Saturday, April 25, 2009

The last 10 days or so...

While I was in Sarajevo last weekend, I took this picture - I wish I could have made it even more apparent - the contrast between the ruins from the war and hope for a new future beyond - but alas I am too short... but I still think it is a great pic:
I also got to visit Sedija, my friend from Zenica: We met when I still couldn't speak the language and she put up with me and my little yellow dictionary - so it is really nice to be able to actually speak to her properly now!! She lives in Sarajevo now, but before the war was in Jajce, about an hour from Banja Luka. She fled from there as it was about to be occupied and her husband went back to get something from the house and was killed by the forces who had already arrived. And her house was completely destroyed. It has now, PTL, been completely rebuilt and she is able to live there over the summer months - so I look forward to going to visit her there this summer.

Here are some other random pictures from the last 10 days for your enjoyment:

Ljilja got a new bike (here with David who helped to pic it out): This hopefully means we will go riding together and take off the kilos that both of us have put on the last two years since we stopped riding as Ljilja's old bike broke.Home group at Sinisa and Olja's: Sinisa, Olja, Ivana, David and I. Bojan got lost on the way over as he had never been before and the others were ill. We still had a great time!
Motivation seminar for one of our projects, run by Olja: (who is a qualified Social Worker-she completed her degree last year - studying with two kids!)
Here is a pic of everyone: This seminar is about helping them how they can find work and be motivated to get out there and look for a job. Ljilja and I do the set-up and catering and hang out with the people at the breaks (and encourage Olja who does a great job of the actual lecturing!).
This last picture is just too cute not to put on here: Ljilja, David and I were over last night at Ivana's to play "Pictionary" (in Serbian) with her husband and his cousins. We had a fantastic time (especially as the girls won!!). I had actually forgotten how much I love playing pictionary and how bad I am at drawing!! We were playing and not really paying attention to Viktor who took his book of stickers and lay on the couch to look at them and then fell asleep:
Stickers are ALL the rage among kids here - wherever we go now the kids are all showing us their latest stickers... If you want to make a kid happy take them some stickers!!!

Hope you enjoyed a random look at some of the things that happened over the last 10 days or so!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This is the day that the Lord has made...

This morning, one of the verses I read was "This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." My plan for the day was to work on reports (which were due on Monday - sorry Viki!) and then in the afternoon to teach Beginner's English and run the English Club. However, as always I was open to whatever the day would bring - and I knew having that as my verse for the day that God probably had some surprises in store, so I was prepared for anything...

First, Ivana called and asked if I wanted to come over for tea. She has been going through some hard times lately and also her eldest daughter needed somehow to get to school - so to save Ivana the trip with all the children (she has four) I offered to go over for tea and then take Arna to school on the way home. We had a great time together and I was so glad that I could go - she is alway so encouraging!!

On the way over to Ivana's, Duska from the Orphanage called me to say that they were painting their rooms today. We had offered to help when it came time for that, as it is just the kids and the teachers who are painting by themselves. I did think I would get more notice, but hey!!

Anyway, we tried rallying the troops, but no one was able to until tomorrow, and so after doing some shopping for tomorrow's seminar and to take stuff to the Orphanage as snacks for the kids (Ljilja) and finishing up one report (me), Ljilja and I went over to help them out: This is the day that they Lord has made!!

We helped them figure out how to paint the living room of their section: Here I am doing the top part of the "red" with Nemanje looking on:

Ljilja did the lion's share of the painting - after the red she did the yellow:
This is the boys carrying on in their own bedroom:
One of the teachers, Srdjan, with Nemanje
Some of us with Duska (the other teacher). Slobodan (making the horns) did a lot of painting as well:
Unfortunately we could only be there for 2-3 hours as I had to go to teach English for beginners, so we only helped with the one room, but more people will hopefully go over to help tomorrow. I had a great first class with my beginners and then really enjoyed running the English Club for students. I only got home just after 9.30 having enjoyed this day that the Lord has made!! Now I am ready for bed!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

On becoming British

So, I started over a year ago to get the paperwork together and it took a lot of organising (and quite a bit of money!) but it finally came together today! I managed to get British citizenship through my mother who was born in England. I had to go through a little ceremony where I pledged allegiance to the Queen. Here I am saying the oath:
And getting my certificate from the vice-Consul Sheldon Bigsby:
And yes, the Queen was there:
And so were my friends Enisa and Jessica:All in all it has been a long process and now I will apply for the Passport (it will take about 3 weeks), I am still South African heart and soul, and have "dual citizenship" so I haven't given up my South African passport, but I will now be able to travel without having to worry about the hassles of visas. This means a LOT as I need visas for all the neighbouring countries of Bosnia... And I will get the passport in time to not have to get a visa to go to a conference in Hungary at the end of May! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Just another manic Tuesday...

