Tuesday, May 29, 2012

YWAM Central Europe Staff Gathering

How to sum up the YWAM CESG?: Not easily - it was 4 days with 150 people in a fantastic place with great speakers and informative workshops, lovely times of worship, fun fellowship in the pool, and everything going (mostly) smoothly...

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what it was like: We started off in a smaller group (about 70 of us) of leaders for the first day:
Then we were joined by another 80 people, and our main speaker for the weekend was YWAM England's leader, Carl Tinnion:
He was a fantastic speaker, and he also had a lot of visual aids which definitely helped us to remember what he was talking on: Pioneering and Partnerships: 

We also had great times of worship: The worship team was made up of people from all over: Finland, Serbia, Romania, Sweden and the US and they were amazing! Before they got the drums up, they were helped by a father and son team from the UK, below right (Arran, 2, is soooo cute!).

The place was phenomenal: The Calvary Chapel Conference Centre in Vajta, Hungary: It is a former Castle, and it is beautiful!

And there is a huge swimming pool! 
I was one of the logistical team and ended up doing a lot of work, but it was all good. I was a bit concerned that things would not go too well when on the night before we started, when only 4 (early) people were expected, 3 of them had problems on the way to the centre! But luckily it ended up being the only big glitch, and after that it went smoothly. I connected with a lot of people from all over, and it was a great conference for me overall.

On the one afternoon I was returning from my room when I spotted the kids having their faces painted (there was a great child care team!!). One of the kids asked me if I wanted to have mine done, and I said "of course". So, Melanie (below with me and Lumi) painted some lovely flowers on my face. While she was painting my face: "you are beautiful" and I said "yes and I am even more beautiful with the face paint" and she said "no you are the same beautiful with and without the face paint"... So precious!! (and good for my ego:-)
And then on the way from Vajta to Budapest after the conference, my friend, Rebecca and I were waiting at Vajta train station, which is VERY small. We were the only ones in the station besides the rail guard, who had a very big mustache and old style conductor like hat. As the train approached, he turned on the PA system and made the official announcement in Hungarian that it was our train: It was just us, we don't speak Hungarian (which he knew), but he still did the announcement just for us! Love it!

Sunday, May 20, 2012


While I was in Macedonia, I got the wonderful news of the arrival of the latest addition to the Chaplin family. Little Hope Chaplin was born in Vancouver, Canada to my brother, Kevin, and his wife, Robin. Luke and Andrew are proud older brothers, and I am one very happy aunt!
For those of you who have been following the story of my nephew, Luke, and his struggle with Alpha-mannosidosis, my brother updated Luke's blog with the arrival of Hope, and so you can see more details (and pictures of Hope!) here:
Luke with Hope
Now I have two favourite nieces, and three favourite nephews :-)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ohrid, Macedonia

On Tuesday, we travelled 16 hours to Ohrid, (FYR)Macedonia to take part in Fida's Balkan Business Consultation. There were about 50 of us from all over the Western Balkans:
The Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian table (for translation): Some people paying more attention than others...
And some people on the other side of the room were catching up on their shut-eye: (I could have kept this to blackmail Rami, but I couldn't resist putting it on here...) {In his defense, he was one of the drivers on that 16 hour trip}.
I was also there to run one of the workshops: using a shortened version of one of the modules of the BEST Business training to give the participants an idea of what is like! It went really well and I now have lots of invitations to run the training all over the place...
It wasn't all work: We did get to enjoy the scenery of Lake Ohrid right across from the hotel :-) Isn't this a lovely sunset? Here are Elvira, Dragana, me and Ljilja:
And we got to spend one afternoon in Ohrid old town: Souvenirs anyone?
The harbour:
The fortress on the hill:
 And me under a tree:
And then one last photo to prove how crazy the Finns are... Despite the fact that it was freezing cold (and rainy most of the time as well), little Elina was determined to go swimming anyway: I was on the beach with about 4 layers on and still cold... but she was loving it!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What to do with 7 pre-school kids on a sunny day!

