Friday, September 30, 2011

Finnish night at the Emergency Room

Yesterday afternoon, Mom and I took a leisurely stroll via "Slavica's" ice cream (the best ice cream in town!) to Ihtus, so that I could teach my Beginner's English Class. I had a great class, and then we were waiting for Ljilja to finish her shift at the Ihtus cafe so that we could go home at 9. While I was in class little Eelis, the two year old son of Sanna and Miika (who are Finns working with us here for a year) had thrown up on himself and his pram outside.

They all went home, but at 8pm Ljilja gets a phone-call from Sanna and Miika to say that Eelis was very very cold. Not a fever, but hypothermia! Not good. So Ljilja went off with them to the Emergency Room while Mom, Laura (a Finnish volunteer with us for 4 months) and I cleaned up the cafe and waited to see what would happen...

I cleaned the floor, and Laura went outside to get the cushions in and when she came back she slid on the still-wet floor and stood funny on her foot... At first I thought oh well she has just twisted her ankle it isn't anything too bad, but then unfortunately she couldn't put it back!! The end of the tibia was literally twisted out of her ankle and her ankle was stuck in the twisted position. Not good. Luckily, Rami (our Finnish colleague) was in the office and so he could take us to the Emergency Room... And little Eelis was still there with Miika and Ljilja, so it really became Finnish night at the Emergency Room!

They quickly dealt with us and sent us to the surgical hospital (around the corner) as they had to x-ray it (no x-ray in the ER) and maybe do surgery... At the same time we were taking Laura out, Miika came out with Eelis and they went by ambulance to the other main hospital (with Ljilja following in the car)! {in the end they gave him a drip and he improved almost immediately - it looks like he ate something funny, but they suspected meningitis, hence the ambulance, pretty scary.}

At the surgery department, the doctor spoke fantastic English and was wonderful with her. He did everything he could to make her comfortable while she waited for their opinion - because it looked like she would have to go under general anesthetic to move it back into place so he couldn't give her pain medicine... The good part was she hadn't eaten since lunch (other than a banana) so they could take her in straight away. He was also amazed at the injury and said that he had even written a paper about this particular injury as it happens in only about 2% of cases!

And don't forget, my mom is still with us, finding out first hand about the Banja Luka medical services!

Eelis and Miika were on his way home with Ljilja just as Laura went into surgery, so Ljilja picked me and Mom up and we went home. Later on Ljilja went back to see how Laura was doing and she was all done and they even let her come home! So at 1am Mom and I were making a bed up for her in the lounge... (she is living in her own apartment, so couldn't go back there!)

What a crazy night: and Mom got to experience first hand what my life looks like sometimes!! {luckily this was my FIRST experience of the emergency room and surgical department in Banja Luka - here's hoping I won't have to experience them again!}

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mom is here...

So, I went yesterday to get Mom (and Mary!) in Zagreb. Mom will be here for a week, Mary for a month. I am enjoying having Mom here so far!! Today, Ljilja and I took Mom to the "Stara Ada" restaurant for lunch. It has recently been refurbished and it is very beautiful and the food is good!
Afterwards Ljilja and Mom went to our hairdresser, Sanela, for haircuts. Here is Mom's new look: No crazy high hair like last time!
She is standing in front of our angel collection: Ljilja loves angels and somehow we have managed to collect over 10 of them!

And this is what Mom is up to now! A puzzle she started last time she was here, but didn't get to finish (as she was only here 3 days)... hopefully she will finish it this time!
I have lots of fun stuff planned for this between the worky bits...and puzzle doing...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Child Protection Seminar

This week we have been hosting a Fida seminar on their Child Sponsorship program and Child Protection at EKC Ihtus. We had Fida workers from Tuzla and Prijedor join us, and the seminar was run by 3 Fida staff from Finland. Sina, who is the Child Sponsorship Coordinator and our good friend (she visited me with my roommate, Ljilja, in South Africa in January) along with Päivi and Nelli who both have lots of experience with children at risk and child protection. We really learnt a lot from all 3 of them. And now we are working towards forming a proper Child Protection Policy for our organisation.