I always forget how manic my Tuesdays can get, but even yesterday was more manic than most! I walked in the morning with Cindi and Lea (we have a route that takes us an hour and a quarter). Got home at 9, showered and we went to the office for our weekly team meeting (which I love, but they can go long!). After that Ljilja and I had lunch at David's (which was great - he is a really good cook). We then went shopping for stuff for Alpha and when we got home in between faxing and sending some important emails I was making brownies for Alpha (I promised that I would make them... silly me!)

At 4.30 it was then time to go to the office again for my English for Beginner's Class. We finally began the classes for our one project and to start with I gave them an Entrance placement test. As we are having two levels this year, this is to put them in the correct class. We then played a game, which can be for mixed levels: as we had people who know NOTHING to people who can speak fairly fluently. I always want to start by getting to know the students a bit, and for them to get to know me and explain that we will learn English, but also hopefully have a fun time doing it. Most of the students are mothers (or fathers) of 4 or more children, so the class is a time for them to invest not only in learning English but also for them to relax and enjoy themselves!

Here are pics of them during the test:Then we set up for the Student Alpha. This week the theme was "Why did Jesus have to die?" which I think is very appropriate for Easter!! Here are most of us: And a cute pic of Ceca with Ljilja and David: We had a great time and even though I was tired I really enjoyed the evening. But I must admit when I got home at 10.30, I went STRAIGHT to bed!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter at the Orphanage

Some of the English Club, Lea and I went tonight to the orphanage to have a special "English Club" for Easter. We took presents and Easter eggs and Lea made balloon bunnies. All in all it was a great time. A lot of chaos and shouting and "teta Belinda, teta Belinda, teta Belinda" ("aunty Belinda, aunty Belinda, aunty Belinda") and great fun games:And then balloon animals with Lea: (this is THE quietest I have ever seen these kids!!)
She only made one, because we didn't think they could wait for her to make for all of them. So she worked hard beforehand and made a whole lot in advance: here they are pictured on her couch (aren't they just sooo cute!):
And here I am with the teacher/carer Dushka. It is in her "family" that we have the club. There are 8 "families" in the home each with between 8-9 children. She is always happy to have us, and it is great having her around for crowd control. She has been there for 15 years and she really loves those children! What was also great to see (besides seeing all my old friends again) is that some of the English is actually sinking in. When we first started going no one could even say "Hello, my name is...." and now all of them can! And they all know "heads, shoulders, knees and toes" backwards!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter High Tea

Today I decided to celebrate Easter by having people over for a "High Tea" (I become officially British in five days so I figure I better start acting like a pom!) I made three things to eat and each had some symbolism to do with Easter.

Firstly, Hot cross buns- they don't have them here and so it is something I have made most Easters since I have been here, and this year was the best yet! I used my bread maker to make the dough (oh what a great that is!) and I finally figured out the best way to make the crosses! Anyway, this represents the cross and Jesus' death.

Then I heard about something called "empty tombs" from Cindi an American friend:using marshmallows and bread dough (I actually used cinnamon roll dough - again in the bread machine) . You put the dough around the marshmallow which then melts into the dough when you bake it, leaving an "empty tomb" behind - and they are quite yummy! This represents, of course, the resurrection.

The last thing I made was scones - you can't have a High tea without scones I say! I made them heart-shaped to represent the essence of Easter "For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life" (John 3:16)

Here they are pictured below on my new African tablecloth (which I got while I was in South Africa!):
Here are most of us before we dug in:
I just love this pic of all of us: Vanja, Ceca, Aleksanda and I and of course the teddy bear:
Here are Dragana and Stasha, both looking lovely!
We had a great time and it really was a great way to spend the afternoon, and as we ate to remember what Jesus did for us 2000 years ago. Next weekend it is Orthodox Easter so I will get to celebrate again!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dorcas Aid Project

One of the projects that we run through Dorcas Aid is for 30 young unemployed couples with children. We were supposed to start in February, but the Banja Luka Social Work Centre took forever to give us the list of people who will be in the project. We finally got the list this week and had a meeting today for the 20 new families (the rest of the families are kept over from previous years - this is now the 3rd year we are running this project) to tell them how it works. Here is a picture of all of them waiting for the meeting to start:The families are chosen by the Social Work Centre - so there is no chance for recriminations against us for favouritism - and are all people with at least one or more children, don't have registered employment and are in need.

