Friday, October 31, 2008

Photos with my sister's kids...

Here I am with James and Amy (well the Donkey) showing our healthy snack choice (I am the fun aunt, but I can be good too! and of course Donkey's eat carrots, so it is easy to make the case for them...
And here they are in my bed pretending to be the "telly-tubby monster":

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Post on Family...

I am back safely in Banja Luka, and trying to catch up with all the stuff I need to catch up. I will post more pics of my trip soon. I wrote this post about family on Friday, but didn't have a chance to post it, but here it is:

"I decided to write a post on my feelings on family, as I have just spent a week with mine. I guess our family is pretty unique in that we really are spread out all over the world-my parents are still in South Africa, but my brother in Canada, my sister in England and of course me in Bosnia. We hadn’t all gotten together since my brother’s wedding in 2001: although we had seen each other individually in between. So it is a rare thing for us to be altogether!!

But even so, families are the ones that know how to push your buttons and place you in the mould that you grew up in, even if you are now all grown up: I will always be the baby of the family, no matter that I have lived on my own for however many years: my parents will always treat me as their baby. They are the people who HAVE to love you even if you are horrible to them, so of course it is easy to take them for granted and abuse them. Families are the ones with whom you share fond (and not so fond) memories, mutual experiences that bond you together (or drive you apart in some cases).

And that is what I am so glad about this trip for: it was a time to make new memories together: Dad’s fantastic 70th birthday will definitely be in the books as one of the best parties ever. Kevin’s Charity Shop Birthday Gift Challenge was some of the most fun I think we have had altogether (especially when we were all running on ahead to be the first to the next charity shop to find the best stuff!). Yesterday I made some lovely pictures with Amy – one was her self-portrait! – and taught James a couple of chords on the guitar and this morning we played “telly-tubby monster” (long story) in my bed before Amy went to school: I am definitely the “Fun Aunty”!!

I have decided that being part of my family is not always easy and there are always going to be underlying “stuff” going on – but that it is worth it, because God put you in the family you are in, and you only get to have the one!!!"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Family Photo...

Here is all (well most - Kev's two boys are missing) of the family, (last time we were together was 7 years ago!). This pic is also including mom's cousins who live in Switzerland (every time we see them we talk about which we are: second, once removed, etc and in the end we just go "whatever, we are cousins!").

Astrid (my sister), Edward, Juliet, Graeme and Janet (the "cousins"), David (my brother-in-law), Kevin (my brother, Mom, Dad, Me and Robin (my sister-in-law). In front: Amy and James (my sister's children:

kids photos from Oxford...

For the party there were 8 kids aged from 2-7 who stayed the night: here are four of them getting their bath before bedtime: Jonathan (one of David and Sarah's twinnies), Andrew (my brother's youngest), Katherine (the other twin) and Amy (my sister's youngest):Child labour at my Dad's party: James was so happy he got to stay up late (it was the latest he has EVER been to bed - 9pm!) to help with the party:
And just the cutest photo of my brother's two boys (Luke and Andrew):

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I arrived on Saturday in time for my Dad's 70th birthday party. It was a great party. And my dad was very very chuffed. My sister, Astrid, had slaved away and made little fantastic fancy finger foods for the 40 or so people that came. The great thing about the party is a lot of very different people who have been in my dad's life came to celebrate: from all over including: My mom's cousins from Switzerland, my dad's good friends from Nottingham, another friend from Toronto, and of course my brother from Canada! This is me with Robin (my sister-in-love) and Dave and Sarah (I stayed with them in London): My brother (with Robin's help) made this great computer cake for my dad: and yes a laptop had to give up its life for it to be made:
Here I am with my brother, Kevin and his wife. I realise now I didn't get a pic with my sister and her husband: will have to remedy that! (There are some pics with me and the kids - but not on my camera, so will have to do a separate blog about that!)
There were loads of people staying over and so the party lasted well into Sunday morning and again when we woke up as well, so it was just a really great celebration for my dad and his 70th!

