Saturday, April 28, 2012

South African movie night for Freedom Day!

Yesterday was Freedom Day in South Africa. The day when we celebrate the first free elections in 1994 when everyone in the country could vote (before that, under apartheid, the majority Black population were denied the vote).

I decided, as it coincided with Movie Night day (last Friday of the month!), that we would watch something about South Africa... and hopefully about apartheid or the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. So, it was quite exciting to find this movie "In My Country" or "The Country of my Skull" as it dealt with both quite well. I didn't watch the movie beforehand, so I got to enjoy the movie along with everyone else... there were 14 of us, and we watched in English with English subtitles.

It is quite a heavy movie (dealing with a heavy subject it can't not be), but I still felt it left you feeling lighter at the end and not depressed... so all in all a good watch.We also had a really good discussion afterwards, and so I think everyone had a good time!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blogging for books review: Indelible

After a very hectic weekend, I really needed some "me" time. Then our team meeting was postponed, and it was rainy and cold, so I decided a little "mental health day" was in order and cuddled up to my Kindle and finished this wonderful book... which I had received for free to review from ""

Starting fast and continuing in the same manner, the book drew me in and kept me intrigued and reading until I finished it! My only problem with it was because it was a "galley edition" there were some issues with the format on my kindle, making it more difficult to read, but even that didn't detract from my enjoyment of this book.

Set in a beautiful mountain town, the hero, Trevor MacDaniel, a former skiing champion turned outdoor guide and part-time expert search and rescuer explodes onto the scene to rescue a young boy, Cody, from a mountain lion. The young boy is a son of a baseball hero, and the nephew of local artist, Natalie, who has just opened up a studio next to Trevor's outdoor shop.

As the relationship between Trevor and Natalie develops, we discover about their pasts and Natalie's special gift. She has an eidetic memory which means she remembers everything she sees in detail. Especially faces and their features. One of the ways she deals with this is by sculpting out people's faces so she can get them out of her system.

And then evil appears in their town, through a series of postcards addressed to Trevor of photos taken of children in life-threatening situations. As the story continues we are introduced to more and more interesting characters and all is threaded together to the story's dramatic climax...

I was enthralled not just by the story and the characters, but also by the tone of the writing itself. Upbeat, and compelling, I finished this book feeling uplifted and the rainy day blues were wiped away. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good thriller, but also wants a read that is encouraging and inspiring... making you feel better for having read it... and wanting to be a better person yourself...

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Veni, vidi, reliqui...

Or actually: "Venerunt, viderunt, reliquerunt...". Yes, they came, they saw and they left... I was blessed with a visit from four Americans (currently working in Kona, Hawaii) for two nights on their trip around Europe checking out what work is happening in those countries. They are exploring options for bringing teams into Europe in the future... and it looks like they may come back to Banja Luka, which would be great!
Kristi, Calvin, Krister and Camille - the K squad!
Even though they came at Orthodox Easter and so not much was going on, it was great to have them (and luckily Ljilja was away so they could all hunker down in our house...). They had already been two months on the road around Europe from Portugal to Sweden and down to Macedonia and Albania. They left this morning on the bus to Zagreb and they will then carry on to Vienna and Prague and other places before heading back to the US... It was great fun having them come stay and I was sad to see them go - as were they to leave I think:
looking sad because they are leaving Banja Luka ;-(

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter at the Children's Home 2012

So, we were supposed to be going to the Children's Home to colour eggs with them today, but like all things with the home, it was changed last minute as they coloured eggs on Thursday instead. So, seeing as the kids were expecting us, and our volunteers were already excited about coming to colour eggs, I quickly scrambled around and came up with some fun creative things to do with the kids instead... And enlisted the help of the two Tanja's and Irena to be "presenters" of the activities, so I could carry out the role of "fire putter outer": making sure the kids behaved and keeping an eye on everything... we had lots of volunteers come to help, and I must admit that it was the best workshop we have run at the Home EVER!

So, what did we make? We started off with chicks: with wings made out of the hands of the child. Here is volunteer Milijana with little Mira showing off hers: 
We then moved onto making egg trees, which Slavisa is showing below along with his chick and the angel on the table. I had to tell the kids that the eggs are on the tree because the chickens laid them there - eggs don't grow on trees! But actually the tree reminds us of the cross which Jesus died upon and the eggs are symbols of new life: just as we have new life through Jesus's death.
The angel - close up below - is to remind us of the empty tomb (and thanks to Taryn Hayes for the great idea for the angels on her blog) because Jesus wasn't there, and an angel told the women that He had risen from the dead!!  
Of course not all of the kids got the symbolism, but everyone enjoyed themselves. Here is Stefan with his creations:
And me with little Sara and hers. She is just in the first grade but is so clever! And sooooo sweet. She is one of the ones I would adopt in a second if it were possible...
We also made a big tree (thanks to all the Finns for their help with that!) with each child making one big egg for that. Here is Snjeza, Bozana and I showing it off (and Luka showing off his chick): (thanks to Tanja for this pic):
The kids had a great time, the volunteers and I with them and we got to share some of the joy of Easter on a very rainy afternoon!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Egg colouring...

