Monday, June 30, 2008

bizarre...

Ok, I find myself in a twilight zone: it is a bit of a complicated story so sit back and relax...

I am trying to register my car, which is already an ordeal in and of itself, but because it is not in my name (that is another WHOLE story*) it has turned into a bit of a farce... I found out early on that with the power of attorney to drive the car which I have, I can also register the car and I managed to get everything done (insurance, taxes, car check, etc). The final step is to take all the paperwork to the office at the police station and get them to check it all and give you the renewal. Easy, huh!? Well, it would be if the person who "owns" the car on paper doesn't have fines against his name...which have to be paid before you can register the car...

So I phone the dude from whom I bought the car and in whose name it is still, Predrag, and tell him he needs to pay the fine and he says "don't worry I will sort it out". This was THREE WEEKS AGO. My car needs to be registered by this Wednesday so I think, ok I have time, don't panic... Anyway, 4 more trips to the police station to see if the fine has been removed and countless phonecalls to Predrag later... this is where we are: Predrag told me early on that it wasn't actually him who had gotten the fine, but some other guy who was also driving another one of his cars on a power of attorney and that chap had said he would take care of it. So Friday I asked Predrag to try and get me the receipt from the other guy (I can get the fine removed immediately from the system if I have the receipt). He told me today that the guy has lost the receipt. I said give me the guy's number so I can ask him myself - (I had asked before and he wouldn't give it to me for some reason) and he finally gave it to me.

Now, this is where it turns BIZARRE. I phone the guy. Cvetko, and tell him who I am and why I am calling him. Then he says "What car?", "Who is Predrag?" "I don't know WHAT you are talking about". I think that somehow Predrag has given me the wrong Cvetko and phone him and tell him this guy hasn't any idea what I am talking about and maybe he gave me the wrong guy? And he says "no, that is the guy - and I don't know what he is on about because he knows all about it: don't worry I will phone him and sort it out and call you back". Which he still has to do 4 hours later...

So, someone is lying and I am not sure who, and I am not sure why, and it looks like I will just have to go and pay the fine if I am to register my car by Wednesday... and I really feel like I have fallen into a twilight zone?!!

(*when I bought the car last year I only had one year to go before I got my long stay visa and so I was going to wait until I got that and put it into my name, but now that I am not going to get it I am going to put it into Ljilja's name - but she is in the US and so it will have to wait until she gets back!!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Photos from "Pita" making...

So, you take the dough and put it around the stick like this... (who needs translators when you have hand and feet?!)Am I doing it right??At the end: Marisha, Olja and Mrs Rakic about to attack the pita!!

What do you do when you are hot AND hungry...?

This is Marisha's solution!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What's up in BL - but no photos...

I am quite sad that I don't have photos to post as I don't have a camera and there is something wrong with the program for Marisha's camera and so we can't download her photos. I have remedied the camera situation (I was just using Ljilja's because mine died last year and with hers gone I don't have one!) by getting one for Ljilja to bring back (I bought it on ebay and got a really good deal - thanks to Corina and Ljilja for finding it for me!), so I am looking forward to that!

Hopefully we can figure out Marisha's camera because she made "Bosnian pita" with my friend (ie not Sinisa's wife) Olja's mom on Thursday and we have some really sweet photos of that. Olja and I sat and chatted while the two of them got on with it - well we did give them a hand in translating every now and again - but both Marisha and Mrs Rakic are experts in "hand and feet" and they got on great. And the pita was really good!

Mrs Rakic (we call her that as her first name is really hard to remember) is the best pita maker I know (and I know a lot!). She was even telling us that in order to pass "home ec" at school she had to make "pita" for the exam - and in the time they had for the exam she made her pita and then also for 5 other girls in the class who didn't know how - and all of them passed the exam! (They have a tradition of copying in exams here, but this was the most extreme case I have heard of!!!)

Thursday night we had our second "FILM NIGHT" which we are running Thursday nights through the summer (in English). We watched "Evan Almighty" last week and "Ice Age 2" this week - with discussion led afterwards by Marisha. The members of the English Club wanted to get more people to attend and so Igor, Branka and I went to hand out flyers last night in town which was fun...

