out that actually the cage we have was a bit small for Gerbils and so took a recommendation to adopt some little mice instead. So we welcome Patch, Patches, Ruby and Sam into our home.

Us having fun at the Singapore Discovery Center in July 2013.
Us having fun at the Singapore Discovery Center in July 2013.

Well, that wraps up 2013 for us.

How was the year for you? Do write and let us know.

 Wishing you a Blessed Christmas and a Fulfilling 2014,

 With love,

walter, sandra and tobias

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As i look forward to 2014, i’m excited to see how the hopes planted in 2013 will come to fruition in 2014.

Hoping that 2014 will be a year filled with much hope and fulfillment!

syc

Ending 2012…

Today is the last day of 2012 and 2013 is just a few hours away now… what better way to look back on 2012 than a quick summary which is our annual Christmas letter… (i have put in links to different blog posts for more details if you wish to read more about a certain event/happening.)

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HiHi

How are you? Hoping this finds you and your loved ones well and enjoying the Christmas season. It looks like we will be having a green Christmas over here this year; temps have been above 10 degrees Celsius over the last few days. All the snow we had has already melted. But Christmas doesn’t depend on snow, we have Christmas because of Christ.

2012 has been a year of unexpected and pleasant happenings for us.

Last year Sandra closed her book business and faced the frustrating issue of not having her driver’s license recognised. This year, on 6th November, she passed her Swiss Driver’s test. So it is official and legal, she can now drive in Switzerland.

If you have followed us/Sandra on Facebook, you would have seen some postings from our new blog (trippingdifferently.com) and you have also seen postings about the advocate ministry Sandra is now involved in; advocating, building awareness and fundraising for special needs orphans in Eastern Europe, Latin American and Asia. Thank you all who have been such wonderful support for this ministry. If you would like to find out more, please contact Sandra on Facebook or email.

She is also still involved with the Day Away Association for Women and attends the weekly BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). Her German lesson are also a regular weekly feature. She hopes to be able to take her B1 Level German exam in March and be done with German classes after that.

Tobias is in 2nd Grade and still loving school lots. He is doing well at school. At our last contact with his teacher, she said, “If you don’t hear from me, then all is well.” He has finished with swim classes, having gotten his 7th and final badge just before the summer holidays.

He continues with his Judo training and most recently took the yellow-belt test and passed. He is so happy about it. He also entered his first Judo competition in November, an internal one for his Dojo and came in 3rd in his category. We are very proud.

Music-wise, Tobias has started the violin and is very excited about it. Sandra joined him in classes and she is loving it too. The violin teacher is very pleased with their progress since August. They performed in a recital together, just before the end of the school term. So playing the guitar has taken a backseat for now.

Walter still travels a fair bit for work. This year’s travels featured a lot of Africa. Thankfully there are low periods too. The recent Oct/Nov months was a busy time and he was gone most of those months. But he managed to squeeze in a 5-day trip to Singapore to help oversee some stuff at his parents’ place. He still plays as much as he can for worship at church.

Our family travels this year, of course, included our annual trip back to Singapore, where we enjoyed fabulous food and the company of family and friends. In February, we did our ski week in Wengen and had some friends come over for a day, another friend joined us for 2 days and another one was with us the whole time. It was great.

For this year’s farmstay, Tobias wanted his best friend to come along. So it was Sandra, Tobias and Sebi helping out on a farm, not far from the city of Bern, for 3 days, 2 nights. We stayed with a lovely Christian family who also had boys about the same ages. The boys had a blast. So much so, Tobias is wanting to go back for 4 nights next time!

We do have one sad news. One of our Gerbils (they came to live with us September 2011) passed away. We will miss our beloved Nox. But we still have Puddles and hope she will be with us at least another couple of years.

Daddy, Son, Mummy... i love...
Daddy, Son, Mummy… i love…

That’s pretty much covers 2012 for us. How was your year? Do drop us an email/letter and let us know.

Wishing you a Blessed Christmas and a Wonderful 2013.

With love,

walter, sandra & tobias.

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Looking back, it has been a year of learning and i look forward to putting all that knowledge and new skills into good use in 2013.

Hoping that 2013 would be an amazing year of dreams come true for you and your loved ones.

God Bless You All.

syc

Christmas Letter 2011

Here’s another fond look back at 2011; this is the Christmas Letter which was sent out to some of our family & friends. This is a tradition for me (since we started writing the Christmas Letter some 5 years ago) to post this on our blog as a sort of record & reminder to myself…

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HI HI
How are you? We hope this Christmas letter finds you and your loved ones well & enjoying the Christmas season. We are delighted that it is snowing right now & we might, we just might, get a white Christmas – i think we’ve only had 2 white Christmases since we’ve lived here, so fingers crossed 😉

Last year was a year of settling for us & this year has been a year of changes and new experiences. What a change! hehheee…

The biggest change of all is that Sandra has closed her book business. Some of you would have heard about this & the whole long rather sad, frustrating process of this, in February/March of this year. It all started with rushing to yet another great bookfair & assuming that all residential roads are 50km/h. Well, to cut a long story short, Sandra got a huge fine & had been informed that the Kanton (state) will not recognise her International Driving License & she will have to take all the tests from the very beginning to get a Swiss one. She did try continuing the business without the use of a car; but getting all those heavy books to different locations by public transport was just too hard. On hindsight, which is always 6/6, it was a good thing. God had already put in Sandra’s heart a desire to slow down & focus on the family, especially as Tobias goes to 1st grade. & without this happening, Sandra would have just tried to continue juggling everything. Now it is good – Sandra has time to focus on the things which God has said are more important at the moment – it is all in God’s good plan.

