Posted by: anniebananie784 | May 7, 2020

Rescuing my suitcases

Remember that I arrived in Germany with three suitcases, one large, one medium and one carry-on? Remember how I managed to leave some of them behind at my friends? Now it was time to rescue them and move them to another location, much more central in Germany and closer to the airport.

I specifically looked for the least amount of train transfers as possible, and fortunately, I found an IC train that got me most of the way = 3 transfers. There was a moment of stress when the regional train to Bremen was delayed, thereby shortening my transfer time, however, I did successfully arrive again in Unterfranken. There I had two days to re-assess and apply some of what I learned from L. in Dordrecht about packing light(er). In the end I left with the medium suitcase and my backpack – not bad for the next five weeks of travel 😛

The second night during my stopover in Unterfranken happened to be Saint Martin’s day, when the Kindergartens hold a celebration complete with a church service, lantern parade and food. My first real “Saint Martin’s” experience – I have only read about same in a kids book that my former YWAM teammates own. Let’s say that the children were very excited about their lanterns despite of the pouring rain. Rather than catching on fire, as lanterns often did when they held real candles, they became a little soggy instead. Fortunately we could take solace inside the community hall to eat pretzels, sausages and drink some mulled wine.

Top left: lanterns – top right: digging with T. in the yard – bottom: Saint Martin’s service

Saturday evening I was off again on the train, this time in the direction of France. The last stretch was in a TGV and I found it quite amazing to go so quickly. I would happily travel in those trains another time 😉 .

Posted by: anniebananie784 | April 30, 2020

A little bit of Canada in the Netherlands

As I sat with my gigantic suitcase on the train headed south via The Hague, a man approached me to ask if I had wanted to travel to Schiphol instead. Of course, normally people with my size of suitcase would travel in the direction of the airport rather than the opposite direction. In my case, it was a good conversation starter. :p
I was on my way to a city near Rotterdam to re-connect with an INS sister, who had slept in the room next to mine in Shady Heights cabins. Our visit was short and sweet with deep, open conversations about life, tasty treats (including maple syrup!) and music to come home to, as in, music that invites you to live out of your heart in that place where Father, Son and HS dwell. So good.
Despite the rain M. took me on a small tour of Rotterdam. We explored the market hall where I tasted my first “Pepernoten”, a traditional Dutch Christmas cookie, before heading over to the wharves and a fancy café for a coffee. To my delight, I discovered a reminder of home right by the café: a dock labelled Canada 😍

With M. in Rotterdam and at her home – except bottom left: Canal in Dordrecht

From Rotterdam I continued on to Dordrecht to stay at a house of prayer, Bonfire (website in Dutch). They just so happened to be running a 12 hour worship event on the day I arrived, though in the busyness the directors introduced me to the other team members and a (Canadian!) volunteer.

What fun to have Canadian – even Albertan – company for a few days and to share about our journeys, both prompted by the HS. I was incredibly impressed by L.’s packing skills. She was traveling with one carry-on suitcase comprised of 33 items and another small bag for a period of at least 6 months. Her efficiency and creativity inspired me to take another look at my luggage when I got a chance. There must be a way for me to reduce 😜 L. also introduced me to her really close Canadian friend, whose name also starts with “L”, living near Frankfurt, Germany. We had a short call with her over lunch just to say “hi”. This contact will be important later 😉

The Bonfire team members who lived next door invited us over for supper and conversation the few nights I stayed. They were friendly, funny and fun-loving guys. One night we played Mario Kart – me, for the first time in ages and I am still not very skilled 😂 – and they even brought out some lego.

Once again, I felt like Father led me to Bonfire so that I could cross paths with certain people. There were several conversations and prayer times where I really sensed His life being imparted and greater revelation of who He is being released. It was beautiful to hear these people’s hearts and see how God was working in that place. Unfortunately, the building was being sold to a condo developer and so the future was uncertain. As I write this entry the building has been sold, however, Bonfire still “exists” entering into a new season.