Unfortunately, my brother had to change his plans and left on Tuesday, which meant that he wasn't able (as expected) to be here for his birthday on Thursday. So we decided to celebrate it early on Monday night. However, none of us had a present yet: so as we were going to the charity shop capital of Oxford: Headington (where they have 7 charity shops in a row!), Robin decided that we had to have "the charity shop challenge" on Monday: each of us had to buy something for him for under 4 pounds and he had to decide which he liked the best! It was a complete success and we all had great fun trying to find the best present (in the end he didn't choose whose was best, but I think he was very partial to my great find of a pen set with a South African flag on it!!) and he really enjoyed opening them too!!

Here he is with the recycled computer cake (the candles which are for his birthday "36" actually play happy birthday!!) and the crown we made him wear for his party:
I will post more pictures once I get them off other people's cameras...

Friday, October 17, 2008


I am only here for a day, but I am footloose and fancy free as my friends both work - so what to do? I have never been to the Imperial War Museum and I fancied going there - so I headed there. It was really well done, but of course very sad: the displays on Ethnic Cleansing and the Holocaust were both very moving. Here is the main hall with the spitfires and other planes from both world wars: I then caught a bus which just happened to go past the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben: Trafalgar Square with Nelson's Column:And on to Piccadilly Circus:

I alighted there to walk to Covent Garden and Leicester Square, where I took a picture of my namesake: before heading back to Wimbledon on the tube to enjoy time with my friends Dave and Sarah and their twins!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I arrived Monday night in Newcastle in the North of England, after traveling for 17 hours from Banja Luka (by car, plane and two buses!). I have been staying with Fiona, Rodney and Megan:Yesterday Fiona, Megan and I went out for lunch at "The Badger" and luckily the other guests were in a good mood because Megan decided to play "hide and seek" which was really cute! Here she is hiding (not so successfully) under the chair!
She was so cute this morning: I am leaving today to go visit another friend near here before heading back to London tomorrow - so I had to say goodbye to her before she went to nursery. She said "I am going to miss you", "why don't you come again? I would like that". She is only 3 1/2!! What a charmer!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Zdravko Colic LIVE...

The city of Banja Luka last night was all about ONE thing: the Zdravko Colic concert on the main square downtown. One of the greatest Bosnian Serb artists of all time and FREE - so you can imagine how many people were there - madness!! In fact it was so mad, we lost half of our group and couldn't find them again as the mobile network was jammed with everyone trying to call everyone else to try and find each other!!

I ended up just with Stasha and Milan from English Club as we lost David and Miika on the way. And it was great fun - they were the best company because they knew about as many songs as I did: so we were singing along to the ones we knew and just humming to those we didn't!

Here am I with Stasha:
And with Milan:
All in all, despite some fights breaking out around us, we had a really nice time enjoying the music and the atmosphere of the biggest concert of the year!!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Enisa came to visit David...

As David is with EUS (InterVarsity or IFES), although "seconded" to our organisation, he is officially working for Enisa (who is the General Secretary for BiH), so she came to stay with us so she could see him and visit us at the same time! Here we all at lunch today:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

God's great grace...

It has been one of those days...lots of things going on, team meeting and Tuesdays are my busiest day anyway - and in between I am frantically changing plans for my UK trip (I leave on Monday so for me this is pretty last minute - but that is another whole story...). Luckily Ivana invited us last minute to have lunch at her house (we love Ivana - a nice home cooked meal with great company instead of a rushed hamburger suits me any day!)

At 3ish, Ljilja was going visiting new families for the sponsorship project with Mirjam and I had English Class and English Club from 4pm. After Ljilja left I saw the huge pile of dishes, and despite not having much time myself I decided instead of carrying on with the trip planning and train/bus ticket buying that I would do the dishes... despite the fact that it is Ljilja's turn (or maybe because it was!)

So, at 9, after English Club (which was great - 10 people came plus David and Lea and we had a great time!) Ljilja came to get me and she hadn't been home yet. I got in the car and we were waiting for David and Ljilja was talking about how tired she was, and then she realised that she had ALL those dishes waiting at home..."Oh no, I have to do that pile of dishes". I said to her "well maybe someone was wonderful...". At first she couldn't believe it, and then well, it made her cry because there is nothing she hates more than washing dishes...

Then, David got in the car: and all Ljilja said to him was "Belinda made me cry" (so you can imagine what he was thinking! But luckily she went on to tell him the whole story!)

