Sunday, August 31, 2008

Brela, Croatia

Here are some pics from a lovely 4 days away at the coast! Janice and I had a great time, although it wouldn't have been bad if we could have stayed longer!!

Me with the sea and the signature pine trees in the shot: Isn't the sea blue?? Here are Janice and I with the rocks and the forest in the background...I LOVE this picture of Janice on the steps:
Me and the sunset...
I had a friend who used to laugh at people taking sunset pictures: she would say "Same old sun"... but isn't it just beautiful?? And I was lucky with this next shot as the boat was going back and forth so I had a couple of tries to get him in the rays!!
And lastly a pic of the beach with our hotel in the background:
All in all I had a good week of sun, sea, playing games and hanging out with my bud, Janice!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vacation from heaven...

As most of you who have been following my blog know, I have had a really busy "summer" season. Like ridiculous. And I am really really tired. Since May I have had teams, an intern for 2 months, was at camp, had guests coming and going: plus doing the humanitarian etc that I normally do AND Ljilja was away for a month so I was doing her job as well. All my teammates took at least one month off somewhere in the summer and I had not had a break the whole time. (but I am not complaining as I will go home to South Africa on furlough in January when it is summer there and winter here!). So I decided to try and take the last two weeks of August off and just have an "at-home" vacation. But that was not really working as of course I am here and still in the middle of things!!

So why didn't I go somewhere? There are two problems: firstly: because of having to pay for my car to be fixed (as you who read my blog know!) I didn't really got the money to go away and the second I didn't really have anyone to go with (the classic problem with singles!).

Now, last week,my really really good friend, Janice, who used to work in Bosnia but moved away earlier this year to go to another country emailed me to say she was coming back here to get some of her stuff and she really wanted to go away on vacation to the Croatian coast. She offered to help pay for me to go, (she is so sweet!) plus I got a gift from someone, so I have a bit more money... So, now I have someone (actually probably the best person possible!) to go with and the money side is taken care of as well!!! And both of us will get the break we really need!!

The best part is that it is as if God knew this opportunity would come up as I already cleared my schedule and it has to happen this week (as my visa for Bosnia runs out on Sunday and although the renewal is in process I cannot travel -until I get the new visa- after Sunday). And Janice decided literally last minute to come to Bosnia to see everyone and go on holiday and it is all just going to work out!!!

And it really is the best vacation I could imagine - I couldn't have planned it better myself :-)

So, I am off to the train station to go pick up Janice and tomorrow we head for Brela by the sea!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joel and Jessie...

Ok, the story started when I was checking my junk email box one day and just before I deleted all the "junk" emails I saw one that looked like it wasn't junk. It was from Joel and Jessie Symonds from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, asking for help to find contacts in this region as they wanted to come and see what was going on here - possibly to come back here one day, but also for their home church to be able to pray for what is going on here.

They weren't even planning on stopping in Banja Luka (not being the most well-known place!) but because not many other people got back to them (and I was one that had!) they thought they would make a stop here. Now, I have had a long summer of hosting people and teams and these were supposed to be my two weeks "off" so I actually wrote an email and told them I was sorry but I really couldn't have them now... but luckily just then our internet didn't work (it has been doing that uurgh) so it didn't go right away... In the meantime I actually felt soooo convicted about not having them come that I totally changed the email and told them to come!

I did ask one of my teammates if they could stay in the apartment below them (which is open for the summer) so we didn't have to have them at our house... as I didn't know them from Adam and I am learning that sometimes having unknown people in your house doesn't always work out!!

Anyway, they came, and they are the greatest people. (and I am sad they didn't stay with us! But it was good for them to spend time also with Miika and Mirjam and their girls). I spent pretty much all of Friday with them showing them around and taking them to Sergej and Ira's (and translating for them) and just hanging out with them as we just totally clicked!! They left today after only 40 hours here, and even they said they were really sad that they had to leave so soon (but the rest of the trip is already planned) as they had the greatest time here in Banja Luka!!

At one stage I just felt how God had really put all this together because they have a very similar vision to what our team wants to do here and so after not even wanting to stop off at all, they both want to come back at least to visit (and maybe bring their two little boys whom they left this time in Canada with friends). It is also great that they want to support what we are doing here, especially in prayer!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oh Baby!

