Saturday, May 29, 2010

BEST Business Training in Banja Luka for Dorcas

On Thursday and Friday evening, as part of the Dorcas project, we ran the first two parts of the BEST training in Banja Luka: Here is the group "ORAH":
 The "muski" (male) team Kukurus: 
 And the "Sampiticas" trying to figure something out... 
 So what is my role in the simulation? First I have to explain it to them:
 And facilitate correct bookkeeping procedures:
 And sum up at the end: 
I also explain different economic concepts. Here I am on Friday, explaining "supply and demand":
This chart is also used in the game to determine prices for reselling, thus letting the lesson sink in deeper during the simulation:
I act as bank, seller of raw materials, buyer of finished products, etc... but my main role is to let them learn through doing: facilitating them to think through things, showing them the way to go - and even letting them make mistakes at times so they can learn through them...
And to give you an idea of what people can learn here are some of what people learnt at my last seminar: from the evaluations of the Sanski Most training:

I had a good time at the seminar and it was a pleasure to work with my group. The teachings were very clear and it wasn't hard to understand. We learned a lot on sales, calculations and savings. This seminar gave me the motivation to try and make some money. -H.A.

It was useful to learn that at every given moment, I need to plan and arrange my finances. And also that I need to know how much I paid for product and what is the minimum selling price for that product. I need to be ready for unplanned situations and I need to keep a strict record of my finances. -A.H.

I learned at the seminar some basic things on how to start up a business. Most important is that I learned how to invest money and how to get good results - so I wouldn't end up bankrupt. This seminar was very helpful and I really liked it, because I learned how I could earn a living - H.M.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Czeching us out...

Today Ljilja and I went to lunch with the four Czechs who are here visiting David, to "Czech" out what he is doing here, and see how they can help... here's hoping they can send teams and people to work long term with us!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Banja Luka from the air...

I just found these great photos from You can see more here (sorry for the watermarks!)

This is the newly rebuilt Orthodox church downtown. It was destroyed in the Second World War and then another church was built elsewhere and this area was left as a memorial to those who died in the war. Then in the last (1992-1995) war, they started to rebuild it, and it was completed last year.
Here are the new Government (of Republic of Srpska) buildings, including the buildings of the RTRS (Radio and Television of the Republic of Srpska):
And the British people who came to visit were saying that we don't have "roundabouts" here, so I just had to drive them round the two that we have! So now they can say that they have been round a 'roundabout' in Bosnia! The below one has only been open 10 days, so this photo is very recent!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Goodbye to the Kurkkios and Lea...

As my Finnish colleagues are leaving in the next couple of weeks, we decided to have a special service and braai (barbecue) for them this Sunday. It was a bittersweet time for me during the service: we had a great time of worship, but it was a bit tainted with the knowledge that this was probably the last time we would be playing together... Here we are: Mirjam singing and Miika playing the piano:
At the end of the service, we spent some time praying for them and it was really special...

And then it was time also to celebrate something else that happened yesterday: I made a special little cake with a candle so we could celebrate with Dragana, as it was also her birthday.
She thought we had forgotten and so she was surprised and so happy that we remembered and even though it was a tiny little cake, she was very touched! Here she is while we were singing to her and about to blow out the candle :-)
Then it was time to braai/barbecue/rostilj. I love this photo of Sinisa!
And the salad making girls try not to cry from the onions:
Lea giving some words of advice - which he didn't need! He did a great job cooking enough meat for almost 50 people!
And me with Irena who came to visit from Zagreb for the weekend. (and yes we are totally pretending to be talking naturally as David hates shots of people looking at the camera!)
And lastly, Miika showing Dragan his present from David: a specially made 6-pack of 6 different kinds of energy drinks. As he is going to be driving with all their stuff back to Finland he is going to need them as it is a LONG trip! (and Miika always drinks these energy drinks when he is driving somewhere!)
We look forward to the arrival of the Kaakinens who are coming in August to carry on with the projects that Miika and Mirjam started... But we will miss them, their 4 girls and Lea a LOT!!! As Ljilja put it on her facebook status "What a lovely party we had today. It would be even better if we didn't need to say goodbye to the Kurkkio family and Lea!!!"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Hannah, Imogen and Chez, who are with the organisation "Bless" and helping out in Slavonski Brod, Croatia, came to visit us here in Banja Luka: We went out for coffee with David and Sofija after English Club and this was my attempt at a self-timer photo of us! (Chez is holding this Bulgarian flag - long story!)
Besides coming to see the beautiful Banja Luka, they are also here to see what we are mostly up to as Bless will be sending a team this summer to come and work with us, with the view to maybe working long-term with us, which is great! The team leaders for that team will be Justin and Iris who were here in 2008 with YWAM (see here for a reminder) and they were one of my favourite teams because of their leadership, so I am looking forward to working with them again!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The hazards of driving in Bosnia

