Sunday, February 12, 2017

6 weeks in South Africa...3 to go!

I have been in South Africa since the 1st of January, catching up with my family and friends here. I arrived with my friends Ljilja (from Bosnia Herzegovina) and Sina (from Finland). We had a great 3 weeks while they were here. Here we are joining the "Awesome Aunties" (my mom, Sue, aunt Janny and my mom's best friend, Lee).
We all went out for dinner before enjoying my high school friend's great comedy show: Here we are afterwards with him: I love seeing him perform!
My sister was also still around, so we got to spend some time with her and her family. Here we are celebrating Serbian Christmas eve before they left:
 We went to fun places, like the Milnerton Fleamarket :)
 The views from Milnerton of Table Mountain are really stunning!
We took a red topless bus tour of Cape Town and it was great fun!
 We also enjoyed a walking tour of the Bo-Kaap:
We went around Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, including going up on the tree canopy "Boomslang", with stunning views of Cape Town:
Before heading to a concert in the natural amphitheatre there. It is such a lovely venue! And the music was very good!
We did see some wild animals: here are the lesser known Sina and Ljilja-beasts surrounded by penguins at Boulders beach:)
 Also at Boulders, Mom lost her banana to this little thief: the rock rabbit or "dassie" was pretty sweet, but we didn't dare try to get the banana back from him!
After a whirlwind two weeks in Cape Town, it was time to head to see the Garden route - we did 1800km in 5 days, but it really was a lovely trip! We decided to go down route 62 - the inland route (and return along the coast) and it was a great decision...
We stopped off near Barrydale at Ronnies sex shop, which is not a sex shop but a bar/cafe!
 Ljilja channeled her inner farmer:
 And this is just a taste of some of the stunning scenery along the way:
It is very beautiful!
There were all little towns along the way with funky places to eat - and we managed to resist until Kareedouw and the Sweaty Dutchman... the pancakes were delicious!!
We made it to Addo Elephant park and it lived up to its name - we did see a lot of Elephants, including this little one with its mum - so cute!
We also spent a long time looking at two cheetahs eating the zebra that they had killed and the warthogs that were trying desperately to get a look in... but the cheetahs were having none of it! It really was so special to see the whole circle of life happening in real life!
On the way back from Addo, we stopped off in a place called Monkeyland which is a sanctuary for 11 different types of monkeys - all kept outside in a fenced in area where they can live as naturally as possible. They are pretty cute, especially the babies:
We also stopped off in the beautiful Knysna:
And Wilderness beach - both of these showing why it is called the "Garden Route" - everything is very green because of year round rain: It is so beautiful!
And here are some of the paragliders which were above the Wilderness Beach.
There is a drought on in the rest of the Western Cape, there has been very little rain, and you can definitely see it on the National Road: this part is usually green too!
Then it was time to say goodbye to the girls and enjoy the rest of my stay in Cape Town... Getting to hang out with good friends: here having a braai (barbecue) with the group of people who pray for me once a month:
The kids (and some others!) enjoying the pool:
Enjoying a birthday dinner of my friend Sarah:
Mom and I organised to have a family reunion for part of my dad's side of the family. Here I am with some second cousins:
 And here we all are: 35 of us altogether. It was great to see everyone again!
Mom and I try to go once a week to the beach... We normally go to St James and now the school holidays are over it is pretty quiet:
This is what it looked like when Ljilja and Sina were here with us...
I also managed to play live scrabble with my friend Nils (I have been playing almost 25 years - now we usually play on Facebook).
And I went to the library and took a lot of books out to read! YAY! I love reading and having access to a library is so amazing!!
But it isn't all play and no work - I am still in touch with things in Europe by email and Skype. I am involved in things in my church - including preaching in both services today. And this week I will be organising a Bosnian evening... looking forward to it!
I hope you enjoyed a look at my 6 weeks in South Africa. In just over 3, I will be heading back to Bosnia and Herzegovina... It goes so fast!! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Volunteer Christmas Party

