The van Zijls 2008

Although it started out well, we have not had a very good year.

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In February Christopher and Birgit came out from Germany, and we were able to welcome many of you at River Destiny on the Orange River where we had a combined birthday party for Christopher's 60th birthday, and my 70th birthday, and a family reunion. We were very glad to welcome all those who came, and thank you for joining us, and for the valued and thoughtful gifts you gave me and Christopher. To those who were not able to come for various reasons we missed you.

Sandy & family spent a week with us on the farm ater the party, then Christopher, Birgit, Margie and I went to our time share at Cintsa, stopping for lunch at Strydfontein on the way. We spent three days there relaxing. We went to East London one day, and visited our Woods cousins. Then we went on to Addo National Elephant Park and spent two days there. On the way back we went through Graaff-Reinet where we made a draai through the Valley of Desolation. We spent the night in Nieu-Bethesda and left for home after lunch there. Nieu-Bethesda which is very interesting  I can recommend a stop there for any of you who are passing that way. There is the Owl House, and the Kitching Fossil Museum, as well as a brewery and a cheese factory and restaurants and handicraft shops etc. This trip was enjoyed by us all, although it was slightly marred by Margie's back problem. Early in March we saw Christopher and Birgit off in Bloemfontein.


At the beginning of April Margie underwent a spinal fusion operation on her lower back at Bloemfontein Medi-Clinic. She was discharged after a week, with a surgical wound which was not healed. The wound continued to discharge, and after three weeks the surgeon said we should return to Bloemfontein so that he could investigate the problem. As soon as he saw the wound he said the discharge was cerebro-spinal fluid, and that he would have to operate again to correct the problem. He did this the next morning, and told us after the operation that the wound was infected.

He said that Margie would have to spend at least six weeks on a drip in the hospital to cure the infection. In the event Margie spent ten and a half weeks on intra-venous antibiotics, and underwent two more operations to clean the wound and remove the instrumentation – titanium screws. I spent about half my time in Bloemfontein, which involved a lot of travelling, and staying in B&Bs and guest houses. It was not all bad news – Margie had the daily attention of a physiotherapist and a dietician while her back was healing, as well as daily visits from a specialist physician, a specialist pharmacologist and the neurosurgeon who performed the operations. The ward staff were also good and we came to know some of them quite well. The medical aid made no bones about paying, though of course, there were some items they didn't cover.

I (Margie) came out of hospital as weak as a kitten, having lost 12.6 kg. Half my hair fell out over the next month or so, and my finger nails still splinter and break off at the quick. Recovery has been slow but steady – I can reach my feet now, but have to be very careful how I bend. We are blest with an excellent physiotherapist who helps me with exercises and straightens out the knots and spasms. Roben has been a tower of strength through it all and has learnt quite a lot about household management. Friends plied us with soup, sympathy and prayers, and though I would not wish such a thing on my worst enemy, it had its positive aspects, and the Good Lord saw us through it all. I'm still physically very unfit, but I think we have both grown spiritually.

In November we went to Strydfontein, and spent the day celebrating Rosemary Freemans 70th Birthday. We greatly enjoyed the day with our Strettton cousins many of whom we had not seen for a long time, and some of whom we had never met. It was lovely to see a lot of young children there including Rosemary's grandchildren.

We have been back to the neurosurgeon twice, and the specialist physician once for check ups, and they are both satisfied with her progress, although the neurosurgeon said it will be some time before the fusion of vertebrae is complete. The main thing is that Margie no longer has the sciatic nerve pains which were getting worse, and which prompted the operation.

David has taken over full responsibility for the farming. We have had good rains including good rain in November, and have just had another shower as I write. He has put in a lot of work on the lands, and bought a mini centre pivot which has to just started to pay for itself. He is growing cash crops such as pumpkins and potatoes, and pasturage on some of the lands. He had a good lamb crop, but has lost a lot of lambs to jackals.

We are living in town now, in Aunt Hermy's old house at 9 Ventershoek Street. We have put a new roof on it, and it is quite comfortable, although it still needs a lot of work, especially in the kitchen. Our address remains the same – P O Box 272. It's been very hot, but the house is relatively cool since we put insulation in the ceiling. We visit the farm often, and spend a couple of nights there, to make sure David is eating properly, and get our washing done.

Christopher and Birgit are coming out again in February. We will spend some time at Cintsa, and then go down the coast, so we hope to be able to see some of you then.

We wish you all a blessed Christmas and hope the new year treats you kindly. It promises to be a difficult one for us all, so let us count our blessings and know that God is supporting us whatever comes our way.

With much love to you and yours, from all of us,

Roben, Margaret and David.

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