But then it got me to thinking: this is a reminder of what God's grace should be like in our lives: something that we don't deserve, something we are dreading being completely turned around into something wonderful, being overwhelmed by a gesture that was made 2000 years ago every day: not letting it get old, but being struck each day by how lucky we are. And it does feel good when the dishes are done for you (I need to insert here that Ljilja does my dishes at times - but I have never cried!) when you least expect it. May God's grace be like that for you: something amazing found in places you don't expect it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I live in a village...

Although I am only 10 minutes walk away from the centre of Banja Luka, for a long time I have been convinced that my part of the city is like a village. Everyone knows everyone else's business and sometimes things happen which just confirm the village-like nature of this suburb.

And two examples from this week spring to mind: On Wednesday after my mom left, I was driving to home group, but stopped to chat to my landlady who was in the street talking to a neighbour I know vaguely. The NEIGHBOUR asked me "so has your mom left already?" I haven't ever really talked to her and yet she knew my mom had been visiting...

Then this morning on my way back from walking with Cindi (we have been walking around the park every day and I must say I am enjoying it!) I heard my landlady and her daughter's mother-in-law in the back garden doing something. I went in that way to say "hello" and guess what: they were busy slaughtering and plucking chickens... yip I live in a village!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Cake for our landlady...and pumpkin pie for David

It has been 5 years since I moved into this flat (Ljilja moved in 6 months later) and to mark the occasion we decided to get Ziki a cake! We also gave her a little money to spend on herself as she always complains she never has any money for herself- all of it goes on the bills and the house! She was overwhelmed by this small gesture and we were happy to have made her happy with something so easy to do!!Later, David, the Czech, came to dinner (yes, he is back and will be here working with EUS for at least two years!) He found a place to live this morning and so we took him shopping for stuff and he is "kuciti se" (homing himself) as they say here.
I managed to keep Ljilja off the last piece of pumpkin pie, and so he got to try it...We discovered it is a very international pie: Ljilja started off by saying "Bosnian pumpkins made into an American pie by a South African". I added "yes, with a recipe I got in Croatia". David, enjoying the pie, and taking his time to think about it... added "and it is all ending up in a Czech stomach"!!!!!

Friday, October 03, 2008


Last night we had Mary and Vesna and Naca (Olja's two cousins) over to hang-out. Last year when Mary was here, we had them over for Amarula as they hadn't ever had it before. This year Olja couldn't make it because of Andrijana (her two month old baby), but we decided to have a "girl's night" anyway!

I made pumpkin pie (which was really good!!) which Ljilja took a picture of by the American flag on the fridge, and then I spaced out and didn't get a picture of us altogether, so this is it for pictures:
We also wanted to have Vesna over as she was the one who organised for us to get our internet in 2 days - and so this was a nice way to enjoy her (and her sister's) company and also say thank-you for helping us in that way. And of course we love hanging out with Mary while she is here visiting!!

Mom's last day...

It was a beautiful day and so we went walking in town (the first time mom has seen it WITHOUT an umbrella! both trips to Banja Luka have been pretty rainy!) Here we are on the "city bridge" overlooking the river Vrbas . We had bumped into Bojana (a member of the fellowship) and asked her to take it...And in town at the fountains (this was selftimer on the bench):
This is the tree-planting ceremony at the local school which we work with for one part of the child-sponsorship project: and these are the first-years planting the tree of their generation. We were there because Ivana's daughter is in the first grade: before we went to lunch again at Ivana's (but this time mom and I made it and took it over!!) All of Ivana's kids are on the photo -the two younger ones wanted to be with Arna! (you can spot little Dora on the left and Arna and Viktor are behind her):
And I forgot to take a picture at English Club, but we had a great time there with the people who came. We actually did a discussion on Aids and HIV and it was really interesting some of the things that come out of that. I think everyone enjoyed meeting her (and the regulars all came especially to meet her which was nice!).

Afterwards we went to visit my Landlady to say goodbye:
All in all it was a good day and the only reason I wasn't that sad when mom left on Wednesday morning is that I will be seeing her in two weeks when I go to the UK for my father's 70th birthday celebration (and family reunion: first time we will all be together in 7 years!!)
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