Saturday, August 05, 2017

Italy/Slovenia trip

As I have some friends who rent out their house on the beach in Italy for a reasonable rate, Ljilja, Sina and I decided to go this year to Italy for our vacation. We worked out this is the 9th holiday we have taken together (7 years in a row in the summer and 2 times to South Africa!) For our jubilee 10th one, they are trying to get me to go to Morocco - we will see!

We started off in Tuscany. It was so beautiful there... just like in the paintings :)

 We saw some of the cities there too - here Sina and I are in Siena.
We then went to Francavilla al Mare, near Pescara, on the east coast of Italy. We soon discovered that this is where Italians go on holiday and we did not see many other foreign tourists. And we loved it for that reason! Here is some of the typical "fast food" pizza which was delicious!
The beach was long and sandy and there really weren't that many people... and I spent a lot of time in the water!!! The other two enjoyed the beach - Ljilja catching her tan, and Sina reading her book :)

We took one day to go to Rome... and the Vatican:
 And we managed to pack in quite a lot of things... the Spanish steps:
 Trevi Fountain:
Piazza Venecia:
The Pantheon:
And the Colosseum:
But the highlight of the day was when we tried to get into St Peter's Basilica and they wouldn't let Sina in as her shorts were too short (you have to cover your upper thighs and your shoulders). Ljilja tried to show them other people with short shorts and he wasn't having any of it "there are other entrances, you can try them, but you are not coming through here"... until Ljilja had a brainwave: Sina had two tops on, as the top one was a bit see-through, but pulling the vest underneath down made a lovely skirt and we got two thumbs-up from the previously grumpy guard: Here we are celebrating our victory: Luckily Sina could carry it off!!
We left the beach and headed to San Marino...
Where we enjoyed the lovely little country (the 3rd smallest in the world, after the Vatican and Monaco) and especially the fact that they have a series lifts up from the carparks at the bottom of the hill all the way up to the old town at the top (where you are on your own... but saving 20 flights of stairs made me very happy!)
We then went to Slovenia on the way back and enjoyed some walking in the mountains and some thermal baths  (yes we know how to do a holiday right!). Here is the lovely Bohinj lake:
We also stopped in Ljubljana to see some YWAMers there, but of course I forgot to get a picture of that... oh well.

All in all, as you can see, it was a fantastic and varied holiday. We did drive a LOT, but it was worth it! And here's to our next holiday/adventure wherever it may be... 

Friday, July 07, 2017

Having fun with American guests...

Ljilja, my housemate, took on the role of General Secretary for the Bosnian version of IFES/InterVarsity last year, and last week she had the privilege of hosting some of the American InterVarsity Board members in Sarajevo and Banja Luka. While they were in Banja Luka, two of them helped us with a lecture on parenting techniques for the parents of our sponsorship children:
Also, Ljilja asked me to take them around Banja Luka, and I became the best tour guide ever when I introduced them to the ice cream we have on our main square as part of the tour :) Here they all are at the Fortress Kastel:
Then, this week we hosted an American family, who are in this part of the world to help with camps in Croatia. It was great to get to know Chase and Cassie and their two beautiful kids. We took them down to the watermills at Krupa:
 And on to the beautiful city of Jajce. They loved the walls:
 And the train:
On the way back, Ljilja noticed that they were no longer behind us, and so we turned back to see what was going on. The front wheel of their hire car was making a big squealing sound... so they had pulled over. We took the wheel off and had a look at the break system and couldn't find a stone or anything, so we were about to give up and call a mechanic when someone stopped to help. And they moved something around inside the break pad and then said "gotovo je" (which means "it is finished"). I thought it meant that the part was finished and we should call a tow... then he showed us the little stone that had fallen out and that it was all ok now!! All done! This is us putting the wheel back together after it was all done...
As it has been so hot, we decided that the best use of our time would be to take children from the children's home to the pool. There are not many of the 100 children left in the home in the summer as many of them go to Italy through one organisation, others go to the sea with another, others go to family members, etc. So, we took 17 of those that were left to the pool and had a great time. One of them hadn't ever been before - and so if we went just for her, it was worth it!