Today is Orthodox Good Friday and I was invited over to the Vojnovic's to colour eggs with them: We did a whole lot of different ways of colouring eggs... Among other things you need paint, dye, stickers, onion skins, leaves, stockings:
And willing helpers: Snjeza, me and Bojan: (and yes I came prepared with the apron so I wouldn't mess! They thought that was hilarious!)
Bojan got bored quickly with the painting, leaving just Snjeza and I (and Tanja when she wasn't dying the other eggs or making the lunch):
Here I am finishing up one of my creations:
Then it was time to make the "leaf/onion skin" dyed eggs. Put a leaf on the egg, put it in a stocking and repeat until you finish the stocking and dye it all in a pot of onion skins:
Here is Tanja with some of the eggs and the basket:
And a close-up of the eggs - can you spot the ones done in the onion skins? The writing is "Snjeza" and "Bojan" in Cyrillic script. And now see if you can find the chicks on the one egg, and the bee on another ;-) Yes, I had a very creative afternoon!
It was such a fun afternoon! Thanks guys for including me in your colouring!

Friday, April 06, 2012

BIG Friday

Here, Good Friday is called "Veliki" or "Big" Friday. And there are two of them this year. Today, (For the Catholic/Protestant/Western Church) and next Friday (for the Orthodox/Eastern Church). I made Hot Cross Buns for my Beginners English class last night  and was teaching them about saying "Happy Easter" and that we called it "Good Friday". So, one of the ladies asked me "so how do you congratulate people on Big Friday - by saying "Happy Good Friday?"... To which I replied, "Well, we don't generally congratulate people on Good Friday, as we don't really want to celebrate the fact that He died! We want to celebrate the fact that He rose again!"

I also discovered that today, the 6th of April, is the anniversary of two very important days in Yugoslavian history. It is 20 years from the start of the last war which lasted from 1992-1995. It is also 71 years since Nazi Germany started bombing Belgrade in 1941 which actually started the Second World War in Yugoslavia. It is very interesting that it is the same day.

They are having an interesting marking of the anniversary in Sarajevo by putting out 11,541 chairs in the city centre. One for every person killed in Sarajevo during the war, making a "line of blood":

But today, I am focusing on the BIG Friday that changed the world...Remembering the blood that was shed on that day... And waiting for Sunday when we can celebrate the fact that He rose again! May He bring Hope and Love and Reconciliation to this region...

"He makes wars cease
   to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.
 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”

                                     Psalm 34:9:10

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Kid's Action Day

April Fools' Day saw us acting like fools for the Kid's Action Day for our project children (and their friends). 70 children, loads of volunteers, and lots of fun...  

Ljilja doing a good job with the introduction and "the rules": 
Then we sang some songs: Here I am teaching "Dobih mir kao rijeka" ("I've got peace like a river") with Rami and Irena:
After the songs we had a drama. David was trying (unsuccessfully) to become Dragana's friend: Yes, he is a cigarette, and he was explaining all the "advantages" that he could give her (like bad breath, yellow teeth, cancer...etc, etc).
Come on I can be really good for you!

After the first part of the program, it was time for the different workshops. The children can choose where they go and wait for their turn at that workshop. Here are some of the 12 workshops: 
Boki trying hard at fan basketball
Mihajlo taking a break from sword-fighting

Danijela after being at the beauty salon ;-)

Craft table
Sergej showing his crafts
And Tanja and I were running one of the more popular workshops: "Sweets the Chinese Way": the kids can put as many sweets onto the plate using chopsticks in 15 seconds... and then they get to eat them ;-) (can you tell why it was popular!):
After over an hour and a half of workshops (which passed in a FLASH) we went back to the hall. And another lesson on the dangers of smoking: The children were each given a small straw and had to breathe through it (that is why they are holding their noses) while running one ring around the hall. This is what the lungs of a smoker are like, and it was a good lesson - it is very hard to run around breathing through a straw!
Then it was time for prizes and a group picture...
...before we said goodbye and headed home after a really fun day! Kudos to the Rami and Katja-Maaria, the other Finns and everyone else involved for organising a fantastic day. And thanks to all the moms and volunteers for making it go so well!
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