Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Finns are here...

A team of 26 Finns have arrived to help us with a camp for our sponsorship children. We leave tomorrow for 4 days of camp - 80 of us altogether! I will report on that when we get back!

They will also be doing other things while they are here, including a Finnish Cultural night at the Ihtus Centre on Friday night. Tonight we went to the big park and the team did some dances and dramas, and then handed out flyers advertising the Finnish Cultural night:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Taste of Australia...

Elisabeth is with us from Melbourne, Australia, for 10 days. She was coming for a friend's wedding in Switzerland and as she was already coming so far decided to stay on and travel a bit. She had always wanted to see Bosnia, so she found me online and asked if we could use her help...and so here she is! One of the things we had her do is make "heaps" of food (with me helping a little bit!) and have a "Taste of Australia" night at the Ihtus Centre.

With a little bit of ingenuity and blue balloons and printed out flags, we even managed to make things quite festive: Here she is before everyone arrived!
We started off with some "pinwheel pizzas" and "sausage rolls" and just hanging out...
This was followed by a fun Australian "musical statues" type game. We don't have any photos of that: which is probably just as well as you had to make poses of different Australian animals (like Wombat, Kangaroo, Crocodile, etc) and so it was very fun, but not really wanting to embarrass people for posterity on my blog :-)

After the game we got into groups and had a quiz on Aussie slang (do you know what a "chook" is for instance?) and geography... (what is the population of Australia?)
The last question was "What dessert is made out of meringue, cream and fruit?" and the options were "Cream Fruit pie", "Pavlova" and "Kasaloopa" and only one team got it right - the others thought it was "Kasaloopa" (which is something I made up for that purpose, but now inventive Liz wants to make a desert to go with the name ;-) )

And then we got to watch her finishing off the PAVLOVA...
 And we all enjoyed it very much:)
Ljilja with Maks and his mom, Natasha
Alen enjoying the "Pav"

Friday, July 22, 2011

Visa Extension Application = DONE!

This morning I went and handed in all the papers needed to extend my visa (at least I hope so - they said they would call if I need to bring anything else!!) . Last year I took a picture of all the papers involved: which you can see here. I got away with "only" paying 160KM (R800 or $120) in total this year as I didn't have to do some of the medical tests (HIV test and chest x-ray as I did them last year) and they don't make you certify all the copies of everything anymore...

One fun story from this year happened when I went to get my doctor's check. The nurse filling out the form asked me "what is your date of birth" and I said "3.6.1974" and she wrote down "3.6.1984"!!!! What a nice compliment! And actually that is about how old I feel, so she wasn't too far wrong :-) But I think she had a problem with her hearing as she wrote my dad's name as "Roland" not "Ronald"... ok, here 'Ronald' is unusual, but still!  

(why do they need my dad's name you ask? It is because here on forms they write "your name (your dad's name) your surname" like "Jelena (Milan) Grbic" so you know which "Jelena Grbic" it is...)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

40 days

Today it is 40 days since my father passed away. Here in this part of the world, they have a special ceremony on the 40th day (or the nearest Saturday). The tradition is based partly on the belief that the spirit of the person remains on this earth for 40 days and then goes to heaven or hell on the 40th day. They base this on the fact that Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after his death. Not that I believe this. Jesus said to the thief beside him on the cross "tonight you will be with me in paradise", and if the spirit goes around for another 40 days, why would he say that...

That said, I think it is lovely tradition to have a special marking of the 40th day. It shows that time has passed, but the person hasn't been forgotten. Life is starting to get back to normal, but it will never be the same again without that person.
That is me on the "throne", with my whole family in our "porter pool" in 1974/5
Here, showing respect to the dead and to their families is quite a big thing. One of my first sentences that I learnt was "primi moje saučešće" (accept my condolences) because even if it is an aunt or a second cousin, people here say this to the family members and if it is a close family member even more so... Another friend whom I hadn't seen yet said it to me again today and even though it is hard, it is nice to have people acknowledge his passing.

Even though I am far away from my family, I still feel the loss of my Dad. He was a constant in my life until now. My friends keep telling me to stop talking about him in the present tense... And I keep thinking "oh Dad would like that...I can send an email with that in..." and then it hits me again. He is no longer with us.

And now as I write this blog post to mark the 40th day, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support and prayers for me and my family during this hard time...It means a lot.