Here are most of us who were in the seminar on the last day:

It is sad that we even have to have such a policy, but nowadays it is better to be safe rather than sorry. And partly this workshop was helping us to get motivated to make such a policy, so we can protect the children in our work at the Children's Home and sponsorship project.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bookie Club...

With the start of the new school year, we started up the Book Club at the Children's Home. I know they have been missing us and this was confirmed when one of the kids came running up as we arrived and asked excitedly "are you here to have bookie club?" :-)

We have a great group of volunteers that help - including the lovely Tanja who helps a LOT (especially when I am not around). As usual we spent time with kids going through books that they had read. Tonight we drew pictures of the start, middle and end of the books they had read. Although we haven't been coming to do the book club, we have been making sure they go to the library so they can be reading... Once we got them settled down and working with them, I got some really cute pictures: Here is Tanja with Zlatko:
Suzana with little Dasa:
 And these two look made for each other! Jovana with little Gaga:
I was mostly working with the older boys (who HATE having their photo taken), so once they were done I took the opportunity to work a bit with the younger girls and have my photo taken with them... Dasa, Jelena, Mira and Danijela...
And I love this photo of Mira and Danijela - with their books!
The kids are all reading and enjoying their books... making what we do worthwhile!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Training in Prijedor...

I spent this week in Prijedor (about an hour away from Banja Luka) doing a Business Training workshop in cooperation with Humanitarian Aid Organisation "Hljeb Zivota" (Bread of Life) and the Agency for Economic Development "Preda". Here is Danko from Hljeb Zivota introducing me on the first day: (He and his wife, Ljilja, are also the proud parents to 10 lovely children - the latest, Filip, born just over two weeks ago... here is an article - in Serbian - about them and the baby's birth. I did try to get a pic of him when I was over at their house, but none of them are worth publishing...)
The participants of this BEST training were all from one of the technical high schools - and are learning how to do fine carpentry. So more working with their hands than their heads... so this training was perfect for them. They were my youngest group yet and also ALL BOYS!! But we got on okay and they definitely learnt a LOT! I am thinking this may be the age group to target in the future as it definitely hit a chord with many of them. Some of them were missing school to participate, but as one said "we are learning so much more here than we would in school".

Here is one group toasting to their success:
And my favourite group, the "wolves": They kept such good records that I stopped having to check up on them... and were very good businessmen too: getting good prices and deals.
I didn't get a good pic of the last group, so here is one of them during (tough!) negotiations with one of the other groups: This is one thing that they all learnt a LOT about... how to think on their feet and how to not make stupid decisions: one team negotiated a buying price from the other teams of 350 and then sold them on to me at 220. Yes, they went bankrupt.... but that was a GOOD lesson for everyone in how to price your products.
Here is the whole group altogether: along with Goran from Preda on the left and Danko right.
Now each group will work together to write a business plan and the best plan will get a prize...

I also enjoyed spending time outside of the training in nearby Sanski Most and Prijedor itself with the lovely people who live and work there. I unfortunately didn't get any pictures of that :-( But we did enjoy the unseasonably warm weather: it got up to 35 most days, which is really really unheard of for what should be autumn!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

40 days...

As I shared here about my Dad, there is a special ceremony and marking 40 days after the death of a loved one here. It shows time has passed, you are hopefully healing and brings to mind that person once again. It is 40 days today since my gran, Ula Zaremba, passed away - see here for the original post on her passing.
My aunt was clearing out some of her stuff and asked me what I would like for her to keep for me: the only thing that I really wanted was the letters that I had written to her in the 10 years since I was in Bosnia.  I have all her letters to me (although she hadn't written much the last 2-3 years since her sight got bad, we had been writing back and forth regularly for 6-7 years!) and I think one day I could even make a book out of the correspondence. She had a way with words and descriptions of things that made it fascinating to see into her world. I also think it would be great to have a kind of diary of what I was going through all those years... Hardly anyone writes letters anymore and email is kind of boring: so this interaction was kind of special.

Everyone keeps asking me how I am doing (and how Mom is doing): and on the whole I am doing ok. Every now and again something hits me and reminds me of the loss, but I think that will be ongoing for a while. My mom is visiting my sister right now and doing ok, and arrives in two weeks to visit me, which I am REALLY looking forward to!

