Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Opening a bank account...

After 7 years of living here without a bank account of my own, this year I needed one. I have a credit card from South Africa and get my money out that way, so I never needed one before. And now I even have two!

In order to open a bank account, I first had to register with the Tax Office and get a "JIB" or special unique number for me (kind of like an identity number). This luckily wasn't too hard, but required filling out a form and having a certified copy of my passport. At the bank I also had to fill out a form and also have a certified copy of my passport. (which was a bit of a bummer because I could have certified two copies at once if I had known. Oh well). Luckily the bank people were very friendly and I managed to get the original bank account etc sorted out quite easily.

Now, I needed to get a bank account in Euros so people can send into that account, and so went today to go sort that out. Again I needed the certified copy of my passport... once I had that, I really caused some problems! It was the bank worker's last day on the job, and he was training someone else and the two of them couldn't figure out what was going on on their system, so they had to phone for help. He even said that I was the first foreigner opening that kind of bank account that he had had in 18 months of working in that position!

It got me thinking, I tend to make problems for banks: it started in childhood when my dad wanted to open a savings account for us children which had a Autobank (ATM) card. The banks in those days had no provision for children to get those kind of cards... But, my dad insisted and we were the first children to get that kind of card! And now the banks in South Africa (and I guess elsewhere in the world) actually have special bank accounts targeted at children!!

I also was the first Std Bank customer to have a credit card linked to a E-plan account (the lowest form of account). They hadn't made provision for people who had a credit card (which I got while I was working and had more money and then needed for traveling) to only have a simple E-plan account (the cheapest option!). But boy did it cause headaches!

In the end they managed to get the bank account sorted out, and I am now the proud owner of not one, but two bank accounts in Bosnia!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It is HOT!

So, what has been going on in Banja Luka the last little while? My BIG news is that I got my "rjesenje" or 'approval' which means my visa was renewed for another year! YAY!

In other news, it has been hot here and will continue to be so for the next week or so... For Americans: the temps are all over 100°F except for, fun, fun!
Otherwise nothing much else to report - hanging out at EKC Ihtus (we are open 4 days a week), keeping myself out of mischief (and the heat!) with a LOT of admin stuff: setting up things for the coming busy season which starts in September... so busy, but nothing really blog-worthy!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Booksneeze Review: Life Everlasting by Robert Whitlow

This is a legal thriller set in South Carolina. Baxter Richardson lies in a coma, after falling from a waterfall, his wife, Rena, faithfully by his side: but there is more to this story. Ted Morgan, the local music minister, plays for Baxter, hoping that the music will help bring healing. He finds that sharing the gift that God has given him increases his own faith as he sees God using the music to touch Baxter.

Once Baxter starts waking up, Rena's difficulties start as she is accused of pushing Baxter off the cliff. Alexia Lindale is representing Rena and finds herself falling in love with Ted...

I enjoyed the story which had many twists and turns, but also intertwined were hints of the "Life Everlasting". I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good tale with lots of twists, legal intrigue and love!

I received this book free from, but the opinion is my own.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Banja Luka walking tour...

Last night I walked home from the IHTUS Centre and happened to have my camera with me, so I decided to take pics of Banja Luka on my way home, and show you all a little bit of this wonderful city! Here is the IHTUS Centre to start:
And a picture taken from the same spot so you can see how close we are to the river ;-)
And again from the same spot, showing a typical Banja Luka sight: the 'dajak' (or 'punt'): And just like in English the 'dajak' refers to the pole and not the boat! I was just lucky that at the moment I was taking photos this man happened to punt by!!
As I walked over the bridge into town, and see this new Orthodox church still being completed, but almost done...
The next sight is the 'Kastel' Fortress: so beautiful!

And then I discovered that they have put signage up at Safikada's 'grave':
Here is the legend in English:
Up the street and to the reconstruction site of the 400 year old Ferhadija Mosque which was blown up during the 1992-1995 war, but is being faithfully reconstructed using as far as possible the original stones.