So anyway, Marisha left yesterday on the train to go to Sarajevo to a conference (she was supposed to go with Miika, but he couldn't go at the last minute so I organised for her to get picked up by someone on the station and off she went!) and will be back tomorrow. I have decided that I don't know how I could live two whole years by myself - I must say that God has really blessed me by giving me a great roommate (and a great substitute in Marisha while Ljilja is in the US!!)

So, anyway enough of me just prattling on - will try and get some pictures from M's camera at some stage to post on here!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Long day...

Today started with me waking up way to early and then the workmen arriving to start replacing my electricity box (which is sooo old that it is really scary) and me realising that my clever plan to be home working on my computer was not going to work because there, of course, wouldn't be electricity!!

I had to take Marisha over to Ivana's to work on some craft stuff for her there and so I decided to just go over to the office (which is on that side of town) and work there. PTL, my wonderful landlady said she would look after the workmen! I had a lot of stuff to do on the computer and worked until 2 when I headed over to eat at Ivana's (and she makes great lunches!)

After that I came back home to help clean up and pay the workmen, before heading to the shop to get stuff for the seminar we held tonight for our one project and then onto the fellowship building to set up for the seminar.

Olja (who is Sinisa's wife) was leading the seminar, which was on how to better go about getting a job - through organising your CV, preparing for interviews, etc. She did a fantastic job! It finished after 8.30 and Marisha and I cleared up and came home... and now I am blogging about my long day before heading to bed!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday School review

Today at the Christian Fellowship, we had a small review of the Sunday School year, organised mostly by Ivana, with Olja's help. The children did a fantastic job of telling all the stories (off by heart!) that they had learned during the year (using the flannelgraph) and then singing the songs that they learnt during the year as well. Here are some photos:

Olja on the left with the kids, singing:Dora, Ivana's youngest, was "instrumental" in the singing!! Ivana on the right singing with Vera, Arna and Viktor:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bad news on my "stalni" (long stay visa)

This afternoon, I went out for coffee with my friend Aleksandra and her aunt, who works in the office for foreigners (where I get my visa to stay here). I had heard rumours that there were changes in the law and I wanted to find out where I stood for my long-stay visa, which I was due to finally be able to get this year. So I asked Aca to set up the "coffee date" so I could ask someone what the actual story was. Well, the bad news is that the law has completely changed and I cannot get a long-stay visa anymore on the kind of visa that I am on (a volunteer). Even worse, they do not even take into account the 5 (well 7, but I had a break) years I have been here - even if I were to start working (which is one of the visas you can get a long-stay visa on) I would have to have 5 more years of visas before I would be able to apply. So this means I cannot get my long-stay visa anytime soon...

I am a little saddened by this news, as I was sooooo looking forward to finally not having to go through the visa process every year. The bright side is I can still stay on this visa, but I will have to renew every year (so at least they haven't done away with this kind of visa altogether). The downside is that they are going to be making more checks and it will be even harder to get this visa!

I know that I can totally trust God and that He has a plan, but sometimes I wish that it would get easier, not harder!!

Anyway, Marisha and I decided to console my woes with some brownies (she made them from my recipe) and Amarula milkshakes... nothing like a sugar high and alcohol to make you feel better!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bureaucracy and success!!

I am trying to get the 15 different things that I need to hand in to be able to extend my visa to stay here in Bosnia (PTL I will soon be able to apply for my long-stay/permanent residency and all this will be a fond memory!). A new thing they have added this year for added fun (like the 14 things weren't enough) is a Police Clearance Certificate/Background Check from your home country... having lived here in Bosnia for 7 years this seems a bit silly, but hey!

I checked online and I need to send everything to South Africa and one of the things I need to send are my fingerprints. I go to the office for foreigners (where I get my visa) and asked them if they know where I could get my fingerprints done. The lady, who is the boss of the whole office, said "there is no way that they can be done here in the police in Banja Luka, not a chance". And she was very definite - there is NO WAY! Her solution was for me to get a statement saying there is no way to do the clearance certificate without the fingerprints and then they would figure out what to do with me...Great.