So, Ljilja and I went this morning to go see Andrijana who came into the world healthy and happy on the 10th of August. (Oh, ok and to see her mom Olja and grandmother as well). Here in Bosnia (and I suppose this region) they have something called "babine" for 40 days after the birth. In this period the mother and the baby aren't supposed to leave the house (other than nowadays for doctor's appointments). In that time everyone comes to visit and of course brings lots of presents for the baby and the family. The mother is NOT allowed to lift a finger (including carrying the baby!) and is treated like a queen. I like this tradition!

Here is Olja and her little one:
And the proud grandmother with her little princess:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Zenica Weddings...

On Saturday I went to a joint wedding in Zenica (about 3 hours away from Banja Luka, and where I lived in 2001-2002). There was some worship followed by a sermon and then the first wedding was for Dejana and Mario. Here with their best man Jim and matron of honour, Drazena. Here they are being prayed for by Enver, the pastor of the Evangelical Church in Zenica, who performed their marriage ceremony.
The next ceremony was for Sladjan and Tiffany. Although they had already married in the US in May, they wanted to have a ceremony for Sladjan's family and their friends here in Bosnia who weren't able to make it to that one. Here they are with kuma (maid of honour) Lina, and Buco (who is one of the elders of the Baptist Church in Zenica) who performed their ceremony. Here they are with the "kiss" and Lina and best man Jan.
The wedding cakes were all made (very beautifully) by the crazy Beth Summay... Here are Tiff and Sladjo cutting theirs:The battle of the bidermajer (bouquet): I ALMOST got it, but Lina who is much taller than me and had high heels on managed to grab it out of my hands... here we are re-enacting the drama!
And then what I think is the cutest pic of the wedding: Tiffany with the pig's head!! Not something you usually find at weddings in America! (and in fact in Zenica too as it is a Muslim city! but both Mario and Sladjan's mothers are actually Serb, so they decided that there had to be some pig at the wedding!!)
All in all I was glad that I could make it to enjoy their special day!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

car saga continueth...

Well, after a lot of running to and fro and hassles etc, etc, it is now officially fixed, but it cost me a LOT. The worst thing is that the reason it was broken was that someone had put back the speedometer-so it only read 1/2 of what it had really done and messed up the instrument panel by doing that. This also explains why it is breaking down as much as it does: it has gone a LOT further than I thought it had. Anyway, the funny thing is that now with the "new" instrument panel which we took from another car it only reads 1/3 of what it has actually done: 81000km!! So I can get a better price for it: if I was dishonest...

Now let it be said: I love my car- it is a great car to drive and it has aircon (what's not to love!) and I am getting to know car mechanics quite well through owning it :-) but I am sick of it being broken! I guess I am also sad that I got diddled by the guy who sold me the car, but what can you expect? That is what it is like in the world where people are out to make a fast buck and don't care who gets hurt in the process. Now I have to debate whether to sell the car or to keep it and keep paying the price for my naivety-the horrible thing is we had it checked out before we bought it, but we never checked the electronics - now I know better: they are the most expensive part!

Anyway, tomorrow I head to a joint wedding in Zenica in it (and I will stay on for a goodbye party on Monday in Sarajevo), so here's hoping the mechanic is right and that it is really fixed!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Visa and sightseeing...

Well, this morning I handed in mostly everything for my visa {YAYAYAYAY!!} -I am still, however, waiting for my background check to get here from SA because the stupid couriers didn't go an get it when I told them to!! But it pays to have friends in the office for foreigners as I will go and add that when it comes, without a problem!

After that, Charles and I headed into the Bosnian hinterland for some sightseeing... Here we are in Krupa na Vrbasu: (my excuse for the height difference is that the bridge is a little broken - so I am on a lower level :-) )
We also made it to the Monastery in Krupa and onto Plivska lakes and to Jajce to see the waterfall before heading back to Banja Luka... All in all a nice day!

Tonight we will have a meeting with him and our whole team (who are all back now from their respective vacations - the Revenkos arrived this morning from the Ukraine!!) before he leaves early tomorrow morning...

Monday, August 11, 2008

busy busy busy

I thought I would have time to calm down once the team left, but it hasn't happened yet! Before the team left, Charles Pyles, an American who is with IMB, arrived to be with us for a week - so we have been busy doing stuff with him - and in between I have been running around getting all the paperwork together for my visa which is due on Friday, sorting out my car, and trying to fix a broken internet connection!!!

I also had a bit of a "break" and had coffee with members of my English Club last night - a meeting I organised with them mostly over Facebook!! Gotto love that!

Friday, August 08, 2008

The car saga continues...

