Friday, June 25, 2010

The week that was...Bosnia floods... and Oak Hall visit...

With the heavy rains this past week, we have seen the worst flooding in living memory in quite a large part of Northern Bosnia (below left pic from banjalukalive). Here in Banja Luka we have seen roads give way (below right) and the main route to Celinac (the next town to the Southeast) was completely flooded, cutting them off completely. Also Derventa (a town in North Eastern Bosnia) was completely cut off from the outside for two days, which caused huge problems for transport as many of the bus routes go through there. Now it is slowly but surely getting back to "normal".

However, here in Bosnia floods cause a unique problem not found anywhere else in the world: the minefields that haven't been cleared are washed away, meaning they don't have any idea - as if they really did before - where the mines are. See this article on news24 Scary stuff!

While this rain was going on, Andy Mayo (below left with Sinisa) and our friends from Oak Hall, England arrived to spend a couple of nights with us on their way to Serbia. All 80 of them!! They had to put their tents up in the rain, but luckily it cleared up enough for them to spend the day enjoying the sights of the city before enjoying some of the World Cup Soccer fever (some of them even got into the swing of things by donning Serbian Colours: but it didn't help, we were still knocked out!)
I didn't get any pics of them while they were here, but here are some off the blog of their trip: Here in Banja Luka:

And all of them on their stop off in Zagreb on their 36 hour marathon double-decker bus drive to Banja Luka!
It was great having them here, even if it was a really short visit. We enjoy meeting new people (and seeing old friends) and Andy always brings me more (good ol' English) tea to feed my habit :-)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World cup madness even in Banja Luka...

On Friday there was a lot of celebration when Serbia won against Germany. This is a pic I took from the bus (on my way to the business training):

 {On a side note, the 3 fingers are a traditional Serb salute based on the fact that Serbs - being Orthodox - make the sign of the cross with 3 fingers, signifying the trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.}

And when South Africa won against France yesterday, I had to show my allegiance by driving around with my South African flag flying high... the fun thing is that more people actually recognise the flag now (because of this World Cup) than when I did the same thing when we won the World Cup Rugby:

Even though South Africa is not through to the next round, at least we went out in style!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

BEST Business Training in Banja Luka for Dorcas Part Two

We came back from Hvar so that on Thursday and Friday, I could finish off the Business training for our Dorcas project before teams start arriving next week. Tanja, one of our previous project families, who has finished 2 years of higher education in economics has been training (and helping out a LOT) with me in how to run this course. We are probably going to be running more courses like this in the future, so I wanted to increase our capacity (which is the point of this training: easily multiplied!)

So, on Friday I let her loose on the group and had her lead most of the training. She did a great job!!
 Love this pic!
One aspect of the business simulation that I love is the interaction people have with each other: Here in the team, while they are deciding (with Tanja's help) how many products to resell at what prices:
The interaction doesn't only happen within their teams but also between the teams: Here two teams are negotiating about price and quantity of products that they will buy/sell to each other: Sometimes these negotiations become quite heated!!!
 And then it was time for the training to end :-( One of the people summed up what all of us were thinking: "no, this can't be it, we need to get together and hang out some more..."
In between the second and third sessions, each had to do something with a 10KM ($6/R48) loan (with 1KM interest) to make as much money as possible. Most made between 20-50KM in the 2 weeks without much effort. 3 made over 150KM and the winner of the "prize" of all the 1KM "interests" from everyone was Bosko, who made 331KM reselling door frame mouldings. Here he is getting his certificate from Tanja and I:
 Zeljena and Mile (husband and wife) proudly showing off their certificates:
Those that completed the training not only received certificates, but also a business plan form, which they have until September to fill out (with a little help from me if needed) and the top 3 plans will get interest-free loans of 5000KM towards starting their business...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Holiday in Hvar...

We had to drive Lea to Split so she could fly back to Finland (much cheaper flights from there) and so a plan formed... as Split is already a 4-5 hour drive away, we could carry on to Hvar (another 2-3 hours) and have a nice holiday (Americans: vacation) with our friend, Natalija, in Stari Grad. Ljilja and I convinced Dragana to come along (not that she needed much persuasion) and I must admit that I am glad we got a nice break in before the craziness of summer begins. Here are the pics (with story) so you can see how God really blessed us with great weather and a wonderful time:

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Holiday in Hvar

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On the way there and back, I drove the part along the Croatian coast as the fines in Croatia are worse than in Bosnia, and I tend to be able to keep to the speed limit better than Ljilja :-) On the way there I got stopped just by a regular patrol (I was going the right speed!) However, on the way back, I was doing so well at keeping to the speed limits (they change every 500m so it is pretty stupid) until one point when of course I didn't for like 30seconds... and that was where the police were!!! I was caught going 73kmph in a 50 zone (so for the Americans going 43mph in a 31 zone!) and I thought this is it: all the money saved on going the long way around will now go into paying the fine... but I hadn't reckoned on Ljilja's powers of persuasion...

I mean, I keep getting fined and she has yet to pay ANY fine. She gets stopped a LOT, like 4-5 times a year... and she gets out of the fines every single time... she is unbelievable. She got out of the car with me and asked if she could come with me (as of course I am a foreigner and don't know how to speak)... She batted her eyelids and told them how I stuck to the limits and really tried to obey the law and yet every time I would be the one who was caught and always got fined.

The fine was 500Kuna (85$/R650) and we didn't have it in any currency. So they said "what are we going to do now": and Ljilja says "well either we can go into town and get it out of the bank or, well, you can simply let us go."  They weakened: "do you have at least 300Kuna (50$/R390) for the minimum fine?" and Ljilja said "no we don't, all we have are credit cards. We don't have any money because we were a week on Hvar and spent it all already in your lovely country." The one looks at the other and says "so what are we going to do?". Now we know we have them: Ljilja's smile and batting eyelids are doing the trick... so, when they say "ok, you look honest and nice, we will just let you go" we aren't that surprised... Ljilja's luck with police finally works for me too! (and we gave them a chocolate as a thank-you before driving off happily into the sunset...)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Danas nam je divan dan! (today is a wonderful day!)

I had a great birthday yesterday: with wishes coming from all over the world, via sms, email, skype and of course facebook. Way to feel loved!!

I also had some friends over in the evening... but I of course forgot to get any photos, so only have this one of the cake and Boki leading the singing (which his mom got of us): He insisted on singing the local "Happy Birthday" song which is NOT to the tune of "Happy Birthday to you" and translates to "Today is a wonderful day" (I like it better actually!).
He also managed to figure out why I only had 9 candles on my "cake" (which was actually "transkei mud" - a traditional South African desert made from caramel and peppermint crisp chocolate...yummy!)... See if you can figure out why there are ONLY 9!
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