Before the family left, we also had a decoupage workshop with the mothers and children and teenagers from the sponsorship project. It was a great turnout:
We had a lot of fun!
And as you can see below, there are very creative people in our project:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Another Polish adventure | LTS Module 4

I needed to be in Krakow for the Leadership Training School Module 4, and I couldn't go to Poland without seeing my newly found relatives, so I started in Warsaw for a night with my wonderful (second) cousin Izabela, before being whisked away by the rest of her family to Terespol.
Izabela had to work and so she couldn't come with us, which was a problem as she is the one with the best English. I was kind of worried that we would have to resort to hands and feet, but between my little bit of Polish, their little bit of English and the genius that is the Google translator app, we did great! If you are connected to the internet, you can even talk into the app and it translates it and then speaks it out, and on the whole is pretty good. However there were a few times it didn't hear properly or the translation was less than ideal... like the one below: WHAAAAT???
We had a great couple of days, and one day they took me to the place where they used to go on vacation as a family when the kids were younger. Here we are with Ania (who is another second cousin), her aunt and uncle (and Izabela's parents), Irena and Adam and Izabela's sister, Ilona. We ended up walking the 5kms around the lake and then having a lovely lunch!
They took me again to the place where my Grandfather grew up, and the poppies were like a little hello from him! I was surprised at how emotional I actually got... but family and roots do go deep I suppose, and I am just so happy that we found this side of the family once again!
 Then it was time to say goodbye and head off to the next adventure... (until next time!)
On my way to Krakow, I broke up the long journey in Kielce to meet up with Janna whom I met in 2011 in South Africa... it was fun hanging out with her again. Here we are on the walking street in Kielce:
 She also took me to a very interesting memorial/art piece which shows what man does to man, and commemorates the different acts of terrorism across the globe, especially September 11/twin towers.
While I was in Krakow, a few of us took the opportunity to go to Auschwitz, and I was reminded of the Kielce memorial - what man does to his fellow man...
 A little story: the Jews were all told that they were going to do a job, so they would get on the trains willingly and that that job was to polish the boots of the German soldiers. So many of them came with their own brushes and polish, so that they could do a good job. So sad...
These are the train tracks into Birkenau, and it seemed so poignant that there was a rose there... remembering the 1000s of people who came into the camp and never left again.
The thing that really got me was the kids... there was one really poignant display where they had reproduced drawings that were drawn by kids in the camps... and every one of those kids consequently died in the camp. I lost it the most at that... this is their impression of the above picture: No words...
Back in Krakow, we were right near the old city, which was really beautiful: here is the Marketplace
And Church of the 12 apostles, next to St Andrews:
 The Castle:
 The castle from the other side with one of the carriages who go through the city carrying tourists:
We did actually have lectures and processing groups, and all sorts of busy-ness which made for long days, but soooo good! Below is Bruce Clewitt who was speaking to us on the Catholic World. We also had Jeff Fountain on Europe, Stephe Meyers on teams, and many other great speakers!
 There was some time to connect with our fellow students and enjoy some networking: love it!
It was also great to connect with the people from YWAM Poland - we spent one afternoon together just catching up, and we meant to get a photo, but it didn't happen :( After the week in Krakow was over, I went to Rzeszow to spend time with one of the YWAM families, Roma and Tamara and their two boys, Sasha and Tolek. We also ran a couple of fun English classes for the children in their church and I shared in the church on Sunday morning. 
Then it was time to head back to Banja Luka and catch up with what is going on there! 

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Book Club should be renamed "Fun Club"

As the school year is coming to a close for the summer, Book Club will be taking a hiatus... until the new school year. We had more 30 children who came regularly this semester and about the same amount of volunteers involved, some more regularly than others.

As the weather gets better, when we go to the library we also take a stop at the local playground. The library is in between two playgrounds, and one of them was recently renovated, so we took a stop there the last time we went to the library. It has some fun features which we tried out for the first time... Like the group swing:

 And climbing wall:
Another fun thing we try to do is take the kids to the Children's Theatre. We took them in two groups - one to see "Ivica i Marica" (Hansel and Gretel) and the other to see "Crvenkapa" (Little Red Riding Hood). The theatre gives us the tickets gratis, and so on our last book club we made them two posters as a "thank-you". We coloured in a scene or two from the play and the best ones went on the poster. We also wrote down which our favourite parts were and put those on there.

The first one says "Ivica and Marica, thank-you!")
The second one says "Crvenkapa, thank-you!"
Both of them have "Children from the Children's Home "Rada Vranjesevic" at the bottom right, so they know who the posters came from. The theatre staff were very touched by this gesture!

We also ended off the school year by giving prizes for attendance... The kids LOVE that they get any kinds of presents, and it is a good incentive to stay a part of the club, especially for the older kids...

And so I say, the Book Club is not just about reading (although there is a bit of that), it is also about just having fun! So maybe it should be called the "Fun Club"!! :) 
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