Chronicle Number Next 2004

Hey guys

Well, Easter is behind us, and the elections past. The once-more lit-up cross up at the top of the Papegaaiberg mountain just north-west of my flat and good music provide some inspiration for catching up with y’all again…

So much has happened this past year that it makes me dizzy to contemplate writing at length, so here are some of the headlines and highlights since Easter last year (full news bulletin at eight…) 

Surviving SANBI

Well, i stuck out the job at the SA Nat’l Bioinformatics Institute at UWC until January this year, when the contract ended. 13000km of commuting on the train unfortunately failed to endear the place to me, though it was sad to bid farewell to colleagues (hi guys!) who gave me a really special send-off. I was way out of my depth in the whole HIV research scene there, but i’m thankful for the lessons it taught and the opportunities to travel to other universities and institutions up-country as part of my task there to design database facilities for HIV research.

“It is better to be learning than to be learned” (Clem Sunter)

Studies resumed in earnest last year, as i completed the first year-and-a-half of my BA in psychology and education through Unisa.

August saw me off to Unisa’s main campus in Pretoria to attend a week-long series of workshops for some of my courses. The 29-hour train journey there on the Trans-Karoo, sharing a six-berth compartment with three other passengers (strangers), started off as a novel and exciting experience as the route snaked through amazing scenery and countryside through which i’d never previously been, but by somewhere around Beaufort West had turned into something of a study of endurance… Nevertheless, the week was most worthwhile and rewarding, and made me feel so much more like a student again (the distance education thing tends to get quite lonely and frustrating…) While up in Tshwane, i took the opportunity to visit the Union Buildings and had the most awesome time visiting the Voortrekkermonument and Onderstepoort (veterinary school farm) with Stellenbosch export, Karen, who is studying there (*wave* !).

The pace has slackened somewhat this year as i’m spending more time at work, and i’m planning to take the second semester off from the studies to have some decent downtime when not at work and spend some more time cycling. I’ve realised, more in a relaxed than a resigned fashion, that it’s going to take me at least seven years to get to Masters level so that i can pursue a distant but rewarding career in educational psychology — and so i’ve recognised that there’s little difference between seven, eight, or nine years, and i really might as well enjoy the journey and all the other experiences and opportunities along the way.

Wortelgat. Wow…

SBS Camp 2003. What an experience that was! Our church students’ group enjoyed a refreshing but also challenging time at Wortelgat, near Stanford, in August. Besides speaker Andrew Bateman’s stirring message to develop our relationships with God, we whiled away the weekend canoeing on the lagoon, playing table tennis, or finding a quiet spot to think. Wortelgat is a wonderful sanctuary for the soul: early-morning sunrises alone near the clear, still lagoon helped set the mood for worshipping God for the beauty of His creation and really beginning to understand more clearly His purpose for me in it. I was struck again then, as many times since, by how great a classroom the outdoors is for learning/teaching life’s lessons, and how i really want to be a part of that.

Have bike; will travel

I blame Damian (hey dude!) and the awesome mountains around Stellenbosch for getting me more into cycling this past year. I was able to buy a new mountain bike at the end of last year (a dashing Scott Tampico), and the bike and i have enjoyed taking on various new cross-country routes around here, as well as wearing the sacrilegious slicks for extended jaunts to surrounding towns. It’s been so rewarding to hook up with folk here and back in Cape Town and raise some dust, and i’m looking forward to more of that.

The bike and i are beginning to appreciate much more the value of getting fit and getting out into the open more… On the cards are some weekend-and-longer budget roadtrips for which company is sought (apply within).

As years go bye

New Year’s Eve was spent atop Bothmaskop, the western-most peak of the Jonkershoek range, with Damian, Estelle and Ilze. The peak is a huge natural slab, surrounded by large boulders which afford some shelter. At 914m, the peak provided us with a spectacular view of the fireworks nearby and over Century City and, at the first sunrise of 2004, commanded a breathtaking vista across Stellenbosch and beyond from False Bay through to Table Bay.