I have been wanting to organise another "outing" for the Children's Home's pre-school kids since last September when we took them to the aquarium. I even had a place in mind and bought some fun stuff to do, but just could never find a free sunny Saturday. And finally this week, the weather forecast for Saturday was clear, I was free, and so we finally got the chance to entertain the 7 pre-school kids at EKC Ihtus.

And luckily we also managed to scrounge up enough eager volunteers to help... And I think the kids had a phenomenal day. We started off with jumping on the trampoline, and swinging on the swings...
Dragana enjoying the trampoline

it can get a messy, but that is part of the fun!

I think they would have done that all day if we had let them. But it was hot, and so we had to cool them down and get them into the shade for a while... So, Nevena told them a story:

While Ljilja looked after little Suza, who turned two just this week:
Once Nevena finished the story, we played "follow the leader", before it was time for the chalk. We made a lovely picture, but I didn't remember to get a picture of it :-( Here is Miki showing how it is done: 
I found these lovely masks in South Africa on sale after Christmas, and I couldn't resist getting them for this group as I knew that one day we would be doing this outing to Ihtus... They absolutely loved them: Here are the bees: aka Vaso and Nemanje

It isn't as easy as it looks: trying to stick the dots on the ladybirds: 
But once they were done, they didn't come off! Kiki and Gaga on the swings:
And here we all are: with proof that it isn't always easy to take pics of kids!
After all this time of thinking about and organising it, it was fantastic to see this day all come together. And a HUGE thank-you to all our lovely volunteers who helped us give these kids a day to remember!

Children's Home Book Club visits to the Library

So that the children have books to read for the "book club" we take them to the library every other week. There is a fantastic Children's library in Banja Luka and lots of books to choose from. Since Ihtus got a kombi (van) at the end of last year, I have been driving it to pick up the kids, so it has been a lot "easier" as we don't have to rely on the home's kombi for transport. Of course driving 9 or 10 kids in a kombi is never easy, but it does mean we can go regularly and all the kids that want to go can go. And "teta Belinda" gets to go against the norm here, as a woman driving a kombi is definitely not something often seen here!!

I go twice in one day and take two groups, one in the morning and one in the afternoon (here they have two school shifts so the kids that go to afternoon school go in the morning to the library and vice verse). First they choose the books that they want with our and the librarian's help. We keep a record of what they are reading so we can see who is reading what. Then the older kids go on the internet, while we do some fun stuff with the younger kids.

Since we now have more littler kids, it was getting a bit much for just Tanja and I to handle, and Nevena was looking for a place to volunteer with us, so we included her in the mix: And it has been a welcome addition. Here she is telling the kids a story:
And another: I love the face that Gaga (in the middle)  is making in both photos: totally engaged!
I love this part of the project because it gets the kids out of the Home for a bit and shows them the magic of books, and stories... and hopefully we are setting them up with the habit of reading regularly which is a great practice to have in life!

Friday, May 11, 2012

End of the Beginner's English Class

Last night was the last English class of my Beginner's group. We started back in September, and finished the first part of the course in December. We then had a couple of new people join us when we started up in February again, but it was mostly the "old faithfuls" that came until the end. This was the same group whom I forced to carry on with class even when the electricity went out :-)

Of course, I forgot to take any pictures last night, but we did hand out their well-deserved certificates and had a little party (it was also one of our members' birthdays this week).

I have been using the Headway Beginner's book and even though it is the first time for me with me with this book, I really love Headway, and it is very teacher friendly and the students learn the language well using it. The class itself has also been really fantastic. Everyone really enjoys coming, even if it is hard work at times (English is really not easy to learn!). Some of them even tell me that they come to "get away from it all" and "have a break", and not surprisingly in this atmosphere, there has actually been a lot of English learning going on! I am so proud of my students for working hard and completing the course. The plan is to continue with this group onto the Elementary book in September!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

End of the March-May Conversation Classes

Last night was the last week of the latest cycle of English Conversation Classes. 15 people graduated, with over 24 people attending over the 9 weeks. So, what do we do during the class? Besides two movie nights, where we watch a movie in English with English subtitles, and have a discussion in English... The point is to get everyone speaking as much as possible. I include some reading and written work, but the focus is on the two skills of speaking and listening. I made up a "syllabus" which includes different discussions (on AIDS, the Environment, friends, etc), activities, pair work, group work, role plays, games, and our favourite "Lateral thinking problems".