So, having to go to the police station anyway to try again to register my car (that is another whole story!!) I decided to listen to the little voice in my head and just go and ask them if they would take my fingerprints... And guess what! They were all very nice and said that it would not be a problem!! I just needed to bring some sort of form. I went home, went online and looked and looked and eventually found a form which looks like it will do the trick and went back and they did them for me no problem!!! It pays to ask (and to listen to the little voice - thank-you God!!)

I so wanted to go back to the foreigner's office to show her that I had successfully done what she had said was IMPOSSIBLE! But I held back. I will tell them when I go next time, because I think with people needing police clearance certificates that it will be something that will need to be done more and more!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hanging with Marisha

I am so enjoying having Marisha here - she is just so willing to jump in an do anything. Wednesday we had a long day at the office handing out humanitarian aid to different families, so I suggested we just go out for lunch near to the church. So here we are in pizeria "Gold" with its lovely gaudy decor! The pizzas are only 2.50KM a pop (about $2, R10) and even though they aren't the greatest, they are filling - and who can argue with the price!!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Krupa na Vrbas and Ivana's...

Lea (my Finnish colleague)'s brother and sister are here visiting her for a couple of days, so we all wanted to show them a good time. Yesterday after church, I drove them and Marisha to Krupa na Vrbas. These are waterfalls about 1/2 hour from Banja Luka. We had a great time wandering around the waterfalls and despite the ominous clouds decided to walk to the source of the river (it takes about an hour to get there - 45 minutes if you are Finnish!) . Luckily, it didn't start raining and we had a great walk there and back (although because of the really waterlogged paths we were all quite muddy when we returned!)

Here is Marisha at the falls: Isn't she just soooo cute?! (sorry she has a boyfriend!)These are the falls, with the mills on the right: This is what is inside the mills - still being used! (this was actually milling corn flour when we were there!) And this is a look at the river we walked alongside - soooo beautiful.
Today, Ivana (one of the church members) invited us over for lunch - and the Finnish family: Miika and Mirjam and their kids - so including her 3 kids this was 8 adults and 7 kids! So she needed help - Marisha and I went over early and helped make salad and set up. She cleverly ordered pizza for the kids, so that was "easier". But she had wanted to make a special meal for the foreigners, so it was all specialties from the region - and boy did we eat ourselves silly! We had 7 different courses: soup, salad (shopska-cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and feta cheese), stuffed onions, burek (meat pie), and 3 different desserts!! Needless to say the Fins (and us) had a great time!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Adventures!!!

So, we took Ljilja to Zagreb on Tuesday (my birthday) to fly out early on Wednesday for the US. Dragana came along to keep me company on the way back... So the adventure started on the way there when it was rainy and stormy on the road, but once we got into Zagreb, the heavens OPENED and we were caught in torrential rain (and got lost because we turned too early as I couldn't see!). So, my grande plans for having a meal out (albeit at McDonald's - it is a treat for us as there is NO McDonalds in Bosnia!) were dashed! We just hung out at Juliana's place (although she wasn't there due to some interesting circumstances -long story!) and ordered pizza from a random place we picked from the trash - which was great pizza, but it took one hour and 45 minutes to be delivered!!!

Then in the morning, we got to the airport no problem and Ljilja got all her luggage on for free (a big worry as she despite having a huge luggage allowance was still overweight - all presents!). She got off okay (sniff sniff) and then Adventure part two began - the paying of the parking. The machine swallowed 2Kuna of my change (and I only had exactly the right amount!) and so I went to complain and by the time I got there we were now into the next hour and I had to pay DOUBLE (which I wasn't about to do). And crying and performing was not helping - the guy would NOT budge. Eventually I told him that he needed to call his boss as I was not putting up with him and he gave in and let me just pay the 15Kuna (well 13Kuna as the machine had swallowed the 2Kuna)!! But man I was not happy! (and I really went with the intention to be nice and polite, but he was not helpful to my cause at all)

