Sunday, August 29, 2010

The new Finns have arrived!!!

Ok, so they arrived last weekend, but I have been waiting to get a photo of them to put on my blog - which I haven't yet...oh well. There are two new Finnish families now working with us here in Banja Luka: the Kaakinens, Rami and Katja Marja with four girls, and the Hartikainens, Jukka and Heidi with a girl and a boy. Jukka is actually the teacher for the older 3 Kaakinen girls, while Rami is taking over Miika's job.

We had Rami and Katja Marja and their four girls over last night and we had a lovely time with them - especially with little Elina, who is 5, and the most social of them all. And when I broke out the plasticine, that it when things got really fun! I love how all ages love to play with plasticine... and I also love having an excuse to play with it :-)

It is a bit hard as the girls don't know English that well and so communication with my few words of Finnish wasn't really happening... although I didn't realise how much I have picked up of Finnish through my interactions with my previous Finnish colleagues until now!

Tonight Jukka and Heidi came with their two children - but as they are 4 and 18 months, they were about as much work as the 4 Kaakinen children :-) But we enjoyed our time with them, and eventually the kids even warmed up a bit and by the time they left we were all firm friends...

With them coming it has really sunk in that our old Finnish colleagues, the Kurkkios and Lea, are not returning (well Miika is here now and two more times to help with Rami's orientation to his job, but that is that), and that has been hard. But despite us missing our old friends, we look forward to forming friendships with our new Finnish colleagues... and I will post photos when I get the chance!

Friday, August 27, 2010

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck...

At this time of year everyone who is not on the old communist system of city-wide heat has to get wood cut for their wood-burning stoves. Our neighbourhood is not on the "Toplana" (or heating company)'s grid and so everyone has these lovely piles of wood in various stages of cutting up: 
 They start as logs, delivered in big trucks in square metre batches:
 Then you have to get the guys with the saw to come and cut up the logs into smaller pieces:

Then chop or "cut up" (using another hydraulic machine) the small pieces into bits that can go into the furnace:
Then it is left to dry outside (covering it from the rain when it rains) until it dries enough to be put in a shed or under the balcony or wherever, ready for use in the cold winters that we have here!

To get our house through the winter, my landlady has to have at least 20 square metres of wood (she usually gets it, cuts it and dries it, in two batches of 10m2) and 3 tonnes of coal (yes, coal... urgh, hate the smell, but it is cheap, works well and is widely used... our neighbourhood is VERY smoggy in the wintertime and everything is covered over in soot...) So, if that is just for our house, I guess a Bosnian woodchuck chucks a LOT of wood!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Let's Do Lunch - review for Booksneeze

Roger Troy Wilson's story of how he managed to lose 230 pounds (104kgs) and cured his food cravings after being a compulsive eater, shows others how he did it and gives his tips on how to do it yourself.

It is definitely a book for the American market, and as a South African living in Bosnia Hercegovina, it is very impractical as most of the food substitutions can only be found in America.

As the name suggests, one of his main premises is that you need to eat your main proteins at lunch time and not in the evening. Having lived in Bosnia for almost 10 years, I have adapted to their way of eating, including eating your main meal at lunch! So this is one of the things that I already do and will continue!

Another "secret" which I am able to apply, at least in summertime when fruit is cheap, is to eat fruit - at first in large quantities and then at least some every day: in order to fight craving for sweets. It was also encouraging hearing how he sought help from the Lord to lose weight, and that is another part of the program which I can and will apply!

There are loads of good recipes and even a meal plan, but unfortunately many of the ingredients can once again only be found in the USA. There are one or two which I will be trying out though!

In between selecting the book to review and receiving it in the mail from booksneeze, I found out that part of my weight problems were due to an under-active thyroid and so I also have to follow a diet more catered for thyroid problems: but I will be using some of the ideas and "hints" from this book and will see how it goes!!

More information on "let's do lunch" can be found here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Train trip to Zenica and Visoko...

On Monday, I successfully handed in my visa stuff at the police (yay!) and then Ljilja and I moved Greg (who had been here in Banja Luka for two months) out of his apartment. Ljilja then dropped us off at the station to catch the train to Zenica (Greg was going on to Sarajevo to fly out). I like going by train, but sometimes it is hot and humid and more like a sauna - and that is what it was like this time!

