Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jajce with Lea and her sisters...

Today Sina was supposed to be coming from Finland to visit for New Year's. Unfortunately she broke her wrist on Saturday and is unable to come :-( We are very sad and especially Ljilja, so we needed some distraction, so when Lea invited us to join her and her sisters to go with them and Amber to Jajce (about an hour away) we decided to be spontaneous and go with them...

We had a great time as they are very cute together... as you can see: (Elisa in the middle is the youngest and gets treated as such: Lea is on the right and Eeva-Liisa is on the left)
Here she is with Ljilja and the waterfall:Follow the signs - (and see if you can spot the mistake!)
Here we all are at the "Forteress":
Lea paid the 1KM each so we could get into the top part, which I hadn't seen before and it is really pretty even in winter...self timer pic at the top:
In fact, I was so inspired by Lea the photographer I got a little arty and tried my hand at taking some pretty pictures:

So, despite missing Sina and wishing she was with us, we had a really fun day in the lovely city of Jajce...

Monday, December 28, 2009

English Club Christmas Party!

Last night I had some of the English Conversation Club over for a Christmas party: Here are all of them:Besides hanging out, eating LOTS of food and catching up, we had a quiz on Christmas superstitions, which was very interesting! I also introduced them to some of our Christmas traditions: silly hats (oh yeah!), presents (each of them received a copy of "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren as their present), singing Christmas carols, etc:

After the carols, we got out the Bosnian songbook to carry on the singing - most Bosnians enjoy singalongs and last night was no exception! It was only because some had to go to catch the last bus that the party broke up... all in all a great time!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas packages...

So, it is that time of year again and we have been busy with the Samaritan's Purse Christmas packages: handing out over 8000 of them this year to various schools, at the children's home, to other organisations and to the people in our projects: Here are some of the kids from our Dorcas project when they received theirs on "my" Christmas eve:

Today, we organised one big distribution for the Fida sponsorship project. Although there are "only"52 kids in the project, with brothers and sisters there are over 160 kids who are given through this project. So, we asked the local school if we could use their hall and they were gracious and opened it for us on a Saturday! So instead of having to do it at least 5-6 times at our premises, we managed to get it done in one go: but it did make for a busy day! Here are all the packages ready for handing out: (thanks to Tanja, Boki and Seka for helping me arrange them so beautifully :-)
Here are all the children and adults waiting for the show to begin:
Lea, my Finnish colleague, was translated (very ably) by Ljilja and did her "magic bag" Christmas story which worked really well...
Before the people were let into the hall, the pictures of the characters from the Christmas story were put under some of the chairs. So if it was under your chair you had to bring it up: here is Lea going through the Christmas story using each of the pictures to guide her:
In the end she places all the "characters" into the bag with some string and shakes them up and then they all "magically" come out in order on the string... some of the adults are still wondering how it is done, let alone the children :-)Ljilja not only translated, but did a great job of MCing the whole event and handing out all the packages: she is amazing as she not only knows all the kids, but also how many brothers and sisters they have and what ages they are!! Here are all the kids with their packages:
And now for the most part we have finished with distribution and all our backs and arms are grateful. But despite the amount of work it all entails, it really is great to be able to be on the giving end of these great packages! And to bring a little joy into the lives of these children through the giving of "gifts" which represent the greatest gift of all... who came at CHRISTmas!

"My" Christmas

Here, most people celebrate Orthodox Christmas in January, and so the 25th of December is a normal working day... I managed to at least get the day "off" from other activities as we have been busy with Christmas package distribution and other things. Here are some of my "decorations": On the front door (each year I find something else to add to my wreath, this year it was the bear!):And we got a MUCH bigger tree (like twice the size of the old one:)
The presents under the tree were for Ljilja, myself and Dragana (who stayed over on Christmas eve). We had a great Christmas day together, remembering why we celebrate! The presents are just a representation of the real gift that came at CHRISTmas: Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ! We had a really relaxed day and enjoyed lunch out together. They refused to let me take a picture of us altogether for the blog, so I am risking my life by putting this one instead:
This is Ljilja and Dragana and "Deda Mraz" (Santa Claus/Father Christmas) at one of the schools where Christmas packages were distributed this week! They are so going to kill me for putting it on here, but I wanted to remind you guys who they are! :-)

For all you who celebrate the 25th: I hope you all had a wonderful, blessed and MERRY CHRISTmas!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow, snow, snow...

The snow stopped for a bit on Thursday/Friday, but today another BIG wave hit us... This morning, Ljilja and I went walking around the neighbourhood (not going out in the car in this, even with the snow tyres!)
Here are some pics of the neighbourhood:

And the view from the balcony:

And of course one of our favourite (ok, more like necessary!!) activities in the snow is to clear it away from the pathways and around the poor car so it can get out...but right now it is falling quicker than we can clear it:
Despite the hardship, I still love snow, it is so beautiful and I love the way it crunches when you walk on it. I must be one of the few adults that get excited when it is all white outside!!!! Let it snow. let it snow, let is snow...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let it snow...