Last night we did a pairwork exercise on "how often do you...", a role play at the airport, and finished off with a discussion game...  Here we are during the airport role play: some people are "customs officials" and others are travellers... see this is not a sit down and listen to the teacher kind of class :-)
 Irena and Tanja smiling for the teacher :-)
In the below photo, I just love the smiles on Tanja and Miodrag's faces (behind) in contrast to Slobodan (standing) and Branimir's more serious ones: Role plays like these are great exercises, because it gets them to work on a focused language set and get more fluent with every repeat (repetition is a great learning tool - I know this from learning the local language!)... and it is fun too! 
A discussion game is basically a board game where you answer the question on the square you land on. It is also a great exercise and as you can see from the below picture can also be quite fun: I love Tamara's sunglasses look!
Of course I forgot to get a group photo, but everyone who "graduated" got their certificates last night, certifying that they attended so many hours of classes...  I hate that things have to come to an end, but it definitely works better to have a set amount of weeks of classes, as people then commit to coming more regularly (whereas with a weekly "English Club" people kind of get lazy and we end up with very few people!). And that way I can plan all these fun activities because I know we will have enough people to do them! So, until the next time we will hang out together, see each other at the monthly Movie nights at Ihtus, maybe go to the English Classes for students organised by my colleagues, David and Irena (with a team over the summer) or help out at the Children's Home book club...And we will run another "cycle" of Classes in September, so I look forward to that!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Booksneeze review: Sweet Sanctuary

A book by Sheila Walsh and Cindy Martinusen-Coloma, "Sweet Sanctuary" is a novel about family, love, regrets and forgiveness. Set in Cottage Cove, Maine, the lives of single mom Wren and her gifted son Charlie are interrupted by the arrival of Wren's Grandma Ruth. Wren and Charlie have been staying in the caretaker's cottage on the holiday estate of her mother, just while they are trying to figure things out. The plot thickens when Ruth announces that she hasn't just come for a visit, but wants to throw a grand 90th birthday party using the main house as the setting...

Wren knows this is a terrible idea, as the estate was the setting for a horrible incident from their childhood: her brother disappeared for two days during a family reunion, while Wren was supposed to be keeping an eye on him. During the search her father was injured and he was never the same... And the last time her brother, sister and she were together was for their father's funeral held in the same place... During the funeral, they had a big blow out, which has meant they haven't been touch much over the last 15 years since then. But Ruth is insistent, and Wren decides to humour her, all the while hoping she can change her mind.

As the story of Ruth's party unfolds so does a potential love interest for Wren: Paul the local fisherman come restauranteur. His interest in Wren starts as a friendship, but develops quickly into something else...read the book to find out the rest of the story!

I really enjoyed this book, the plot had lots of twists, the characters were real: you really wanted to find out what was going to happen next in their lives. The message throughout the book was one of finding ways to forgive, making place for family in your life, not focusing on what could be, but making an effort to make things happen. I love the fact that although it is a work of fiction, you felt like it moved you to make your life better, to live out the forgiveness we all need, and love deeper and better, without hesitation.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good enriching read!  

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.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

May Day/Prvi Maj/Vappu

May Day: My nephew is part of the Magdalen college choir in Oxford and they sing every May Day morning from the top of the tower at the college, and it is a tradition that has been going on for over 500 years. Here is a report on it, James is featured (blonde with glasses) from the last 1.15 min...

Prvi Maj: For our Bosnian May Day celebrations, we went to a lovely "Ethno village" near Doboj. It was definitely worth the one and a half hour trip:
Sina is visiting us from Finland, and we invited Janina (the new teacher for the Finnish girls) to come along with us, and we had a really fun time: (self-timer pic!)
Inside one of the little huts:
 And Ljilja and Sina with the village in the background: 
Vappu: In the evening, my Finnish colleagues, Rami and Katja-Maaria invited us over for "munkki" (the doughnuts) and "sima" (a kind of drink) to celebrate "Vappu" (May Day in Finnish). It was a lovely way to end a lovely day: 
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