While I was driving back from Sanski Most (about 80kms or an hour and a half drive from Banja Luka) this weekend, I realised that I had never shared the joys of driving in Bosnia on my blog... I have got so used to it that I forget that it is a completely different experience than most other places in the world!

One of the reasons it came to mind is that it was pouring with rain and the ruts in the road (made by the cars and trucks driving in the same place all the time) filled with water and made for really fun driving! Try imagine driving along at speed and having only one side of the car go into a rut filled with water and slow just that side down... yip, fun times! And here is the Bosnian solution to rut filled roads:
It actually took me a long while to figure out what the heck this sign was for... but then I realised: They tell you there are ruts in the road for the next 6kms, or 14kms, or whatever... Great solution!

In Bosnia, you don't ever say how far a place is away from another in kilometres (or miles for that matter), it is always by the time taken to get from one place to the other. This is indicated by the fact that Zagreb is actually further away from Banja Luka than Sarajevo. But it takes 2 and a half hours to get to Zagreb (Zagreb is in Croatia and they have lovely highways!) and 4 hours to get to Sarajevo because of the Bosnian roads!

One of my favourite quotes ever: In the Bradt travel guide for Bosnia and Hercegovina, when talking about driving in Bosnia, Tim Clancy writes "Bosnians love to pass on solid white lines, it's a common practice, especially on curves - don't fret too much, they're good at it". I can certainly vouch for that.

Another fun thing is the road signs in the Republic of Srpska are sometimes only in Cyrillic so for those who can't read the script, it is a little hard finding your way:
Now, if you don't believe me about the hazards of driving here: I found this great video that someone posted on YouTube. You don't have to watch all of it, as it is quite long, but it gives you an idea...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

BEST Business Training in Sanski Most part two

So, this weekend I went back to finish the BEST training that I started in April in Sanski Most (about an hour and a half away from Banja Luka). In the time in between, they each had to work with a loan of 10KM (about R50/$6) and see how much they could make. One lady sold sandwiches at the school, another invested in chickens that will lay eggs, another in supplies for beekeepers: so some interesting ideas. The person who made the most money resold second hand clothes (buying in town and selling in her village) and made 250KM (about R1250/$160). She got all the 1KM "interest" that people had to repay as her prize.

What did we learn at the seminar? Well, through the simulation game there is so much that can be learnt: Below I am teaching them the basics of marketing: Price, Product, Place and Promotion and how they impact on demand - in a way that they grasp the fundamentals in 3 minutes!
Other lessons include: the importance of good record-keeping:
Product diversity and pricing: Making wise choices as to how many products to buy for what price:
 Actual production (we make "hats"):
 And Quality control: Halid is testing the product he is buying from another group:
And all the while we have so much fun while playing the simulation game that people don't even realise how much they are learning... and yet they are! I really enjoy using this training as I see that people "get it" and learn a lot of good stuff, in a fun way, in a relatively short space of time!

