Thursday, December 22, 2011

Out and about at Green Point park

I have been in Cape Town since Sunday, hanging out mostly with family... On Monday, Mom, my nephew, James, niece, Amy and I went to the lovely Green Point Park to see what it was all about.

There are lovely water features, and even a nice view of the Cape Town stadium (built for the 2010 Soccer World Cup):
There are also some lovely displays, including this one showing how the original inhabitants of the Cape, the Khoi Khoi or San people (think "bushmen"):
But the most important part is the PLAYGROUND! And it has a lot of very unusual equipment: 

And as you can see, the kids had FUN!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vlasic Mountain

We just spent two days on Vlasic Mountain about 2 hours from Banja Luka, with others from all over Bosnia attending a seminar on "Organisational Sustainability". We also got to enjoy the beautiful surroundings (but there is still no snow ;-( ):
In the hotel where we stayed there was a friendly bear in the lobby, and Ljilja and Natalija took the opportunity to have their picture taken with him: 

It is amazing how much new building has gone on since I was there in 2002 - there was maybe 2 hotels and a few cabins, now there is so many cabins all built right on top of each other - and 6 or 7 hotels! And it is getting quite well known - in fact while we were there John Travolta stopped by for lunch in one of the hotels (but we were inside in our hotel enjoying our seminar, so we missed him totally! Oh well). He was busy travelling to Sarajevo to check it out for a film he will be doing...see here for details!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Natalija is visiting!

Our friend, Natalija, from the lovely Croatian island of Hvar has finally come to visit us in Banja Luka. Ljilja and I visited her in 2007 with my friend Cath from South Africa and again last year with Dragana. She asked us whether we wanted to come again this year, and we said we wouldn't come to visit again until she paid us a visit, so we can repay her wonderful hospitality... And so, after many years of saying she will come, it is great that she has finally made it to visit us here!

Yesterday, after picking her up from the bus station, we took her to a lovely lunch at what has become our favourite restaurant to take our guests to in Banja Luka: Stara Ada. During the summer it has a beautiful garden right on the river, but even in winter it is a good bet. It has good food, at fairly reasonable prices and on Saturdays and Sundays during the day, they have live "tamburasi" -which is a local traditional music band, and creates a fantastic atmosphere. Here is Natalija and I with the great pile of meat on the "Ognjiste" plata for TWO (and after 3 of us tried valiantly we still took half of it home ;-):
Today, as I had a lot of errands to run around town, I took Natalija along for a little tour, which she enjoyed despite the mist... Kastel Fortress:
And the main Orthodox church "Christ the Saviour":
I forgot my camera, so the last two are on my phone camera- not too shabby!

Tomorrow we all three go to a seminar on Vlasic mountain (where we are hoping for some snow, but not too sure we will get it) and then we have Friday in Banja Luka, before she goes with me to Zagreb on Saturday when I leave to go to South Africa!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas is coming...

Yesterday, I was in the kitchen making "Christmas cookies" with Finnish spices sent to me be Lea Raittila, wearing a Dutch apron giving to me by the van Stuijvenbergs when they were in SA for Christmas last year, listening to Christmas music giving to me by my American friend Deb McConnell, and I realised that my Christmas experience has been influenced by so many different cultures...

Before I came to Bosnia, I was only vaguely aware of the fact that they celebrate on a completely different day, but I now also celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January along with my Serb brothers and sisters.  And of course it is no longer strange for me to have a "cold" or even "white" Christmas, whereas growing up in South Africa that was something I didn't experience until I was in my late 20s!

I have celebrated "my" Christmas with friends here over the years, and enjoy sharing some of my traditions with them. Things like Christmas crackers and silly hats... And I also try to inject some of my "African" Christmas into my life here: Here are some "Corn husk" dolls I found on sale while I was in South Africa last year, aren't they cute? Though Ljilja does say that it is still a shock every time she sees that the baby Jesus is black...
And I never want to forget that it is CHRISTmas: take away everything else and HE is all that matters. It is great to be with family or friends, sing carols, light Christmas lamps and put up a tree, but in the middle of all that, don't forget to celebrate the fact that all those years ago, HE, the LORD of LORDS and KING of KINGS, came to earth as a little baby... so that He could one day give up even His life on the cross to save me and all mankind... Joy to the world indeed!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

6 months...

I can't believe it has been 6 months since my dad passed away in June. It seems like yesterday that I was flying back to Cape Town to be with my mom and my siblings, but yes, 6 months have already passed.
 Even though we lived far apart, we were in constant contact via email and so I catch myself thinking "Oh Dad would have loved that" or "I wish I could have shared that with him". Silly emails, jokes, and even books that he would have loved. So, I have decided to do a little blog entry about some of the things I will remember my Dad by:

The first would definitely be his ability to put great captions to photographs: He also had a computer program which allowed him to add things to photos, and he LOVED to do that to any photos we would send him. Here is a photo of him as a young man, with a fish that he caught: (he was a legend among Cape Town fisherman!):

And on Ljilja and Sina's trip to Cape Town in January 2011, Dad took us on his tour of the Peninsula. Here they are on the Sea Point promenade: 
And with a few more friends (carefully added by Dad!):
 And here is another example of his photo-changing abilities - what models look like with make-up on:)

He also had a bar and a love for all things that go along with that... Here is the first bar in the house where we lived when I was born until age 5: (and by the way he did all the woodwork)

And the one in the house where we lived from my age 5 (and where Mom still lives)... it got a bit out of hand!!! ;-) (and again all the woodwork is his!)
But the main thing I will remember my Dad by are the gadgets that he brought into our lives. He loved anything gadgety, so much so that a roommate of my brother's called him "the Gadget geezer"!

