Thursday, December 27, 2012

Camps Bay for Boxing Day

Yesterday, being Boxing Day (also a public holiday), we decided to go early to the beach. We went to an almost windless Camps Bay. Here is the back of Lion's Head:
And some lovely pictures from the beach: Amy and I went for a walk and managed to sneakily get these shots without people in them:

And just when you start to think that we had the beach to ourselves, you can get a glimpse of us (we are under the green and blue and white umbrellas in the middle) with the 12 Apostles in the background, along with some of the other people on the beach with us...
And then a shot of the whole beach to show you that we weren't the only people to have the idea to go to Camps Bay for Boxing Day: (and how sneaky we were with those peopleless photos!)
But we still managed to have a lovely time!

Fun Christmas!

Christmas in the Chaplin house consists of waiting for everyone else to arrive so we can have the present opening: Here I am with my nephew James about to open our first round...
And my brother-in-law, David, shows off his new tie (from my aunt) and Bosnian socks (from guess who:)

And then this picture from two years ago. It is of my niece, taken by my Dad at what was to be our last Christmas together... I just love it as it sums up the chaos of the present opening, as well as the peace that can be found in the midst of all of it. It is like that for me, even in the midst of all the Christmas fun I never forget the real reason for celebrating!

After present opening it is time for lunch (this year we were "just" 8): The "fire" is a DVD which my dad found somewhere in Canada I think, and it has Christmas songs that play along with it! So in little ways, Dad is still amongst us :)
This year some had crayfish (those that like it!), gammon ham, and we all had what we thought was fillet steak done on the braai (barbecue). It was only after we had all finished it that my sister's kids told us the secret: it was actually OSTRICH! So, we did have a "bird" for Christmas after all...

And then my aunt's contribution this year were these gorgeous strawberry Santas... so those of us that don't like the traditional Christmas pudding had something nice to eat for afters as well!
 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!

I thought you might enjoy the front page of the Cape Times this morning... a surfing Santa!
We are all ready for a lovely summer (despite the rain today!) Christmas... I can't decide which is better: a winter Christmas where you can do all the trimmings and bake loads of biscuits (cookies) or a summer one where you braai (barbeque) and (if you are me and don't like Christmas pudding) eat ice-cream for desert? No matter where I am, I celebrate the real reason, and enjoy the time with family (this year) or friends (other years) as it is definitely a day that needs to be celebrated in some way!

This year it was especially meaningful to me to read Max Lucado's collection of Christmas stories in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It is a great gift idea, especially for fans of his work. 

Thinking about things from different angels - "out of the box" - as I talk with my language students when we do lateral thinking, Max's stories show completely different sides to the Christmas story: like looking at the story from Angels' perspective to a story of the Inn Keeper's little son Jacob.

Made up of two parts "Christ is celebrated" and "Christ is born" the individual stories are intermingled with short snippets or bible verses, and the whole book just reminded me of why we celebrate Christmas:
Christ the Saviour is BORN.

As it is a collection of stories from amongst his other works, I had read some of them before, but reading them again in this context made them more special. But be aware that these aren't new stories.

I am just glad that I got to enjoy this book at this time of year as it really is a "heartwarming" book full of little treasures and reminders of why Christmas is so special, and why we need to celebrate it!
Merry Christmas everyone! 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Snow to sun...

I have been safely in South Africa almost 2 weeks now, but I almost didn't make it. Over half a metre of snow dumped itself on Zagreb (where I was flying out from) the day before I was supposed to be flying out. It closed down the airport and caused chaos on the highway in Croatia (2 trucks overturned), so my colleague took 6 hours to make the (usually) 2 and a half hour journey from Banja Luka.

Originally, I was planning on going by bus, but as the 6.30 bus doesn't run on Sundays, Ljilja had already offered to drive me and some dear friends had offered to come along to give me a send-off and keep her company on the way back. But now, we would have to leave REALLY early in order to make it on time for my 12.30 flight through the snow... There is a bus that leaves at 3.15 in the morning, and as we would have to leave around 4am anyway, I thought it was better to just put me on that bus than put everyone through the torture of having to drive me... and then back again in the horrible conditions. And frankly a bus just sounded safer too!

So, Ljilja took me to the bus station in the middle of the night, and even though it was over an hour late, and took an extra hour to get to Zagreb, I made it to the airport in good time and the flight took off and I made it safely all the way to South Africa. From snow to sun in 28 hours!
I have been enjoying a really great time with family and a few friends, I look forward to catching up with everyone else after the Christmas madness is over. I realised the other night at the Waterfront how funny it is to have Christmas lights on palm trees for all my friends enjoying a "White Christmas" or something akin to that... But that is Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere :) 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

One satisfied teacher...