Well, as you should know, I got a "new to me" car last year as my little Mazda was turning 20 and I thought I was going far too much to the "majstor" (mechanic) for it. But I think in the last year since I have had my Peugeot 206 (which I do love when it does go properly!) I have been more times to the mechanic than in the 5 years that I had my old Mazda!

Today, Ljilja and I went to Tuzla (to take the Fida accounts to the accountant - that is another whole story...) and so I thought I would leave my car at the auto-electrician to have some stuff fixed. Well, long story short he managed to fix my radio which wasn't working and what I called "the ghost" - the blinkers that turned themselves on whenever they felt like!!! He also thought that he had fixed the 3rd thing -the petrol gauge which I have already had "fixed" by another guy and so I went ahead and paid for all of them and took the car. Luckily I went straight to the petrol station and so saw right away that in fact the gauge was noooooot working!!!!!

So it will have to go back in on Monday... oh joy!!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Saying Goodbye...

I hate goodbyes and I have gone through a lot of them, and they don't get easier. And this morning's goodbye with the GO team was especially hard. We had a fantastic 3 weeks of English Club and visiting drop-in centres and the hospital and going 4 times to the orphanage, plus painting the downstairs inside. They were such a fun team and we had such a great time with them that it really was hard to see them go...but go they must - back to Holland and to their lives there. And who knows some of them may be back again sometime!!

I kept telling them they were the most "undutch Dutchies" that I had ever met: They were mostly always late, they were incredibly flexible (they were willing to change plans pretty much every day!) and they were very generous (well Dutchies are actually usually generous, but I told them the meaning of the term "going Dutch" -they mostly didn't know- and they were horrified.)

Here are some photos from their goodbye party last night: First, a fun photo with most of the girls that were there:And then everybody: This is me with the team leaders - Iris and Justin. They are really great people and I really enjoyed working with them! In fact I told them that I would only have a GO Team again if they led it! (no pressure!) (Those of you that know what the downstairs looks like inside: you can see a glimpse of the paint job they did - it is soooooo much lighter than before!)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Post 300...

Yes, can you believe it? This is my 300th post!! And it is again about the team...

First some cute photos from the orphanage visit yesterday, which was the teams last :-( This is Almara with 3 of the preschool kids: Una, Maida and Mladen:Heidi with little Maja - we did fingerpainting with them and it was GREAT FUN!
Mladen came along to help translate (along with Branka!) and he really got into the colouring! Here he is with Mario and Slavisa.
I have discovered that I now enjoy taking photos rather than trying to be in them, but I had to get a pic with the two winners of the "Simon says" game: Snjeza and (another) Maja who are both regulars at the orphanage English Club.
Then a pic from English Club last night where we played a game where one person was blindfolded and was led just by the voice of their partner. They had to find an object on the other side of the yard, but all at the same time so it was chaos!! (and good fun!) I thought this was a great photo - they all look like they are waiting for execution!!
So, I hope you enjoyed this 300th post as much as my other ones!!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Ok, funny story time: On Sunday the team went to the barbecue place that I have been taking them to - near the church - but this time without me to do the ordering... They managed to order the chicken sandwiches and hamburgers, but they also wanted some chips (fries) on side.

So, Iris asked the waiter for "fries". Blank stare. So, she asked for "patat" (which is potato in Dutch). The waiter goes "batak"? And Iris thinking he was understanding from her hands making signs like "fries" goes "yes, yes" and uses her hand to show "5" portions... And was quite proud that she had successfully communicated what she wanted...

So, needless to say they were all a little surprised when he brought 5 portions of chicken legs!!! Oh well...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Krupa na Vrbas with the team...

I took the team to Krupa (about 1/2 hour south of BL) for the day yesterday. We had a great time! On the way there they were amazed by the (typical) Bosnian mountains (being from flat Holland!). And of course the waterfalls at Krupa were something amazing for them too. The water there is very cold - but it was very hot, so the Dutchies all had a swim (as did I!). All in all it was a great chance for them to see more of the Bosnian countryside and have a bit of a break (for me too!)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Dinner at the Balesevics

So we went to dinner last night with the team to Goran and Zeljka's house: Here is Ljilja with little Danilo - who has gotten a loooot bigger since we saw him last! Here we all are - Just before we enjoyed the homemade Bosnian pie (mmmmm) and fantastic hospitality! The Balesevic family is one of the families on the Dorcas Aid project and they wanted to show their appreciation for all the help that the Dutch organisation has given them while they are on the project by having these Dutchies over for dinner. And in that way to show them that there are normal people here in Bosnia Hercegovina!
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