Last night I organised (with Ljilja's help!) a lovely little Christmas party for the volunteers who help with the Book Club at the Children's Home. I baked up a storm (from quiche and cinnamon bread to pumpkin pie, brownies and banana bread) and we laid out the table so it looked pretty festive:
My South African nativity scene (complete with baby Jesus) made an appearance to complete the table:
We started off with a LOT of eating and just hanging out... and I think they liked the cakes as they wanted the recipes :)
Then it was time to get to know each other a little better. We work together a lot, but because we are focusing on the kids we don't have time to get to know each other as well. We played a getting to know you Bingo game where you have to find people who fulfill certain characteristics...
We all had fun, including Nikola, the only male participant (out of 36 volunteers, only 3 are male!)... don't know what he is doing here :)
 We took a group shot so you can see what we all look like!
Before getting to the more serious part of the evening. A little bit of debriefing about how things are going, and seeing if we can improve on things... it was good to chat as we don't get a chance to when we are running a workshop with 30 plus kids!
Before they left they all received a Christmas present - in the form of a book (quite appropriate I think!) which is a translation of "Witness" by Josh McDowell. I hope they will all enjoy it!!
It was a fun evening, and I am so glad I got to say "thank-you" to all of them for all of their hard work over the year! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas in Banja Luka...

After the jam-packed Christmas fun that was the Canadian Christmas experience last year, this year I had a very different Christmas in Banja Luka. Here they celebrate the Orthodox Christmas (7th of January), so the 25th is just like any other day here.

We were trying to find a time to take the children who were actors in our Christmas play bowling as a "thank-you"... and the only day we could find was Christmas day! And so, when asked what I did for Christmas this year, my answer will be "I went 10-pin bowling"!! It was really fun and the kids (ok and me as well!)  had a wonderful time!!
Now, after spending the first 26 years of my live celebrating Christmas in summer, I have discovered over my 16 years in Bosnia, that there is real joy in putting up Christmas decorations and especially lights when celebrating Christmas in a cold climate, with long dark evenings. So, I put up the tree in early December:
And put up our nativity scenes (and only just noticed that Santa was also somehow present at the birth of Jesus!):
And so it was easy on Christmas day to make up the table so everything was ready when we had guests over after the bowling! Complete with Christmas crackers imported from South Africa :) (and a crackling log fire on the TV - something my dad used to do in South Africa as we didn't need an actual fire :) ) And the best part of it being a normal day - we could order Christmas dinner in!! (although I did make desert.)
So, I had an unusual, but really fun Christmas Day. It started off in the right spirit - with a church service - where we sang Christmas carols (translated) and reminded ourselves what Christ's humble birth means for us today!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas plays and shoebox packages...

After weeks of practicing, running around getting everything organised and two performances at other places, it was time to do "Cika Jovan i najbolji poklon" (Uncle John and the greatest gift) for our shoebox package distribution in our premises. We start off with Sinisa welcoming everyone to the distribution:
Followed by the play itself... It is a story about how Uncle John who invites all the children to come to his place and then tells them the story of Christmas (and that the greatest gift is actually Jesus!) through pictures... there is a bit of "magic" involved and it is pretty cute. (I will try to put the play with subtitles on my blog at some stage, but haven't had a chance to do that yet...)
Here you can also see the narrator who tells a lot of the story...
Then we sing a couple of Christmas carols (translated)...
Before Ljilja shares about the program "The greatest journey" which is provided by Samaritan's Purse as well. We will be running it in the new year...
And the most important part of the program is at the end... the shoebox packages!!!
Then it is rinse and repeat... we can fit about 60-70 children in our premises and so we need to do quite a few plays and distributions, but we are happy to be able to do them in our own place!!

On Sunday afternoon there was a bit of a change-up as we had some UK guests who volunteer in the Samaritan's Purse warehouses where they check each of the boxes... they are travelling around Bosnia visiting different places to see how we do our distributions. They joined us at one distribution and then asked if they could sing at the next - and so we started off with them getting all the kids up on their feet and singing (in English) with actions... it was really cute and the kids loved it!
As we have such a lot of distributions, we have two groups of kids... here are the second group, and both groups did a FANTASTIC job... I was so proud of them!!
And both groups loved singing carols with me :)
Some happy customers...



As you can see, we had a lot of fun with our Christmas play and handing out of shoebox packages... Seeing the smiles on the children's faces makes it all worthwhile!! 
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