Marking of the 40 days since my gran passed away also helps me put things in perspective. She (and my Dad) are gone but not forgotten. Their memory will live on in those of us left behind. Their legacy and lives will live on in us as we remember them... And we slowly, but surely, begin to heal.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Concert "Rock Against Drugs"

At EKC "IHTUS" we had a concert "Rock Against Drugs" in co-operation with local anti-drug organisation "Viktorija". Here is one of their banners: ("Say no to drugs! Choose life!")
Luka and Andreja with two of Viktorija's posters explaining the dangers of drugs:
Here is Ljilja with three of their staff: Ivan, Srdan and Tamara, and their information-stand in front of Ihtus: During the concert, Tamara said a few words about their organisation while the bands were changing over. We are very happy to work with this organisation which not only does "anti-drug" propaganda in schools, and has a advice-call centre for people who need help, but also has two communes where people can go to get off drugs.
There were 3 bands at the concert: "The High End" from Banja Luka: Contemporary Pop covers in English and the local language:
"Gilgal" which is partly English (Matt, the singer-guitarist and his wife, Rowan) and part Bosnian (the drummer, Budo) and they are all from Jajce. They sing English pop-punk with a bit of rock on the side. Covers and original songs. Extremely good band and we all enjoyed listening to them...
And last but not least, our Finnish band "The Relief" who sang a few songs for us in Finnish: Laura, Rami and Miika: Rami sang one of his original songs as did Miika, very well I might add!
There were over 70 people who came to the concert, which was less than we had hoped for, but as there was a concert at the Kastel of a famous band "Yu-grupa" we were happy with that number.
Budo is a phenomenal drummer and it was worth it just to listen to him: He did, however, attract some unwanted attention: two neighbourhood ladies came over to see what all the "noise" was about. I started talking to them about the reason for the concert and showed them around the centre. In the end they stayed and watched some of the concert, and are even going to donate some books for the library!
I did manage to get this fantastic shot of Lauri (the Fida regional coordinator) who was pretending to play along with Gilgal while they were jamming outside! (He and his wife Anne were visiting us to meet with the new Finns who have arrived to work with Fida).
It was a really great night, hanging out with old friends and contacts and making new ones, and enjoying a variety of music styles at the same time... all with the aim of promoting awareness of the dangers of drugs! Well done to Rami and Ljilja and everyone for organising a great evening!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

New Finns...Tervetuloa!

There are 5 new Finns who have joined our team. Laura on the left for 4 months and Miika, Sanna with kids Ellis and Ena-maria for at least a year. Unlike last year when we didn't do anything really official to welcome our new families, Rami helped us realise that this was quite important in Finnish culture... so we had a little party to welcome them! On the cake it says "Dobrodosli" which means "Welcome" or "Tervetuloa" in Finnish!! It is great to have them here, and we look forward to working with them!!

Outing to the Aquarium...

The Children's Home asked us to organise an outing for the pre-school kids as there are only 5 of them, and they don't get to go out like as much as the bigger kids. So, we thought of the Aquarium which is in the Science Faculty's building which happens to be right next to the BIG park so we could go there afterwards.

Here we all are (some of our volunteers brought their kids, so there were 9 children in total) before going into the "Akvarijum":
 The kids really enjoyed the variety of fish and turtles and the one SNAKE (that definitely made an impression!)
After the aquarium, we went to the park: We broke up our time into different activities. First a little snack and drink as it was HOT! And then we played the game "pass the parcel"!
eating our popcorn
Pass the parcel!
I had been given little stuffed toys to give to the Children's Home kids, and I thought that giving them to them using the game "pass the parcel" was the best idea. I made the "parcel" with different layers and each layer had a soft toy. Then the music played and they passed the parcel around until the music stopped and then they had to open one layer and get their present! They had never played it before and they LOVED it!! Soooooo cute! (And it meant each child received a toy randomly, so there was no fighting over whose was better! They were just happy with what they got! )
What have you got Miki?
And let's see what Kristina has?!
Then it was time to go on the little train at the park (they gave it to us for free!)

And then it was time to hang out some more (and have another little snack and a drink!) before heading back to the Children's Home:
Marina and Miki
Gaga with Suzana

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