Monday, July 18, 2011

European Championship in Kayak and Canoe

This past week we had the European Championship in Kayak and Canoe in the "Kanjon" outside Banja Luka, this is the same place where some of the World Rafting Championships were held in 2009. Here is pic of the river during the competition (thanks to Mara from whom I "borrowed" the photos!) 
Some of our friends are part of the Bosnian women's rafting team and they asked if some of the Serbian rafting team would be able to stay over at our house. They weren't taking part, just coming to meet up with people in the rafting/kayak/canoe world. Everything was so booked up in Banja Luka as there were over 1000 people taking part or coming to watch. The four girls stayed over on Wednesday night and then went and stayed nearer the competition, but didn't have a place to stay last night, so came to stay over here again. It was just lucky that Ljilja is in Finland so that we had space for all of them... They are so sweet and now I have four places to stay in Belgrade!
Mara, Mila, me, Mirna, Milica and Suza at the opening ceremony/concert
Yesterday, I went with Mirna (who is one of the Bosnian rafting team) and some others to try and see some of the competition, but it finished early, so I missed it! But not to worry, we hung out at the river and made a day of it anyway... and it was actually maybe nicer, getting to relax and hang out and have a great afternoon with fun people!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Americans are here...

My colleagues, David and Eliska, are hosting a team of four students from the US at the moment. They are here for a month, but I missed the first two weeks of their stay. On Friday they had a American Evening at Ihtus. I didn't get a picture of the Jeopardy quiz that happened (which my cool team happened to win!) but I did get a couple of pics of the dancing that happened after that... See if you can figure out what each of the dances are...

Then we were treated to the American National Anthem by Scott. He has a really amazing voice and I must admit that I even teared up a bit and it isn't even my Anthem! 
While they have been here they have been having English Conversation Classes with students and will be helping on a camp near Sarajevo starting on Saturday. Yesterday, I took over the "facilitating" of the classes from the previous teacher, Deron, who had to return to Sarajevo to prepare for the camp. It is a great group of American and Bosnian students and it will be fun working with them this week!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

One lovely blog

My friend Nicole gave me this lovely award a couple of weeks ago on her blog. Thanks Nicole! It is lovely to be appreciated...And I really appreciate your and Graeme's friendship over the years. It was great to see you 2 weeks ago in Cape Town, despite the circumstances. And who will forget the lovely trip you had to visit me here in Bosnia with 9 month old, Janel, in 2006

Now in order to participate in this, I have to
1) Choose five other people who deserve it and pass the awards along
2) Regale you all with seven random facts about me
3) Let the people that I give the awards to know
4) Thank the person who gave me the award (done!)

So, 5 other people: My friend Shilo in the US, who is usually in Paraguay, but is back in the US on medical leave; Miranda usually in SA, but returned recently for a year in the UK; Barbara who is from the UK, but is working in Spain; my friend Taryn in South Africa, who writes wonderfully about her lovely family and amongst other things her homeschooling endeavours and Bronwen a new transplant from SA in Holland. So, a wide varied bunch of people and places, but all of them writing "lovely blogs" worthy of this award! 

Now, seven random facts about me: 
1) I just defrosted the freezer because it is 38°C (100°F) outside today and I figured it would cool me down. And it did! And it REALLY needed doing, so am glad I had the motivation to get it done to cool me down ;-) What you do when you don't have air-con!

2) As you will know if you read my blog, I recently went back to South Africa as my father passed away. It was the first time I was in South Africa in winter since 2000 as I usually go in summer (which is winter here). It was fun to enjoy a few lovely winter's days: clear, crisp, windless... beautiful. It wasn't as fun 'enjoying' the storms that came through and the cold without heating, but I guess the good made up for the bad! 

3) I play the guitar, having taught myself in high school. I also play the piano (a lot less well) - after a couple of years of lessons in primary school.

4) I am reading a great book right now called "God knows my name" by Beth Redman (wife of Matt) who wrote "Blessed be your name" with Matt. And right now I am enjoying that song as well: It is true that in the good times and the bad, the best thing to do is to bless the Lord. During sad times, looking inward makes you pity yourself, looking upwards means you have hope that things will get better and gets the focus off of yourself... 

5) I have been playing scrabble over the internet with my friend, Nils, in South Africa, since 1999. We used to do it by email, but then the program we used got to old and we couldn't use it. Now we play it on Facebook.

6) I am one quarter Polish - my mom's dad was from Poland and he and my gran travelled to South Africa from England (where they met during the Second World War) with my 3-year-old mom in 1949. I wonder if my success in learning this Slavic language is because somewhere my brain is wired in the right way? Who knows??

7) I love butternut. It is one of the things I miss from South Africa. So, the past few years I have had some of my friends grow it into their gardens for me (I would do it myself, but I think my landlady would have a conniption!).

Ok, folks that's it... hope you enjoyed this One Lovely Blog post... 