These boots are made for walking…

Finishing work at SANBI in mid-January allowed me to join a dozen of the SBS crew for an awesome week in the Cederberg (wilderness area in Western Cape). There, we enjoyed the privilege of staying 40km from nowhere, coming back from a hot and dusty walk to the refreshing cool of the Maelgat (“maelstrom”/”whirlpool”) pool, etc. We were engulfed by the wonder of the Wolfberg Cracks, three natural fissures that go right through the mountain. You’re in them. They’re all around you: nature’s art and the hand of God carving clean through the mountain, leaving the most amazing passage.

The imposing majesty of the Wolfberg Arch and the Maltese Cross, both crafted through the ages into monumental formations; the expansive night sky, viewed through the telescopes at the nearby observatory and elucidated by amateur astronomers; blazing hot days, cool breezes and clear skies; tired tales of the day told over wholesome meals: these were the substance of our inspiration. The memories they provided, which can be captured neither on film nor in words, will keep me going until i return to find myself lost in time, in a place between worlds.

New playground

Back in December i was asked to an interview at a small company in Stellenbosch. I started at GivenGain in February, and feel myself growing with the company there. It’s a small business — only four of us there in the office, though they’re supported by a larger cast — with a wonderfully affirming and welcoming atmosphere. The business facilitates financial transactions internationally, and provides a portal for making online donations to charities, non-profits, and other organisations. They’re also launching into the property administration market.

My tasks there are largely on the systems administration / IT infrastructure side, and provide for quite a diverse workday — much more stimulating than most of what i’ve been up to the past coupla years. Soon-ish i’ll become more involved with the software development angle, too. I’m fortunate to be working there Monday to Thursday, with Fridays off for studying, and to be working so close to home.

Wherever i hang my hat…

December also saw me moving again, within Stellenbosch, to a block called Sonsig. Damian also joined me, but is now over the ocean looking forward to the Northern summer as a camp counsellor at Camp Seagull in the US of A. So i now have two other flatmates: a German girl doing her honours in IS, and another girl studying photography.

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!

That used to be the traditional greeting of the Eastern Orthodox church, iirc. I was in Cape Town with the family over the Easter weekend, and hooked up with Andrew K, Andrew R, JD and Daniel at an awesome Easter Sunday sunrise service at the top of Ou Kaapseweg. How refreshing it was to join together in song with the Easter Campers from nearby churches: there was so much joy out there on that mountain and again back at the Camp Faraway campsite. It was exciting being at Camp Faraway again as the memories of our highschool CU camp there came back, stirring up the same desires i felt at Wortelgat to be a part of learning more and growing clsoer to God together with young people in His classroom.

Shrunken Superman Suits

I’ve come to the realisation (once more…) that Superman impersonations belong to comic books and kiddies’ parties. This is maybe at once the biggest, hardest, and most encouraging lesson i’ve learned this past year: that i can’t make it on my own, and that *that’s ok*

Just before starting at GivenGain, i was really anxious about the job — about not being equal to the task, and questioning whether after several “difficult” jobs i could actually enjoy this one. Well, i truly have been blessed there in a job that’s given me new confidence and enjoyment, but i also found so much encouragement in the passage in 2 Corinthians 4, where Paul writes that “it is the God Who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

Several scriptures like that, and noteworthy songs such as Jars of Clay’s “Worlds Apart” (think of it: why would you pray for God to take your world apart? — but sometimes we should and He must), have set me thinking. It’s amazing, humbling, and encouraging that God commits His work to us, frail and fragile and broken and helpless that we are, so that His power can shine through. The burden is not ours to bear: in fact, He is carrying us! As someone once said, you don’t know that God is all that you need until God is all that you’ve got.

Cool, errm, i guess that’s more than enough for now… sorry i lack the time to make it shorter or more individual/personal. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this year, curious to find out what lies just out of sight there beyond the horizon, eager for the vistas of new mountaintops, more ready for the lessons of the valleys, and keen to see y’all soon and hear what’s been happening!

Best wishes and hope to talk soon


— Marcus


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take
but by the moments that take our breath away
— Unknown


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