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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Home for the Holidays

Coming home to the United States for Christmas was both enlightening and confusing. I think it "re-charged" my batteries to give another go in South Africa, while still reminding me that Home is where the Heart is. Seeing family and friends was like a wrinkle in time for me. I have been gone for nearly 10 months, and yet everything seemed like it stood still while I was gone. Even though everyone carried on with their lives..people made great strides in careers, many friends gave birth to their new little ones, and some people grew apart. It still seemed like Home was home, and I will never forget the smells, tastes and feels of CHRISTmas in Michigan.

I was wishing for a "White Christmas" and I think I got a little more than what I had bargained. How beautiful though! The snowstorms kept coming and coming, and coming! There is truly no better feeling than being completely snowed in. Although, sometimes it does interfere with your plans...especially when it takes you 1 hour and 45 minutes to come home from the mall for last minute Christmas shopping. ;-)

Anyway, as wierd as it sounds...One thing I looked forward to the most was my parents pellat stove that they use to keep the downstairs of our house warm. It makes the most relaxing noise, and keeps you nice and toasty during the cold winter months. I curled up in front of that thing, and took naps like it was my greatest concern during my time home. How lovely.

Of course, I was able to see family and friends. In fact, I beleive that this trip was more succesful than I thought it would ever be. I literally got to see most, if not all, of my extended family (at least on the Rodenhouse side). It was the best. I loved being able to see my last remaining Grandmother. She is so special to me and I think and pray for her often.

I also was able to see many of my best friends. This blog post is a little tribute to the people I saw while I was home. Each visit was so special to me. And for the people I didnt get to see while I was in the states...I will make good on it the next time I am in the States.

My father and I where able to do some serious bonding together. We went, snow-shoeing as well as skiing and snowboarding together. Of couse, he was on skis and I was on a snowboard. It was fantastic. The snow was so deep that my brother's dog could barely make it through the snow! he had to jump from each snow-shoe track that my father and I had laid. How funny! My father hadnt skied since the last time we where in Colorado at Winter Park. He mentioned how great it was to pick up the sport again. He says he wants to continue with outdoor winter sporst. Especially in Michigan, where there is an abundance of natural beauty to be seen. I hope he keeps up with it.

Another highlight of being home for the holidays was meeting my new baby nephew for the first time. Baby Ethan, or "baby-E" for short. He is the new pride and joy of my brother and sister-in-law. What a lovely Child. The first picture is of me meeting him for the first time. Needless to say, we had a couple of things to say to eachother. He's got a full head of brown/black hair just like I did when I was born. I can't wait to see him again!

I was fortunate to catch up with a man that I care for so much. I say "catch-up" quite literally becuase this is the busiest Catholic Priest I know. Bob Deland and I where able to spend an evening talking about the many experiences we've had lately. The last time I had seen him was when he visited me in Cape Town. We where fortunate enough to travel through Europe and some of Northern Africa together before I moved to SA. He's a cool man and has a huge heart for the fact, get this...he brought and organized nearly 30 people from his Parish in Bay City, Michigan to come to the middle of Zambia, Africa to do missions work. This was about 5 months ago. A boy asked him "Father, won't you come back and baptise me?" Now, it's no easy task to get to the middle of Africa...but he is making good on his promise and will be traveling there in the begining of February to baptise this boy. I think thats one heck of a story! there is a real movement in this world to do good, and its spreading! Well done Bob. Thanks for leading by example!

None-the-less, leaving home and traveling back to Africa was rather difficult. I didn't think my mother was going to let me leave. I'm also not much of a cryer, but there where certainly tears on my cheeks as I stepped away from my family in the Grand Rapids airport. It was no easy task. One of the pictures posted was from the last moments with my family. Words can't really describe how much I love them. They are so very supportive of me. And that means all the world to me. Thank you, if any of you are reading this. I coudn't do this without your blessing.

So now its back to the "real life" back in South Africa. Whatever that is. It's summer here and the beaches are packed. I can see the beach perfectly from my house, and I can tell if the waves are rideable. This weekend there is a good swell and an offshore wind, so I think I will go surfing. Keep well everyone. I promise to be more faithful with my blog postings. I know I've been slacking.

Derek Van Dam


  1. Anonymous7:45 AM

    Happy New Year Derek,

    I enjoyed visiting with you @ the coffee house over Christmas to catch up on everything that has occured. Thank you so very much for taking the time out of your busy busy schedule to visit and share all of the wonderful events that have occured, and to share the festive pictures on your blogsite that you took of your Christmas celebrations. I can't wait till we are able to meet again to hear the next chapter of exciting events in your life. Till then, may God Bless you Always and keep you safe and in His constant care!

    God Bless You!
    Your Friend,
    Bill Pavlov

  2. R. Wylie11:56 AM

    The next time you're in town would you please remember your favorite science teacer. He has some 8th graders that would love to hear your story.

  3. Ian Mac6:43 PM

    Good to see you back on teh blog. Have missed you. Glad you had a good time in eh mighty state of MI.
    Ian M, Midland

  4. Derek,

    Firstly let me say I have never met you.

    Only watched you from afar. I am one of the many South Africans who have never found the weather soo interesting!

    That said your personality and striving for good really comes through in this blog.

    I can see a lot of things about you from what you say and I would like to say that you are appreciated for whom you are and more for who &whom you will become and whom you will eventually represent.

    I ask you this small favour in 10 - 15 years (not sure exactly when this will happen , sorry) please remember that judging people is always inadequate for the job and better served with love in your heart and your clear head.

    The bible does tell us not to pre-judge/judge people ... no ifs, buts or maybee's and so far your love is what impresses me most about your trip to your family.

    The comfort you feel about the safety you felt as a child reflected in the nap you took in front of the warm hearth, the love you have for your father growing with understanding as your years pile on.

    When dealing with others remember that warm glow and touch upon that love within you and you will continue to grow as a person.

    Much love to you and yours from an ordinary African.

    May you continue to be patient with those of us who are so defensive and so traumatized by the past, your presence helps others to heal.

    I know that time will draw you away only to draw you back again and again to the garden of Eden and it will always want you back. May you have a wonderful time in South Africa and in "the Fairest Cape " of all.

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