Friday, July 08, 2011

Booksneeze review: The Seraph Seal

"The Seraph Seal" by Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner is one of the few books from Booksneeze that I haven't enjoyed at all. I do have to confess that I don't really like end times books in general and so this one was no exception. I think I was expecting it to be an easier read, but there were a lot of places and people involved and it was just really hard work to read it. And it was just too long... after trying really hard, I must admit I got bored about half-way through and didn't even make it to the end. I know people who like end time books will probably love it, but it really wasn't my scene at all.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Back in Banja Luka

I can’t believe I am already back in Banja Luka. These last two and a half weeks have passed by in a whir of activity. It was so good to be with my family during this time. We were able to grieve and laugh and remember together. Dad’s Memorial service was memorable: despite the sadness and the obvious loss that we all feel in our lives, it was a celebration of all that he was and the legacy that will live on in all of us.

My Dad had an extensive collection of beer mugs – over 200 of them. So, we decided to distribute them to people at the funeral. It took some aback, but most realised that it was great to be able to leave with a reminder: and for us, it was a good way to get them to people who would appreciate them.
My brother, Kevin, did a fantastic job with the eulogy. He wasn’t able to get through it without choking up with emotions, but I think that made it even more special. Here are some of my favourite parts:

“My Dad taught me that in order to survive in life you need to have a sense of humour. It’s one of the earliest pieces of fatherly advice I can even remember him telling me. And he was right. He had the best sense of humour of anyone I have ever met.  I think if you had to pick one defining characteristic about Ron Chaplin, his sense of humour would be it.  Whether it was the singing fish, the endless jokes, the silly toys he collected, or those joke emails he would spend hours putting together, dad always like to make people laugh.  Nearly everyone that has written to us about dad in the last few weeks has mentioned his jovial nature, his sense of humour, and his fun attitude to life.  He always enjoyed himself, but more important than that, he liked to make other people laugh.  It was one of his greatest pleasures in life to entertain someone with a funny story, a new gizmo, or a funny movie. He never took himself, or life too seriously.

He taught me that many of the greatest pleasures in life are the simple things.  Having a cold ginger beer after mowing the lawn. Jumping in the pool after you had finished cleaning it. Walking beside the ocean and watching the waves crash. Catching a fish. Finishing a crossword puzzle. Eating an ice cream cone after supper. Hiking in the mountains and finding a good walking stick. Finding a treasure at the flea market. Fixing a broken toy. Having a nap on the garden bench.  Winning the feet-first swimming race. Some of my happiest memories of my dad are of him just soaking up one of the simple pleasures of life.

He taught me to be hospitable, as any visitor to our house would know.  Over the years he and my mom hosted hundreds of guests at their house.  Starting with the fantastic birthday parties we had as kids, to the youth group events we had at our house with hundreds of teenagers.  My dad was always excited to have people over enjoying our house and as kids, ours was always the fun house that people wanted to come over and hang out at.  As our family became more international, we had a steady stream of visitors to our house, from all over the world.  My parents have always been such generous and hospitable hosts, and my Dad loved to take visitors all over Cape Town, on his “Ron Chaplin tours”.  He was so proud to show people around and take them to all his favourite places in Cape Town.

He taught me that love is not just something you say, it is something you do. He constantly showed his love for us by all of the things he would do for us.  He was not a man of many words when it come to love, but through his actions he more than told us how much he loved us.

Dad, we will all miss you now that you are gone.  Thank you for everything you taught us through your life, whether you meant to or not.  You lived life to the fullest, and were a great example to us in many ways.  You will be remembered fondly, happily, often and always with much laughter.”

I think that sums up my Dad really well...

I mostly spent time with my family, but did manage to see a few friends. Including some school friends – I realised that we hadn’t got together, the 4 of us, in about 20 years. Scary.
Hel, Bel, Mel and Tink aka Helen, Belinda, Melinda and Justine (and Justine's daughter, Kai)
It was fantastic to see them and catch up (even with their - between them - 6 children!). I also realised through their recollections how unusual the situation was that I grew up in. For me it was normal that Mom and Dad were always home and our house was always always the one to whom people came and how available they were for lifting or whatever.  I realise now that isn’t necessarily the norm for everyone. I think I understood for the first time how special my parents made my growing up and how privileged I was then.

It was so good that we were all able to be there for Mom and help her with a LOT of stuff that needed to be done or decided. It is hard now not being there, but I know that she will be fine. She has already booked tickets to come visit us children in August and September. And now I will try to figure out how to get back to my life here, while still processing my Dad's passing.
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