As I wrap things up here before leaving this weekend for South Africa, I gave my English students two tests (so one at 5pm for my elementary group and one at 7pm for my beginners). And everyone passed with flying colours... It was 50% for pass and no one got less than 60%, so I am well pleased... After each group wrote the tests, we hung out a bit and enjoyed some muffins (my creations) or other treats which people brought...a nice way to end the class!

My fun elementary group: (thanks Sasa for the pic)
And my lovely beginners:
Now that everyone has passed, I will make their diplomas and give them out on Friday before I leave... I hate giving tests, but it is great to see that people who came into my class not knowing anything have actually learnt something!!! So, I am definitely one satisfied teacher...

Saturday, December 01, 2012

everything will be all right in the end...

After a hectic couple of movies in September and October, I decided that November's Movie night needed to be a bit lighter, and so I chose the quintessential 'feel-good' movie "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"... and it was definitely a good choice.

The line that sums up the whole movie is something that I will be definitely taking into my life... "Everything will be alright in the end, if it isn't alright, it isn't yet the end"!!! Love it!

It was also the end of the Conversational English Classes for this year... After 11 weeks, we only had 5 of the 25 who started actually having the 70% attendance needed to get the diploma, so the "graduations" happened without much ado... and no photos.  Sorry...

And the end of my time in Banja Luka before I head to South Africa for a four month sabbatical is fast approaching (just over a week to go), so I will need to have good grace to get everything done before I go... but I am going to try to keep the attitude of "if it isn't alright, it isn't the end..." :)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Club prizes

Last night it was time to hand out the prizes for this half of the year to the kids who come to our book club at the Children's Home. We had 16 books as prizes because 4 out of the 20 children had lost their books. Those 4 kids got prizes as well, but their book prizes were given to the library as we had to replace their books! So, instead we gave them some small things as consolation: (and as usual I had to cut David out of the picture as he was making a funny face). Maja, Dijana, me and Stefan:

And Stefan was most happy about the bag the gifts came in: :)

Then it was time to give out the books. We had put a poem in the front of each book: It was Tanja's  idea, so I got her to read it out to the kids: It is a great poem and I was so excited when Tanja suggested it, as it really fit in well with the whole idea of book club! I have included the poem and translation as well:
OTVORI KNJIGU

Otvori knjigu i na put kreni,
raširi srce, otvori čelo,
zaplovi beskrajnim morem što peni,
na vrh planine popni se smelo.

Knjiga ti maštu čudesnu budi,
svakog u svoje korice prima,
njom se spajaju vreme i ljudi,
za svako pitanje odgovor ima.

I u snovima, a i na javi,
neka te nosi njena lepota,
večito putuj u svojoj glavi,
ostani putnik cijelog života.
                                   
                           Irena Tiodorović

(My attempt at translation is below:)


OPEN A BOOK

Open a book and start a journey,
Widen your heart, open your mind,
Sail the endless foamy sea,
Climb boldly on the mountain top

A book wakens your miraculous imagination,
Each is received in its covers,
It joins time and people,
For every question it has an answer.

And in dreams, and in reality,
Let her beauty carry you,
Traveling forever in your head,
Staying a traveler all your life.


As you can see, it is a great poem and hopefully it will open the kids eyes to the need to keep reading!! :) 

Below are Dragana and I with her book: all the 2-4th graders got a book out of the series "Geronimo Stilton" (or as it is in Serbian "Dzeronimo Stilton") and they were all very happy!
When we decided to give books, we went to a bookshop to just ask them if they could possibly give us a discount and they gave us 20% off the wholesale price (which is already discounted)! So we were very excited as we were able to give them quality books at a good price! Thank-you Euro- Giunti!

Here are most of us with our books (some of the older kids had already disappeared... they all got books from a series called "Hit books for children", including Robin Hood and Alice in Wonderland among others): It is really hard getting pictures with children! 
And after that I got this fantastic candid shot of Sara showing Sofija her book. I just love the fact that it is not posed and is totally spontaneous... she is just so excited about her book :) This is why I do what I do!!
 Then it was time to hang out with our favourite volunteers!! Mira and Milijana:
 Danijela, Jovana and Dragana:
 Suzana doing Dragana's hair:
I don't have any good pictures of the rest of the volunteers with the kids, but everyone had a great time! And at the end Stana just had to do Natasha's hair:
 The finished result:
 And a photo of the two lovely ladies (Stana hates having her photo taken, so this is real treat!)
I am so happy with the way this project has gone this past three months. We have great, motivated and regular volunteers, the kids have been excited about it, and it definitely has impacted not just on their reading, but also just knowing that we do care about them! And even while I am in South Africa, we are busy organising poetry evenings with a local poet, so that the volunteers will keep visiting with the kids, which makes me really happy!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Booksneeze review: The Choice