Canals of Dordrecht – I finished knitting my socks!!! – playing lego
Posted by: anniebananie784 | April 27, 2020


I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect of Amsterdam before I came; in hindsight, I can observe that it was a colourful, vibrant, busy place – and to watch out for the cyclists. 😛
As I left the train station, the city centre was definitely full of an eclectic array of tourists and now I joined their numbers. I spent the first few nights in a Christian hostel called the Shelter in an 8-bed room. My regret at having such a large suitcase certainly surfaced here, as obviously, I could not leave it open and laying out 🙈 However, the atmosphere and hospitality of the staff/volunteers more than made up for it. As I ate my supper the first night, I overheard the staff sharing a bible passage with others in the dining room on 1 John (I think 1 John 3) – it didn’t feel like a coincidence to me. At any rate, I appreciated the fellowship and conversations I got to have with a couple of the staff/volunteers and their suggestions of fun (and cheap) activities to partake in. I certainly did lots of walking around and some dancing in one of the parks 🤩

Canals of Amsterdam – Anne Frank’s house (top left) – cheese museum (bottom middle)

One highlight was the cheese museum, although the museum only counts for a small portion of the space, a larger area is used to sell and offer samples of many different flavours/variations of Gouda. One can simply walk around the shop and eat; my favourite flavour being made with truffles. Yum.

A second highlight was participating in an advanced adult ballet class at Zhembroskyy’s with a diverse group of students and a lively teacher. It was a joy simply to dance again, to re-activate my muscles and my “ballet brain”.

One afternoon I visited Rembrandt’s house, a recently opened museum that gives a view into the famous artist’s living quarters, workshop and mentors/students. I must admit I was disappointed by my visit, because I had hoped to see more of Rembrandt’s own works rather than from his students or contemporaries. My disappointment led me to purchase entry for the Rijksmuseum and their exhibition on Dutch and Spanish masters featuring many works from Rembrandt and Velazquez. Other than the museum being chalk full of people, I thoroughly enjoyed the special exhibit and my ‘highlights tour’ around the museum.

A FH friend connected me with some of her YWAM contacts and recommended their house of prayer. Over the course of my stay, I spent time there almost every day, sometimes participating in led activities and other times just being in the environment. At first, I was overcome by a sense of fear and dirtiness in the atmosphere as I walked through the surrounding neighbourhood. However, after spending time in the house of prayer, I was filled with peace, and I had a growing awareness of His love for the people in that place and how He was bringing His light.

I had written to my FH friend’s contacts, and finally on the last day, I was able to meet with the friend of a friend, who shared with me about the prayer room and how God has been at work. We both talked about our personal journeys, and it was such a divine appointment, I almost felt like Father led me here simply for this conversation. As we prayed together, His presence was so tangible and life was being released. I am in awe of how He chooses to invite us into what He is doing.

From top left: House of prayer – smallest/narrowest building – Rijksmuseum – city skyline
Posted by: anniebananie784 | April 23, 2020


My return to northern Germany was in part motivated by my need to swap out my suitcases. The weather was getting colder and I could benefit from some more sweaters and boots. I came knowing that my dear friends could host me for a few days and yet unsure of my next destination.

Part of me considered ‘settling down’ and looking for work. My body was starting to pay for the many hours spent sitting in trains, buses, etc. and I had an increasing desire to dance again in a more organised way. Yet still another part of me longed to keep exploring. As I was reading Stephen Hill’s commentary on the Gospel of John, a line jumped off the page and spoke to my heart. In this particular passage Stephen talked about the children of God being born of the Spirit and like the wind, we couldn’t know where they were coming from or going to. This simple sentence gave voice to what I was sensing/desiring for myself, and I knew I wanted to keep traveling. Which again brought up the question of where.

In the meantime, I had a few days together with J. and her husband in Oldenburg. We enjoyed catching up, going to the gym – I could do a free trial session that proved more intense than we anticipated because the session was actually “free, with strings attached”, i.e. they were very determined to pursue potential new clients 🙈 – drinking a coffee in a funky little cafe and meeting some of J.’s friends from her Uni student group & home group.

I was considering going to the Netherlands. As the last day of my stay with J. arrived, I hadn’t received any word from my contacts near Amsterdam. Uncertain whether the lack of response signified a closed door, I struggled to make a decision and really wanted to wait on Father’s timing/prompting. Sharing my concern during J.’s home group meeting, I received two offers of a place to stay while I figured things out. I am humbled and so thankful how Father used these young women to show me His grace and hospitality once again.