The past week has been rainy and it has been trying to snow since Saturday... Finally yesterday the snow came with a vengeance and this is just the beginning: the forecast is for four more days of snow! It is a good thing we got winter tyres on the car! Here is the "classic" pic from my balcony so you can see the difference in the street: (see here for a comparison)Even though the snow can be a hassle (it really is best viewed from the inside when you don't have to go anywhere!), it is so beautiful and I am still getting used to the fact that I live in a place where we do get so much snow. Yip, even after almost 9 years here, snow is still a novelty!

I still remember when I was moving here and thinking "how will I ever survive the winters?" and the answer is: with God's grace I can do anything! I was thinking yesterday when I was putting on layers of clothing, coat, scarf, gloves, boots, etc that if you had told me 12-15 years ago that I would be living in a place where this was normal, I would have laughed in your face: but now I just take it in my stride. I do have great heat in the house (we literally say "thank-you Lord for our landlady" every time we walk in the door) and it really does help having a car (thank-you Lord for that as well!).

Now, unfortunately, we do have to go out today and so I have to go shovel some snow so that the car can get out!!! But still I say "LET IT SNOW"!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

English Class Graduation

I finished up my 2 Beginners English Classes this past week and so we had the graduation party today. I just had one party for both groups, and it worked really well. We have a rule in our classes: if your mobile phone goes off you have to bring pizza or cake to make up for it. During the year, pretty much everyone's (including my) phone had gone off and so I told everyone that they had to make something and bring it along for our graduation party...

We sat around and ate for a while, and then as some had to get going, I gave a little speech about how great it was teaching them (it was) and how proud of them I have been seeing how much they have learnt this year (I am!):
Then it was the diploma handout:

Only one guy, Dragutin and his wife Milkica:

Bilja and Rada:

Bozana and Vesna:

And all of us with our diplomas:
And then we sat around and ate and chatted and had a great time eating some of the mountain of food that everyone brought :-). It was a fun evening, but at the same time kind of sad, as even though we will see each other again, it is not going to be the same... They are such a great bunch of people and I will miss teaching them!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Goodbye Bryan...

This is a tribute to my friend, Bryan Savides, who passed away last week at age 33 from colon cancer. He left behind his lovely wife, Robyn, and two gorgeous daughters, Daniella and Georgia. Below is a picture taken with them when I was in South Africa in February:I really enjoy this family, even though we haven't had as much contact being so far apart. I remember when they got together in 1995 (I helped a little!) and really have such good memories of our friendship... It is always hard when someone special (like Bryan) is no longer with us: I think my friend Jacqui put it best (this is taken from her Facebook status) "Jacqui feels that it is a bit weird that the rest of the world carries on even though my friend has passed away. It feels like the whole universe should stop and acknowledge." Well, I am taking time to stop and acknowledge Bryan here on my blog.

Bryan gave his testimony in his church in October and I really think it is worth a listen if you have the time. Here is a link to it on the church website. One of the things he said in that testimony has been challenging me lately: the gist being "whether I live until 33 or 83, what is 50 years in the light of eternity". Wow.

For those that pray, please pray with me for his "girls" at this time.

Goodbye Bryan, see you on the other side!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"New" kitchen...

For those of you who know what it looked like before, you will see the BIG difference! We didn't take a before picture because, frankly, it was so horrible :-) but for those who don't know, I think you can see how fun it is now! And the best part is that Ljilja did most of the hard work and finished it off while I was at English tonight, so this is what I came back to, the finished product:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Natasha from Albania...

The last few days, Natasha from Albania has been staying with us. She came with a group from Fida Albania to learn how to do the Fida Child Sponsorship program for which Ljilja is the local coordinator. So on Friday Ljilja and others held a seminar for them (and she did a great job I hear!) and on Saturday we took them on visits to some of the families in the project (there are 50 families in total) before watching the Floorball tournament and having a very late lunch (well, dinner really!) altogether.

Here at lunch/dinner are Natasha and Ljilja with little Esi from Finland who came with her mom:After Natasha left this morning I was looking at our guest book and realised that including Russia, India and Australia, we have had at least 15 different nationalities who have stayed with us over the years... The majority are Bosnia-Hercegovinians, followed closely by Americans and South Africans... and a few Finns (one of which we lost!). But never mind what nationality, almost all of them have been fun to have around!

Friday, November 27, 2009

lowest form of TV?

Here in Bosnia everyone has loved what they call "Spanska serija" (Spanish soap operas) for years. There is always at least one or two really popular ones that everyone is watching. They are either from Spain or from Argentina/Latin America. I think it just proves how similar the two cultures are that they are so popular here.

Now, recently of course the reality TV phenomenon has also taking hold here with Big Brothers and Survivors becoming very popular. One that has now in its second season is "Farma" or the Farm. It is from Serbia and very popular here. The other day Ljilja was watching and I realised that they have maybe come up with a new low for TV...