I really enjoyed reading Robert Whitlow's "The Choice". It is a story made up of two parts: one set in 1974 and the other in the present day. Looking at the choice that pregnant teen Sandy Lincoln made in 1974 to give her babies life, and then at how she helps Maria, one of her students deal with her unwanted pregnancy. We also meet up with Sandy's twin boys in the second part, and see the redeeming of what was a really hard choice for Sandy to make.

I would describe this book as a legal thriller with a happy ending based on Christian principles. I definitely came out having been challenged in my faith and how I can be better in my Christian walk.

I especially liked the way the book dealt with the whole issue of abortion: Being about the choices women make with their own bodies, this isn't just a "pro-life" book, but looks at the "pro-choice" argument from another angle. If you choose to have the baby, that is still a choice. A choice to give the being inside of you a chance at life.

I would highly recommend this book to lovers of a good thriller with a redeeming message.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs


I must admit first off that I read only half of Bruce Wilkinson's "Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs". It is divided into four sections: Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs, Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs with God, Experiencing Spiritual Breakthrough in your Marriage, Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs in your Parenting. And so once I got half way through and finally started enjoying the book...it started talking about areas of life that I don't need spiritual breakthroughs in: marriage and parenting and I skipped to the end...

Even during the first half of the book that I did read, I didn't really enjoy the author's writing style, and a lot of what he was saying wasn't relevant to me. I had just in the last chapter on "Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs with God" finally got into the book... so you can imagine my disappointment to realise that the rest of the book didn't apply to me as a single without children!

The chapter I did enjoy was on breaking free from sinful habits, and started with a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, and as a fan, I really enjoyed the reference... Here is the cartoon:
The chapter looked at sin, and how to break free, and to realise that the secret of happiness is not going back to sin, or  as Calvin calls it 'short-term, stupid self-interest'... to quote Bruce Wilkinson: "living in the grip of 'short-term, stupid self-interest' is just not what God has in mind for any one of us. It's not only possible but entirely withing our inheritance to walk daily in a satisfying, comforting, and healing relationship with our Creator God." That is my prayer for myself and for anyone following Christ.

But then, unfortunately the rest of the book was not relevant to me... So, if you are married and have children, this may be a great book for you, but for the rest of you, you can give it a skip! If you want more information you can go here

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group's Blogging for books program. The opinion is my own.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Too funny not to share...

In my Beginners English group there are two Stojankas (who are neighbours) and two Predrags (who work together) they usually end up sitting together and it is quite sweet. Then last night the four of them ended up playing the last game together, and I couldn't resist getting a photo of all four of them together. (They are playing a memory game which really helps with teaching telling the time in English!). So two Stojankas on the left and two Predrags on the right (sorry for the bad quality, it is a phone photo):
Now, in case you didn't notice...besides having their names in common, both pairs actually have something else that is the same...
Yes, the Stojankas have the same phone and the two Predrags as well!! What are the chances of that??! We actually found out because one Stojanka's phone went off and the other one tried to answer it! Anyway, I thought it was hilarious and too funny not share with you all!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Walking with Cindi

Most weekday mornings my friend, Cindi, and I try to go walking around the nearby park (or if I have errands in town, to go do that). We aren't always in Banja Luka at the same time or sometimes just get lazy, but both of us feel a lot better when we get and go in this way in the mornings...

Here is Cindi in front of one of "her" shops: there is a chain of small markets called "Sindi" and they are "Dragstor"s which mean that they are open 24 hours a day... this was taken on a day I had to go to the bank, so we walked into town and stopped to get this photo on the way!
Some mornings I have wished that I took my camera as it has been so beautiful with the autumn leaves and the sunlight behind, but I never thought just to use my camera on my phone, until today...

But now, I am not capturing the pretty sun, and the bright early leave colours, but the eerie fog and mostly fallen leaves... which makes everything look so surreal! And even though the photos taken on my camera phone don't do it justice, I just had to try and capture the scene...