So I did life for a few days with a recently married couple, H. and H. The husband led a local scouts group that met in the forest behind their apartment. I joined for the evening and was reminded a lot of our Quartier Libre programs. We had a games night during which I discovered a collaborative board game, Magic Maze. On Saturday night, I attended their choir concert, navigating the evening twilight by GPS to find the hall.
We had many rich and real conversations; there were many points where I felt like Father was speaking life to and through us. During their Sunday church gathering, I experienced an intense encounter with the Lord. It took me partially by surprise. As I knelt on the ground feeling the weight of His presence, He spoke to me clearly that He was with me and going before me. This conversation gave me the courage to pursue the idea of visiting the Netherlands. I booked a train ticket to Amsterdam for the next day 🙂

Posted by: anniebananie784 | April 17, 2020


My long-awaited reunions continued with a trip to Unterfranken (Lower Franconia) on the Main river and a town called Stadtprozelten, where my exchange partner from Grade 11 and her family live. It felt rather in the middle of nowhere, as I traveled on tiny regional trains and the cell phone service kept fluctuating on and off. After so many years of keeping in touch via email, I was excited at the prospect of meeting her children in person and reminiscing together about our teenage adventures 😛

My scrapbooks had suffered during the Albertan floods in 2013; in fact, most of my photos were damaged and needed to be thrown away. However, A.’s collection had been safely stored and we had a good laugh seeing how much some things have changed while others haven’t.

Let’s say the visit was a lively one with two dogs, three kids and at least six chickens in the yard. There was always something on the go. We took a trip into Miltenberg, where I had attended the gymnasium along with A., and stopped by her parents’ home in Kirschfurt. I even made a new friend 🤣 (see photo below bottom left). I might have received early morning visitors in the guestroom, if A. hadn’t convinced her children to keep playing in their rooms instead. Perhaps another time I will be ready to have a sleepover (there is a bunk bed in the room after all) 😉

Posted by: anniebananie784 | April 15, 2020

Back with my NZ roomie!

When I came to Toulouse I wasn’t exactly sure of my next destination. I booked an easy Jet flight (first time!) to Euroairport near Basel without knowing where I would continue on to. In some ways this “last-minute” destination deciphering became a theme for my later travels. Part of my exploring the land, learning to listen to my heart and how the HS leads.

In this case, my destination was confirmed on the afternoon before my evening flight. I was going to stay with my roomie from INS and her family near Offenburg, the prospect of which made me quite excited 🙂 The fact we were placed in a room together during the 3 months with Fatherheart was a God-story. We spoke to one another in franglemand = a combination of French, English, German, depending on the subject and the mood. Father knew how much fun we would have together.

Loving your friends means coming to pick them up at 1:00 AM from the train station. It also means making sure they get their own Kinder Haut & Körper creme like all German girls 🤣

We had lots of catching up to do. Lots of chatting, sharing, laughing, eating. I loved hearing about F.’s journey with Father, Son and HS since I had left NZ, to witness the beauty, life and freedom she now carried from that time and what that released in my own heart. I experienced that instant spirit to spirit connection through the HS – as in, a sense of deep understanding, an acceptance of the other and what they carry, and an awareness of fellowship together with Father, Son and HS. It was such a gift to have freedom to simply “BE”. Not that we did nothing at all, there’s was no pressure to do for the sake of doing 😛

Top right: out for breakfast – Middle right: Homemade Flammkuchen (Gluten-free!) – bottom middle: exploring Lahr

One weekend I went with F. to a retreat weekend near Heidelberg organised for the worship team of her former church. Not only did I enjoy wandering the streets of Heidelberg before the weekend started, I also enjoyed hearing how Father had been revealing Himself as a Father and seeing how the HS was moving throughout our time. There were definitely some people I was supposed to meet and conversations meant to be spoken.

View from the Teltschikturm near Wilhelmsfeld
View towards Heidelberger Schloss and old city

A wonderful lady lives upstairs in F.’s family home. She has affectionately been called the auntiest Aunt by F., even though she isn’t a family relation. I was so blessed to meet U. and discover the kind, creative, sensitive and humourous person she is. On my first Sunday she invited me to attend church, which I felt the HS prompting me to say yes to, and so I did. During the service I experienced one of those times where I so clearly knew what Father was inviting me to do with Him. My heart was beating so quickly in my chest. Then I went for it and He did what only He can do. So scary and yet it is exactly what I long for – to become more like Jesus and do only that which I see the Father doing. 🙂

One last highlight to share: we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving together! I enjoyed preparing roast chicken, stuffing, autumn veggies and pumpkin pie. I was thankful for this opportunity to show hospitality even though I was not in my own home. The company, of course, was excellent 😉

Posted by: anniebananie784 | March 31, 2020

Carcassonne/Toulouse part 2

Perhaps some of you are familiar with the board game of Carcassonne. While I cannot confirm, it’s highly likely the game was inspired by the UNESCO heritage site “Cité de Carcassonne” in Occitanie, France. Located about an hour from Toulouse, I decided to go on a day trip after seeing the “cité” from the highway on my way to Toulouse.