And then onto the main road and past our tourist information office: proof that we have quite a lot of tourists ;-)
I like this shot - Boska (our newly refurbished shopping mall) and one of the better city buses...
And taken from the same spot in the other direction - the Music Pavilion and the lovely Park dedicated to the poet "Petar Kocic".
On the Boska side of the road: the 'krivi sat' ('crooked clock') which commemorates the 1969 earthquake which destroyed much of Banja Luka and killed 15 people. There were a couple of quakes, but the biggest one took place at 9.11 in the morning on the 27 of October 1969.
And then from the same spot in the other direction is "Gospodka Ulica" or "Lord's street". It is a walking street only and is always full of people walking - especially in the evening!
Halfway down Gospodska is the newly rebuilt Orthodox Church (opened in 2006). The church that was here before was destroyed in the II World War by the Germans.
To the left is the Municipal building (City Hall):
And to the right is the "Banski Dvor" (Mayor's Palace) which is now a Cultural Centre:
Across from the Banski Dvor is the Presidential Palace:
And on the other side of the main road is the memorial to fallen II World War soldiers. The sign says "Glory to the fallen soldiers, for the freedom of the fatherland, for brotherhood and a better life for our peoples": Good Communist propaganda: The motto of Yugoslavia "Brotherhood, Unity" brought all the different peoples together as one nation. Only with the breakdown of Communism did the nation completely fall apart and the fighting that happened during the II World War amongst the people reignited!
As we continue down the main road, we see another little city park:
And the National Theatre of the Republic of Srpska:
And the Catholic Cathedral:
And finally, the new Government Buildings, finished in 2008: very fancy shmancy...don't ask how much they cost, my mind doesn't comprehend the figures... but the idea is to build a business park behind and attract businesses to the region thereby growing the economy: but unfortunately the world recession started just after these were finished, so not sure what is going to happen now!
And then to end off, one of my favourite signs: BEWARE OF  EXPLODING CHILDREN!! 
I hope you enjoyed my little tour of Banja Luka!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Creative Workshop at the Children's Home

The children at the Home are now all back from Italy or the sea and don't have much to do to keep them busy. So, we took some materials and held a little workshop for the younger kids: Here are half of them - sitting so nicely (well for now!) and doing what??
They were making fish out of tissue paper!! And I learnt a new word "krljušt" - now you try and pronounce that! It needs a couple more vowels in there somewhere... It means "fish scale" and that is what we were making with the tissue paper!

And if you can't do it yourself, there is always a helping hand:
Eliska helping Luka
Tanja helping Danijela
 Showing our finished results: Every fish completely different!
Dijana and Dragana:
We then made butterflies using our hands for the wings... And so happy with the results...



Tuesday, August 09, 2011


I was walking in my neighbourhood the other day and spotted a lover's heart and then realised that it made sense in Latin script as "CABO and AHA". For those of you who haven't guessed yet, this is actually "SAVO and ANA" in the Cyrillic script, which makes more sense...

I still remember when I saw signs saying "PECTOPAH" and thought that was just a Bosnian word I hadn't learnt yet... it was a while before I realised that it was "RESTORAN" in Cyrillic! It is more tricky when there isn't an obvious "Cyrillic" letter like "Ш" оr "Ж" in the word. So, my colleagues in Zenica when visiting Banja Luka for the first time were wondering where "CAPAJEBO" was... (Sarajevo!)

Luckily I do ok in Cyrillic- I can read it, but just not majorly fast, like at a 2nd or 3rd grade level! I still have to spell out letter by letter at times. I have been reading with the 2nd graders in the Book Club at the orphanage, so I know that I am at least a little better than them!! ;-)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Finn's last day...

In the morning, while the rest of the team were treating the camp volunteers to back-rubs and hand and foot massages, I took the younger members to the orphanage. They did a half an hour "presentation" with dances, and dramas. The kids really enjoyed it:

We followed that up with games outside with the bigger kids and indoor crafts for the younger ones. I was so busy translating inside for them that I didn't manage to get any pictures of the activities!! The kids really enjoyed themselves, as did the volunteers. The Finns also left me some more craft materials so we can go next week with local volunteers and have a craft time with the kids again. It is still school holidays for another month and now that they are back from Italy (they go there for a month through another organisation) they have nothing going on and get bored easily, so it is a great time for us to go and give them something to do...