They are actually producing a fake "Spanska serija" on the Farma reality show. So the people on the Farm not only have to look after the cows etc, but write, act in and produce their own "Spanska serija"! They have taken the names from all the popular shows over the years "Esmeralda", "Cassandra", etc and although it is in the local language, the (over) acting is just as bad as in the Spanish soap operas...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ATV Interview

Funny story really: I was waiting to see myself on TV (how many times in my life will I be able to say that?!!): as they had been vague as to when it would be (sometime on the Morning program between 8 and 9.30am), I had waited over an hour by the time I eventually came on... So when I finally came on, I pushed record on the video and just as I said one sentence...poooof... out goes the electricity in the neighbourhood (it sometimes does that for like 2-5 minutes at a time).

Yip, for the 2 minutes that I was on the TV I couldn't a) see myself nor b) record myself to watch later because we didn't have electricity for the *2 minutes* that I was on the TV. (it came on as soon as I went off). There really is only one word for that "BAKSUZ"

But I believe in a God who makes all things good: i.e. He takes bad situations and makes them somehow good. So, in this bad situation I told the reporter about missing myself on TV and she made me a copy of the program (yay!). I have put English subtitles on it and I am now able to share it with all of you so you also get to see me! (hopefully you think this is good!)

p.s. it was supposed to be about foreigners in Banja Luka and David and Miika were also included, but in the end it was just me... maybe they will be on later shows: not sure?

p.p.s. see if you can spot the mistakes that the reporter made (!)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gorgeous Blogger award

My friend Miranda has tagged me with the Gorgeous Blogger Award. I don't know whether it is meant that I am gorgeous or whether my blog is gorgeous: but I am going to go with both :-)

Now in order to receive this award I need to tell you 6 things that you don't know about me. And then tag 6 friends for the same honour... This isn't going to be easy as there aren't many things that I haven't shared with at least someone who reads my blog... but here goes:

1) I sucked my thumb every night to fall asleep until I was 9 years old and only gave up when my tonsils were taken out as it was too sore to suck! (PTL I still have straight teeth!)

2) I lived the first 21 years of my life in the same two streets in Claremont, Cape Town: we lived until I was 5 in St Ledger's Road and then moved two streets over to Chaucer Rd, where my parents still live.

3) Since then I have travelled to 27 countries (not so many in YWAM terms!) on three continents: Africa, Europe and North America. And all that on a South African passport - now we will see what I can do on my British!

4) I completed a Bachelor of Business Science degree at the University of Cape Town, majoring in Human Resources in 1995 - yip ages ago! In order to finish the degree I did a group thesis with 3 other people: we did an analysis of Deloitte and Touche's Affirmative Action program. We even did a presentation before their Board of executors! I am currently working on my Masters in Community Development through YWAM's University of the Nations.

5) As many of you know, I don't (well, can't) drink coffee (not easy to do in a coffee culture like Bosnia) instead I am pretty much addicted to black tea ("normal" in South Africa) with milk (very unusual here). I even carry around my own tea bags just in case. There is one cafe here which does have good black tea, but sometimes they run out. When they do, I ask if I can use my teabag... it has got to the stage that when I come to order the waiter sees me coming and says "we are out, do you have your teabag?" before I have even said anything!

6) When I went on my first plane trip by myself, I made the mistake of telling my mother that I was nervous about finding my way around the airport to the plane. She grabbed the guy behind me at the security clearance and told him to look after me through to the gate... I was 21 and almost a University Graduate at the time! (how embarrassing!). Now I don't have any qualms (or much choice really) when travelling all over by myself...

Now, who to tag: in no particular order: my gorgeous blog awards go to: Nicole, Taryn, David, Shilo, Becky, and Greg and Erin. So, once you read this you need to do the same thing on your blogs!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Zenica Trip...

I went to Zenica on Thursday on the train. I got to stay with my good friends Tiffany (who is looking very happily pregnant) and Sladjan on Thursday night. On Friday I hung out with my former team leaders: Max and Liz and then with other friends, Beth and Jeff. At 2, I went to do what I had really come to do (although getting to hang out with friends is a nice part of it!): train people in how to start their own business!

I was asked by Dejana (with her husband, my good friend Mario below) to come and train using the program that I learnt this summer from Laura: They work for LERC in Zenica, an NGO with whom we have a joint sponsor (ie we both have projects that are sponsored by the same organisation: Dorcas Aid International) and because of this we have been doing some seminars and joint activities together. This is another opportunity to strengthen the working relationship between our organisations.The program is a game which is played with three teams competing against each other. Here I am with one of the teams checking the quality of their product (part of the process!):
I ran two modules (Friday night/Saturday morning) now and the other two will be in two weeks time (yip another trip to Zenica in my near future!). In between, the participants are giving a 10KM ($8/R60) loan so they can start their own business. Below are one of the teams in the game with Djemka (right) who also works for LERC.
It was really good to be able to train with this material as it really teaches through experiential learning and it is fun seeing the lights go on. Also, of course, the more I use it the better I will become at it. Also I am teaching the LERC people so they can eventually train by themselves (and I won't have to keep going to Zenica!)
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