The history fan in me was quite excited. Even if the current fortress cannot be dated to one specific time period – different parts were restored from different eras – research has shown some of the ramparts were built in the Gallo-Roman period = old 😛 . Carcassonne has a somewhat tragic history, in the late 12th and early 13th C. it had been Cathar stronghold. When the Pope decided they were heretics and organised a crusade, the Cathars were all expelled and the inhabitants of the settlements no longer allowed to live on the hill. When a village was rebuilt, it was down in the valley. Much of the fortress was restored in the 19th C by a French architect. You can read more about the site here.

Toulouse is known as the Pink City or “La Ville Rose” due to the terra-cotta bricks used for many of its buildings (thanks Wikipedia). After a visit to the tourist information office, I spent another day wandering around the city centre to admire some of its most famous sites (mostly the free ones 🤫).

Paintings from inside the Mairie

I particularly enjoyed St. Sernin of Toulouse Basilica. Through certain details I felt as though Father was welcoming me in that place. Firstly, an organist happened to be practicing for one of the evening concerts, and not only were the acoustics amazing but as I entered the building he/she was playing a melody I recognised from childhood in the Anglican church. Secondly, the Lord’s prayer was displayed on different banners around the building and as we walked in, we were met by a reflection on “our heavenly Father”. It was beautiful to be met by Him in an unexpected way and to witness how He was revealing Himself as Father in that place.

Here in Toulouse I came across the famous nespresso ads, that my former YWAM teammates would often tell me about and that I had never seen in Canada. George Clooney sipping his little espresso 😂 (bottom right in above photo).

I also had the opportunity to connect with the “leaders” of Fatherheart France. When I saw how close they lived to Toulouse and that I was intending to be there for the wedding, I decided to contact them. To my delight they responded right away with an invitation to spend an evening together. I really appreciated meeting F. and S., to experience immediately that sense of family and to share our stories with one another. There may have also been another delicious meal with regional wine, cheese, meat, etc. Food is clearly one way to my heart 😉

This region has enchanted me and I look forward to the opportunity to return.

Posted by: anniebananie784 | March 30, 2020

Toulouse part 1 ❤

When I learned that a friend, H., whom I met through swing dancing in Calgary was getting married and that I was invited to her wedding in her hometown in southern France, I happily accepted. We had stayed in touch over the years, but had never seen one another in person since she went back to France.

I am well aware that European distances do not compare with North American ones. That being said, it still felt like a looooong day to travel from near Lausanne to Lyon via train and then drive another 5-ish hours to Toulouse via carpool – thanks blablacar ! – in a van with no A/C and balmy summer temperatures. Flashback to the Mexico trip with King’s Kids when the A/C stopped working 😉

Carcassonne from the highway (more to come about this place in another post;) )

Shortly before my trip, I received an email from H., asking if I could cancel my Air BnB and come stay in the extra room in her parents house. Without a car it would make logistics much easier – and in the end it was such a gift for me, as I really felt part of her family amidst the hustle and bustle around the wedding. I could just jump right in.

It was a beautiful day for the wedding. H. and J. had prepared many little details that celebrated different aspects of who they were: from a dinosaur model building competition, to the organisation of how to find our tables, to a game of “guess the dance style”. There was a less traditional version of the bridal bouquet toss – H. had wound a number of coloured ribbons around the stems and the ladies walked around until their ribbon fell off leaving one colour remaining. I was quite hesitant to join in, but allowed myself to be persuaded. Guess who ended up with the last remaining ribbon attached? Oh my. 🙈

I had so much fun meeting H.’s family, with their different regional accents, their sense of humour, and their liveliness. Truly I had the privilege of a French cultural immersion and culinary introduction. Here we eat supper rather late in contrast to Québec. A celebration isn’t complete without drinks: an aperitif before the meal, wine with the meal, and another drink(s) at the end. There’s lots of bread, lots of cheeses, and after that, there’s still dessert. Fortunately, there’s also coffee because the party goes on until the wee hours of the morning 😉