In the evening we held a "Finnish Cultural night" at the Ihtus Centre. Here is the team singing a traditional Finnish song to start off the evening:
They did other dances and talked outside about cultural stuff before we headed indoors for a slideshow on Finland. I learnt a lot of new things about this country! Here is Timo with Ljilja translating for him:
 And everyone listening very carefully! 
We then returned outside for Finnish food: which included "salmiakki" - which they can keep in Finland as far as I am concerned ;-) It is salty liquorice for those who don't know!! Luckily they also have Finnish pancakes with Finnish jam, which was delicious, so that made up for the salmiakki!

They then treated us to a very traditional Finnish dance which includes them sneezing during it!:

And then a dance we could all join in...
Then it was time to say a very sad "hyvä matka" (bon voyage) to our old and new friends...
Me with Noomi, Krista, Ljilja, Kesia, Eliska and Joona
The team left very early this morning to catch their flight back to Finland, and even though they were with us only one week, they definitely left an impression on our hearts, and I think we on theirs...

Friday, August 05, 2011

Kid's Camp 2011

From 1-4 August we were at Kid's Camp with the team from Finland. The camp was held in the Bird Sanctuary/Wetlands of Bardača: here is a picture of one of the stunning sunsets and a beautiful flock of birds (and if you look carefully a ball and some campers playing in the foreground!).
There were 78 of us altogether: the team of 26 from Finland, 2 foreign (me and Eliska) and 8 local volunteers and 40 Bosnian children mostly from our Sponsorship project (the sponsored children and their siblings). The age ranged from 6 to 13 (the two kids under 8 came with their moms). We had the camp at the Natural Mathematics Faculty's facilities for fieldwork... so only the Finns were actually in tents - the rest of us got to be inside in dormitories or rooms.

Here are the Bosnian kids and the Finns thanking one of the many sponsors for their donations for the camp (Ljilja worked really hard on getting donations for the camp!!). They are standing in front of our "meeting tent" which is where we had the morning and afternoon meetings with the kids.
One of the fun things with this group of Finns is that it includes Kesia and Noomi who were here for almost 6 years with their parents, Miika and Mirjam (and sisters Jiska and Dina) and left last year to go back to Finland. Beside the fact that it is great to see them again, they can speak the local language fluently, so they were a BIG help with translation! Here are Kesia, Ljilja and Noomi:
We each had a group of children to look after and my task was made easier because unfortunately two of my girls didn't make it as they got sick. So I only had Snjezana (in the middle) and Jasmina (right) in my group. Andjela on the left was in my dorm along with 3 other girls and two more volunteers. I meant to get a group picture of us, but it didn't happen... We had a great time in our room, even having a pyjama party (with all the girls on the camp) on the last night... will have to post pics from that separately as I didn't have my camera with me! 
So, what did we do with the kids for four days? Besides having a lot of games and competitions there was lots of other fun stuff that the Finnish team organised for us... I didn't get a picture of the two trampolines - but during free time there was always a long line of kids waiting for their turn!

Here is Ljilja with little Snjeza and the "camp flag" which we made on the first day:
Here we are singing (I am leading with Rami) at the "campfire" one evening - I think this is them singing the part of the song which goes:  "say to the Lord I love you" (in Serbian of course) and making a heart sign...
Here we are singing "if I were an elephant" from the song "thank-you Lord for making me me":
We had lots of dramas: here Neven and I are acting out the Bible story of the "Good Samaritan" who helped his neighbour - I am a busy politician who has no time for the injured man...
...while Ljilja was the "Samaritan" (in our story a Roma "Gypsy") who actually stopped to help him:
We learnt a lot of new things - including how to take care of our teeth: Here is Noomi helping Katja Maaria to tell the children how to make sure they have strong and healthy teeth.
Sword fighting with BIG foam swords was a big favourite with the boys:
The food was FANTASTIC! Well done to Ankica (one of the moms who was the one responsible for the cooking) and others in the kitchen! Here is Neven with his crew eating lunch:
We also had workshops each afternoon: here is the handcraft workshop showing some of their stuff:
And the dance workshop showing us how it is done:
And last but not least... we had a fashion creation show on the last night. Competing against two of the Finns (sorry I don't have a picture!), Drazen and Ljilja had to put together a creation with what they could find: Here is what they came up with: :-)
This is just a taste of all that happened at camp - we had a phenomenal time: thanks to all who made it all happen!!!
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