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:
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