Anecdote: As we mingled during the late afternoon toast to the newlyweds, I almost gave myself a shower when I went to re-adjust my sunglasses on my nose while holding my water glass. Recognising the potential accident I exclaimed “oh merde”, to which H.’s cousins and uncle all laughed and laughed, asking if that’s how we give a toast in Canada. Obviously not, but let’s just say I was on the hook for the rest of the night. Oops 🙈

I am so grateful to H. and her family for their hospitality and their warm welcome. It really spoke to me about the positive impact we can have and not necessarily realise. Many many years ago, when H. was in Canada, we invited her over to our house for Christmas. It was important for us that she could join a family while so far away from home – and now I was a beneficiary of that same gesture. Thank you 🙂

Where’s Waldo? (Can you find me lol)
Posted by: anniebananie784 | March 20, 2020

On the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman)

I love cheese. I especially love cheese from Switzerland. In YWAM I was spoiled to have Swiss teammates and a Swiss roommate who would share some of the tasty products they had brought back to Quebec with them. Now, I was coming to see my former roommate and her family in the heart of cheese country 😍
My visit would not have been complete without a stop in Gruyère (yes, it is an actual place!) and the Gruyère cheese museum. Just look at how many rounds of cheese were piled up on the shelves to age – and that’s only one row.

Before C. had joined our team in Quebec, she met up with me in BC just after New Years and was introduced to my Dad, my Grandma and some of our familiar summer vacation spots on Vancouver Island. Now it was my turn to see where C. came from, to meet her siblings and niece/nephews. and enjoy some beautiful mountain views.

One day C.’s mom lent us her car, enabling us to explore Gruyère and another charming village, Romont. Charming because of its location on a hillside, the complete city walls and its medieval flavour. I’d seen a picture of the town in a tourist display at the rest stop on the bus ride from Germany and I was quite happy to be there in person 🙂

Gruyère: photo top middle, bottom row – Romont: top left and right, middle row

Another day we took the steam boat ferry to Montreux – where I celebrated my 17th birthday many (many) years ago 😛 – and we explored the Chillon castle. C. and her family spoiled me in my love of cheese with raclette one night and cheese fondue another night. They also introduced me to meringue with double creme and chestnut “spaghetti”. Mmm.

Top row: Meringues, with Chillon castle, steamboat – Middle row: view towards the Rhône Valley, Menhirs at Clendy near Yverdon, view from the castle – Bottom row: on the shore of Lake Geneva, the table is set for raclette and for fondue 🙂

Thank you to my beautiful friend and her family for their hospitality. I hope there will be a “next time” in Switzerland, to see one another again and to admire some other beautiful spots 😉

Posted by: anniebananie784 | March 20, 2020

Back to the Black Forest ❤

During the fall of 2008 I visited Freiburg im Breisgau for the last time. I had studied here two years prior and so I could anticipate returning to certain well-loved locations or seeing certain faces. On this visit 11 years later, however, I felt more like a newcomer with only a few familiar reference points, like the Martinstor (Martin’s gate) and the Aussichtsturm (observation tower).

A dear friend allowed me to stay in her apartment while she was away, and I used the opportunity to familiarise myself once again with some of the walking trails in the area, with the “Strassenbahn” and the famous Italian Eiscafés. One evening I joined the local swing community for some live music and lindy hop; the leads were creative, clear in their movements and fun to dance with 🙂

The weather was beautiful and warm for September. Inspired by the hiking book I found on my friend’s bookshelf, I headed out for a day in the Black Forest. Of course, without a car nor the particular desire to wander farther than my feet might like to carry me, I opted for a trail starting in Merzhausen, which is a neighbouring municipality to Freiburg. I walked up to the Schönberg, past the Jesuitenschloss, some vineyards, castles ruins and farmers fields. At the top I met some people setting up a radio system whereby they could communicate through Morse code with other interested parties in Europe. I admit I was both amused and fascinated. Here are some photos from the hike, though not of the radio transmitter :P.

I am still learning how to listen to my heart, not simply going with what seems like a logical idea in my mind or “sticking” to the day’s plan just for the plan’s sake. For example, when I hesitated on going downtown for a supposed swing dance evening, but because I had “planned” in the event, I went anyways only to find no other dancers in sight. They apparently show up fashionably late. With the gift of time that Father has given me in this season, I have the freedom to be flexible, to explore and to stay in the present moment – though sometimes I get stuck in planning mode. Thank goodness for grace.

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