So that’s the other big change – Tobias moved from Kindergarten to 1st grade & he loves it! There are more things for him to do & learn, so much more interesting for him than Kindergarten. He has German, of course, Math, Science (or general knowledge as it is translated from German), Music, Gym, Workshop & Religion. He gets to move around & switches classrooms for most of the subjects. His 1st grade teacher is lovely & patient. i’m not sure if i mentioned it before, but in Kindergarten, his teacher insisted that there was a problem & after a few different evaluations & a fair amount of money, it was concluded that he has ADHD. But now it seems that he is coping well in 1st grade – so maybe he doesn’t have this, maybe he was just bored in Kindergarten? Well, whatever it might be, we are grateful & praise the Lord that he is enjoying 1st grade & doing well & pray that he will continue to do so.

Tobias has also picked up several other activities outside of school – all of his own choosing. Judo is on every Wednesday evening – he absolutely loves it & is quite serious about this. He will be taking his half-yellow belt test this evening. He also has swimming on Fridays & has just gotten his 5th badge a few days ago. Learning the Guitar has also become part of his weekly routine – Daddy teaches him at home so lessons are as & when Daddy is home & they have time. But he really does want to play like Daddy, even thought he complains that his fingers hurt. Walter says it will take lots of training for them to not hurt so much.

So between Tobias’ school & activities, & Sandra’s own appointments. The week can get quite full. Sandra is still attending German class one evening a week & BSF one morning a week. She’s hoping to be able to get to take her B1 level test for her German (she got her A2 level certification this past July) & then will take a break from it. She has also recently joined a book club – she is very pleased about that,; she loves books so very much. & she loves words too – this year for a second time she has managed to complete the 50,000 words writing challenge in November (NaNoWriMo). She is also still involved with the Day Away Association for Women, now co-leading the Bern team.

Looking out the window now, watching the snow fall (finally, it is so late this year), reminds us of the ski trip we took in February. We finally did the Swiss thing & booked ourselves into a holiday chalet for a week in a ski resort – Laax. We normally only go skiing for 2 or 3 days. It was nice to spend a whole week there – though i think any longer would be a bit much. It was wonderful to also have a dear friend join us for that week. We all, except Walter, took classes. Our friend had his first experience on a snowboard. Tobias went to ski school with the other kids & Sandra got to go to lessons to refresh her skiing ablities. Now Sandra can hopefully keep up with Walter, who has really gotten quite good, on the slopes.

Walter still travels quite a bit for work. The travelling comes in spurts & he has been quite a few times to the US & Canada. In the months of October & November, he was gone for almost 4 weeks straight. Walter is still involved with the worship team at church, though with his travels it can get quite difficult to stick to the planned schedule. The worship team & a few members of the church recently had a jam session, just playing great music & worshipping the Lord. It was fantastic!

Of course, one trip which we all did together was our annual trip home to Singapore in July/August. As usual, it was fabulous to be back home, where we have missed our family & friends & without a doubt the amazing Singaporean food. It was a great time of catching up and renewing relationships. Last year Sandra got a new toy. This year Walter got a new toy – a tablet! He loves it & spends a fair amount of time on it. Tobias likes it too cos’ he gets to play games on it – much better than playing on mummy’s little smartphone. All in all, it was a good time of wonderful food with family & friends. We came back well-rested.

Oh, we also did an overnight stay at a farmhouse. It’s called ‘Schlaf-im-Stroh’ – Sleep-in-Hay. There are farms all over Switzerland which offer this, from about April till October. So we booked ourselves a night in October. It was rainy & cold but we still had great fun! On this farm, we got to play with bunnies & helped the farmer feed the animals. We picked eggs & fed chickens, we (actually mainly Tobias) helped milked the goats too. Tobias also got to brush down a little pony & ride on her. He loved it so much that he has asked to go back again – this time for 2 nights! hehheee… just a little side note – if you intend on going to one of these, do check that you are allowed to help out on the farm. Not all the farmstays allow that.

As the year comes to an end & we start looking to the new year ahead, we have also re-looked at our Blog – Wir Sind Ausländern @ yoongz.livejournal.com. Sandra has felt for a while now that she really needs to keep this blog more updated; she has also been inspired by other blogger mummies & desires that this blog be more than just a record of our time here. She wishes that this blog would grow to cover issues we face as individuals & as a family, to showcase our thoughts & cares, our journey throught life & also to inspire & help others, just as she has been inspired & helped by others; so to this end, our blog will be re-lauched in January 2012 under a new name & at a new internet address. So stay tuned for more.

Oh yes, i have to mention – we have new additions to our family – Gerbils! We now have 2 little gerbils, named Nox & Puddles, who are just adorable & great fun to have around. They were given to us by one of Sandras’ writer friends who had to leave for university. Tobias has been given the responsiblity of feeding them & helping mummy to clean out their cage. You can see pictures of them on our current blog.

Us in Como, Italy, Dec 2011

We pray & wish you & your family a Blessed Christmas & a Fulfilling 2012.

With lots of love,
walter, sandra & tobias