One of his favourite things to do would be to find a unsuspecting person and ask them if they knew what this was:

When they finally figured it out, he would say "and you can keep it" (He used to buy them at the fleamarket for cheap, just so he could do that...). And for those who haven't figured it out: it is a device for slicing apples, and I use mine all the time! 

This next gadget was one of my Dad's favourite party tricks: After dinner he would bring out the penguin toothpick dispenser and offer the guests a toothpick. The penguin bends over and takes the toothpick out of the dispenser below... It is one of the things that I took from Cape Town to bring here so he is now sitting on my fridge here in Bosnia: 
Lastly, he gave me this nifty keylight that fits over your door key and is a led torch which you conveniently carry with you on your bunch of keys. It has come in handy on many occasions and is now a constant reminder of my dad on my set of house-keys here in Bosnia:
In talking with other people who have lost a parent already, I know that I will never stop missing him. There will always be things that remind me of him and the fact that he is no longer here. I am comforted by the fact that Mom is doing ok, and that I am going soon to South Africa to be with my family for Christmas...

Friday, December 09, 2011

English Graduations...

End of the year, and coming to the end of my English classes...
Last night, we ended the Beginner's group with a test...

Well, at least that was the plan... Actually, in these photos, they were just filling out the course evaluation: fooled you! ;-) Instead they begged me to let them write the test at the beginning of the next term (in February) as it would give them a reason to have to study until then... I saw the logic and had mercy!

And then I got a kick out of the fact that Aleksandar had a "cheat sheet" on his arm. He had written "are" and "aren't" on his arm: needless to say when we write the test next time, I will definitely be checking his arm! And hopefully he won't need a cheat sheet!
Here are some of the class with their diplomas - the pretty young girl part ;-)
Zeljka, Natasa, Nada, Jelena and Danijela:
We also have guys: two of them, both Aleksandar!
And here are some of our best students: And the most fun as well! Duska, Dragica and Sonja:
And then tonight was the end of the Conversation Class:
Here we all are discussing about "snow" with our partners: 
This was followed by their "test" talking about a topic for one minute (without practicing) everyone did well and as they didn't know it was coming until it came, it worked out well... 

And then it was time for our diplomas as well: Left with Danijela and right with Alen and Dijana. 

Afterwards, we had a little party and hung out together, which was great fun. As I mentioned already, the beginner's all want to continue with the second level in February, and I will also have another "Conversation Course" starting in March. It has been great with these two groups of people, and it will be strange not to have classes with them until next year...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Orphanage Book Club prizes...

We had the last Reading Club at the Children's Home on Monday night, and had a great time as usual. I had wanted to give them their "prizes" for reading then, but for various reasons we decided it was better to go tonight. We give them prizes in December and May to keep them interested in reading and this time we even had books to give them, which is of course, appropriate!! Tanja and I took them each a Children's Bible, which were a donation from Mission without Borders; each with a dedication written to the individual child. And as you can see from the photos, they liked their prizes very much!

We went first to Family 2 (which is 12 kids from grade 5-8) as they had all come down to the hallway and wanted their prizes: I did try to get a nice group picture, but they never work!
Giving out the prizes in family 2


Me with Stana

And then they already had to start reading!!
Maja, Dijana and Stana
Brana and Simo

And then we went to Family 1 (which is also 12 children, grade 1-4):
And again they couldn't wait to start reading:
Dragana reading to Sara
Jelena, Dragana and Mira
Mira reading aloud!
Mira with her bible
 And the last picture showing why it is difficult getting group shots! In Family 1:

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Fun Saturday...

I was supposed to be going to do Business training in another city this weekend, but it was cancelled :-( So, I suddenly had a "free" weekend! But of course I had to fill it up with people whom Ljilja and I have been meaning to have over... And Ljilja's sister, Sladjana is here visiting as well so it has been a fun Saturday for everyone: I was getting the food ready for the guests while Ljilja and Sladja went shopping...

The first guests, for lunch, were our teammates, Sanna and Miika and their two children Eni-Maria and Eelis. I forgot to get a picture of the food, but I took the opportunity to make lasagne :-) I did get some photos: Here is Ljilja playing with the kids on the floor... aw cute! 
And Sanna reading to Eelis...
Miika, in the meantime, was making a new hanging thing for our coats (if you remember Belinda in the land of OBI, I was actually trying to get all the things for this, and got most of it, but didn't manage to get the right piece of wood - Miika offered to get it and paint it and put it up, so of course we took him up on it!!!). Now we have a really nice place to hang our coats! (and we didn't invite them over just to do this, it just happened to be a convenient time for Miika to do it!):
After they left it was a quick clean up and get ready for our next guests: our other teammates David and Irena, along with our mutual friends from Zenica: Sladjan and Tiffany and their baby, Evan. I didn't get pictures of everyone: but isn't this the cutest pic of Evan eating one of my "healthy" muffins:
And then I got a pictures of him and his dad showing that they are definitely related:
Like father...
Like son!

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