As part of the project, each family is given a monthly food and hygiene package (which comes from Holland), attend a motivation course, attend business training and English classes (which is where I come in!). English will start this week and runs throughout the year. At the end of the year they write business proposals and 3 families (each year) are given a small interest-free business loan to start the business. In past years we have had a cake maker and an automechanic and a vegetable grower, amongst others, who have all been able to start a business!

We normally hand out the packages monthly and either each family comes to the office and we spend 1/2 hour-45 minutes to chat with them, or we go to their houses. However, since we were already so far behind, we decided to hand out two of the packages at the meeting this morning.

Here are some pics of some of the people with their packages from this morning:

Although it is a lot of work, I love this project because it is more than a handout, instead people are given skills and even a chance to change their lives with a small business loan!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter reflections...

Here in Banja Luka I will get to have two Easters - well sort of. I am working most of this weekend and then next weekend (when it is Orthodox Easter) I am going to be in Sarajevo swearing my allegiance to my Queen :-) But I will be back in time for the celebration service on Sunday which I am really looking forward to!

Today I was just reflecting on the fact that it is Good Friday and then I came across the following video on a friend's blog. It really just sums up everything Jesus did for us on the cross and so I thought I would share it with you as well. (It has scenes from The Passion which can be quite gory so be warned...)

Here are the lyrics:
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

I pray that you will have a blessed Easter and be reminded of the real reason we celebrate!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spring is in the air...

One of the things I guess I will never get used having grown up in a country where we don't have much of a winter (it never snows in Cape Town and it has got to below freezing in Celsius only once or twice in my lifetime) and thus never have a REAL spring, is how amazing spring really is. I mean one day everything is DEAD and just looks so sad. And literally the next day there are trees full of buds, some have even completely sprung into life, flowers everywhere and it all just looks so pretty!

And for us, unfortunately, complete spring cleaning will have to wait a couple of days, as my house is still surrounded by scaffolding and "majstori" (handymen) who put insulation and a new facade on the whole house - no small accomplishment when the house is 3 1/2 storeys high! Right now they are painting, (my landlady took 4 days to pick the colour and she still isn't happy - but now it is TOO LATE!) and should be finished in the next day or two - and then the clean up will begin!!

So, right now, the buds are budding, the birds are twittering, the sun is shining and I don't have to clean yet - yip, all is right with the world!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Vedran is the youngest "member" of the Christian Fellowship Church. Ivana gave birth before I left for South Africa, but I didn't get a chance to meet little Vedran before I left. So, today I got to meet him for the first time and he is a real charmer... Here he is with Ljilja and David - not so sure about them though:And in the next pic he is not so sure about me either really... we have decided that he is camera shy as he was smiling the rest of the time and it was only when the camera came out that he would stop smiling!!
Here is proof that he does smile - when he isn't forced to look at the camera: I really love this picture!!
We had a great lunch, a lovely time with his mom and a wonderful time playing with Vedran and his brother and two sisters: all in all a great afternoon!!

Student Alpha start party...

Last night we started the first Student Alpha in Bosnia Hercegovina with a launch party. Here are Ljilja, David and I after setting up the tables, etc: (You can see the "Alfa Romeo" car on the screen in the background - that is David's little joke: The 'Alfa' course is not about learning how to drive one of those!!) While I was in South Africa, David worked hard on producing a short movie with some of the English Club members which would be like the video shown at the launch of the Student Alpha in England. So, last night was the world premiere of this movie. Unfortunately it is too long to all be on YouTube, but David did put some of it on there - in various clips. It is in the local language with English subtitles and I think he did a great job. It is kind of like Forrest Gump: here is the link if you are interested - it is well worth a watch!

So, after watching the video which kind of tries to get people to think about what life is all about, David introduced what the Alpha course is and what it isn't...
For more information on what the Student Alpha Course is look here. It runs for the next 7 weeks and will cover themes such as "Who is Jesus?" "Why did he have to die?" etc. There is a camp at the beginning of May (which only people who have been coming regularly can attend). And as I said it is not about learning to drive an Alfa Romeo car!!

Here we are altogether:
Even though there were fewer people than we expected, we ended up hanging out for a long time - after watching another short film which David made about making the film (with outtakes and even a clip of the "revenge on the director", ie David, which the actors pulled - putting pepper in his pancake!!!). We had such a great evening that I am looking forward to the rest of the Alphas - all those who missed it didn't know what they were missing!!
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