The leaf blower guys were out in full force, so that is why the paths are all cleared:
Somewhere behind the below trees there are houses (which you can usually see!) and one of them is where Cindi lives with her husband Mark. They are originally from the US, which is where their two grown-up kids live, but have lived in Bosnia just slightly longer than I have. I really enjoy walking with her and I know she does as well - both of us feel like it is part exercise, part psychotherapy session!
And below is my favourite: just not able to see what is coming around this corner because of the fog... which is kind of like ours lives... but I know the One who created the heavens and the earth, the trees and the fog... so I won't be afraid!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sofija and the pig...

It sounds like the name of a book: "Sofija and the pig", but it isn't! Since the sad passing of her grandmother just over a month ago, Sofija (who is one of my long-time English students and has become a good friend) is staying in her grandmother's house in the village (near Novi Grad, about 1 1/2 hours from Banja Luka) to look after the pig... And here they are, aren't they cute?!
The pig's fate is that sometime mid-to-late December, she will become pork, but until that time someone has to stay in the village to feed her (ok, and the chickens). Sofija is just studying for exams, (no lectures) and so she can stay there and look after the pig and study at the same time. When she told me she was going to do that, I asked if I could invite myself for a visit so as to get away from Banja Luka and also break the monotone for her a bit... and luckily she said she would love me to come and visit and see what village life is like :)

This weekend was the first time I had the time and the car, and so I asked if I could come today. It turned out that as Sofija had some exams this week, so she and her sister, Una, were actually changing places today... And so it actually worked out great! Instead of both of them taking the bus, I was able to take Una (and her boyfriend, Zlaja) there and then drive back with Sofija... so I was able to help them out and at the same time see more of what life is like in the village... and I got to meet the poor pig before she becomes pork!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Booksneeze review: Tidewater Inn

Colleen Coble's novel "Tidewater Inn" set on little Hope Island off the coast of Virginia starts off with a bang - with a kidnapping in the first chapter. And as the story unfolds there are enough twists and turns in the plot line to keep a suspense junkie intrigued. However, the story is more than about that mystery, having a lovely romance as a major part of the plot, but also very deep rooted family issues which have to be resolved...

While the main character, Libby, investigates the kidnapping of her business partner, Nicole, she is thrown into contact with coast guard, Alec, and their relationship grows into something more deeper...

She also finds out that the father she thought was long dead, only died fairly recently, leaving her not only with the Tidewater Inn, but also a brother and sister she never knew she had...

Her father also left her some of his prized possessions: his bible and his necklace with the symbol WWJD on it. As she tries to figure out what Jesus would do in all the situations that are thrown on it, we see how she matures in her relationship with the Lord as the story progresses.

I enjoyed reading this book, as the suspense kept me wanting to read more, and also fed my soul as I went on the journey to discover more of God's ways along with Libby. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a nice Christian suspenseful and fulfilling read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Kid's Action Day 10.11.12

The third Kid's Action Day for the children from our Child Sponsorship Project (and other friends!) took place today - 10.11.12 :) My Finnish colleagues, Rami and Katja-Maaria, along with Ljilja and others, organised a fantastic day for all of us and we had a great time...

We started off as usual with a couple of songs. The photos are all by one of the volunteers, Sasa, and I really enjoy this more "arty" photo of Rami and I leading the singing:
After that it was time for 3 little dramas: here with Tanja and Natasha (two more volunteers) acting as mother and daughter:
They were all to do with trying to stay safe from strangers or bad people... Here is Ljilja getting the kids to explain what they were about...
And then it was time for the fun and games: There were a couple of new stations this time: Tanja was running the "mouse-catcher": the wooden "mice" come out the tubes and you have to try and push them into the container...
Tanja's husband, Aco, was running the "snagator"(strongman) station: hold on to 2kgs with straight arms as long as you can...
Another new game were the string cars:
 From the other side: you have to wind the string up to pull them towards you:
 Also new was the Limbo: How low can you go!!:
and lastly wooden spoon hockey:
Some of the old favourites were still there: Chopstick sweets
 Beauty salon:
Face (and hand) painting:
 Crafts: 
 Hairdryer basketball: (new volunteer, Zaklina, helping little Boki)
Slingshot (again with Zaklina!)
And I love this picture of Ljilja helping little Boki:
 And the last station is a firm favourite: sword fighting:
After an hour and a half of going between the stations and it was time for some more songs, here with our helpers doing the actions "He's got the whole world in His hands"!
And then the top three at the limbo got to compete to see who was the best... yes, Marko can go really LOW! He and Jovan tied at this level...
And lastly we found out who the strongmen were: again Marko, with Matej and Mihajlo:
Then it was time to say goodbye until the next time... Thanks to all the great volunteers who helped make it a fantastic time for all the kids and us!

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