I went to Zenica to spend time with my friend, Tiffany, and help her with baby Evan while her husband, Sladjan, was gone on camp. Here is Evan, who is just 3 1/2 months, but looks MUCH bigger: He is such a good baby, a total cutie pie and completely stole my heart!
 I love this pic of Tiffany and Evan: Who is copying whom? :-)
We spent most of the time just hanging out, the three of us, but we did spend one day in Visoko with the Jocques, where we cooked up a Mexican feast from scratch... Awesome! Here I am looking after Evan while everyone else is busy cooking:  Love that face!
Making Tortillas from scratch - Jocelyn with Nathan's help:
While waiting for them to rise, we had a game (with empty squirt guns) with the boys: Donovan totally got into it, while in the below pic Adrian wasn't so sure...
But then he joined his brother in the "fort"!! Great fun for the boys (all 3!)
Then it was time to carry on with the tortillas: I grilled while Jocelyn and Tiffany (below, with Nathan's help) did the rolling... they were delish!!!!
And of course I didn't get any pics of all of the food when it was done, but take my word for it, it was great!!

I had a fab week just chilling with good friends, and despite even more of a sauna train ride on the way back - I still love travelling by train in this country. It has the element of surprise each time: you usually meet really interesting people, you get surprised as to where you get stuck (to wait for other trains to go past) and you hardly ever get in on time... But for 32KM (R150, $20) for a return ticket from BL to Zenica, it is the best deal going!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Bosnian temporary residence visa

As I am a volunteer, I am no longer able to get permanent residence (they changed the law 6 months before I could get it - see here for a reminder), so every year I have to reapply for my temporary residence to be able to live here. There is a list of 12-14 things (depending on the year - it pretty much changes every year) and it takes a lot of time and legwork to get it all together, but if it means I get to say, I am happy! And who knows one day I hope the law will change again and I will be able to get my "stalni" (permanent residence) or find another way to get it... who knows!

Today, I finally got all my pieces of paper (I hope!) together and thought I would show you what it all looks like: 
Ranging from doctor's certificate to proof of where I reside, to health insurance and (verified) copies of my passport... some things are quick and easy: others took over a month. Some were free, others cost a lot. Altogether this year it cost about 250KM (R1200/$170). I will take everything in on Monday morning, and hope that I do have everything as they are notorious for wanting something else even when you have everything on the list...Of course this year I found out that I am hypothyroid because of the physical I have to take for my visa: so not everything is all bad!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Hypothyroidism/Under-active Thyroid

So, about a month ago I had my annual visa physical (here as part of the visa process you have to have a doctor's certificate of fitness to work) and they once again found out that my sedimentation rate was elevated. This is an indication of inflammation somewhere in my body and mine is usually high and each year they have blamed it on something like a bladder infection or ear infection. One year I did try investigate further but it never came to anything...

So this year it was double what it was last year (and that was high) and so people started taking me seriously and I also decided that I would do whatever it took to get to the bottom of things... I went first to my doctor and she asked me what was bothering me and after sending me to do a couple of investigative tests, one specialist finally put my various symptoms together and recommended that I check out my thyroid gland. As I read up about it, the symptoms were like I was reading my medical history and so it came as no surprise this morning when the Thyroid specialist confirmed that I had a under-active thyroid or hypothyroidism.
The treatment is to take hormone replacement tablets the rest of my life, but it is a small price to pay to FINALLY figure out what all these symptoms are caused by and to get to back to normal! He already has me on the lowest dose and when my blood work comes back he will adjust the dosage. So here's to getting back to normal, whatever that is :-)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Beatrice Simion

Beatrice Simion, with YWAM Kings' Kids and one of YWAM Romania's leaders, passed away today at 7pm CET from complications after a horrific car accident that occurred on the 24th of July in Timisoara, Romania. She is pictured below with her husband Petrica, who was also injured in the accident, but is home and recovering:

Please pray not only for Petrice, but also for her two sons, Benjamin and Timothy. She is pictured below at Benjamin's wedding last year to Daniella. Both Benjamin and Daniella also serve with YWAM: (Timothy is not pictured)

She will be missed for many reasons, one of which is for her teaching: here she is teaching on Children at Risk at the Equip Workshop in Romania in April:
This is how I will remember her: working hard on 50th Celebration stuff when I was in Romania: she was the running the show in Timisoara and I was working on registration/logistics/finances for the event, so we worked really closely together. She always had a smile on her face and was so positive, even when things were threatening to fall apart: which at times they were! And every time I would approach, she would say "what is it now?", but always with that smile. I know she impacted my life positively through just working together on a conference, so you can imagine how much she has impacted people throughout her ministry and how much she will be missed.
As part of my role in the YWAM Central Communication Team, I have been involved in getting word out to other YWAMers about her condition and getting people to pray, and I really thought that she would pull through, so it has come as a shock that she didn't make it. However, I know that God has a reason for everything that He does, and His ways are so much higher than ours: so I trust that He had a reason for taken her now, but still it is so sad. Thank-you for your prayers for her family at this time.
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