By now we just wanted to get home...(a 2 1/2-3 hour trip) but Adventure part two and a half was not about to let us... We got to the border with Croatia at Gradiska at 9.30 and got through nice and easily. On the Bosnian side they asked us to pull over because the guy wasn't sure about my South African passport and needed to call his colleague. So we pulled over and fatally, I turned the car off. When I tried to start it, it wouldn't! I need to explain that my fuel gauge has been broken (despite one attempt to fix it) for the past month, and so I have been keeping the tank nearly full so I don't run out. But of course the border guards see two blondes in a car and a petrol gauge on empty and say "aha-you have run out of petrol..." when we hadn't... Anyway, they pushed us out to the side and I was calling Mirko (one of the guys in our fellowship who lives in Gradiska) but he wasn't in town, when one of the border guards comes up and says "can I try?". So I give him the keys and the car starts for HIM!!! (how embarrassing!)

But I decide maybe we have used up more petrol than I think, so we went to a petrol station just outside of Gradiska. Of course you have to stop your car to be able to fill it up (and we hadn't used up that much petrol so that wasn't the problem!) and when we tried to start it up, it wouldn't again. Dragana and I decided to go for coffee and wait to see if the car would start later (like it did the last time), but that didn't work!!!

So we had to get towed (and PTL that we were already on the Bosnian side of the border and not on the Croatian side - that would have been very tricky and MUCH more expensive!) to a nearby auto mechanic. The guy was really nice and he managed to fix the car - it was the fuel pump (and he also fixed the fuel gauge which is found inside the fuel pump) and after "only" 2 hours Dragana and I were on our way again...

Ljilja joked when she heard about it that she almost got to America before we got back to Banja Luka!! (she arrived safely and is having a great time there so far!!)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

last day of 33 celebration

As I am taking Ljilja to Zagreb today on my actual birthday (she flies out early tomorrow, so we have to be there sometime today and will sleep over with Juliana) I decided to celebrate the last day of being 33 by having everyone over yesterday. I had Sinisa and Olja over for a (really) late lunch which was really fun! (I love them soooo much!) and we also got to celebrate the fact that Olja graduated yesterday with a "10" (perfect grade!) , so now she is officially a qualified social worker!! PTL!

Later on, we had a few people over for "cake" - this year I made peppermint crisp pudding from ingredients my mother sent to me from South Africa. It is sooooo good, but you can't get ANY of the ingredients here (well, other than whipped cream) so it is something that is very special to be able to share with people. I didn't take many photos (I know, I know) and some of them didn't come out too well - so this is the only one that is any good: Aleksandra, Selmina, Sveto and Ljilja and me wearing my "33" shirt (the last day I can wear it!!)
(there were others at the party, but you will just have to take my word for it :-) )

One of the most special presents that I have ever received I got last night from Ceca (one of my English Club). She made me a book with guitar chords for Bosnian songs - all hand written out - as she knows that I want to learn how to play more Bosnian songs. It took a lot of effort and I was really touched. And of course it is now an even bigger incentive to learn how to play the songs!!

All in all I am feeling really spoilt and blessed, and loved most of all!

Monday, June 02, 2008

YWAM Central European Staff Conference in Slovakia

So, I went to the YWAM CESC in Slovakia. I had a great time. It took me one whole day to get there and one whole day to get back, and I spent all three days in meetings from early until late (one day I realised I hadn't actually been outside the building ALL day!) but it was so nice to connect with everyone else who works in this region and also just get a bigger picture of YWAM than littl' ol' me here in Banja Luka.

One of my roles in YWAM is as part of the YWAM CE communications team along with my good bud Becky (who is from the US but works in the Czech Republic). I got to spend time with Becky actually working together in the same place (as opposed to over email and via skype!) and we had a great time! Also, because we have been putting out the Central European Newsletter, everyone knows (and appreciates) us, so it was like being a celebrity!
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