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Today is Đurđevdan (St George's Day). It is one of the bigger "Slavas" celebrated by the Serb Orthodox people. A slava is a celebration of the family's patron saint. Each Serb Orthodox family has a patron saint and they celebrate that Saint's day as their "slava". We were supposed to go to celebrate with our friends Damjan and Tanja and their family today, but Ljilja and I both have some lovely tummy bug, so we didn't go :-(

Here the celebrations actually last up to 3 days and so we will be going to the third day of the celebrations at Dragana's on Saturday. This will be my 6th year that I will be going to Dragana's family's slava. Hers was the first slava that I went to way back in 2005! And here the tradition is: if you are invited once to a slava, you are ALWAYS invited :-)

So what is a slava?? Here is a little bit about what happens: To start the celebration, the "slavski kolač" (celebration cake/bread) is broken and wine is spilled over it: to symbolise Jesus' sacrifice on the cross:
The Saint's day candle on the table burns throughout the celebration. It represents the light of the world (Jesus) driving out the forces of darkness.

Another tradition is "Slavsko Žito" or "Celebration Wheat" which is sweetened wheat berries. It is a symbol of sacrifice of thanks to God for the fruits of the earth given to us:

But mostly the celebration just involves lots of food (and drink), usually starting with home made soup, then sarma (stuffed cabbage), followed by pita (pie) and roasted meat and homemade cheese. This is all finished off with cakes (usually a lot of different kinds of small cakes):
As you can imagine it takes a lot of time and effort in order to celebrate a slava (especially over 3 days!). And unfortunately a lot of the time the actual reason for the celebration is forgotten in the midst of all the preparation. Also the original meanings for the symbols become forgotten over time. And truth be told it has become an excuse to eat and drink a lot. I think that St George would probably be quite saddened by some of the ways that people celebrate his day! It would be great if people would remember the real reason for the slavas and why we celebrate the saints: because they were people who followed God with all their heart: and we need to follow their example...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Czech night

David has been doing a wonderful job of hosting a team of 10 people from a church in Prague who came for 5 days to be with us here in Banja Luka. To end off their time, they had a Czech night (instead of our normal English Club). Here are Jana and David setting out some of the food. One thing I know about Czech people is that food is very important to them: they served us not only this spread, but also goulash, potato pancakes and some sort of fried (and yummy) bread. They really did a great job on the food!
 Here are 9 of the 10 team members: Marushka is in the middle introducing herself. She came a couple of months ago to visit as well and I will remember her by the fact that she learnt to say "lijepa si" (you are pretty) and used it a lot! So cute!
The team not only presented Czech culture in a very funny and engaging way:
 They also shared some songs with us, even singing one in Serbian:
And they also told us about some what they believe: with David doing a great job of translating from Czech to Serbian:
Here is a pic of the crowd that came along: People from English Club, table tennis, floorball, and from the team inviting them to come during the 4 days they have been here:

I didn't get a picture of the quiz that was held at the end (which Noomi, Miika's daughter won after guessing correctly the four countries that surround the Czech Republic). And I didn't get a picture of the "hanging out" that happened afterwards along with all that fooooood!! Judging by the fact that people stayed a long time after the "official" program finished to hang out and eat, I think it was a successful event! 

Saturday, May 01, 2010


One of the things that I really don't like is saying goodbye. I think that am a pretty flexible person and can deal with a lot of changes, but it is still not easy. And this year we will be saying goodbye to one Finnish family (Miika and Mirjam: right below) and saying hello to another: Rami and Kata Maria who are here right now to check us out (left below). The funny part is both families have 4 girls, so now everyone will think that all Finns have lots of girls!

The Kurkkios have been here for 5 years, and working with our team for over 3, and it will be quite hard to see them go. But we look forward to working with our new teammates, and getting to know them! The Kurkkios are leaving in June and the new family will arrive in August along with a new teacher for their kids to replace Lea (below) who has been faithfully teaching the Kurkkio girls for 3 years.
I love this photo of Lea, as it captures her so well! I know that June is going to be hard, saying goodbye to all of them! If I were to count the amount of goodbyes that I have said since I moved to Bosnia, it would probably astound even me: you would think you would get used to it. But it is probably a good thing that my heart still grieves to see people go, and that I haven't hardened my heart through the constant goodbyes... But still it is not easy. I wish things didn't have to change: but I believe that God knows what He is doing and He is one thing in my life that doesn't ever change!
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